TCS Daily

Baghdad Vigilantes and the Dark Side of Civil Society

By Frederick Turner - October 25, 2006 12:00 AM

Isn't something missing in the current accounts of the new wave of Iraqi violence? The situation has changed quite radically, it seems, but nobody is saying exactly how. Here is how it strikes this naïve observer.

The attacks against our soldiers go on, but there is no surprise there. The suicide bombings of markets, mosques, bus stations, and police recruiting places do too—nothing new there either. The campaign against those courageous individuals who are trying to create a democratic Iraqi government also continues, as does the opportunistic violence of criminal gangs.

What has changed is that all of a sudden there is a whole new category of killing going on. Almost every night scores of individuals, obviously chosen and targeted with care, clearly known personally to their attackers, are being tortured and murdered. Who are they? And who are the killers?

The Press, it seems, is deliberately not answering these questions. Neither Democrats nor Republicans are giving the matter any public attention beyond deploring it in loud but utterly unspecific tones—and this in an election season. Even the Iraqi government is trying to hush it up; recently they forbade the hospitals to give out information about the victims.

It almost seems as if neither side—the ones who want the Iraqi government to fail, and those who want it to succeed--can afford to answer the awkward questions. Here is a hypothesis.

The Sunni extremists, al Qaeda-type Wahhabis and Saddamite Baathist fascists in uneasy alliance, perceived that they were losing the war in Iraq. A legitimate government had been voted in and the Americans were preparing to leave it in charge. It was a disaster. They resorted to a desperation measure: to attempt to foment a religious war between Shiites and Sunnis, in the hope of fishing in troubled waters. In doing so they unleashed a very terrible force. That force is not, as often claimed, civil war as such, or even religious war.

It is something with which we have become quite familiar in Latin America: vigilanteism on a massive scale—murder squads and desaparacidos—the force of civil society itself in extremis.

When there is a significant fraction of the population that will not join in political compromise, whether because of ideological idealism, addiction to supernatural power, or the passion for revenge, civil society is faced with a diabolical paradox.

It wishes to form legal and political institutions that are transparent, correctable by debate, and under the control of the people (with protections for minorities), where people can make good money in the marketplace and raise families in peace. But the reality is that even after all possible compromises have been offered to the refuseniks, civil society is faced with a small but absolutely hostile minority that will be content with nothing but total victory.

What can civil society do? The only solution is the disappearance of that implacable moiety. Civil society cannot use the instruments of government to stamp out its mortal enemy—for that would be to invalidate and destroy the very principles and legitimacy of that government, and set in place a precedent by which normal political squabbles could in future be settled by genocide or the Gulag. It would be to do what Saddam did to the Kurds, what Turkey did to the Armenians, what the Soviets and Maoists and Khmer Rouge did to their bourgeoisie.

The enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government are almost exclusively Sunnis (though so too are many of its supporters). By logical necessity the exterminators would have to be mostly Shiites and Kurds. The government simply cannot afford to go after its enemies in the systematic way required, for that would be to destroy its claim to represent all minorities. There are, from the point of view of Iraq's nascent civil society, some thousands of people who, in the Texas phrase, need killing. Who is going to do it?

In the absence of government intervention, the answer is: ordinary people. Basically the killers are posses of self-organized vigilantes, who know their local area, who know who the bombers are, and who the bombers' relatives are. The posses are expert in distinguishing those people who might be fair political enemies from those who will go on striking, like a snake, even when cut in two.

The change is radical. Whereas the Wahhabi/Baathist killers are indiscriminate in whom they kill, as long as their victims may include Shiites or at least people who might have voted in the elections, the death squads are quite focused in their aim. There is all the difference in the world between bombing a marketplace and shooting a man you have identified and chosen. Reason—even a vile and brutal reason—can be found in the second, where it was absent in the first. The whole point of bombing a market or a bus station is to assert the monstrous and magisterial superiority of chaos itself, of unreason—only thus can the ultimate terror be evoked, terror of what no reasonable strategy of complicity or evasion can avoid. Only thus can ordinary decent people be forced to accept any kind of order, however evil they find it, as long as it is predictable.

But death squads are rational, in their own horrible way. They may prove, as they did in Latin America, to be a pretty effective method of wiping out implacable enemies of social order and preparing the way for democratic and law-abiding government. In living memory almost every decent and legal regime in Latin America was preceded by a chaotic period in which ordinary men armed themselves with guns, said goodnight to their families, and went out in groups to kill some local dissident. That period was a bit further back in the past for the French, the English, and the Americans. But no nation can be shown to have reached the rule of democratic law without it. The work of the vigilantes is the hideous and dark crime that Socrates and the Greek tragic dramatists hinted must underlie all civilization. That crime is indeed a crime, and its perpetrators must stand trial for it, whether before God or some human tribunal. But it is possible that true civil self-government can only be established with its aid.

Death squads are distinctly better than suicide bombers. Their members want to survive and have something to lose—they envisage a future in which they can stop killing and get on with family life, while the horrible nightmares gradually fade.

In a sense, the great new weapon, the suicide bomber—which had seemed to all the world to be irresistible—has, like all weapons, shown its fatal flaw. That flaw was first revealed in the Jordan bombing of the hotel wedding party, which radicalized Jordanians against al Qaeda. Now it has turned to bite the radicals in Baghdad. If civil society finds itself threatened by utter chaos, it may resort to free-enterprise war against its enemy. By definition what it does then cannot be law-abiding or approved by its own government; it is in Hobbes' state of nature; but it can be a kind of savage rationality that might precede law.

But, as Socrates knew, this dark archetypal crime must be hidden. The American authorities in Baghdad are not saying much about it because the vigilantes are doing their work for them, with infinitely greater precision and expertise. The Iraqi government is not doing or saying much about it either, because it would lose legitimacy if it cooperated with the death squads, and sabotage its own interests if it tried (probably unsuccessfully, anyway) to stop them; but it obviously cannot admit that this inaction is its policy. The U.S. Republican Press cannot say anything about it because it would imply in an election year that it approved of the death squads. The Democratic Press cannot give the vital information—that most of the victims probably deserve their fate—because that would imply that the Iraqis have finally started to do what they were expected to do all along, that is, clean up their own house.

Everybody is waiting—the Iraq government, until the terrorists are all dead (whereupon it will launch a great campaign of national reconciliation and a long unsuccessful quest for justice against the vigilantes); the US armed forces, until their work is done for them; the irredentist Baathists and Wahhabis, hoping for true civil war; the Republicans, until the violence burns itself out; the Democrats, until the American people can no longer hold down its lunch at what is going on.

The author is a TCS Daily Contributing Editor and author of The Culture of Hope.



What about India?
"But no nation can be shown to have reached the rule of democratic law without it."

What about India?

An interesting thesis - I hope you're right
It has long struck me that the Iraqis have seemed awfully supine before the terror. And it also struck me as surprising that so little revenge has been wreaked on the Sunnis, especially the tribal allies of Saddam.

Perhaps a significant amount of the carnage in Iraq is a weeding out of the terrorists and their support network.

in praise of death-squads
Very astute ariticle, but not PC. I've been saying for ages that you can't win by fighting like girls, but since sometimes some people do need killing, ordinary strong people have to go out and do it, and save the weak, fearful appeasers. Recently I mentioned on this forum that it much much was the same in Algeria too. Then someone critizied me for my stance since the death squads were at work there too. But as I've always said, the chaos, havoc wreckers can indeed be beaten, but not by fighting with one arm tied behind your back.

You mentioned Hypothesis - is there any information (even anecdotal) that supports this?
The hypothesis makes sense and is one (or part of one) possible reason for some of the killing. Does anyone have any sources (Iraq bloggers) that would back up this hypothesis?

Los Pepes and Colombia.
There is a great book written by Mark Bowden (of Blackhawk Down and Guests of the Ayatollah fame,) called Killing Pablo. It covers the epic hunt for petty-crook turned drug kingpin turned narco-terrorist mastermind Pablo Escobar. Escobar did almost exactly what Saddam and Zarqawi's buddies are doing in Iraq right now to protect his own freedom. He bombed planes, buildings and cars left and right. He put out bounties on police officers. He slaughtered his competition and their families. He was essentially in control of the nation of Colombia for many years.

Finally, he was captured and killed, in large part through the effort of a group called Los Pepes. Los Pepes claimed to be a group of victims of Pablo Escobar's killings, who wanted revenge. A good deal of information suggests that many of them were, in fact, government troops. They killed anybody who worked for Pablo Escobar, blew up property he owned, and targeted his businesses. In the end, Pablo had to go in to hiding, and run from the government, until he was shot.

This sort of thing was effective in El Salvador and a number of other countries as well, but the history is not quite as well documented. It is rough and messy, but, from time to time it is the only way.

Wobbly ?
"until the American people can no longer hold down its lunch at what is going on."

This final clause seems to me to be an effort by the author to distance himself from his own idea. The American people I know will welcome the results he predicts and dance in the streets of Bagdad in front of all the new Hiltons and Marriots.

Latin America??? Where, when??
What specifically are we talking about here?

>In living memory almost every decent and legal regime in Latin America was preceded by a chaotic period in which ordinary men armed themselves with guns, said goodnight to their families, and went out in groups to kill some local dissident.

You mean, 300,000 dead Guatemalans killed for being Indians? Or Chileans and Argentines kidnapped by the military coup and murdered? The war against Nicaragua by the White House? Please specify.

The smell of desperation!
What's that smell? Is it cows? No. Horses? No. Dog poo?

Nope. It's the distinct whiff of neo-con desperation, desperate for any explanation whatsoever to explain away the bloody mess they've made in Iraq - for ordinary Iraqis and GIs alike.

The mess in Iraq is a *direct* result of presidential and neo-con incompetence:

Historical footnote...
The rise of democratic India was far from non-violent. Ghandi promoted non-violence but the British had to deal with several other violent groups in addition to his movement.

how about
a whiff of reality?

Read my post above. The same thing is true in El Salvador, as well as Nicaragua.

Killers are bringing peace, or making omlets?
So, today the brains at tcsdaily tell us that the death squads in Iraq are good because they are bringing peace. Is this like the Hatfields and McCoys bringing peace to Blue Ridge County, or maybe like the Serb, Bosnian, and Croatian death squads bringing peace to the former Yugoslavia? Do we have fond memories of the shining path to peace in Peru?

Yes, surely a civil war with genocidal ethnic clensing will be good for Iraq and there will be peace upon the land. "Nobis pacem mortis dona."

Re: how about
That would be most welcome, but I don't see any of that round here!

What about India, indeed
Iraqis should shoose how they wish to proceed with the challenge of self government with great care. The independence of India and Pakistan came about through an ugly race war that swept the subcontinent and consumed about ten million lives. The incident is exactly comparable to Iraq, in that prior to 1947 the two religions were intermixed throughout British India. After the conflict they were mostly divided into two, perpetually antagonistic nations.

Was it worth it? I think any sane person would have to say that no political principle is worth the lives of ten million people. And it really hasn't solved anything. The conflict continues to this day in Kashmir. And to some extent even in Rajasthan.

Both sides have nukes and are prepared to use them. Neither has ever been censured by the United States for this stance.

The forces of death
It's amazing that this development has been so thoroughly ignored by the American right. All year long, the rest of the world has been deploring the rule of the death squads in Iraq. You really should inform yourself more thoroughly.

Wouldn't it be nice if the targets were all Baathist scum? But historically we know that death squads always visit the innocent, the moderates and the intellectuals. Iraq is no exception to this rule.

The Baathists are all well armed, organized and fully employed as insurgents. The targets of the many militias and death squads (both Sunni and Shiite) are ordinary people. And the purpose behind these many thousands of savage torture killings (many culminating in drilling the victim's brain with power drills) is to spread terror, and bring the country to the point where all out war is inevitable. Yes, there are people like that.

How can the average citizen be anything but supine. In every case it is the same. A police vehicle stops and three or four men jump out. They grab someone and drive away with him. Most of the bodies are discovered days later, hideously rent. People look to their government to stop it. But how many years will it be before this group has the strength to effectively clean its own house?

Self Defense and Options in Iraq
The allies and the Iraqi government have been unsuccessful in controlling the violence. The victims of the violence have responded in the best way they can to protect themselves. This pattern is typical across many cultures historically. When government cannot keep the peace in its territory, accelerated hostilities almost always occur. The response of the Shiites in Iraq is not about "ethnic cleansing", it is about self defense.

At this point, America has to choose a stragegy:
1) Withdraw completely and hope for the best. Will definitely lead to a wider war in the region.
2) Withdraw allied forces to secure desert positions, and let the factions fight it out…again hoping for the best. The allies will definitely loose control, and a wider war (involving us) is likely.
3) Create an alliance with the militias to destroy the insurgency, and hope that the militias will disband once the job is complete. This course is our best chance to quickly pacify and withdraw from Iraq.
4) Pacify the country by disarming the insurgents and the militia's...starting with Baghdad. This strategy would only work if it was fully supported by the Iraqi government, and the parties were committed to do the difficult work necessary to accomplish the task. In the long run, it is the best hope for a peaceful Iraq.

Testing the hypothesis
You didn't direct your question toward anyone, but I assume what you are referring to is SullyA's comment "Perhaps a significant amount of the carnage in Iraq is a weeding out of the terrorists and their support network."

Rather than search for an explanation no actual reporters are making, you could take a look at the abundant material on the web and in the press that actually describes the work of the death squads, and the victims. That way you could ask a question and then search for answers, rather than beginning with your conclusion.

Try a simple search for "iraq death squad" and read the first dozen articles that come up. That should give you some impression of what's been going on over the past few months. I would shy away from any carefully selected references that mirror someone's personal point of view.

Just a suggestion.

The Colombian dilemma
Publius-- I hope you understand there's much more to the war on narcoterrorism in Colombia than the chapter concerning Pablo Escobar. He is history now, but the war against the innocents continues.

"Colombia" is ruled by no one, and hasn't been since 1948, when "La Violencia" started. The reasons for the war have changed many times over the years, but the killings continue. No one knows how many have been at the hands of the rebels (currently the FARC) and how many have been at the hands of the death squads. Both employ the same means and murder the same people.

FARC controls a very large portion of Colombian territory, as does the Pastrana government. Most of the troubles occur on the fringes-- the contested areas. Each side kills civilians they suspect of aiding The Enemy-- the other side. Ordinary people are helpless.

The FARC, originally against drugs, makes its money from the cocaine industry. The government's death squads, ostensibly against drugs, also make a lot of money from cocaine. One thing is for certain. The war would dry up from lack of funding if the United States ever legalized the drug.

It disturbs me that you can take a Lone Ranger view of the antics of one squad of killers while deploring the undeniable evil of the other. They are brothers in Death, and a scourge upon the population.

about india
i have seen the number, 300 milliom, as the number of stake holders great and small in the indian economy. leaving 1 billion non-stake holders on the outside looking in.
india has had an amazing run and i think the raj and the english language has a lot to do with that. but at some point those billion will demand a pieice of the action and then will see how they handle the dark side of civil society

about india
i have seen the number, 300 milliom, as the number of stake holders great and small in the indian economy. leaving 1 billion non-stake holders on the outside looking in.
india has had an amazing run and i think the raj and the english language has a lot to do with that. but at some point those billion will demand a pieice of the action and then will see how they handle the dark side of civil society

Very good post
I completely agree. But there is something to be said for the vigilantes as well. There are those among the "Death Squads" who are hunting down insurgents they know of and killing them. There are innocents killed in the process (much as there was with the vigilante movement in the American west) but the are probably quite few (again if the American west is any indication).

The problem in Iraq seems to be too many death squads with too many agendas. American and Iraqi forces need to deal with the Militias and let the Iraqi people deal with the suicide bomber wanna-bes.

No, not Columbia
thought that's the closest. And how you can subscribe the idea that Columbia is a model of civil order and legitimacy is a mystery. The killings in Guatemala were simply butchery, and the killers are still free. This whole theory is lunatic poli sci.

Would you guys like some more straws to clutch onto?

If the kind of cr*p that happened in Iraq happened in your neighbourhood, do you really, *really* think that a bunch of good guys with guns would go out at night to enforce law and order 'the hard way'?

No, it's the scum of the Earth going out to kill and rob ordinary people. It's militias unleashed - against the coalition forces during the day and the ordinary people for the purpose of robbery - and because they like killing people - at night.

All kicked off because of the incompetence of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and co. Don't you think they might have trod a little more carefully in Iraq if they'd experienced Vietnam instead of draft-dodging?

You've all been watching too many cowboy films, IMO.

Not quite right
Any "global" solution has defects when taken down to the specific. Although I would personally enjoy killing all those Salafi terrorists that is about as far as I can go in supporting this thesis, despite its obvious psychic satisfaction in imagining it. First a bit of history. The Western vigilantes arrested and tried miscreants in Miners' Courts whenever possible and stopped as soon as the US legal system was extended to the mine camps in the Deadwood area (see first person accounts in "Vigilante Days and Ways," by N. Langford). Our Phoenix Program in Vietnam, despite all the breathless writing to the contrary, always attempted to capture the VC. We wanted a source of info, not another dead body.

The problem with the let-the-death-squads-do-it strategy is that it is not always based on reasonable selection. Sometimes it is anger, sometimes personal antipathy, sometimes random (plenty of random Shi'ite violence folks), sometimes social engineering (intellectuals, reporters etc) and sometimes ethnic cleansing (read the reports). So the problem is that if (as plenty of first-person reporting suggests) the peaceable Sunnis see the randomness of the killing, they will do eactly what the author says; form death squads to kill other dead squad members. Come on...

You walk down the streets avoiding eye contact don't you?
You seem to think everyone is bad and looking to hurt you; if this post is any indication, you might be right.

Iraq has problems on several levels. On one level, the killing of civilians on the street and in the marketplace, does it not make sense for vigilante groups to form and take care of the problem in their neighborhoods?

Talking about the American west has nothing to do with watching too many westerns. Law enforcement was very light in these areas. After the civil war, and before statehood for many of them, there was a general lawlessness that needed to be dealt with. Groups of citizens got together and dealt with it.

The problem with vigilante justice wasn't the prosecution of the innocent, but the harshness of the penalties. Tared, feathered and run out of town on a rail was about the minimum penalty (and sometimes the injuries received in this punishment were fatal). Most often justice was dispensed at the end of a gun or a hangman's noose.

This is not some western movie, but a real part of the history of Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

John Wayne
In those westerns, peace was established when the law (John Wayne) swaggered into town and put an end to vigilante justice. Sometime only Jimmy Stewart could protect the seemingly guilty but actually innocent guy behind bars from a mob lynching.

Vigilantes never established peace, not out west, not in Iraq, only on tcsdaily.

The difference between westerns and real life
Vigilantes did in fact keep things in line for a decade or more in many areas. In fact, some pretty natorious guys were nailed by vigilantes. But it is also true that there were some pretty nasty vigilante groups. Still, they were the minority. Most were citizes who banded together for protection from rustlers, bandits and murderers.

To this day, citizens out to get rid of the baddies in their neighborhoods work. Check out neighborhood watch program in the U.S. right now. They are proved crime reducers.

It sounds like you are the guy watching too many westerns on TV.

yup, those powerful neo-cons started the sunni-shia split
1400 years ago, what power, what foresight, what planning!

you ever think of seeing a pshrink?

A man of few words
Is that it? Just "how about a whiff of reality?" You could be a bit more specific.

Such as noting the fact that the US went in defining their task as mere de-Baathification. As a result they fired the entire army, security services and police forces across the country, sending them all home with their guns but with no prospects for employment, into an economy that had deliberately been destroyed. Do you suppose that that might have fed the insurgency?

If you'd like to refute that, please give a bit more detail, so we can appreciate your reasoning.

I love it when the perenialy confused liberals bite their own @$$
you stated that "Vigilantes never established peace, not out west, not in Iraq, only on tcsdaily."

perhaps you should pull your head out of its pink sheath & read up on 1850+ San Francisco.

Something not mentioned here or anywhere else
In the beginning Islam was monolithic, one piece of quivering hate.

Then muthammud died (yeah!) and the troubles started.

Notice there is NO religious reason for the sunni/shia split? Nothing even vaguely theological in nature?

Nope, it's 100% political, who holds the reins of power.

This struggle in Iraq simply reflects that, if you think to see a clean, clear theological argument and reasoning behind the killings think again, all you will see is dirty politics and even more dirty money paying the bulk of the non-political, non-religious, mercenary bombers and shooters.

we in America need to let the Iraqis do their own thing while keeping Saudi Arabia, Syria & Iran out of the play in no uncertain terms. Most places in this word that are peaceful are because of the extreme deaths that took place there at some time, thus providing peace for the area.

A REALLY good example is Turkey, it became what it is today because the attaturk family had no problem killing off it's problem population. By the hundred thousands.

Respectfully disagree
Your post is thoughtful and reasoned-- but I don't agree with much of it. So let me try to address it issue by issue.

First you say "The response of the Shiites in Iraq is not about "ethnic cleansing", it is about self defense."

I can't imagine what evidence you base that on. The reportage shows the killing to overwhelmingly be due to Shiite death squads, operating from within the security services and targeting Sunnis apparently randomly. From the distribution of killings it would appear mostly to be with the purpose in mind to frighten them into fleeing certain neighborhoods so they become all Shiite. Is this not the very definition of ethnic cleansing?

To be sure there are also many Sunni on Shiite murders, and they follow a similar pattern. This minority of players, of both sects, has the end in mind of ethnically dividing all of Iraq. In that endeavor the majority of citizens are opposed. But they place their hopes on a central government incapable of addressing it. That is the problem.

Here are your four alternatives:

1) "Withdraw completely and hope for the best. Will definitely lead to a wider war in the region."

I don't see how. Neither Saudi Arabia nor Syria nor Jordan feel so mighty or so stable that they would risk sending forces in, except under the auspices of some international mandate like the UN, or at the request of the US. Likewise Iran would be likely to exert much influence on and through the Shiite Iraqi government. But they would hardly be so foolish as to invite an American attack by sending in troops.

On the other hand if we accede to the forces dividing Iraq, the first thing we would see upon Kurdish independence would be an invasion by Turkey. So that's a strong vote in favor of helping the country stay intact.

2) "Withdraw allied forces to secure desert positions, and let the factions fight it out…again hoping for the best. The allies will definitely loose control, and a wider war (involving us) is likely."

We've already lost Anbar, and the Shiite south is stabilizing on its own. The only thing we could do would be to fortify Baghdad and try to wait out the civil war while hunkered down in our bases, while the extremist forces set the pace of events. I agree that this would be a bad idea.

3) "Create an alliance with the militias to destroy the insurgency, and hope that the militias will disband once the job is complete. This course is our best chance to quickly pacify and withdraw from Iraq."

When you bargain with the Devil, I understand he always wins. You actually believe the militias will disband before achieving their purposes? Why would they, if we empower them by letting them win?

The death squads, evil stepsons of militias like the 10,000 strong Badr Brigade, are the most universally reviled elements in Iraq. Virtually the entire population everywhere hates and fears them. We want to win the country for democracy how, again?

4) "Pacify the country by disarming the insurgents and the militia's...starting with Baghdad. This strategy would only work if it was fully supported by the Iraqi government, and the parties were committed to do the difficult work necessary to accomplish the task. In the long run, it is the best hope for a peaceful Iraq."

That's a great suggestion. How, exactly?

We've just tried to uproot the death squads from Baghdad, and admitted the campaign was a failure. The Maliki government is also powerless to clean them up. The only hope is fresh players in the game.

I understand that even though the Baker-Hamilton team have not exactly announced their program yet, a new coalition based on Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan is initiating contacts with the Sunni leadership-- undoubtedly including Baath elements-- to see whether there is not some room for negotiation. I would offer that this is by far the best initiative I have seen in the three and a half years since the fighting started. Their main beef has been that they have not been included in the process, so here is their invitation.

So there we have your opinions, followed by mine. I'd be interested in any further comments you cared to make.

Responsible adults needed
"Iraq has problems on several levels. On one level, the killing of civilians on the street and in the marketplace, does it not make sense for vigilante groups to form and take care of the problem in their neighborhoods?"

The trouble with vigilante groups in a tribal society is that the first vigilante group goes out to kill all the Shiites, thinking they are as a group responsible for all their troubles. This gives rise to more vigilantes, who start killing all the Sunnis-- thinking they are responsible for all their troubles. And so it goes, in the old cycle of retaliation and lex talionis.

This approach is precisely what has already happened. Now we're trying to get to the next level.

You are correct that the proximal cause of all of this was the lawlessness that was imposed on Iraq following the invasion. In a rush to de-Baathify the country we got rid of every element that was keeping the rule of law and order intact. Then we compounded the mistake by letting the resulting chaos continue unabated for another three years.

We lost control of the situation when we let the looting continue past the second day-- and we have never regained it.


My history book missed that version
"A REALLY good example is Turkey, it became what it is today because the attaturk family had no problem killing off it's problem population. By the hundred thousands."

So then, in your opinion, the problem in Turkey was because of its Armenians?

It's easy to get a piece of the action
Just stop electing the politicians who have been holding back progress. This is something that the billion Indians "on the outside" can do in the next few elections. After a lag of a few years, investment will pour in and state after state will face the challenge of handling rapid growth and a new power balance with the middle class ballooning. Some political interests do not seem to like that and have blocked progress in many states.

Pacifying Iraq
The troubled areas of Iraq should be pacified in sections, starting in Baghdad.

The Iraq Parliament declares Baghdad under Marshall Law, including the following provisions:
1) Penalties are established for civilian possession of all weapons, except for those specifically allowed to protect home and property. Outlawed weapons would include those materials used to make explosives, RPG’s and all other kinds of military weaponry.
2) Penalties are established for the possession of otherwise lawful weapons outside of one’s property. Only the police and military can have weapons in public.
3) Every home and business is subject to search for unlawful weapons, after an initial period where weapons can be turned in. It might be wise to offer a bounty for unlawful weapons for a period of time.
3) After the initial grace period, all structures would be searched using the best technologies available. All unlawful weapons would be confiscated.
4) All vehicle and foot traffic on public streets and facilities is subject to search.
5) Severe penalties would be established for any police or military official involved in vigilantism.
6) All routes into Baghdad must be secured, to prevent the importation of unlawful ordinance.

The goal is to use as many allied and Iraqi personnel as is necessary to pacify a small area, and then maintain and expand that area. In the end, all of Baghdad must be demilitarized and controlled. Once this is accomplished, other problem areas can be addressed. It will up to the Iraqi authorities to relax Marshall Law as they see fit.

Once the Baghdad and other major area’s are under control, a plan to reduce allied security participation will be implemented.

Can't argue that
It was almost as bad for a while in Germany witht he de-nazifaction program there.

No, those powerful neocons went into Iraq without a plan
They were warned about the explosive potential, repeatedly, by people familiar with Iraq. They were told to prepare, to try to come up with solutions. They totally failed. But, sure, it's all the fault of the people who warned them.

A pacification program
Now that's a good answer. Nearly all Iraqis want their government to work, not to fragment and fail. Let's hope they're able to implement what sounds like a sensible plan.

The article is about
sustained violence directed by a section of the populace against the general public to discredit and bring down the Government elected by a majority of the populace.

It is NOT ABOUT fighting for Independence from foreign rulers.

Even then, the violent part of the struggle for Indian independence is miniscule compared to the non-violent struggle led by Gandhi.

The Indian sub-continent
got its independence largely through the non-violent struggle led by Gandhi.

It is a different matter that Pakistan was partitioned out later and resulted in the blood bath you are alluding to. And the death toll is not 10 million but about a million. And the current Iraq situation is entirely different. For one, both Shias and Sunnis are two branches of the same Religion, not two different Religions, as is the case with Islam and Hinduism (and its offshoots like Sikhism et al). For another, the group fighting the Government WAS the Government before. That was not the case in India.

As to the "worth" of the partition, it was inevitable given the world view of the culture that led to the formation of Pakistan. And it was not a Political principle, but Religious and tribal affinities that led to partition.

And considering how Pakistan turned out after 50 years, I think the Indians got a good deal.

And, had they (the Indians) followed the semi-capitalism of the last 15 years from the beginning, they would have been much much better off.

By the way, talking of the "worth" of a Political principle, do you think the American Civil War was worth the deaths?

And what is this US censuring India and Pakistan? Aren't you the one lecturing about us leaving the world alone?

moral relativism
Let's say it's true that the terrorists are killing women and children with the bombs in markets, etc. Then the vigilantes are killing off not womean and children, but the guys who do all that. In such cases the jello-spined, raison balled liberals will still say it's just the same; killing is killing, it's all wrong, and if we find it's easier to stop the vigilantes instead of the terrorists, we'll do that. They can't identify the good guys from the bad guys as usual.

no argument
with your facts, beano. but from my perspective they add up to a big so what.
as of 09/11/01 we entered into a "clash of civilizations"
thus engagment became the overriding paradigm. very early president bush said that it would be a long war. the key word being War.
the u. s. military is very good at figuring out field problems and it looks to me that they are doing a great job.
the civilian administration are trying to address many issues as well as the War and are doing less well. i think that they have not engaged the general population and until that is accomplished a winning strategy will not be possible.
i wondered into this discussion while thinking about AK's " the leadership myth." none of the great wartime leaders of America showed the forsight that you seem to demand. iraq is not the issue the war is the issue and we are figuring it out and i have the utmost confidence that we will get it right and win the long slow slog that is the war on terror.

Re: You walk down the street...
My street's just fine, thank you very much. And all the better for being free of gun-toting vigilantes.

Take off your rose-tinted glasses, wake up and smell that coffee, etc. Sadr City 2006 ain't Wyoming c1875, even stripped of the nationalistic vision of American history you've been spoon-fed.

Re: Not quite right
Good post - death squads are run by criminals and killers.

Vigilante groups will always attract the violent, criminals and so on - the scum of the Earth - who can go about the 'business' they enjoy most (killing, thieving and extortion) under a cover of social protection. Like bees to honey, flies to s***, etc

All IMO: This death squads argument is a squalid and desperate attempt to cover up the huge mess created in Iraq by you-know-who and friends.

The Indian Partition
I'll challenge your view of Indian independence. Gandhi was an inspiration, but by 1942 the struggle had become much more militant, led by Subash Chandra Bose and his Indian National Army. By August, 1947 the country was in convulsions, and India and Pakistan were separately born out of the flames. The Republic of India was not finally proclaimed until January, 1950, 2-1/2 years after the establishment of Pakistan.

You are correct that the number killed during the transfers was about one million.

But to go to the remainder of your point, I think you should realize that in claiming the Indian Muslims and Hindus are separate religions, unlike the Sunni and the Shia, you are making a false distinction. In this part of the world it doesn't take a great deal in the way of religious or ethnic differences to create a race war, a pogrom or a condition of civil strife. Massacres can arise from small differences an outsider can barely distinguish. At the fall of the Soviet Union, for example, about seventy little ethnic wars, like the Uzbeks vs the Meskhetians, sprang out of the disorder. People will kill each other at the drop of a hat in these parts.

You then make the distinction that "the group fighting the Government WAS the Government before." But this runs counter to the fact that the majority of killings are done by Shiites.

There are many factions at work here, and the author does the greatest disservice to understanding by portraying it simply as the work of ex-Baathists. Sure, they are in the game. The assumption is that they may be the force behind the Wolf Brigades, for instance. But there are also Shiite revenge groups, typically operating out of police vehicles while in uniform. And there is Al Qaeda In Iraq, with no Iraqi interests but a purely ideological desire to destroy the unity of the country. There are a lot of players.

"And what is this US censuring India and Pakistan? Aren't you the one lecturing about us leaving the world alone?"

I do tend to lecture about not invading small nations with overwhelming military force, without provocation-- as we did in Iraq. But I would like to think we still had the capacity to display some moral leadership. And one good place to do that would be to sit down with nuclear powered India and Pakistan to have a little talk together with the both of them.

We are now at the same point with regard to nuclear proliferation that we were before 9-11, with regard to Islamist terrorism. And India and Pakistan are the tinderbox for the first explosion.

It does little good either to threaten North Korea with sanctions, leaving them no way to make money other than to sell missiles and nuclear technology on the black market. We create a worse enemy this way than we would have if we had kept up the old intitative, linking inspections with aid. It might feel good to act like GI Joe, but it's not effective diplomacy. They are a worse danger now than they have ever been, thanks to inept handling of the situation.

Finally, no. Lincoln acted predictably as a politican by not allowing the South to secede. But the price of unity was not worth the cost-- either in lives lost in the war or the disastrous course of the Reconstruction.

I anticipate you may disagree with some of the above. Fine. Support your points.

We must be winning
It's a highly irresponsible, not to mention unwinnable, War of Civilizations when you elect to begin a war against 1.3 billion people, on the basis of deeds done by an estimated 10-15,000 people (the estimated strength of Al Qaeda in 2001).

I think the parallel with Tim McVeigh is apt. He and Nichols were two relatively isolated individuals. Should we then have declared a holy war against all white Christian males?

Your view that the right way to win the "war on terror" is militarily is to me nonsense. This is a war of ideologies. One does not win such a war by showing the world we are willing to destroy entire nations to get what we want. And it is even more counterproductive to one's dreams of power and glory to start a war and then not succeed in it-- which is very obviously what is going on now.

You may think they are doing a heckuva job over there. But how come we're getting nowhere? Who honestly thinks things will get better if we stay another ten years?

please tell
me how you argue ideology with those whose ideology not only demands your enslavement but who are humiliated if they do not kill you and further humiliated if you mention that its hard to talk if they keep trying to kill you. and that is doctrine of the greater religion (1.3 b.) not the qaeda bunch.
bad analogy that mcveigh faint.
to my knowledge no "war of ideology" has ever been bloodless.
"nowhere?" we are having this discussion.
i do.

Clarification requested
1. You don't argue indeology with someone whose ideology demands your destruction. You watch them to see whether they have a military capability to match their intent. Then you take military action against those armed elements. You don't hold a civilian population hostage to your holy war of countermeasures.

Thus we should have kept up the pursuit of OBL in Afghanistan, where he was. We shouldn't have invaded Iraq, where he wasn't.

2. Your intent is unclear, but I think you are saying that the greater religion of Islam is trying to kill us-- not just Al Qaeda. Is that your position? And would it then follow that all one billion-plus Muslims on earth must be destroyed or defeated?

3. You say "to my knowledge no "war of ideology" has ever been bloodless". How about the current war between the right and the left in the United States? No one has spilled any blood yet, so far as I know.

See my response to Tlaloc and
By the end of WW-II it was a foregone conclusion that India would get Independence. In fact, in 1935 there were elections and the Indian Congress Party participated and won a number of seats and formed Governments.

That is why, the All India Muslim League called for Direct Action Day in 1946 in Bengal, resulting in about 10000 deaths.

And your figures on the death toll do not match Indian Sub Continent sources. Most of them put the toll at the upper limit of a million. Here are some sources, not exactly friendly to India.

But then, the article is NOT ABOUT Independence from foreign rulers but about overthrow of a democratically elected Government by sustained violence. That was not the case in India.

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