TCS Daily

Is the War Lost? Three Inconvenient Truths About Iraq Right Now

By Peter J. Wallison - July 27, 2007 12:00 AM

Democratic Party opponents of the Iraq War are now deeply invested in a withdrawal strategy. They argue, as Harry Reid has phrased it, that the war is lost. But there are three inconvenient truths...

First, one of the principal purposes of the surge is to persuade the Iraqi population that we are going to stay in their neighborhoods until the Iraqi army and police can take over and bring an end to violence. Only when they have confidence that we will not abandon them to the terrorists will Iraqis come forward—as they now appear to be doing—with information about who among them are the terrorists, militia members and other killers, and where they can be found.

Accordingly, efforts to force the withdrawal of our troops at a time certain undermine this policy and the work and bravery of our soldiers. They cause Iraqis to doubt our promises of long term support, and weaken their incentive to assist us with intelligence. Timetables, then, and pressing for a quick withdrawal, become a self-fulfilling prophesy. In other words, if the surge fails, President Bush will not be the only politician who takes the blame.

Second, although Senator Reid and other war opponents can glibly claim that there is no hope that an independent Iraq can survive, there is one group that is truly expert on that question, and they clearly don't believe it. That group consists of the Iraqis who are now in the Iraqi government—from Prime Minister al-Maliki on down—who risk their lives and the lives of their families every day that they serve. They are Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, and all of them are targets of the insurgency and the terrorists of al Qaeda. What motive could these dedicated Iraqis possibly have to place themselves in such a position unless they believe that they can keep the country together and in the end produce a peaceful and unified state?

When we hear war opponents expound on the fact that the enmity between Shiites and Sunnis goes back a thousand years, and that it can't possibly be resolved by the United States in any reasonable period of time, we should think of the Sunnis and Shiites in the Iraqi government today, and whether they think this is a persuasive argument. If they did, they would have been gone long ago—now in Iran or Syria—trying to start their new lives. But they're not—they're in Baghdad—a completely irrational act unless they believe that this historic religious rivalry can be controlled and subdued. It is a wildly arrogant idea that we can tell them that their history cannot be overcome.

Finally, if—as seems apparent now—the surge is succeeding, opponents of the war are going to be hard-pressed to make the case for abandoning Iraq, even if there is no Shi'ite-Sunni political settlement in sight. The inconvenient truth here is that, apart from the irreconcilable Left, the American people's support for withdrawal has been based on an assessment that we were losing the war. If that no longer seems true, support for withdrawal will melt away. The Democratic leaders know this; that's why they made a concerted effort last week to get a vote on withdrawal in July. September, which will likely see a favorable report by General Petraeus, will be too late. Claims that the inability of the Iraqis to reach a political settlement is a reason for us to leave will ring a bit hollow in the face of a possible military success. After all, the American people have noticed that our Congress, unthreatened by anything more serious than an upcoming election, couldn't pass an immigration bill, can't eliminate earmarks or adopt ethics rules, and can't agree on energy legislation when gasoline is $3.50 a gallon. Politicians, they know, will be politicians, but that doesn't mean we should hand our enemies a victory instead of a defeat.

Nevertheless, because weakening the will of the American people is the only way that al-Qaeda and our other opponents in Iraq can hope to win, between now and September we will see an all-out effort to inflict heavy casualties on our troops and on Iraqi civilians. Unfortunately, this can be a winning strategy. If we are unprepared for it, a bad August and early September could still lead to a collapse in public support that would even sweep congressional Republicans with it. We should not forget that the North Vietnamese Tet offensive of 1968—although it resulted ultimately in a military defeat for the North—became a turning point in the war because it destroyed the American public's belief in our ultimate military success. A series of spectacular and dramatic attacks could do the same for our enemies in Iraq. They know that, and we should expect them to try.

But if these attacks do not occur—or if they do and are quickly quelled—the success of the surge will be an inconvenient political truth that many in the Democratic party will not easily survive.

Peter J. Wallison is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He was White House counsel for Ronald Reagan.



Democratic opponents of the war are now invested in a withdrawal strategy? I don't think so. Look more closely at what they're actually advocating. It's only a hairsbreadth away from the administration position.

No reasonable person can be convinced that the war is "winnable"-- in the sense that the Iraqi public will come around to the American way of thinking. But that was never seriously the goal.

If you assume that the goal was to maintain permanent influence over the Iraqi government, that goal is alive and well on the part of the leaders of both parties. There is no "peace" party intending to remove all US forces. The game plan, agreed upon by the leaders of both parties, is to turn over the actual fighting, in time, to Iraqi security services, and return to something like the forcible peace that obtained in Saddam's era. Only this time, with American authority being the one enforced.

Note that construction continues apace on the various outposts of empire. No one is thinking about stopping the completion of our permanent bases. Naturally, we will not call these multibillion dollar cities "permanent". And in fact a great show is currently being made over a bill that will halt "new construction". What that means is that we have already begun work on all the bases we think we'll need, and have no current intention to plan for yet more of them. We'll just finish the ones we have.

And we will never be leaving Iraq.

The premise agreed upon by both political parties is that Americans have the right to dictate to Iraq and to any other country that resists our might, the way it will be governed. And their constitutions will be rewritten so as to allow asets of that country's people to be purchased by foreign investors, and the profits deriving from them to be repatriated without penalty.

It's all about the benjamins. So far, over four million Iraqis have been either displaced or forced to flee the freedoms we bring them. Whether you vote for an R or vote for a D, our national strategy will remain the same.

Definitions indeed...
>"No reasonable person can be convinced that the war is "winnable"-- in the sense that the Iraqi public will come around to the American way of thinking. But that was never seriously the goal."

Who ever said that we were going to convert the Iraqis into Americans? You can say that it was never the goal because it was never the goal.

But establishing a stable government that can govern itself in a more representative fashion is definitely attainable and actually IS the goal.

The rest of your screed is nothing more than Chomsky-esque tripe that throws out reality to conjure up images of the Evil Corporate Overlords who conspire in smoke-filled rooms and gleefully laugh as they plan their domination of the world.

That you can believe yet you refuse to see the Democrats handing victory to the enemy.

Politics v. Benjamin
"Democratic opponents of the war are now invested in a withdrawal strategy? I don't think so. Look more closely at what they're actually advocating. It's only a hairsbreadth away from the administration position." -Roy Bean
Could you provide a few examples of how the policies are similar? I tried to find positions that shared even aesthetic symmetry, but came up aces. On short-term tactics, there is wide disagreement. Even on long-term goals --as illustrated by your post-- there are big differences. Not everyone shares the goal of a stable and safe democracy in Iraq, because not everyone believes it is possible.

Which brings me to my second point:

"No reasonable person can be convinced that the war is 'winnable'-- in the sense that the Iraqi public will come around to the American way of thinking. But that was never seriously the goal." -Roy Bean

If anything, I think the article makes the point that this is reasoning is exactly backwards. Iraqis already hold the goal of having a stable and safe democracy in Iraq --with purple fingers to prove it. The question is whether or not most Americans will come around to *their* way of thinking.

I agree that it really is 'all about the Benjamin.' But not the $100 Bills. It's about the principals advocated by Franklin himself: It's *all* about the personal liberties of free men.

Iraq Liberation Act 1998
" Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 - Declares that it should be the policy of the United States to seek to remove the Saddam Hussein regime from power in Iraq and to replace it with a democratic government.

Authorizes the President, after notifying specified congressional committees, to provide to the Iraqi democratic opposition organizations: (1) grant assistance for radio and television broadcasting to Iraq; (2) Department of Defense (DOD) defense articles and services and military education and training (IMET); and (3) humanitarian assistance, with emphasis on addressing the needs of individuals who have fled from areas under the control of the Hussein regime. Prohibits assistance to any group or organization that is engaged in military cooperation with the Hussein regime. Authorizes appropriations.

Directs the President to designate: (1) one or more Iraqi democratic opposition organizations that meet specified criteria as eligible to receive assistance under this Act; and (2) additional such organizations which satisfy the President's criteria.

Urges the President to call upon the United Nations to establish an international criminal tribunal for the purpose of indicting, prosecuting, and imprisoning Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi officials who are responsible for crimes against humanity, genocide, and other criminal violations of international law.

Expresses the sense of the Congress that once the Saddam Hussein regime is removed from power in Iraq, the United States should support Iraq's transition to democracy by providing humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people and democracy transition assistance to Iraqi parties and movements with democratic goals, including convening Iraq's foreign creditors to develop a multilateral response to the foreign debt incurred by the Hussein regime. "

Liberty and government don't coexist well.
I heard an interesting comment about why the liberals detest religion, especially Christianity.

Christians are not supposed to hold the State in higher regard than God.

To liberals, the State IS god.

Were not serious then?
If Congress wasn't serious then, why should we take them seriously now?

Racist Claptrap
"When we hear war opponents expound on the fact that the enmity between Shiites and Sunnis goes back a thousand years, and that it can't possibly be resolved by the United States in any reasonable period of time..."

Yeah, them old ragheads caint live lak civulized folk.

Three very convenient fallacies
"First, one of the principal purposes of the surge is to persuade the Iraqi population that we are going to stay in their neighborhoods until the Iraqi army and police can take over and bring an end to violence."

An old version of an older Bush statement:
"The only way we can lose is if we leave. If we stay, we win."

"If they did, they would have been gone long ago—now in Iran or Syria—trying to start their new lives. But they're not—they're in Baghdad—a completely irrational act unless they believe that this historic religious rivalry can be controlled and subdued."

In fact, they are in Iran, Syria, Europe, and everwhere else, except the United States, which doesn't really let Iraqi refugees into the country. Maybe a section of the political elite is staying. But tens of thousands of people are leaving, including the kind of citizens who help create a stable society. Maliki can't run away. The people who can, do.

"The inconvenient truth here is that, apart from the irreconcilable Left, the American people's support for withdrawal has been based on an assessment that we were losing the war."

The American people, over five years, have carefully changed their vast majority opinion on how the war is going. The same has been true of politicians in Congress, if you compare the original war resolution vote to current perspectives on the war. If it changes back on the basis of what happens on the ground, fine. This is not inconvenient. It is central. And your point is based on some vague speculation about something that "seems apparent now" to a small (in historical terms) minority of the people in this country, most of them the irreconcilable Right.

You've said nothing in this article at all.

You are rediculous
Just because it pertains to a certain ethnic group, or segment of and ethnic group, doen't necessarily make it racist, whether true or not.

Look dude, if you look at the history of this area, the Arab tribes, the Muslim sects, etc. there is nothing but conflict. The situation seems hopeless.

But no situation is truely hopeless. The government there is trying to work together and make a go of getting along in a civil manner. There is hope that the religious and tribal violence can be kept to a minimum and some sense of order can reign. It will be a fragile co-existance for a while, but it will get stronger with time and compromise.

Still, there is nothing racist about the truth the history shows.

Proving my point
"Look dude, if you look at the history of this area, the Arab tribes, the Muslim sects, etc. there is nothing but conflict."

Yeah, so unlike peaceful places like Europe where people fought tooth and nail for centuries before the catharsis of WWII.

"Still, there is nothing racist about the truth the history shows."

The history of earlier generations, no bloodier than any other region of the world which is now peaceful but reached a tipping point between barbarism and civility in the not-so-distant past.

But, I hear what you're saying, dude. It's genetic, it's in the mongrels' blood. Thanks for making my point.

That would take an assumption of good faith
The mask slipped enough times that I'm not really prepared to assume good faith on the part of Dem leadership anymore. Obey's harrangue in the hall that liberal anti-war honesty was torpedoing Congressional Democrat's efforts to make the war impossible to win did the trick for me.

The strategy is obvious and communications discipline on their side isn't good enough that they've entirely kept their strategy secret. They want to lower troop levels, reduce the ability of military commanders to run operations that will win the war and restrict them to force protection missions that are a sure way to collapse remaining support for the war.

It's an ugly strategy but could be effective if they can just pull off an early vote. We have 7 provinces turned over to the Iraqis. If we can legitimately get 3 more, things get radically easier to stick it out until the last 8 are ready and we can go home with a win.

If we don't stick by the Iraqis until we get over that hump and we have a majority of the country transferred over to their governance, we'll have betrayed them and struck a blow against out national interests. Our promises of support won't be worth anything until a new generation rises that might have enough guts to stick out and fulfill their commitments.

Perpetual civil strife
"Look dude, if you look at the history of this area, the Arab tribes, the Muslim sects, etc. there is nothing but conflict. The situation seems hopeless."

Pauled, I hate to bring this up. The idea that the peoples of the Middle East are and always have been at perpetual war with one another is a truism, expounded on all the pages of the right thinking media.

But it's not really true.

True, there have been sectarian differences. And ethnic differences, and tribal differences. And people from these parts play rough. But Sunni-Shia problems have never in any nation I can recall led to civil war. Even in Beirut, the problem has been between pro-Western Christians and rival Muslims, and has at bottom been about politics, money and Israel rather than religion.

Tribal and ethnic differences have historically been a far greater source of friction in this area. The current ethnic cleansing reflects a state that was made to fail, coming apart at the seams in a novel way.

Look at Iraq for the past thousand years. It was the home of the Caliphate-- that lofty place that Europe never attained, where national borders were erased and everyone lived under one law. Bad idea?

Their problem was with outsiders. Every time chaos descended on them, it was at the hands of outsiders. First the Mongols, then the Ottomans, then the Timurids, and finally the British and French, cutting up the carcass to serve between them after the War to End All Wars.

Iraq has never had a problem with internal dissension. It has always had a problem with meddlers.

Chomsky-esque tripe
So then, you don't believe our intention from the start has been to incorporate Iraq within our economic system? If so, I think there is a bit of either self delusion or obfuscation going on.

Take a look at the regency Paul Bremer put into place, with his one hundred executive orders for the new Iraq. Then, after his vision and the President's parted the ways, see how much pressure was applied to the new parliament to retain those one hundred points in their constitution. All along, we have had as our primary objective the imposition of a neoconomy on Iraq, in contravention of the Geneva Conventions on the handling of occupation governments. It has been a sham, and one educated Iraqis do not swallow.

You can lampoon the process as being one in which "Evil Corporate Overlords" plot to dominate the world (I personally prefer the old style picture of the men in frock coats and top hats, jovially divvying up the world whilst at baccarat)... but I think we both know it is precisely the same process as the one being wrangled out in the WTO. Only with military force being applied.

Finally, a word about the Ds handing victory to the enemy. Certainly you're aware that if they actually wanted to force a withdrawal, there would have been no war funding bill?

Yet there was one, and the vote indicated that the war was to continue. All this business about pulling out the troops is just window dressing, designed to beguile a population that has grown sick and tired of the war, in the hopes that the fools will vote for the Ds to stop it. There are actually hardly any Ds in the Murtha camp.

Wishes vs realities
I think you're making a mistake in thinking all Democrats occupy the Kucinich position, and actually intend the war to end. Most, including the important ones like Hilary and Obama, are in favor of the present course continuing. Only they read the polls, and like to offer the illusion that they will be "bringing the troops home".

They follow much the same actual position as the Republicans-- to go along with events taking their natural course, withdrawing the troops on a predictable timetable that reflects their physical exhaustion, not any actual policy change. But no one says that.

Instead, the hawks bellow "stay the course!", while the doves yell "bring 'em home!" And both vote for the same timetable. Naturally, it's a "ground breaking compromise", a "show of bipartisan comity".

Or, as I would term it, a charade designed to befuddle the voter into thinking he has choices.

Re the purple fingers, I certainly think Iraqis were all very hopeful that something good might come from the occupation, and that the country could normalize. In fact polls showed overwhelmingly they were hoping for the best from their newly elected government.

But that hope ended 18 months ago, at the Samarra mosque. Since then, all the good people of Iraq have been mobbing the exits. Four million displaced, out of a population of 25 million. It's a national tragedy comparable to the invasion of Tamerlane.

The boldly defeatist Democrats
I think you. along with the rest of the oublic, have been taken in by the fiery rhetoric surrounding the seemingly spirited debate. Remember, its deeds, not words, that count.

Let's take a look at the vote on John Warner's funding bill, last fall:

"The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 passed easily at the end of September 2006, authorizing the expenditure of $526 billion for fiscal year 2007. Only 23 U.S. representatives voted against the Act, and not a single senator objected during a unanimous voice vote."

Gosh and golly gee! Only 23 nays in the House, and none in the Senate? Where are these "Democrats", of which you speak?

Here's a task. Look up the roll call vote on the latest authorization bill, the one put together by the Pelosi Congress. See how many of those Democrats you can find.

Obama: Withdraw troops by 31 MAR 08
"This plan would not only place a cap on the number of troops in Iraq and stop the escalation, more importantly, it would begin a phased redeployment of U.S. forces with the goal of removing of all U.S. combat forces from Iraq by March 31st, 2008 - consistent with the expectations of the bipartisan Iraq study group that the President has so assiduously ignored."

Just in time for the presidential elections. What a coincidence!

"Redeploying out of Iraq will be difficult and requires careful planning. I continue to call on the Bush Administration to immediately provide a redeployment strategy that will keep our brave men and women safe as they leave Iraq – instead of adhering to a political strategy to attack those who rightfully question their competence and preparedness after years of mistakes and misjudgments."

Hillary is publicly demanding the Pentagon plan to leave Iraq.

Of course the Pentagon is always creating plans with various detail for most eventualities. If she kept this quiet, it would be a responsible senatorial act. By making this public, she is playing politics, trying to have it both ways.

Words equate to deeds
Our enemies are engaged in a propaganda war and use the pro Islamist rhetoric of our politicians for their advantage.

As for deeds, Congress voted overwhelmingly to authorize the removal of Saddam, by force, and leave a democratic government in its place.

The world should have left Saddam alone?
Saddam was the fault of meddling by the rest of the world?

Stalin, Castro, Ill and Chavez handle their internal dissension problems quite well and you approve their methods?

What does 'incorporate Iraq into our economic system' mean?
Do you mean that the Iraqi people, like all people around the world, have the right to trade with whomever they please?

That's the essence of 'our economic system'.

Back to Definitions
"I think you're making a mistake in thinking all Democrats occupy the Kucinich position, and actually intend the war to end. Most, including the important ones like Hilary and Obama, are in favor of the present course continuing. " -Roy Bean

I agree that by their actions --though not necessarily by their rhetoric-- Many congressmen seem to support staying on course. This means that they are *not* opponents of the war, and also not the individuals that the author was referring to.

'Democratic opponents of the war' are by definition against the war. This is why they are referred to as opponents.

Opponents of the war really do want withdraw. To achieve this, they need a much larger percentage of the voting population to give up the hope that we can win. The president has shown that he won't withdraw when 66% wanted a pull-out, so it's unlikely that he'd withdraw as the numbers improve. And, they are improving.

I'd argue that they're improving because we're winning. The troops will come home. They'll come home when the job is done.

If hope died 18 months ago in Iraq, it is reborn in the wake of the surge. We are fighting back against the murders who displaced 4 million Iraqis after the Mosque bombing, and the President's new strategy has been life-blood to those who remain.

...gave proof through the night, that our flag was still there...
"Just in time for the presidential elections. What a coincidence!"

That's pretty much what I've been saying. Obama is playing to the crowd. But his words are unsubstantial.

In the coming year, "combat troops" WILL be drawing down. This is well known by all parties in Congress who keep themselves informed. Levls of noncombat troops, plus of course that other army, contractors, will stay in place.

So if your intent is to appeal to the flag wavers, shout how you're going to keep our brave soldiers ove there until the battle is won. Then when they draw down, tell everyone it was the Ds who screwed us out of victory.

And if your intent is to appeal to the folks who want the killing over and done with, tell them you're fighting to bring the troops home. But meanwhile, sign the appropriations bills as they come up for your ratification.

You're listening to the rhetoric, not following the action. We can't keep up present troop strength much longer. This gives both sides great opportunities to indulge in frantic flag waving.

Hero of the World
Your comments are growing more idiotic by the day. Please try to respond to what I say. Don't just make stuff up and attribute it to me.

The moment of opportunity was back in 1991. Having destroyed Saddam's cannon fodder, we should have seized the moment and smacked down his Republican Guard. Then the right thing to do would have been to fully support the southern Shia and the Kurds until they could have consolidated themselves militarily... and then BACK AWAY.

Why was it the Lone Ranger was so popular? Wasn't it because after he'd come in and vanquished the bad guy he got on his horse and... Hi yo Silver, awayyyy?

Everyone in the Muslim world would have loved us. There would have been no base for any kind of an Al Qaeda movement. The US would have been the Hero of the World.

Rare Agreement
For once, Roy and I have some agreement. The Islamic people are not uniquely warlike or prone to violence. We would have been better off if Bush pere had finished the job. Where I expect we diverge is in my belief that we now have to finish what wasn't done then to prevent things from getting worse.

Some could argue, and do, that Saddam was our creation as his ascent to power was facilitated by our policies at the time. However, this is the view of the crowd that never considers alternatives and necessity of sometimes choosing the lesser of two evils.

Walking the Walk
So, we agree that the Democrats are spineless cynics whose rhetoric does not match their deeds?

What you said: "Iraq has never had a problem with internal dissension."
Totalitarian dictators crush internal dissension.

So that's why Iraq never had a problem with it?

Islamic peoples all over the world are in coflict with their neighbors.
Maybe Islamic people are not unique but they seem to always be fighting with neighbors of all religions.

It's getting so much better now
"I remember Baghdad before the war- one could live anywhere. We didn't know what our neighbors were- we didn't care. No one asked about religion or sect. No one bothered with what was considered a trivial topic: are you Sunni or Shia? You only asked something like that if you were uncouth and backward. Our lives revolve around it now. Our existence depends on hiding it or highlighting it- depending on the group of masked men who stop you or raid your home in the middle of the night.

"On a personal note, we've finally decided to leave. I guess I've known we would be leaving for a while now. We discussed it as a family dozens of times. At first, someone would suggest it tentatively because, it was just a preposterous idea- leaving ones home and extended family- leaving ones country- and to what? To where?"

I guess it all depends on where you happen to be living. In the US, everything is just great.

Spineless and cynical
"So, we agree that the Democrats are spineless cynics whose rhetoric does not match their deeds?"

Yup, that pretty well sums them up.

Preferable, IMO, to warmongering neofas-cists who don't mind causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands to spread their influence. But I suppose that's a matter of opinion.

Either way, the wars will go on. What's the use of having the world's most expensive killing machine if you can't take it out for a spin once in a while?

Sure, much better

" During the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq's Sunni-dominated regime arrested thousands of Shiite Muslims on charges of supporting the 1979 Iranian Revolution; many have never been accounted for. Nearly 500,000 Shiites fled to Iran. After the Gulf War, Iraqi forces shelled and shot thousands of Shiites who were hiding in the country's southern marshlands after a failed revolt. Hussein also razed towns and drained marshlands. Thousands of Shiites, including hundreds of clerics and their students, were imprisoned without charge, "disappeared" or were executed. Many Shiite shrines and institutions were demolished. Again, thousands of Shiites fled the area, some to Iran. In 1999, Ayatollah al Sayyid Mohammad Sadiq al Sadr, the most senior Shiite cleric in Iraq, was assassinated.

In May 2003, a mass grave was discovered near Mahaweel, 60 miles south of Baghdad. Most bodies appear to have been killed after a 1991 Shiite revolt. The remains of other Shiites killed after a 1999 rebellion have been discovered near Basra."
An estimated 300,000 Iraqi citizens have vanished without a trace, many presumed dead. The U.N. Commission on Human Rights condemned the Iraqi regime in 2001 for "widespread, systematic torture and the maintaining of decrees prescribing cruel and inhuman punishment as a penalty for offenses." Torture methods have included hanging, beating, rape and burning alive. The 2001 U.S. Department of State Human Rights Report says the government "killed and tortured persons suspected of - or related to persons suspected of - economic crimes, military desertion and a variety of other activities. Security forces routinely tortured, beat, raped and otherwise abused detainees." It accused the regime of killing inmates to reduce prison overcrowding and executing prostitutes."

"The tyranny that Saddam has imposed on Iraq has few equals in the world today. International human rights groups, as well as the United Nations, report that some 16,000 Iraqis have disappeared, never to be accounted for. Saddam's agents are everywhere searching out evidence of disloyalty. The British Index on Censorship, Kaplan and Kristol recount, reported a case in which a Baath Party member was present at a gathering where jokes at Saddam's expense were exchanged. The party member -- along with all of the other males in his family, was executed -- and the family home was bulldozed. Another man had his tongue sliced off for "slandering" the Iraqi leader."

"In 1992, Saddam arrested 500 of Baghdad's most successful businessmen on charges of "profiteering." Forty-two were executed, their bodies left hanging outside their stores with signs around their necks saying "Greedy Merchant." In 1994, the regime issued a new decree announcing that anyone found guilty of stealing an item worth more than $12 would have his hand amputated. For a second offense, the thief would be branded."

" As many as 100,000 Iraqis were murdered by the regime in the months following the Gulf War.

Saddam's treatment of the Kurds was, if possible, worse. The Kurds are a non-Arab minority living in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia. Saddam accused the Kurds, who are Sunni Muslims, of collaborating with the Iranians and gave orders for their extermination. The Iraqi air force used chemical weapons to gas the towns of Halabja, Goktapa and two hundred smaller villages, killing as many as 200,000. Mothers were found with their scarves wrapped around their babies' faces, hoping to protect them. "

Backing both sides
"Where I expect we diverge is in my belief that we now have to finish what wasn't done then to prevent things from getting worse."

Indeed. In 1991 Saddam was the aggressor, and moral right was on our side. In 2003 that was not the case.

Do you think this just does not matter to the public over on that side of the world? Or does it just engender hatred and fear?

Re choosing the lesser of two evils... please recall that the US was instrumental in precipitating a war that killed several million people, between Iraq and Iran. And that during that war we aided both sides with war materiel.

What is it Old Glory stands for, again?

How about those Hindus and Buddhists?
...Always fighting one another, in places like Nepal and Sri Lanka.

The fact is, there are dozens of clashes going on between different ethnic groups, and between oppressed minorities and their oppressive governments. Muslims are no more prone to this than anyone else.

Sectarian strife
Iraq has had a seven thousand year history. During that time, they have often been invaded and crushed under the heel of someone or another. The Akkadians, the Hittites and (worst of all) the Assyrians all devastated Iraq in their time.

Compared to these great tribulations, the petty squabbles between Sunni and Shia have never been a serious cause for bloodshed. Ethnic and tribal differences have been far more important than sectarian disputes. And foreign invasions have been an order of magnitude more significant a cause of violent death.

My point was that saying the Sunnis and Shiites have always fought one another is quite false. Once we leave, the fighting will quickly be over and one of the groups will win.

Sunnis and Shias have ALWAYS been fighting each other.
Look it up.

Philippines, Indonesia, India, Palestine, Algeria, Nideria, Sudan, Bosnia, ...
What did I miss?

What do they all have in common? Muslims fighting their neighbors.

Shhhh!!! You're encouraging the enemy with this kind of talk
It doesn't matter how well argued or logical it is. In fact, the more logical and well-founded, the worse, because the enemy, whoever that now is, will inevitably take comfort in the fact that we don't have a clue about what we're doing.

You're also ignoring bright rays of hope like the decision, annnounced today, to give SAudi Arabila $20 billion worth of arms....

Backing both sides when you want BOTH to lose.
The USA wanted to weaken both sides.

Why shouldn't the USA want Iraq, a Stalinist client state of USSR to lose?

And why shouldn't the USA want a theocracy that had attacked its embassy and held its citizens hostage to lose?

But you probably didn't think the USSR was any sort of threat.

Back it up
Just saying so doesn't make it so. Iraq has never in its history endured such thorough carnage between the sects as it has since 2003. Before the invasion, most neighborhoods were mixed, and peaceful. In fact, many members of Saddam's Baathist government were Shia.

The Middle East is known for its pogroms and ethnic purges. There's hardly a minority that hasn't at some time been slaughtered by the reigning majority. But if you can find a reference to Sunnis slaughtering Shiites, or the reverse, please offer it up.

You're apologizing for mass murder
Fomenting and prolonging a war in which a couple of million people are used as cannon fodder, just to marginally improve our position in a part of the world we don't belong in and are unlikely to ever gain a foothold in, tells us everything we need to know about the moral superiority of the American governent.

Glad you brought it up
In few of those places do you find fighting initiated by Muslims against non-Muslims.

The Philippines were an uneasy mix of a Catholic north and a Muslim south before the US ever invaded. The Moros were in rebellion against the Spanish long before we got there.

In Indonesia national law institutionalizes freedom of religion. Most people are Muslim, but this has no bearing on independence movements like the one in Aceh.

There has been mutual religious warfare between Muslims and Christians in Ambon and in northern Nigeria. Incidents are as likely to be initiated by one side as by the other.

In India most of the aggression has been directed against local MUslims, by ultranational Hindus.

The Palestinian issue is one of invasion by Europeans and subjugation of the local population-- many of whom are Christian.

In Algeria it's the Islamists against the secular Muslims.

In Sudan it's nomadic Muslims against sedentary Muslims.

And in Bosnia, I'd like to see you try to make the case for Muslim aggresion against the peace-loving Serbs and Croats.

So in most of the cases you cite, what you find is Muslims struggling against the aggression of their neighbors. In others, the antipathy is mutual. I would offer that Muslims have no worse a track record for ethnic cleansing than anyone else-- and they certainly have a long way to go before they beat the Europeans.

Putting history in context (you don't believe the USSR was a threat to the free world?)
I am putting history in context.

The ONLY reason the 'coalition' believed it could force Iraq from Kuwait was because of the fall of the USSR.

Had the USSR not collapsed, and it supported Iraq, Kuwait would be province of Iraq today.

No problem
"Muslims vehemently deny it, but they have made Islam a parochial religion mired in the past. Islam was revealed as a universal deen from the heavens. Muslims have made it a religion based on history. What is preached is different from what is practiced. The transcendence of the Qur’an and the universality of the message of the Prophet have been replaced by the parochialism of those who claim to practice them. The contrast between Islamic precepts and Muslim practices is the most convincing illustration of how divine ideas get compromised when they are introduced into the matrix of human affairs. "

"Much of the often bloody history of Shia-Sunni conflicts is well known. The Sunnis believe in the Ijmah of the companions. The Shias believe in the primacy of succession through Ahl e Bait. The former resulted in the institution of Khilafat, the latter in the evolution of Imamat and Wilayat. And the feud has continued long after either institution has ceased to have relevance to the contemporary world. "

"The subsequent centuries have been a continuous saga of political rivalries between these two groups. The Sunnis have been the dominant political group but on occasions the Shias have challenged the political primacy of the Sunnis. In 945 CE, the Ithna Ashari Buyids briefly occupied Baghdad only to be expelled by the Seljuk Turks. In the tenth and eleventh centuries, the Fatimids, another branch of Shia Islam, successfully challenged the military primary of the Sunni Abbasids in Baghdad and ruled an empire extending from Morocco to Syria from their capital of Cairo. For over a hundred years, it was Sunni Islam that was on the defensive. There were Shia kingdoms as far away as Multan (Pakistan) and Samarqand (Uzbekistan). The Fatimid power shriveled from within due to its narrow social base (they were not successful in proselytizing the Sunnis) and received its coup de grace at the hands of Salahuddin Ayyubi (1171 CE).
With their political power fading, the Fatimids launched the deadly assassin movement. Many a stalwart historical figure fell to the dagger of the assassin. Included among these were the brilliant grand vizier Nizamul Mulk of Baghdad (1091 CE), Mohammed Ghori , conqueror of Delhi (1206 CE), the Atabeks Maudud (1127 CE) and Zengi (1146 CE) of Mosul. Salahuddin himself narrowly escaped the assassin’s dagger on several occasions. "

"The Shia-Sunni split takes its deadly toll even today. In Iraq, not a day goes by when rival Shia-Sunni groups take the lives of hundreds of innocent people. Even assuming there are hidden hands behind this anarchy, the carnage is historic in its magnitude and can only result in the death of a nation. In Pakistan, intermittent attacks on Shia and Sunni mosques and places of congregation continue, hardening the ill will between the two communities.
Islam in America has a unique opportunity to heal these wounds. There are over three million Muslims in America. And there are over a million Iranians, a large majority of whom is Muslim. America has produced Muslim scholars of the first rank who have transcended Shia or Sunni labels and have made lasting contributions to Islamic sciences. The name of the eminent scholar Seyyed Hussein Nasr immediately springs to mind. America is the melting pot of nations. Muslims here are cosmopolitan. Shia-Sunni marriages and familial relations are commonplace in this land."

Your support of Saddam don't support mass murder?
You keep claiming Iraq was better under Saddam, a convicted mass murderer.

Are you apologizing for mass murderers now?

Was Winston Churchill correct about NAZI Germany?
He was significantly in the minority, but he was correct.

The beauty of science is that ONE person can change the world by proving everyone else wrong.

Serious considerations should always be given to minority opinion.

some truth, still not racist
"But, I hear what you're saying, dude. It's genetic, it's in the mongrels' blood. Thanks for making my point."

Yes, your are correct in assuming you are rediculous.

Like everything, how you read the history depends much on where you start looking and how long you look. Copmaring the middle-east to europe depends on how far back you look and what you are looking at.

Still, I agree with your basic point, which I think is that very nasty wars abounded around the world until after WWII. Since 1945 the European countries have, for the most part, avoided serious armed conflict with their neighbors. But some countries avoided serious armed confrontation for long periods of time way before that.

Generally speaking, the arabs, Jews, Persians, etc. have been in a state of continuous conflict (either external against other countries int he region or Europeans; or internal, between religious factions or social groups) for the past 1,000 years or more (some would say forever).

Considering the wars are usually territorial or religious in nature, it has nothing to do with race and a lot to do with the tribal culture and religious differences. Not everyone involved is Arab, so it isn't about "Those people".

Generally speaking, you have to be pretty goofy, uninformed, or a racist yourself to cry racisim over anything that goes on in this region. It is far more complex than that, but the history does indeed lead some to dispair over any possibilities of a bright future.

It's the history, man! It ain't about the who but the what, when, where and how!

Doctrinal differences
I knew you were going to come up with something like that. But that's not a history of ethnic cleansing, such as has been going on since 2004 in Iraq. All you have found is a conventional description of the schism between the two sects. And a few highlights of struggles between some Sunni army and some other Shiite army. Yes, centuries ago many armies fought eachother.

By contrast the Thirty Years' War, in Europe, was a real sectarian bloodbath, with the sides roughly defined as the Protestants vs the Catholics. Islam has nothing whatsoever in its history like that.

What's really going on is a result of development failing to keep up with birth rate. All around the globe, ethnic rivalries are turning into occasions of true ethnic cleansing. At the fall of the Soviet Union, for instance, there were about seventy ethnic rivalries that resulted in bloodshed.

Among them were Nagorno Karabakh. You will make much of the fact that the Azeris are Muslim, while the Armenians are Christian. But the struggle has nothing to do with religion. It's all about simple ethnicity-- two distinct groups occupying the same space, plus great economic hardship.

You're making way too much about this Sunni-Shia thing. Doctrinal differences have very little to do with the nature of the major problems in today's world.

No real arguement from me
It is the point I was trying to make.

There are three problems that tend to grip the Middle-East/North Africa; Iraq included. The first is conflict with outside entities, more often middle-eastern (arab, jew, Persian, etc.) but lately European (Brittish, French, Turk) as well.
Iraq (Mespotamia) and Iran (Persia) have a history of bad blood (for example).

Then there is the sectarian issue. It usually doesn't raise it's head out of the grass until some other strife is creating problems (like in Iraq now), but it always seems to lurk, waiting for a reason to strike; and sometimes it just starts the crap ball rolling when there is even the slightest hint of other tensions.

Finally there is the tribal aspect. Often the cause of tensions that unleash sectarian violence, the various tribal associations have been more a problem in the past than in the last 100 years or so; but they also boil just below the surface.

Iraq and Iran have a more stable history than most in the region when it comes to the tribal/sectarian relm, but it is always there and always threatens to undermine any attempt to unify the various groups.

And it is not confined to the Arabs. Even the Jews contend with this at times, it seems to infect the region, regardless of race, creed or basic religious belief.

Still, you are right in the overview.

Apologizing for mass murder
This is typical of the way you argue. When I observe that Saddam had in fact dismantled his WMD programs before we invaded (which can be readily demonstrated), thus removing the rationale given for the invasion, you can't address that. Because it means you lose your case. So instead, you say I'm apologizing for mass murderers.

This is dumb. There's no other way to put it. Mass murder is wrong. And Saddam did in fact kill between 300 and 400,000 Iraqis during his term in office, by every sensible estimate.

Far more than that are being killed now, under our suzerainty. So that makes us even worse in my view. It doesn't matter one damn bit whether we "mean" to kill all those people. The killing went up when we came, and it continues high today. It will be that way until well after we leave, once the Iraqis are able to put their own country back together. Therefore we own all those deaths.

We have done the impossible, and made things worse than they were under a mass murderer.

Plus, whenever we do leave, and they put their country back together, they will likely be under the absolute rule of some other Saddam. It's a country that should never have been cobbled together, like Yugoslavia. It would be far better off as three countries.

Does any of this sound like an apology for Saddam?

Hijrah calendar is 1428
What was happening in the Christian world in 1428 AD?

Most of those in the middle east have not joined the rest of the world. They still remember what was done to them hundreds of years ago by the neighboring tribe.

I personally don't care much about Shia/Sunni but THEY do. The Shias are treated poorly in Saudi Arabia and Sunnis treated Shias badly in Iraq. Persian Iran is Shia and the Sunnis is Saudi are afraid of them.

Ethnicity or religion. There is no difference in the middle east since one cannot change either.

Yes, order is most important to you, not hope.
You have cited an example of someone who believes they were better off under mass murderer Saddam.

I think there are millions of Iraqis who would disagree with your assessment that the situation is worse now.

Stalin and other dictators like Saddam keep order by murder and terror. But that's seems to be ok in your book because the alternative, fighting back, creating disorder and the killing that happens then seems to be more abhorrent to you than only one side murdering.

Iraq now has an opportunity, again, to create a civil state. Lebanon has that chance now too. Even the totalitarians in Iran are feeling the pressure to return to a civil society.

You continue to be critical of the efforts by the west to liberate people from tyranny and praise those tyrants, like Chavez and Mugabe who want to control their people.

You said you would shoot libertarians in their sleep if they moved to NC to try and democratically elect libertarians, yet you don't support other people's rights to fight for their liberty.

Resource wars
Pauled... I'm coming in a little late to this conversation (which seems to be coming along swimmingly well without me) but there's something I'd like to point out.

You say "Still, I agree with your basic point, which I think is that very nasty wars abounded around the world until after WWII. Since 1945 the European countries have, for the most part, avoided serious armed conflict with their neighbors."

You're talking about a period when Western Europe and East Asia were exhausted by war. But that doesn't mean the toll of innocent human beings killed each year since 1945 has grown that much less. It just means the locations have changed.

What we've seen since is the advent of totalitarian dictators armed with easily purchased weapons of destruction (the manufacturers offer easy terms), oppressing their own populations with fatal results. Throughout Latin America, Africa and Asia these wars of governments against their own people have taken a toll only slightly less than the toll taken annually in WWII. In tiny Guatemala alone, the toll was over 200,000 peasants. This adds up.

Add to that ethnic cleansing, or tribal disputes across the world similar to Rwanda, East Timor, Darfur, etc. The character of the killing may have changed since WWII. The toll has not. In eastern Congo-Zaire, since 2004, some out it at 4-1/2 million, counting the disease and starvation that came in war's wake.

Why? The curve for population has been going up in the war-torn areas, while that for development stays the same and that for total resources, if anything, goes down. We're going to be seeing a lot more of this, as people eat the earth bare and resent one another's presence on it more and more.

Notice that the one thing all those places have in common is that they are very crowded countries. Even Darfur is crowded, compared to the carrying capacity of the land. It has many millions of poor farmers eking out a living in a land comparable to West Texas, which only has some cattle on it. No wonder it occurs to them to start killing one another off.

The only thing that changed in 1945 was that most Europeans decided they had seen enough of it. And coincidentally, their population replacement rates have dropped below zero.

Too bad the slack is being taken up by culturally dissimilar immigrants from North Africa and the Arab and Turkish lands.

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