Stop Press: The impending war is boosting support for the Greens in the NSW state election due in March – could this be why the Greens number 3 candidate for the Upper House, Ben Oquist, has just withdrawn his candidacy? A few months ago the Greens thought they had a bit of a chance of their number 2 getting up! Ben, who is Bob Brown’s adviser in Canberra and has his sights set on a Senate spot, assured me late last year there was no chance he’d get elected in NSW so he’d hang in there.
Now we’re at the pointy end of the war debate writers and Webdiarists are proposing alternatives to an invasion of Iraq and thinking about how to avoid such wars in future.
In the Herald yesterday, Christopher Kremmer suggested a massive expansion in the weapons inspectors’ manpower and resources:“Expanding the inspectorate would bolster confidence in its findings. Giving it permanent tenure would send a strong signal to Baghdad that certification and an end to sanctions could be postponed indefinitely unless it sees reason and disarms fully.” (smh)
Jack Robertson’s column today, Looking for John Curtin, sets out a detailed proposal to reconcile the UN and the US. It’s a great piece which I highly recommend. In this entry, M. Mercurius in Sydney tells the hawks and the doves they’re both wrong. American reader Ralph Boecker, Webdiarist Mike Lyvers, an American in Queensland, and Queensland Webdiarist Karen Jackson suggest ways to avoid a unilateral strike or prevent a repeat crisis, and John Nicolay (nom de plume) replies in detail to yesterday’s Carmen Lawrence column, The price of war. To end Nicholas Crouch, who’s contributed once before to Webdiary by commenting on the forum itself, debuts on a substantive issue with a piece putting the case for war. No Webdiary tomorrow – back Monday.
John Wojdylo’s column today is on the ethics of Webdiary (John30Jan). I asked him for a couple of pars on the topic for inclusion in a chapter I’m writing on adapting my ethical obligations – drafted for hard copy journalism – to the net. Naturally I got an essay instead, and as usual its top quality.
For the reaction of American weblogger and Webdiary reader Dawn Rivers Baker to the Bush speech, go to microenterprisejournal
American reader Tony Wisniewski pulls me up on my statement yesterday that “it was telling that he devoted such a long portion of his speech to the disadvantaged and the world’s environmental crisis – a crisis the world is trying to address without – so far – support from America”.
I’m certain you will pull links that denounce the US for what we have not done or what we have disagreed with. That’s fine. They too should constitute a data-driven discussion. Please remember that America is not one collective mind. One man, president or not, does not wield empirical power. The beauty of this country is that people are free to think, act, feel, give and react differently from one another. We cherish that ability. Because of it you will find that the government espousing war is the same one providing assistance to the environment and the less fortunate worldwide. I welcome your opinions. Whether I agree or disagree, all viewpoints must be considered when attempting to make an informed opinion . It is absolutely important however that you base your comments on data. What I ask is that you make certain to craft your opinion on fact not rhetoric. Those of us once curious in your opinion will stop listening if you continue to defend baseless statements.”
M. Mercurius in Summer Hill, Sydney
One of the luxuries in trying to filter through the Iraq/SH debate is that if anybody offers you a simple solution, you automatically know they’re wrong.
“Bomb Iraq” is wrong. “Do nothing” is also wrong.
Naturally, and for all the right reasons, the doves are outraged by the needless slaughter of innocent Iraqi civilians that will take place if we go to war. But if they’re so worried about the fate of the Iraqi people, where has their concern been for the last 20 years while SH has systematically gaoled, tortured and massacred those people, and then corrupted the UN sanctions so that they do nothing but starve civilian populations of food, medicine and education?
I would like to see the pacifists apply the same passion they apply to the question of what happens to the Iraqi people if we go to war to the question of what happens to the Iraqi people if we let SH terrorise them for another 20 years.
Ethically, we are confronted the same question as a doctor with a terminal patient – if you don’t operate, the patient will die a slow painful death, if you do operate, the patient may not survive the surgery. What do you do?
Naturally, and for all the right reasons, the hawks are worried that SH is a dangerous menace. But if he’s a dangerous menace now, he was even more of dangerous menace 20 years ago, but back then he was OUR dangerous menace, so that was OK.
This is why the hypocrisy of the hawks is so transparent to many people – we are reacting in our gut to the knowledge that Western interests aided and abetted SH in his war on Iran and his subsequent chemical weapons programme he so infamously tested on the Kurds. We know that if a deranged pit bull goes on the rampage, it is the pit bull’s trainer who is responsible – and collectively, that’s us.
So the doves quite rightly don’t buy the argument that war on Iraq is about liberating the Iraqi people, because we know if that were the reason it would have happened 20 years ago. We know the hawks’ message is hypocritical because SH is their Frankenstein’s monster.
But we also see that the doves’ high-handed rhetoric is misguided because they’ve suddenly whipped up a concern for the welfare of the Iraqi people that has been conspicuously absent until now.
The doves are also rightfully suspicious of the hawks ever-changing rationale for war. First the priority was a war on terrorists, then ‘regime change’ in Iraq, then weapons of mass destruction. If the hawks can’t get their story straight, why shouldn’t we be extremely skeptical about their motives?
Meanwhile, on the domestic scene, those loud voices who call the doves “traitors” and call to “lock them up” are showing that they have the same tyrannical and dictatorial instincts as SH. Locking up anybody who disagrees with you is a practice of which SH would be proud.
Every thinking person knows that the defence of freedom and democracy means the defence of other people’s right to say and do things that you despise. Locking up dissidents, conscientious objectors and the like is exactly what we berate SH for doing, so let’s not become the pot calling the kettle black.
And the doves can get down off their high horse and stop lumping the hawks in the same camp as SH and that debating chestnut, Adolf Hitler. Please. If the doves want to raise the rhetorical stakes like that, I could draw parallels between the present pacifists with the attitude of the pre-WWII British and Europeans who simply ignored the evidence and disbelieved that anything like the holocaust could possibly be happening in the ‘civilised’ West – or the post-WWII world that ignored the ethnic cleansing in Serbia until it was too late.
To dogmatically rule out war as a viable option is to ignore 1500 years of debate which has helped to define and refine the principle of ‘Just War’. You remain ignorant of that kind of intellectual inheritance at your peril.
A lot of the ill-will and name-calling can be taken out of this debate if we recognise that we all dropped the ball on this one. The hawks created a monster and now try to seize the moral high ground when he doesn’t do as he’s told. The doves have ignored Iraq’s 20-year nightmare and now try to seize the moral high ground with claims they want peace because they have a concern for human rights in that country.
Nobody wants a war, and nobody wants SH to continue raping Iraq. OK hotshot, you tell ME what we should do?
I’m probably not your usual emailer, being an American, but your topic touched very close to home so I thought I’d take time to write you. I view web pages from around the world (English-speaking as I’m mono-lingual) as part of my job and like to read tomorrow’s newspaper today.
President Bush’s speech was reassuring, and frightening.
Both my parents grew up in Germany on the receiving end of an Allied coalition and have conveyed some of the horror of war. I drove past the Pentagon when it had a gaping hole and blackened walls and cried because I’d worked there in the past. And I know things about Saddam Hussein that make me nervous. With that behind me, I’ll give my personal take on things.
A simple visit to multiple web sites humbles me with the power and influence of my country. There is no doubt that we can kick the butts of just about any takers while sipping a beer and watching TV. But having won, what do we do?
Twelve years ago, Saddam raped Kuwait, sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively. I understand that many of the cars that were shipped back to Baghdad are still being driven by favored political cronies. There is no opposition outside of a cemetery. And Iraqi leaders say they are preparing for chemical combat because the US might use it on them, despite the fact that, other than side effects from Agent Orange, we have avoided chemical warfare for 85 years.
Still, I’m not completely convinced that we need a war to remove Hussein and Company (it’s not just him, after all). And we have a terrible record as kingmakers. So I’d like to propose a compromise solution.
Why don’t we (the US) go ahead and get rid of the rascal, and the rest of the powers (maybe the UN or EU) can offer to step in and help rebuild so we don’t get accused of wanting too much. The world community has been doing nothing long enough. Whether or not war is the right answer, in the silence that follows requests for original solutions it seems to be about the only thing left.
There is a clear middle path available. The U.S. threatened war, forcing the U.N. to take action by resuming inspections. As long as those inspections are happening, there is little that Saddam can do (he doesn’t dare bring out his hidden arsenals, for example). So Saddam is effectively bottled up by the inspections. That’s why they should be continued: They keep Saddam under wraps without having to go to war to do so. That’s why I oppose invading Iraq.
Karen Jackson, member of the Democrats, Queensland
I feel the need to make a few comments about my ‘Ten Reasons to be Anti-American’ piece (Oh Superman). Firstly, yes, I was rather cross when I wrote it, so it is a little extreme in places and I apologise for that.David Makinson’s comments in In Defence of America express in a far better way why people shouldn’t use this term.
At the same time, I still think those ten points are very good reasons to feel angry at the US. Indeed, many of them lie at the heart of peoples distrust of their current motives.
Mike Lyvers in Waiting for George correctly picked me up on this sentence: “What’s more, the propaganda that says the terrorists hate our freedom is just so much bullshit. It’s not freedom that these people hate; it’s America’s hypocrisy.” I don’t doubt that Islamist terrorists do hate our freedoms – women’s freedom from masculine oppression, the freedom to express sexuality, the freedom to follow ones own religion, or do without it.
Nonetheless, I also think that groups such as al-Qaeda also have a political motive, based on a hatred of the way the US treats the rest of the world, most particularly in the case of Israel where their hypocrisy is most glaring.
David’s piece defending the US, along with Bush’s conciliatory speech, has made me want to clarify where I stand in opposition to this war. The fact is, I don’t want to be accused – as you were by Jack Stack(Placing confidence in a Loving God) of defending dictators and oppressive regimes. I realise, when it comes down to it, that liberating Iraq would be a wonderful thing. It’s just that I don’t agree with the way it’s happening.
So it’s time for me to crank up John Lennon’s Imagine, get all starry eyed, and articulate what I think should be done.
Ideally, I want to see a world where human rights are respected, where people engage in true participatory democracy, and where the true causes of terrorism and violence are addressed – ie we work toward eliminating poverty and ignorance. (Let’s pause while all those macho critics out there laugh and call me names. Yes, of course I’m a bleeding heart. You’re right, how loony of me to imagine such a utopia.)
Yes, I want this for Iraq. And for Zimbabwe, and Saudi Arabia. For Pakistan. For Indonesia, East Timor, North Korea, Iran. And for Australia.
So this is where the UN comes in, but not the UN we have now. What I want to see is an impartial UN completely supported in all its efforts by all member nations, especially the United States. I want the UN to be well funded, well organised, and respected as a legitimate entity by the entire world.
I want to see the UN become the worlds policeman, not the US following its own agenda. I want it to make sure every country is democratic and respecting human rights, *without exception*. I also want it to become the real forum for airing grievances, the global court of King Solomon, where all know they will get a fair hearing, where there are no vetoes based on self interest.
And I want the US to be its main right hand, so all that money and influence and, yes, firepower can be used for the greater good, not just for those lucky few who were born in America. So that, for example, when the UN says to Robert Mugabe: Hold fair elections and stop persecuting your people, he might actually do what he’s told, or the US will use its considerable force.
What’s the difference between this idea and the current situation?
For a start no-one would be accusing the UN of being “impotent” or defying international law because it was perceived to be biased or useless. When it came to Iraq, any dispute would be conducted in a far more diplomatic nature than has occurred so far. If the Iraqis trusted the UN, they would perhaps be more inclined to co-operate. Yes, that is a big IF, but, like John Howard, I’m talking hypothetically here. And if they can do it with North Korea, how hard can it really be?
If it came to an attack, it would be legal. It wouldn’t be an invasion. Police don’t invade; they keep the peace. And police dont get to keep what they find when they attend a domestic disturbance. They make sure nothing else gets broken and leave it to the owners.
In my little utopian vision, any attack on Iraq would really be about liberating the Iraqi people. And it would be followed up with a great deal of aid and support to help rebuild that nation. It would mean that Iraq’s oil wealth could go toward feeding and education Iraq’s population.
You wouldn’t get newspaper articles crowing about the $5 million dollars generously donated to build a hospital in Afghanistan. You’d get real, ongoing help to rebuild and stabilise a new democratic nation.
And you’d know that it wasn’t just a selective thing, based purely upon greed for oil. You’d know that every other country in the world would face the same thing if they didn’t toe the UN line on democracy and human rights.
If we HAVE to accept the US as the only superpower in the world, we want it to be decent and fair – we want it to live up to its own hyperbole about democracy and freedom – because at the moment these words seem awfully hollow. We really do want it to use its power for good, not evil – and yes, killing people to gain control of oil reserves is just as evil as flying planes into office towers.
We don’t like hypocrisy. We want consistency and fairness in how “difficult nations” are dealt with. We want less greed colouring international relations. We don’t want to kill people if it is at all possible.
And I think we really just want to be left alone to live our lives in peace. Not just us – the Iraqis, the Koreans, the East Timorese – they feel the same way too.
Is it all too simplistic? Perhaps. But at least now I have a simple reply to the with-us-or-agin us argument. Integrity, co-operation, democracy, human rights. For all.
I read Dr Lawrence’s column with a mix of disbelief, exasperation and despair. Is this sort of emotive, patronising nonsense really what passes for analysis and argument on the left these days? I have been a member of the ALP since my teenage years, but if this is the sort of analysis and reasoning that she would bring to decisions of state, I would have trouble voting in good conscience for Labor at any election that was likely to install Dr Lawrence in a position of responsibility.
What is missing entirely from her screed is an understanding of the fact that ALL available options have consequences that must be analysed. She seems to think that if she can point to bad things that might happen if one option were pursued, there is no need to apply her imagination to possible horrors if the other is followed – it has already won the argument!
In my view, you simply cannot be taken seriously as an opponent of war unless you are prepared to acknowledge what sort of leader Saddam Hussein is, extrapolate what his record suggests about his intentions and ambitions, and recognise that his conduct towards weapons inspections leaves no other rational possibility other than that he has or is developing weapons of mass destruction and intends to keep them.
By no means does recognising all those facts lead inexorably to the conclusion that war is necessary, but it is only once you do take these things into account that you engage in the duty that real policy-makers have in a situation like this: of considering all possible outcomes and choosing the one with the least worst results.
Dr Lawrence goes on to repeat a series of propaganda points that fall into the “no sane person with basic research skills could possibly believe” category. For example, the cant about sanctions “killing” over 500,000 Iraqi children.
Let us for a moment assume that, indeed, 500,000 Iraqi children have died since 1991 as a result of inadequate nutrition and medicine. This is not a country where the resources to provide properly simply do not exist. We know exactly what resources Iraq has – they sell large quantities of oil under a U.N. program. But Saddam’s regime chooses to spend massive amounts of that revenue on things like palaces and weapons programs, in preference to food and medical supplies. How, exactly, then, are the results of those spending priorities the fault of the sanctions? This is supposed to be an argument in favour of leaving Saddam Hussein in place?
I wonder also whether Dr Lawrence has any idea of the source of the “500,000 children” factoid. In fact, the Madeleine Albright quote she uses comes from the very exchange that gave the figure its currency. In 1996, Secretary Albright was confronted by Lesley Stahl of the American 60 Minutes program, who asserted that figure (on the basis of “evidence” that turned out to be manifestly untrue) and asked her whether it was “worth it”. Secretary Albright responded with the quote that Dr. Lawrence reproduced – and she has subsequently, repeatedly and vociferously, repudiated both the asserted figure and her response when put on the spot by Ms. Stahl.
The closest real source for the “500,000 Iraqi children” figure I can find is a UNICEF report that states that “if the substantial reduction in child mortality throughout Iraq during the 1980s had continued through the 1990s, there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under-five in the country as a whole during the eight year period 1991 to 1998”. In other words, the figure is based on an extrapolation of the rate of decline in the 1980s throughout the following decade – an heroic assumption to begin with – and involves no attempt to isolate the various possible causes for the discrepency – one of which just might have been that during the period, Iraq launched an offensive war against a neighbouring state. To use the UNICEF figure to make the assertion Dr. Lawrence repeats is, simply, foolish.
And then to repeat the “predictions” of MedAct, the left-wing UK anti-war group, as if they were some sort of scientific estimate as opposed to a clever piece of press-release advocacy . . . just how gullible does Dr. Lawrence think her audience is? Would it surprise anyone to learn that MedAct also opposed U.S. action in Afghanistan, warning that it would result in a “massive humanitarian disaster”.
Dr Lawrence also fails to note that the “group of health workers based at Cambridge University” that she cites as an additional source for casualty estimates has a name, which is “Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq”. I don’t know much about this group, but I’m prepared to go out on a limb and bet that it is not composed of disinterested observers with no axe to grind.
Speaking of bets, I’m also prepared to lay one that Dr Lawrence’s sole source for all of the studies that she cites was a single MedAct press release, rather than her independent review of those sources, as she implies. Just so we know whose word we’re taking . . .
Next, Dr Lawrence seems to go out of her way to prove her credulousness by repeating the report that the U.S. is “said to be planning” to use nuclear weapons. She, and her selective quoting, makes it sound like a decision has been made that they will be used, or at least that they will be used in certain circumstances.
In fact, all the article actually asserts is that possible uses of nuclear weapons are being studied as part of the overall planning process . . . well, duh! They’ve got ’em, so they ought every now and then fire up the old brain cells and work out in what circumstances they’d actually use ’em.
Something else about the article should have occurred to Dr Lawrence – the source. The report was based on “multiple sources close to the [planning] process” that is being undertaken within the U.S. Strategic Command. Did it not occur to Dr. Lawrence that it was unlikely that “multiple sources” at the top of the U.S. military planning process were unlikely to have spilled their guts just by accident, or to have become so overcome by remorse at what they were considering that they all felt the need to rush out and let the LA Times know what they were up to?
No. This was a deliberate release of information by the U.S. military. Can anyone guess why? Might it possibly be that they decided that they wanted the Iraqi top brass – the only people who are actually able to prevent a war by getting rid of Saddam Hussein – to reach certain conclusions about their personal safety in the event that war is not averted?
Congratulations, Dr Lawrence: you have become a dupe of the U.S. military. It’s a little sad that this is likely to be her most significant contribution to averting war!
Finally, Dr Lawrence wheels out the old line that the United States and United Kingdom used to tolerate bad old Saddam, and even helped him with his early attempts to acquire the weapons of which they now complain. The only sensible response to that argument is “so what”?
If it is a problem today, what possible difference does that history make to the logic of the case for or against action? You could take it one step further: If Saddam is really the monster of the U.S. and U.K., surely it is more, rather than less, incumbent upon them to neutralise the threat for the safety of themselves and the rest of the world.
God knows we need prominent voices leading a debate on this, especially given that our Government is so reluctant to give us one. But surely there is a case to be made against the war that is rational, serious and honest.
Not firmly in one camp or the other, I find myself most persuaded of the need for war when I contemplate the possibility that rubbish like this is the best that the antiwar side can come up with.
If America invades and occupies Iraq there will be civilian casualties. It is difficult to estimate, but certainly they would be in the thousands. Margo, you and those like you don’t want thousands of innocent people to die. I understand that. It sounds reasonable. But how many innocent Iraqi civilians will die if there is NO war? How many more people will Saddam kill? Given his past history surely you must say thousands.
Given Saddam’s age and his seeming incredibly strong hold on power, he could reign for another 15 years. And when he dies what then? It is no certainty that he will be replaced by anything better – very likely one of his sons or murderous generals will take over, and how many more people will die as the new dictator exerts his authority?
So Margo, if those of you who are working so hard to prevent war miraculously succeed, then by all means you will be able to say that you helped save many thousands of innocent Iraqis from being killed in a war. But you must then also accept the consequences of stopping the war – and those are the effects of the continued reign of Saddam Hussein and his successors, and the thousands of innocent Iraqis that will die because of that. It is no good starting sentences with “I don’t like Saddam Hussein but…” If you don’t like Saddam, and you have the capacity to, then you have to DO something about it.
People on the left of this issue are full of good intentions and your aims are noble – unlike the far right whose aims are based in bigotry and hate – but just because the far left has good intentions does not make it less dangerous. Jimmy Carter is almost universally acknowledged as the worst US President in modern history. He also probably had the best intentions, the best ideals – and still does. I like him, but he is a far better former president than he was a President.
Sometimes good intentions and noble sentiment can’t solve the world’s problems. Sometimes it takes missiles and bullets and a few weeks of darkness, so that the sun will shine brighter for the years to come.
Those against the war are prepared to allow the skies to be overcast for the people of Iraq indefinitely. Living under dictatorship and tyranny is a constant dreary, grey day. People struggle to just stay alive. No one is really living, not as we people who have freedom understand it.
The far left’s views are nice to listen to. We all want to avoid war where we can – everyone prefers to live in peace – but sometimes the price of peace is too high to pay.
I heard a political analyst recalling how former US president Teddy Roosevelt made a speech during his presidency regarding the US civil war which is relevant to the current situation. Roosevelt said the easiest thing for the North to do would have been to make peace with the South, and overlook their practise of slavery. It would have saved the hundreds of thousands of lives that were lost during the war. And surely a number of people living in slavery was not worth costing hundreds of thousands of deaths, not to mention the economic impact on the still relatively young republic.
But Roosevelt concluded that there are fates in life worse than death, and living under tyranny is one of those. Sacrificing principles for convenience is not always an acceptable option.
The USA is willing to put the lives of its sons and daughters on the line for principle, for people’s freedom, for a safer nation and a safer world.
The easiest thing to do would be to do nothing and hope Saddam never uses his weapons of mass destruction and never develops nuclear weapons and never uses them. There is probably a good chance he never would. But are we prepared to take the risk?
Jimmy Carter would be, so are you Margo, but a real leader wouldn’t. A real leader would stand up and say that he was stronger than Iraq, and therefore do not have to be bullied by Iraq or constantly worried about a threat to their security.
George W. Bush is such a leader. I don’t like his domestic agenda – I’m a moderate lefty myself in most matters – but we don’t have to be weak to be compassionate, and we have to realise that having a nation that values liberty so much and has no appetite for conquest as the world’s sole superpower is a good thing, and that our special relationship with that superpower is to our advantage.
With the overthrow of Saddam everyone will win. The Iraqi people will have the UN sanctions lifted and will be able to prosper again. Their government will be free of the barbaric practices of Saddam, and eventually democracy will reign. The free world will be rid of the threat posed by a genocidal mad-man who has a history of military aggression and a disturbing obsession with weapons of mass destruction and a history of using them.
And yes, the USA – and the rest of the developed world – will have greater security of oil supply and price.
But to suggest that this is the only, or even primary reason for war with Iraq is outrageous. To suggest that Western World leaders would wage war on another country purely to secure a resource is an unforgivable slur. That sort of thing might have happened back in the days of the British empire, but to suggest that it is happening today is foolish and uninformed.
I said that “Everybody wins” from a war with Iraq – I mean everybody except those who are killed. This is the reality, that people will have to make sacrifices for a greater cause. Some of them may be allied soldiers who walk into their duty with their eyes open, others may be Iraqi women and children who die after being hit by an off-target US bomb, whilst they are sheltering in a basement in Baghdad, scared out of their minds. None of this is pleasant, it is just reality.
Yes it is sad, and unfortunate, but doing nothing is even worse. Doing nothing leaves our principles and security compromised. The deaths of all those who die from the torture and executions that are routine in Iraq under Saddam are no less sad, but they happen every day. It is no good coming up with a way to prevent people dying from US bombs without coming up with a way to stop them dying anyway, but with no benefit from their sacrifice.
After September 11 most people agreed that Afghanistan had to be invaded. It was unacceptable for a country to provide safe haven for terrorists. It seems so obvious now, but if an American president had proposed to invade Afghanistan well before September 11 2001, would the reaction have been the same? No, people like you Margo would have said that nothing major had happened, and the evidence on all the training camps there was a bit fuzzy, and think about all the poor innocent Afghan people that would die from the US bombs.
A lot of lives could have been saved if Afghanistan was invaded shortly after the Taliban came to power, and began allowing terrorists to use the country as a training ground. If the US did nothing about Iraq, and in 7 years time a dying Saddam decided to use his new and secretly developed Nuclear weapons on Tel Aviv or gave weapons to terrorists so he could see revenge exacted on Washington DC or another American city, everyone would agree that something should have been done years before. People would say: “He’d used WMD before! How could we not see this coming. We ruined his country – of course he would have his revenge”.
The American administration has seen the danger posed to its security by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and they want to act before he does something, and the world needs to understand why.
If the US had had their pre-emptive doctrine when Osama Bin-Laden was first given refuge in Afghanistan then thousands of US lives would have been saved. The USA has learnt from its mistakes and I don’t blame them.