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An Idea for Local Peace Groups and Local Peace Activists by Ralph Nader

18. March 2005 • MarkDilley
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“Dear Member of Congress (Representative and two Senators):

According to a Harris poll last month, 59 percent of Americans want US troops brought home within the next year. We are among them. You are not listening to us. Here is what we propose: To meet with you in a public auditorium with the media invited on [insert date]_ when you say you will back in your state (district). We wish to discuss specifically with you the following issues:

1. Do you support continued funding of the Iraq War and occupation without a specific exit strategy and timetable?

2. Will you announce an exit strategy for Iraq?

3. Will you investigate contracting abuses found by DoD auditors regarding the reconstruction of Iraq?

4. Will you investigate the $9 billion dollars unaccounted for in the Coalition Provisional Authority budget in Iraq?

5. How will you hold President Bush accountable to Congress?

If we do not hear favorably from you within a week of your receipt of this email (or letter or fax), we will double the number of signatures and renew the request.

If one week later we do not hear from you, we will again double the number of signatures and present some of us at your local office so you and your staff can meet your constituents.

If a week later we do not hear from you, we will peacefully and diligently street march in front of your local office to secure your attention.

You have often said how much you want to enjoy hearing from your constituents – well, here we are. Please do not take this as a hostile message; rather it is an effort to indicate to you the serious urgency we take to ending the occupation of Iraq and bringing U.S. troops home as soon as possible. Civilians, little children and soldiers are dying or being seriously injured every day.

In the meantime, we would appreciate answers to the following questions:

1. Do you have a summary of Paul Bremer’s vast directives which are still the governing authority of Iraq? These include extending Saddam’s ban on trade union organizing and allow a U.S. takeover of Iraq businesses.

2. Have you protested to President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld that they do not officially disclose the injuries to our troops there, diseases and severe mental trauma when they do not occur in combat situations – even if they are evacuated from Iraq? If yes, send us a copy of your letter. If not, why not?

3. Will you sign a simple pledge that henceforth you will vote against any attack on another nation unless Congress itself declares war as required by the U.S. Constitution? See: The United States Constitution’s War Powers Clause, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11.

4. Finally, would you propose a very selective service draft just for the children of members of Congress? The purpose of this request is that such a draft will focus the responsible attention on members of Congress in terms of realistic risks and consequences from the initiation of military hostilities.

Sincerely,

(signed by a group of constituents)

cc: members of the press and many other interested parties ”

via Common Dreams



  1. interesting…although the last time nader had an “idea”, bush got elected and now we have this fucking war…

    not regretting voting for gore,
    ari p.
       —Ari P.    Mar. 18 '05 - 11:22AM    #
  2. Oh, get over it.
       —Brandon    Mar. 18 '05 - 01:40PM    #
  3. Quick question Nader: Is there likely to be more or less suffering if the US pulls out now?
    I’d argue more. I don’t like the way we got there, but I think we should stick around until things are stable enough to go, not just bolt because local isolationists think that tyhey’re doing the liberal thing by calling for withdrawl.
       —js    Mar. 18 '05 - 04:46PM    #
  4. Josh,

    I don’t think it’s really clear, or even possible to know, what the best next step is. It’s pretty much damned if you do/don’t…
       —Scott    Mar. 18 '05 - 06:22PM    #
  5. Here’s some reading for ya, Josh:

    Why Iraq Withdrawal Makes Sense

    The Exit Strategy
       —Scott    Mar. 18 '05 - 07:00PM    #
  6. Check this out also:

    Mother of Fallen Soldier Responds to Iraq Withdrawal Debate
       —Mark    Mar. 18 '05 - 07:20PM    #
  7. Not to feed an old wound here, Ari, but I’d like to remind you that Gore was an inveterate militarist throughout his career, beginning with his promotion of the Minuteman missile program as a rookie Congressman looking to make a name for himself (incidentally, a program the Air Force neither wanted nor needed, given the presence of the MX.)

    Gore was also among the handful of Democratic Senators who voted in favor of things like the invasion of Grenada and the first invasion of Iraq. Gore was frequently at the forefront of the bloodthirsty regarding events such as Kosovo, and it’s no strange event that Clinton selected Gore to be his VP, especially when one considers that the former was fully-invested in the idea of bombing defenseless nations like Sudan and Iraq in order to muffle the outcry over his domestic agenda.

    The fact that Gore was not one of the ham-handed ‘neo-cons’ with which the Idiot surrounds himself is actually irrelevant to the current events, which are simply pursuit of the same economic and military agenda that the US has pursued for decades under administrations from both ‘sides’ of the aisle.

    While not always politically acceptable to those who still feel that the Democrats offer something of merit to the socially progressive, Nader’s stance in this case, as it was in 2000, is the just one.
       —Marc R.    Mar. 18 '05 - 09:16PM    #
  8. Ok, Scott, read those two links. The first one is hobbled by its reliance on Dr. King and Vietnam. Much as it’s a tidy comparison, Iraq is not Vietnam. The second one is a diatribe with little to offer any sort of debate (while asserting that every use of force has been about money is cute, it is a) not entirely true, and b) does not discount the other motivations. The Mexican Revolution may have been about rectifying class disparity i.e. land and money but it was also about rejecting the plutocratic vision of Profiro Diaz). While it’s easier to think that the invasion of Iraq has accomplished nothing, it has. It has removed Saddam Hussein from his near-absolute power. While there are serious arguments to be made with the current direction of the country, and while the removal of Saddam became a goal-post moving argument, it did happen and it was good. With just us liberals around here, I don’t feel the need to be as ideologically strident as I might if I were debating someone who would be unwilling to concede anything.
    As for the Mother of the Troop letter, it didn’t really have any argument in there; it had an emotional appeal.

    Here are the issues as I see it: While the insurgency in Iraq is dwindling and its popular support has eroded, Iraq still needs a lot of work done for its infrastructure to return to a functional level. Ideally, this would be handled by a contingent of Muslim Arab troops from the Arab League (or possibly the Organization of African States), they really don’t have the capacity to complete a task that large. And while the Iraqi Army was one of the best trained within the region, they’re dealing with a drastic reordering that makes them inoperable for at least a couple more months. (For a lesson on why peacekeeping troops fail even when they’re from the same general region, take a look at the Ivory Coast disaster with Nigerian and Zimbabwean troops.)
    And while the US troops are a distraction, they have the advantage of already being there. An articulated exit strategy is important, and I would press for one, but “immediate withdrawl” is, frankly, a moronic pipe-dream of people with an ideological opposition to all uses of force. They’re nice to have to tea parties, but have a fundemental problem when asked about military policy.
    The argument that we need the funds for domestic issues is a compelling one on many levels, but falls apart when asked a simple question: why are we more worthy than Iraqis? Much as I believe that it is much more important to have strong (even militant) unions in, say, Honduras than it is in North Carolina (not to say that the US doesn’t need strong unions), there is a greater need for humanitarian work in Iraq than there is here, not in small part because of the devestation visited upon that country on our behalf for the last 10 years (sanctions, the two wars, etc.).

    I suppose the problem comes from the basic fact that I agree with the (current) stated goals of the Bush administration in Iraq (democracy and liberalism). I disagree with his handling of every aspect of this war, but I have no problem in stating that the corrupt and fascistic governments of the Middle East (and indeed, most developing nations) are a blight on the rights of man. And I believe that force is justified in opposing some injustices.

    If we pull out now, in haste, we are likely to leave Iraq in a shambles. Instead, we should be working on bringing other nations in, working on getting the resources necessary for the Iraqis to handle their own affairs to them, and making Iraq safe for humanitarian organizations.

    And, frankly, I have no problem saying that instead of bringing the troops home, they should go right into Darfur and work to restrain that genocide. I don’t feel that we were wrong to intervene in Kosovo, though we did make mistakes while we were there, and I do feel that we were wrong not to intervene in Rwanda. (And that we were wrong to withdraw from Somalia, a country which should be a chilling vision to anyone who says we have to abandon either Iraq or Afghanistan immediately).
       —js    Mar. 18 '05 - 10:18PM    #
  9. JS –
    Never thought I’d say this – but I agree with you. almost 100% percent.

    D
       —David Livshiz    Mar. 19 '05 - 12:48AM    #
  10. Yeah, well, feel free to point out the parts where we disagree. It’ll give me cred.
    My problem with the administration is that even when it has noble goals, it tends to pursue them like a drunk with a gun. But that doesn’t mean that I think we should abandon them (it did mean that electing policy wonk Kerry would have been a good idea).
    [I used to date a girl who was getting her degree in PoliSci, specifically in international relations and sustainable development studies. She was vehemently against the WTO and NAFTA and the neoliberal doctrine of “free trade,” and we used to get into arguments over it. I see a necessity for the WTO, and I think that free trade can be a great thing- provide that it is applied equally to large nations and to small nations, and that it’s handled in a way that seeks to truly benefit those who most need the help, not just the richer countries. My disagreement with a lot of liberal stalking horses comes more from a disagreement on how those policies are implimented and less on what the stated goals are. Free trade would be wonderful, if the EU and US eliminated their agricultural subsidies and encouraged the growth of strong unions in developing nations. But it’s those caveats that make me generally unable to support things like free trade when people like Bush are in power, because I know that their covert goals, their “framing” if you will, is diametrically opposed to mine as far as qualifying success.)
       —js    Mar. 19 '05 - 01:35PM    #
  11. Good calls, js. For me, Iraq was doing the right thing the wrong way and for the wrong reasons. It’s hard to try and find some sort of middle ground between mindless subservience to the administration and mindless subservience to someone like Noam Chomsky (however right he frequently is on issues such as U.S. involvement in Latin America), especially in this town. Same goes for the free-trade thing. I’d totally approve if the system weren’t stacked from the beginning against workers and consumers in developing countries. The issues so often get lumped into simplistic either-or categories that any meaningful debate gets stifled, and that’s no good for anybody. And I’m afraid trusting Nader’s pretty much out of the question (this from someone who drank the Kool-Aid in 2000).
       —Lazaro    Mar. 19 '05 - 04:40PM    #
  12. Laz- Yeah, it’s weird. I consider myself a moderate liberal, and yet from the tenor of the general debate, you’d think I was in a Red Brigade…
       —js    Mar. 21 '05 - 03:08PM    #
  13. Well, we certainly don’t want to leave Iraq a “shambles.” So let’s keep bombing, killing and imprisoning civilians, attracting more suicide bombers, fomenting more terrorists, and getting more contracts secured for our corporate interests, while hundreds more of us and thousands more of our targets of liberaton die. That’s highly preferable to leaving it a “shambles” or pulling out and actually giving credence to our supposed goal of self-governance for the Iraqi people.
    The administration has “noble goals”? Chortle. Give me a break. We invaded in defiance of international law and have an occupying army there. Oh, yes, all for the sake of a “free election” that justifies all the lies and the killing. And for the sake of installing a democracy that will elect a repressive fundamentalist Iran-controlled regime. Or would have if we hadn’t rigged the election.
    I recommend reading “The Unbranding” in the March 21 New Yorker for anyone who still has any illusions about where the Democrats stand on all this.
    As for the argument about why should our country deserve to have the gazillions we are spending on the war and occupation of Iraq, ask the mothers of dead children in Iraq whether they are gratified their country was judged by the Bush administration to be more deserving of that money.
    js, which blighted, corrupt government of the scores that you mention do you think we would be justified next in invading? I’m curious to know which is most deserving of our violent regime change tactics. Let’s make a list, and remake the world so it’s more to our liking.
       —Michael Betzold    Mar. 22 '05 - 01:23PM    #
  14. Right, Mike. You got an argument in there, or just sarcasm? Because you haven’t supported anything with your parade of fallacious logic. Maybe you’re brighter than sloganeering. Why don’t you give it another try?

    First off, you start with a straw man. My position is not that we should “keep bombing, killing and imprisoning civilians, attracting more suicide bombers, fomenting more terrorists, and getting more contracts secured for our corporate interests, while hundreds more of us and thousands more of our targets of liberaton die.” If that’s what you read, I can only assume that you’re more willing to be blindly reactionary than to work toward comprehension and reasonable solutions.
    As for “noble goals,” I can only, again, assume that you are incabable of reading what I said. What is wrong with the goals of bringing democracy to Iraq, and providing for the protection of rights? If I were to employ the same weak skills I see from you, I would say that you prefer Hussein to kill these people rather than risk anything to protect rights. Why do you hate Iraqis, Michael? Why do you want them to be tortured by Saddam?
    See how that works? Maybe next time you can avoid it. Or at least try; I don’t expect you to be cogent on your first try.

    So, given the position that we’re in, Michael, what’s your best-case scenario? That we leave immediately, like a thief in the night? How would that forstall this pro-Iran theocracy that you talk of? How would that make anything better? How would that provide for a civil defense force made of Iraqis? How would that keep off the threat of Mogadishu-style warlords? How would that open up the country to aid agencies?
    Oh wait, it wouldn’t. We’re back to some sort of preternatural opposition to force.
    And for my short list of countries that need to be reformed? Sudan, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Seirra Leone, North Korea, Afghanistan (still), Somalia, Eritrea, Israel/Palestine (which I think would benefit immensly from outside forces taking over peace-keeping), Saudi Arabia, Iran, even China…
    Once again, my dispute with the administration lies with the handling of Iraq by this administration: I feel that they have been inept at the highest level. But I do not begrudge them the idea of eliminating repression and suffering. I wonder why you do. Perhaps you think it’s impossible. I’d rather try than condemn millions to unending torment. I’m sorry to see that I’m one of the few idealists left on the left.
       —js    Mar. 22 '05 - 02:52PM    #
  15. I will gladly admit I have a “preternatural opposition to the use of force.” Violence isn’t usually a solution. But we don’t have to debate that in the abstract. I can, like you, foresee situations where violence might be justified, but let’s just talk about this case, because you seem to have a very emotional, preternatural opposition to the idea of peaceful solutions to international affairs.
    Here are the facts:
    We invaded Iraq without provocation, based on lies about nonexistent threats, despite the opposition of a vast majority of the international community, with an ever-shifting set of rationales. It’s the first time in our history we’ve launched what could be described as a “pre-emptive strike,” were it only true that Saddam’s regime was a threat to us, which is clearly wasn’t.
    What we did was an outlaw action. If someone had done that to us, what would our response have been?
    Yes, Saddam was a brutal dictator. But he was also being increasingly hemmed in by sanctions and by international pressure to reform. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume none of those things would have kept his regime from being overturned. So the suffering of Iraqi people under his brutality would have continued.
    Should we still have invaded? No. Is it our mission to overthrow every dictator in the world? No. Even if we did have noble goals, which we clearly don’t.
    In fact, the sanctions regime we supported was responsible for the deaths of many thousands of innocent children. The Iraqis were suffering both from Saddam and from the sanctions. And then they got our bombs dropped on them.
    Even if you believe we have “lofty goals,” I don’t quite get the justification for imposing democracy by violence. Because violence is profoundly anti-democratic. At its core, democracy means people have the right to choose their own government. How does a foreign invasion that kills tens of thousands of citizens enable those citizens to exercise democratic rights? Do those corpses now enjoy the liberties we Americans take for granted?
    Our war against Iraq was not a matter of self-defense or of protecting other nations from Iraq’s aggression. The facts about that are clear now. This was “regime change,” which is nothing but a euphemism for a violent overthrow of a government by another nation.
    “Regime change” is just what the 9/11 bombers were trying to accomplish against our country, wasn’t it?
    Even “lofty goals” don’t justify that, in my opinion. Osama thought his goals were lofty too; in fact, religiously mandated.
    And so does Bush. He is leading a crusade, implementing God’s will, by his own admission.
    Do you truly believe the U.S. mission is to bring “democracy and liberalism” to Iraq? Yes, the administration’s stated goal is to impose democracy. But not real democracy, not immediately, only a gradual slouch toward a fake democracy until we’re satisfied the Iraqis are conditioned, propagandized, and brutalized enough to elect the kind of leaders we’re comfortable with. And what kind of respect has the Bush administration shown toward democratic rights at home? What kind of democracy are we talking about? A post-Patriot Act one, in which the government has hugely expanded police and surveillance powers and is free to trample civil rights and civil liberties? I don’t for a minute believe that what Bush calls democracy is real democracy, and that what his people want is for Iraqis to have a real democracy. Why would they want Iraqis to have the rights they oppose here?
    And I’ve never heard Bushies use the term “liberalism” as part of their lofty goals. They despise liberals; it’s an insult they use (and it works on Democrats, who cower at its use).
    No, what we want for Iraq is a highly controlled, Haliburton-friendly regime that adopts “Western” (i.e,, conservative-Christian-type with a veneer of rudimentary human rights) values. But the problem is that, in order to get that, we’re going to have to do a lot more “preparation” and conditioning. Years more. Billions of dollars and thousands of lives more, all down the drain, just like Vietnam. Because the majority of Iraqis, as was shown in the recent vote, want an Iranian-style fundamentalist Shiite theocracy. And they’re going to want that whether we stay or not.
    The reason Bush pater didn’t invade Baghdad in 1991 was that getting rid of Saddam would mean winning the booby prize of an Iranian-controlled anti-Western theocracy. And nothing changed between then and 2003 except that a bunch of fanatic and deluded neocons, Wolfowitz and their ilk, took over our government.
    And so now we’re reaping what we sowed.

    I used sarcasm in my argument because your statements are worthy of ridicule. As much as you disparage the analogies between Iraq and Vietnam, your rhetoric takes me back to the “winning hearts and minds” delusions of that era. On what basis do you posit the idea that the insurgency has been weakened? On the daily news reports (granted, increasingly buried by our press) of suicide bombings, killings, attacks, torture, kidnappings? And how long will it be before other less advanced police forces will be ready to take over from us? And how many people will die by then? And for what?
    The idea that because we broke it, we must fix it is a convenient cover for our continued illegal, immoral, and impractical occupation. On moral grounds, it’s like saying that thieves and murderers who ransacked a town should be allowed to stay to put things back in order. On practical grounds, our presence only continues to attract violent resistance and to impede whatever progress Iraqis might make toward a solution.
    Americans don’t belong there, our presence is illegal, and every day we spend there makes things worse. I would support having a truly international peacekeeping force stay in Iraq, but American troops are occupiers, not benign facilitators of noble goals. Whether we leave or stay it’s a mess, and it’s our fault it’s a mess. It’s costing us our future, our children’s lives and our children’s future, billions and billions of wasted dollars for lies and delusions. When is enough enough?
    The justification for our presence has shifted so many times, but now it’s at its most illogical and emotional stage, i.e, that any alternative would be worse. That’s putative and undemonstrated. And it’s really just a cover for continued occupation, continued Haliburton economic pillaging, and continued killing. My description of what you support isn’t emotional or fallacious. It’s factual, because continued violence and killing are in fact what you support in the name of some naive faith that this administration is doing something lofty.
    And that you would support violent regime change in a whole list of other countries doesn’t demonstrate your humanitarianism. It demonstrates you have an appetite for rapacious world domination.
    Who the fuck are we to tell the rest of the world how to live or govern themselves? And not only tell them, but kill them if they don’t agree?
    Tell me the logic in that. I guess the logic is simple: We know better. We’re smarter. We have the light of freedom, and God on our side.
    Where do you think all those dictatorial regimes got their power from in the first place? In many cases, it was because of weapons, intelligence, and covert support we provided in order to suppress human rights. That’s how both Osama and Saddam got big, with our help and our blessings.

    I’m looking forward to our “liberal” invasion of China, and wonder on what basis, exactly, do you say you’re on the “left”? Left of what?
       —Michael Betzold    Mar. 23 '05 - 01:08PM    #
  16. Michael –

    I’ll be honest, your post was a bit too long for me to read though (i will get to it) but one line drew my attention.

    “Democracy is profoundly anti-democratic” – i think that while generally you are right, you’re using to strong a brush. Let me give you an example – the boston tea party was a move of democratic populace to protect their rights, it was also violent.

    In fact, much through the early 1700s until the revolution, democratic will would be enforced by mob.

    I realize that its not quite applicabl eto what you are talking about, but just in the interest of fairness.
       —David LIvshiz    Mar. 23 '05 - 03:50PM    #
  17. that’s for sure…sam adams tared and feathered britons and he’s a patriot…the iraqis rebel against foreign invaders and they’re called terrorists…

    on language,
    ari p.
       —Ari P.    Mar. 23 '05 - 04:27PM    #
  18. At the Boston Tea Party, and in every instance of violent rebellion against repressive governments you allude to, it was the rebels who resorted to violence to gain a chance at freedom. Using violence to impose “democracy” on another nation’s peoples is a far cry from people taking up violent protest as a means to gain their own freedom.
       —Michael Betzold    Mar. 23 '05 - 04:37PM    #
  19. especially when those people don’t see themselves as one nation…what americans forgot (and thus they should all read the book ‘paris 1919’) is that all these boudaries in the middle east were abitrarilly drawwn by the imperalist powers after world war 2…so when people say that arabs don’t like democarcy, it isn’t that arabs are someone not able to do it, it is that their affiliations are not as we see them…kurds affilate with kurdistan…muslims are muslims to stupid americans, but the shittes and sunnis in iraq don’t think of being in one big koombaya pariliment with one another is a good idea…

    but again, you are right, “democratize, or i’ll shoot you,” (apologies to ‘control room’) never works…

    besides, if someone breaks into your house in the middle night and you shoot them, and the police arrest you saying “hey, that guy was just trying to liberate you”, well, that’s not really going to hold up in court, now is it???

    get behind the struggle,
    ari p.
       —Ari P.    Mar. 23 '05 - 04:45PM    #
  20. I’m not sure y’all are interpreting js correctly (and js, forgive me if I’m getting this wrong). He isn’t opposed to using force to combat oppression, but is opposed to the war in Iraq as waged by the Bush administration. The two aren’t necessarily linked to each other. I feel the same way.

    As for “rebels,” there are rebels and rebels, if you know what I mean. The rebels of their American Revolution may have had their drawbacks, but I prefer them to the Baathist rebels currently fighting U.S. and Iraqi forces. The “Nationalist” troops in Spain from 1936-39 were technically rebels. Hell, the Beer Hall Putsch Hitler led in 1923 could be considered a rebellion (however putative), as could Mussolini’s concurrent rise to power in Italy. The fascist movements in both Germany and Italy gradually coopted the ruling government through active rebellion and subversion until ready to take over. Just because people “rebel” doesn’t mean they’re right. That’s not to say I believe everyone rebelling in Iraq is a Baathist, but taking such a general label and conferring sainthood on anybody who happens to assume it is counterproductive at best and deplorable at worst.
       —Lazaro    Mar. 23 '05 - 04:56PM    #
  21. Ahm….the Boston “rebels” PAID for the locks that they broke on the ships where the tea was stored. They saw their action as enforcing the constitution for legal reason the tea had to be dumped in order to prevent a constitutioanl wrong – therefore that was okay. However, getting on the ship was trespass, and brekaing the locks vandalism – so the leader sof the rebellion compensated the captains for these wrongs. Just not the same then what is going on in Iraq.

    Moreover, Ari while you’re right about the delienations of boundries after 1919 – lets get a grip here. The Kurds are a unique example. But other then that – you don’t see Shiites in Iraq wanting to unite with Iran – and there are reasons for this (not least of which is language). You don’t see Lebanesse (regardless of thier religion) wanting to join syria (thoght whehter htey want ot live together is open to question). My point is that – yeah the lines were arbitrary – but back then there was no nationalism in that part of the world – that would come later. so – yeah, the borders are less then sensical at times – but you know what – they’ve accepted them.

    The question here is what should we do now? i think pulling out is a bad idea. I also don’t have the problem to use force to promote values. We should be judicious in how we use it – but just standing on the sideliens while milliions are tortured is also wrong.

    oh – and for the record – i do think that force solves problems. Resolved that pesky natzism question. That wasn’t solved by negotiations, but by the fact that hte red army put donw 27M people to destory an ideology.
       —David LIvshiz    Mar. 23 '05 - 05:39PM    #
  22. I’m trying to figure out how our unprovoked invasion of Iraq, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths and billions of dollars spent and a broken country, was a “judicious” use of force. I need help with that.
       —Michael Betzold    Mar. 23 '05 - 06:20PM    #
  23. hmmm, livshiz, i don’t think you quiet understand…no, shittes in iraq may not identify with the iranian STATE, but many may idenify with those they see as their own kind IN iran (or elsewhere, for that matter)...however, the imposition on imperailist boundareis has blurred this identity, and has been a prime method by capitalist and imperalist powers to divide the population whom they are ruling…

    ooooohhhh, ohhh:

    “oh – and for the record – i do think that force solves problems. Resolved that pesky natzism question. That wasn’t solved by negotiations, but by the fact that hte red army put donw 27M people to destory an ideology.”

    eastern europe was liberated from nazi oppression, to live under a half century of glorious freedom thanks to the red army…out from the frying pan into the fire that was…and the same with the middle east…

    rock the casbah,
    ari p.
       —Ari P.    Mar. 23 '05 - 06:41PM    #
  24. ahm – first of all – can you give me an example of judicious use of force. from reading your post, and correct me if I am misunderstanding something, it seems that for you the only legitimate use of force is once you’ve alredy been bombed.

    i don’t subscribe to that view. i believe in the use of force not only for active defnse, but also for certian humanitairan causes.

    your argument that our invsion resulted in the death of thousdans is not new. war kills. that is a LONG way to go from deciding whether we should have gone in. the operative quesiton is:how many would have died had we hadn’t? We can take a look into your argumetn from a differnt context.

    Winter of 1942, Nazi Germany opens its first mass death camp at Osweitzin, Poland – the world will come to know it as Aushwitz. A jewish deligatino comes to George Marshal and asks for USAF to bomb Aushwitz (they are bombing industrial cities iwthin miles of Aushwitz). Marshall refuses, ostensibly on the argument that bombing aushwitz would only kill jews. In between the time that this decision is taken, and the end of the war several million more will die.

    I realize that my example is exterme – it is INTENDED to be so. The point is that most of us, today, woudl agree that no matter how many thousdans of jews (and non-jews) would have been killed by a raid on Aushwitz – that is better then what wound up happening.

    So yeha – ten thousand died. According to most stats i’ve seen thats a fraction of how many persihed in his clutches annually. I’m ok with it.

    The differnce b/n JS and I, incidently – is i don’t care if Bush lied in getting us on the road to war. Removing him, for whatever reasons, was the right thing to do – and iam ok with it.

    Micahel – one LAST point. Why is the war illegal under international law? I don’t know many legal scohlars who take that view (most term it: “legal but stupid”). So, i’m just curious.
       —David LIvshiz    Mar. 23 '05 - 06:46PM    #
  25. Ari – i never said “liberated”. But keep something in mind – Soviet blood letting in the east, allowed the Allies to liberate Western Europe. So yeah, at the end of the day – Chamberlin’s negotiations were hardly helpful….wheras Zhukov’s tank divisons were.

    As i’ve told you preivouly – you need ot know who you are talkign to. some people you negotiate with. and some you don’t. Hitler you don’t. Sadaam you don’t. Osama you don’t. These people you kill, or arrest and put on trial.
       —David LIvshiz    Mar. 23 '05 - 06:48PM    #
  26. Bad guys don’t come from nowhere.

    Study the origin of the pirates.

    They were the creatures of the British and Spanish empires, discarded after they had served their purpose, finally regarded as outlaws.

    Study the origin of your examples:

    Is it likely that Hitler, Saddam, and Bin Laden could have hung onto power in any kind of normal democratic environment, domestically or internationally?

    How did they come to discard the norms of their societies? How was it allowed?

    They all started out in weak, precarious positions.

    They all gained power after long periods of Western financial and military support, after long Western indulgence for their inceasingly high body counts.

    Just as one example, check out the “Transfer Agreement”, by Edwin Black.

    It’s the story of a negotiated arrangement made in 1933, when there was obviously never going to be any State of Israel. Almost nobody wanted to leave Europe or America to go there.

    So in 1933, a deal was struck, between Zionist organizations and a Nazi government which was panicked by a boycott of Germany.

    It was the “Transfer Agreement”.

    This deal simultaneously saved Hitler’s regime, and saved Zionism, which was going nowhere fast.

    The Zionist groups, according to Edwin Black, made this agreement with Hitler’s Germany:

    * An agreement to transfer some 50,000 Jews, and $100 million, into Palestine, in exchange for stopping the worldwide boycott threatening to topple the Hitler regime in its first year.

    See http://www.transferagreement.com/

    By the way, Edwin Black, who wrote the book entitled “The Transfer Agreement”, is considered to be a mainstream Zionist journalist and writer, and his book carries an afterword by the ADL director.

    It is not written by any advocate for Palestine.
       —Blaine    Mar. 23 '05 - 07:30PM    #
  27. 1. Livshiz above may regret he ever said,

    “The differnce b/n JS and I, incidently – is i don’t care if Bush lied in getting us on the road to war. Removing him, for whatever reasons, was the right thing to do – and iam ok with it.”
    This may not look good in future biographies of David Livshiz; the part about lying, that is…

    2. Here’s a nice article on Zionism in yesterday’s London Guardian, by Rabbi Tony Bayfield, “We need a new kind of Zionism: It is treated as a dirty word and condemned by false analogy. But it is also an idea which has to be recast for the 21st century”, at
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1443779,00.html .

    3. Free Terri Schiavo (? ?)
       —David Boyle    Mar. 23 '05 - 08:41PM    #
  28. The article by Rabbi Bayfield doesn’t mention what’s been happening to the Palestinians.
       —Blaine    Mar. 23 '05 - 09:00PM    #
  29. David B.:

    TOTAL agreement on #3!!

    Give her the peace she deserves.

    And from what I can see, I stand by what I said.
       —Lazaro    Mar. 23 '05 - 09:09PM    #
  30. actually, if you listen the zionist mouth pieces these days, by their standards, theordore hertzl would be an anti-semite!

    note: hertzl founded zionism, for those that don’t know…

    knowledge,
    ari p.
       —Ari P.    Mar. 23 '05 - 09:48PM    #
  31. David L—I’m sure the mothers, fathers, children, and spouses of all those tens of thousands killed will be glad to hear that you’re OK with it. That will comfort them immensely.
       —Michael Betzold    Mar. 24 '05 - 09:53AM    #
  32. Blain – you’re kidding right? Stalin came to power becuase of Western support. We didn’t even recognize the USSR until the mid 1930s – let alone support him. and yes, Hitler did win an ellection, and stailin would have.
    You want to solve the root causes of terrorism – go ahead – but just remember, Muhamad Atta was hardly poor. if thereis a root cause its a lack of free speech and a marketplace of ideas.

    Boyle – i am not planning (and constitutionally can’t) run for president. So, I’m not particularly concerned.

    Ari – what the fuck do you mean about Hertzl? and who are you talking about.

    Michael – yeah – you know what it sucks for them. nothing i can say there. but thats the case in any war. I am sure it sucked for my grandmother that her two brothers died in Tanks during WWII. Thats war, it sucks. And sometimes, its necessary. adn if we are calculating 10K once, vs tens of thousands annually – isn’t it just as fair to consider the families of those we save?
       —David LIvshiz    Mar. 24 '05 - 11:46AM    #
  33. Right. A lot to cover. Might even have to split it up.
    “A preternatural opposition to peaceful solutions”? Yes, Michael, only the boot of brutality will do for me. What a skillful reading of my position.
    Peaceful solutions are to be preferred, but the use of force and the threat of force are also acceptable given the right circumstances. But, since you admit to opposing force in every circumstance (that’s what a “preternatural opposition to the use of force” means, in case the three-year-old you had read this aloud to you didn’t sufficiently clear that up), you cannot have an informed opinion on the use of force. Sorry, Michael, but you’ve already shown yourself to be more concerned with ideology than results.
    But I’ll keep responding for sport.
    “We invaded Iraq without provocation, based on lies about nonexistent threats, despite the opposition of a vast majority of the international community, with an ever-shifting set of rationales. It’s the first time in our history we’ve launched what could be described as a “pre-emptive strike,â€? were it only true that Saddam’s regime was a threat to us, which is (sic) clearly wasn’t.”
    Yes. And it was a terrible move from the position of international relations, as it allows other countries with less scruples to use the same argument to gain a veneer of legitimacy. Say, if China wanted to invade Taiwan.
    “What we did was an outlaw action. If someone had done that to us, what would our response have been? ”
    What we did violated the UN charter, yes. If someone had attacked us for the same stated reasons (weapons of mass destruction) there would be an ugly war, yes.
    “Yes, Saddam was a brutal dictator. But he was also being increasingly hemmed in by sanctions and by international pressure to reform. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume none of those things would have kept his regime from being overturned. So the suffering of Iraqi people under his brutality would have continued.
    Should we still have invaded? No. Is it our mission to overthrow every dictator in the world? No. Even if we did have noble goals, which we clearly don’t. ”
    Saddam was not particularly hemmed in due to the sanctions, aside from his inability to create a functioning weapons program. And you are abandoning your moral charge as a citizen of a nation that has the power to change the world for the better. You’re a coward, Michael. That’s what it comes down to. You’d rather have Iraqis suffer than act to save them. I assume that if your mother was being tortured, you’d also argue that keeping the torturers under house arrest with your mother was adequate. I hope you go and tell her that.
    “In fact, the sanctions regime we supported was responsible for the deaths of many thousands of innocent children. The Iraqis were suffering both from Saddam and from the sanctions. And then they got our bombs dropped on them. ”
    Yup. So you’re saying… we should have let that continue? Or that we should have removed the sanctions? How would either of those truly resolve the situation? Oh, wait, they wouldn’t. Michael Betzold: “I’m for letting problems fester!”
    “Even if you believe we have “lofty goals,â€? I don’t quite get the justification for imposing democracy by violence. Because violence is profoundly anti-democratic. At its core, democracy means people have the right to choose their own government. How does a foreign invasion that kills tens of thousands of citizens enable those citizens to exercise democratic rights? Do those corpses now enjoy the liberties we Americans take for granted?
    Our war against Iraq was not a matter of self-defense or of protecting other nations from Iraq’s aggression. The facts about that are clear now. This was “regime change,â€? which is nothing but a euphemism for a violent overthrow of a government by another nation.”
    First off, violence and democracy are not opposed. You’re an idiot to posit that they are. I can’t think of a single democratic government, aside from Iceland, that hasn’t come to power through force. As far as imposing democracy by force, well, Germany and Japan would be the most ready examples of places where that’s succeeded. But hey, you’re opposed to the use of force (“preternaturally”), so I suppose you and Hank Ford have the same position on Deutschland über alles. (That’s an ad hominem/straw man. Since you didn’t feel shy, I won’t either).
    Those corpses don’t get to enjoy democratic rights, but their survivors will if we succeed in the rebuilding. Which is where we are now, Michael. No matter how onerous the invasion, I don’t have a time machine that can undo it. Perhaps you do, H.G. Wells. Perhaps you should use it. But for the rest of us that must live in the now and plan for the future, the question is “What do we do from here?”
    ”“Regime changeâ€? is just what the 9/11 bombers were trying to accomplish against our country, wasn’t it?
    Even “lofty goals� don’t justify that, in my opinion. Osama thought his goals were lofty too; in fact, religiously mandated.
    And so does Bush. He is leading a crusade, implementing God’s will, by his own admission.”
    Ad hominem. Just because Bush believes that we are on a crusade and that our goals are lofty does not mean that are goals are not lofty. Please, Michael, I know that you’re just used to lockstep agreement with your Spartacus League pals, but in an argument you have to debate the idea, not the man.
    “Do you truly believe the U.S. mission is to bring “democracy and liberalismâ€? to Iraq? Yes, the administration’s stated goal is to impose democracy. But not real democracy, not immediately, only a gradual slouch toward a fake democracy until we’re satisfied the Iraqis are conditioned, propagandized, and brutalized enough to elect the kind of leaders we’re comfortable with. And what kind of respect has the Bush administration shown toward democratic rights at home? What kind of democracy are we talking about? A post-Patriot Act one, in which the government has hugely expanded police and surveillance powers and is free to trample civil rights and civil liberties? I don’t for a minute believe that what Bush calls democracy is real democracy, and that what his people want is for Iraqis to have a real democracy. Why would they want Iraqis to have the rights they oppose here?”
    Right. So that’s an argument to pursue the creation of democratic and liberal institutions, not to pull out. Perhaps you don’t see that you keep trying to create a false dichotomy between doing something poorly and not doing it at all. We should be trying to do the reconstruction correctly, which is why Bush was a poor choice to oversee it. We should oppose Bush’s redaction of rights here, and we should seek to encourage the Iraqis to enact their own liberal populist democracy. Again, Michael, you’re blovating where you should be thinking.
    “And I’ve never heard Bushies use the term “liberalismâ€? as part of their lofty goals. They despise liberals; it’s an insult they use (and it works on Democrats, who cower at its use).”
    Then you haven’t been listening. It’s part of “neo-liberalism.” Aside from that facetious answer, how many times have you heard him use the word “Freedom” and “Rights”? Because that’s what liberalism is, Michael. You do know the difference between liberalism and democracy, right? And how we have a liberal-democratic republic? I’m just asking, since from most of your diatribe it seems like you’ve missed the basic lessons of political science classes. I can catch you up, Michael, if you’d like to listen.
    “No, what we want for Iraq is a highly controlled, Halliburton-friendly regime that adopts “Westernâ€? (i.e., conservative-Christian-type with a veneer of rudimentary human rights) values. But the problem is that, in order to get that, we’re going to have to do a lot more “preparationâ€? and conditioning. Years more. Billions of dollars and thousands of lives more, all down the drain, just like Vietnam. Because the majority of Iraqis, as was shown in the recent vote, want an Iranian-style fundamentalist Shiite theocracy. And they’re going to want that whether we stay or not.”
    Right. So better to leave it in a shambles. You’ve convinced me, Michael. If real liberal democracy is hard, we shouldn’t do it!
    Bush won’t be president forever, and the full reconstruction of Iraq will take more than six more years. Also, it’s good to note that Iraq doesn’t actually want a fundamentalist Shiite theocracy, even though they elected people from religious parties. Iraq was one of the most modern and socialist countries in the region prior to the first US/Iraq war, and they have a longstanding antipathy to Iran. You would, of course, know this if you had bothered to do any research on your own. And while the Bush administration does want a plutocratic Halliburton state, that’s no reason to withdraw, it’s a reason to oppose him on that vision of Iraqi statehood. And absolutist “We must abandon them now!” from the left only gives the right more leeway in the way they apportion power to the Iraqi elite.
    “The reason Bush pater didn’t invade Baghdad in 1991 was that getting rid of Saddam would mean winning the booby prize of an Iranian-controlled anti-Western theocracy. And nothing changed between then and 2003 except that a bunch of fanatic and deluded neocons, Wolfowitz and their ilk, took over our government.
    And so now we’re reaping what we sowed.”
    Wrong. He thought that it would be too expensive, and that there would be a protracted urban war.
    “I used sarcasm in my argument because your statements are worthy of ridicule.”
    You used sarcasm because you’re too weak minded to come up with a real argument, Michael. Don’t put the blame on me for your shortcomings.
    “As much as you disparage the analogies between Iraq and Vietnam, your rhetoric takes me back to the “winning hearts and mindsâ€? delusions of that era. On what basis do you posit the idea that the insurgency has been weakened? On the daily news reports (granted, increasingly buried by our press) of suicide bombings, killings, attacks, torture, kidnappings?”
    Ah, the ol’ “buried by our press” canard. Actually, our press still does a decent job of covering the insurgency, something they should be commended for. While their bias is toward covering the deaths of American troops and away from covering the deaths of Iraqi civilians, even a cursory read of the AP wires will let you see when an attack does occur. And the idea that the insurgency is waning comes from the fact that the per day death toll has been dropping, the numbers of attacks per week have been dropping, there has been more co-operation with our forces with regard to rounding up insurgents… Really, Michael, where are you getting the idea that things are as bad as they were when we had to retake Fallujah? Space beams that vibrate your tinfoil helmet?
    “And how long will it be before other less advanced police forces will be ready to take over from us? And how many people will die by then? And for what?”
    Um… To forge a new Iraqi society where they can be self-determined, Michael. To get people out from underneath the repressive thumb of Saddam Hussein.
    “The idea that because we broke it, we must fix it is a convenient cover for our continued illegal, immoral, and impractical occupation. On moral grounds, it’s like saying that thieves and murderers who ransacked a town should be allowed to stay to put things back in order. On practical grounds, our presence only continues to attract violent resistance and to impede whatever progress Iraqis might make toward a solution.”
    No, it’s like someone who stopped a robbery with a fistfight helping to replace the Hummel dolls they broke during the fight. The occupation is not illegal, Michael; the Iraqis have asked us to stay. The invasion was, arguably, illegal. And the reconstruction is not impractical. I’d like to see some sort of evidence for any of those claims before treating them with any credence. On practical grounds, our presence helps train Iraqis and rebuilds the infrastructure that we bombed. We have a moral duty to do this, Michael, despite your cowardly cut-and-run ethic.
    “Americans don’t belong there, our presence is illegal, and every day we spend there makes things worse. ”
    Wrong, wrong, wrong. Y’know, Michael, if you bothered to support these arguments, you’d come across as less of an isolationist coward. I’m insulting your positions because your positions are worthy of insult, to paraphrase you, Michael.
    “I would support having a truly international peacekeeping force stay in Iraq, but American troops are occupiers, not benign facilitators of noble goals. Whether we leave or stay it’s a mess, and it’s our fault it’s a mess. It’s costing us our future, our children’s lives and our children’s future, billions and billions of wasted dollars for lies and delusions. When is enough enough?”
    I would support having a truly international force too, Michael. I believe I said that already. But I also mentioned the troubles that non-Western peacekeeping missions have had in West Africa, something that I must assume you are ignorant of, as you seem to have blithely ignored it.
    And there is no inherent moral superiority in helping an American child over an Iraqi child. At one point, liberals had the balls to see that, Michael. Where are yours?
    “The justification for our presence has shifted so many times, but now it’s at its most illogical and emotional stage, i.e., that any alternative would be worse. That’s putative and undemonstrated. And it’s really just a cover for continued occupation, continued Halliburton economic pillaging, and continued killing. My description of what you support isn’t emotional or fallacious. It’s factual, because continued violence and killing are in fact what you support in the name of some naive faith that this administration is doing something lofty.”
    Michael, if we pulled out, what would fill the void? There’s no trained Iraqi army or police force yet. There would likely be civil war over the role of theocracy. The infrastructure of roads, power plants and water treatment plants would once again deteriorate. There would once again be widespread looting. To believe otherwise is to truly be naive, Michael.
    And the argument that I support more killing is just as easily leveled at you: you’d rather have insurgents killing people than American troops, because you’re unable to make any moral distinction and American troops cost more here. Why do you want more killing, Michael? (See, instead of factual, what you did was again a straw man. I returned the favor. Maybe someday you’ll understand how they work).
    And I support this because the administration SHOULD be doing something lofty. I believe it is our duty to oppose the administration when it is not.
    “And that you would support violent regime change in a whole list of other countries doesn’t demonstrate your humanitarianism. It demonstrates you have an appetite for rapacious world domination.”
    And that you would oppose it demonstrates your moral cowardice, Michael. Your absolute fear of ever doing the right thing, of ever alleviating suffering, of ever using the power that we have as America for good. Why do you believe that foreigners deserve to suffer, Michael? Why do you hate them? Is it because they have dark skin and you can’t relate, Michael? Please list other possible reasons for wanting them to suffer under dictators instead of acting. Why do you prefer long-term suffering and brutality, Michael? How can you call yourself a liberal when you won’t stand up to defend those who most need defense in the world? How can you believe yourself moral when you shy away from your basic responsibility to make sure that every human has the same basic rights respected? Why are you a coward, Michael?
    “Who the fuck are we to tell the rest of the world how to live or govern themselves? And not only tell them, but kill them if they don’t agree?
    Tell me the logic in that. I guess the logic is simple: We know better. We’re smarter. We have the light of freedom, and God on our side.”
    Wow, Michael, you don’t believe that we, as a country, are better than North Korea? What fucked-up negaverse do you live in, Michael? I’m all for cultural relativism, but I believe that we can tell those in Darfur that genocide is wrong. Why are you afraid to stand against genocide, and use force if necessary to stop it? What happened to your spine, Michael? Why are you such a coward?
    “Where do you think all those dictatorial regimes got their power from in the first place? In many cases, it was because of weapons, intelligence, and covert support we provided in order to suppress human rights. That’s how both Osama and Saddam got big, with our help and our blessings.”
    Uh, yeah. And again, that was wrong. So, in your world, doing a wrong thing means that we should never do the right thing again. In my world, that means that we should no longer support dictators and that we should actively oppose the suffering of human beings, no matter where accidents of birth have stationed them on the globe. In your world it means that America should do nothing. Ever. Because you’re a coward.
    “I’m looking forward to our “liberalâ€? invasion of China, and wonder on what basis, exactly, do you say you’re on the “leftâ€?? Left of what?”
    Um… Left of the government. Left of the population. But apparently, since I’m to the right of you, I’m insufficiently liberal. Got a pogrom for me, Stalin?
       —js    Mar. 24 '05 - 12:57PM    #
  34. Oh, and Blaine- You’re an idiot. Stop trying to tie everything to Zionism. Christ, you sound like Dave Emory with his “Hidden Reich.”

    Laz- You’re pretty close. I opposed going in, but I think now that we’re in we have to do our best to fix what’s broken. I think Bush has been incompetent at every stage, but what’s the option? Pull out until a Democrat’s in charge? Better to realize that there are plenty of people in the military that truly do want to do the right thing, and do our best. I’d love to have more international support, more emphasis on aid agencies, and a stronger, liberal constitution (though constitutions alone don’t do it- Mexico has probably the best constitution in the modern world, but one of the shittiest governments).
       —js    Mar. 24 '05 - 01:04PM    #
  35. Your penchant for name-calling and insults undercuts everything you try to argue, js. And it betrays your arguments as akin to your attitude: You (we) are superior, and therefore we (you) have the moral right to decide who gets what kind of government, who lives and who dies, who gets the goodies and who gets the shaft. Anyone who feels differently, who proposes some other possible solution, is a coward—oh, and illogical too.

    Not very convincing.
       —Michael Betzold    Mar. 24 '05 - 01:37PM    #
  36. Michael, I realize that you’re constrained from a position of moral relativism and cowardice, but (as I paraphrased you above) I have insulted your positions because they deserve insulting. Guess what? The American Government, much as I despise the current administration, is morally superior to the former government of Saddam Hussein, and the current government of Kim Jong Il, and the current government of Hu Jintao, and even to the Khatami government of Iran. Why? Well, let’s start with the fact that we’re allowed to have this conversation.
    I have a feeling that you are the type that require a Pearl Harbor before acting to stop a holocaust. Because otherwise we might imply that genocide is inferior to not killing all the Jews.
    That, coupled with the premise that if you have the power to do good you have the obligation to do good, does seem to point to interventionism.
    And perhaps I would stop calling you a coward if you showed some courage, rather than an impassioned plea to do nothing in the face of evil.
    (Yes, Michael, torturing people is evil. Whether the US does it or whether it is done by a foreign nation. I feel no shame in calling it evil. Why do you?)
       —js    Mar. 24 '05 - 03:02PM    #
  37. And no, Michael, you’re not very convincing.
       —js    Mar. 24 '05 - 03:02PM    #
  38. Stop the violence!
       —David Boyle    Mar. 24 '05 - 03:16PM    #
  39. FYI, js: “Preternatural” means “extraordinary”, not “in all circumstances,” and the term you were searching for, between your eloquent attacks on my testosterone levels (oh! I am so shamed!) is “bloviating,” not “blovating.” And, while we’re having history lessons (so-called), the reason Iraqis have not had a Shiite fundamentalist government that reflects the views of their majority is that they were prevented from doing so by the anti-democratic rule of first, the Shah, and then Saddam Hussein. Now we’re going to help them suppress the rights of women in the name of having democracy. Cool. At least that’s what my tinfoil-relayed instructions from the Spartacus League tell me. (Wow, I didn’t even know the Spartacus League was still around!)
    But I will tell my lockstep comrades that it’s an ad hominem attack to judge the actions and values of the U.S. government by the public statements of the president. We’re very sorry we took Bush’s words as being meaningful, and we will see you in our next indoctrination session (just after my Stalinist purge is completed next Friday at 3 p.m.).
    And, final comment, js: if your view is “left,” then I finally understand why there’s so little left left.
       —Michael Betzold    Mar. 24 '05 - 03:16PM    #
  40. “I have a feeling that you’re the type that…” (followed by your ridiculous distortion of my stated views)... is not very convincing either, js. But far be it from me to let my actual stated words interfere with what you feel I am (which is so far from the mark as to be rather amusing to anyone who knows me; I’m so non-PC that I’m in danger of being exiled from Ann Arbor, so it’s probably reassuring to some that, in your views, I am some sort of Maoist).
    I’m done blovating, as you say. I would prefer to see if we can find some common ground and work for a more just and peaceful world. Let’s start by calling for an end to all terrorism—whether perpetrated by “freedom fighters,” religious zealots, or governments cocksure about their own righteousness. Are you with me on that one, js?
       —Michael Betzold    Mar. 24 '05 - 03:25PM    #
  41. Hey js, get a job! [ducks]

    :)
       —Scott    Mar. 24 '05 - 03:51PM    #
  42. Michael- Thank you for correcting my spelling. I look forward to the time when you can argue against my ideas instead of my grammar.
    As far as why Iraq is unlikely to become a fundementalist Shiite theocracy (which is what I was saying, not why it has not in the past. Please read closer, Michael): The first reason is that they, prior to the 1994 Gulf War, were one of the most developed secular states in the region. A vast majority of the population sees that as the normalized societal expectation. Second, there is a strong sense of nationalism inside of Iraq, and that existed even prior to the Gulf War of the 1980s. Despite being a British creation, starting in the ‘30s a vibrant strain of Arab (secular) nationalism took hold, electing Rashid Ali as prime minister in 1940. He was ultimately replaced by Nuri as Saad, a pro-western nationalist who declared war on the Axis powers.
    Despite your attempts at correction, Iraq has never had a Shah. It has, however, had a monarchy. Perhaps that was what you were thinking of.
    The Islam of Iraq also precludes a theocracy with any real similarity to what we have seen in either Iran or Saudi Arabia, mostly because of the differences in doctrine. Saudi Arabi is Sunni and dogmatic, with the emphasis of secular and religious coordination that marks the historical break from the Shia (the Ottoman Empire was Sunni, and through that altered the doctrine of Sunnism to allow secular authorities to coopt religious authority with a view to the management of the state). Iran is Persian, and while Shia, exemplifies a non-traditional Shia stance: that of comingling between church and state, along with an official and heirarchal clergy. Traditional Shiite beliefs, as practiced by Ayotollahs like al Sistani, tend to fall on the side of separation of religious and secular authority. While the current situation is not quite that simple, to put forth the argument that Iraq is on the way to looking like Iran is to have a wildly ignorant view of the region and the religions involved.
    As for your cowardice, Michael, why not just own up to it? Perhaps my use of “balls” was crude (I notice that you didn’t object to my characterization of your lack of spine), but I didn’t realize I was dealing with Lance Armstrong.
    Prove me wrong, Michael: Respond to the central thrust of the above comment. I say that the government of the United States is superior to the former government of Saddam Hussein’s. Despite what I think about George Bush, his name wasn’t the only one on the ballot, nor is it likely to be on there again in ‘08.
    As far as working to fight against all “terrorism,” I’ll do that once there’s a steady definition of it. Until then, I prefer to look at each event in context (like, I support the EZLN of Chiapas, despite them being called terrorists, and I don’t support the Tamil Tigers).
    But I’m more than happy to support getting a beer.
       —js    Mar. 24 '05 - 05:42PM    #
  43. The argument isn’t whether the U.S. government is morally superior to Saddam’s government. It’s whether we have the right (or, as you seem to argue, the duty) to impose our system, beliefs, values, political structure, economic structure and military control mechanisms on another nation (specifically Iraq) by force.

    If you want to live in a world where that is permissible, it will be a world of constant, total warfare. Because other nations will and do hold the same view of their moral, cultural, and/or political superiority. Other nations, and other groups, e.g., Bin Laden and his 9/11 bombers.

    I would rank the U.S. system as far superior to many brutal dictatorships, and inferior to many other democracies. So who gets to impose its will? The government with the most weapons, I suppose.

    Since you refuse to join me in a call to end all terrorism but want to evaluate each case on its own merits, then I would say you’re the moral relativist, not me. You pick and choose which kinds of violence and terrorism you support according to some arrogant scale of who has the nobler goals and some Malthusian calculus of how many people will/should die with and without intervention. Where you think you get the right (or our government gets the right) to decide who lives and who dies is beyond me, and you haven’t explained it.

    I condemn many on the “left” (which you mistakenly assume I’m fellow travelers with) for the same selectivity as regards to terrorists. “Our” terrorists are justified; theirs are not. Our explosives and bombs are righteous, theirs are unjust. Ours are good, theirs are evil. Bullshit.

    My refusal to endorse violent intervention as a means of political change or social reform does NOT mean I’m a coward or want to sit on my hands and watch others suffer. I guess I have to say this outright, since you keep misreprenting my views. Your blindness to other methods of influence, change, and progress, of which there are plenty of recent historical examples, including Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Poland, South Africa, China, the U.S. civil rights movement, and even some recent progress in Ireland, makes me seriously question your commitment to democracy and liberalism. Not all freedom must be purchased by slaughter or terror. And though I detest your ad hominen attacks, I would argue that it takes more spine and balls and heart and guts and soul to stand up in front of fire hoses in Selma or in front of tanks in Beijing than it does to sit in an airplane, push a button, and bomb a wedding party in Iraq.
       —Michael Betzold    Mar. 25 '05 - 10:55AM    #
  44. Michael – I hate to bicker with you. But if you don’t think that the threat of armed intervention had anything to do with at least some of those cases, I fear you’re sadly mistaken.

    Lets take Poland for example. After the USSR put down the first solidarity uprising in the early 1980s, the US used that as an excuse to introduce tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. Following that, they declared that any further opression would be seen as war. So the next time solidarity came to the forefront the USSR had to consider an armed responce from the US.

    Similarly, in Ukraine, the Russian Governmetn was concerned that mass violence would result in a Kosovo like situation by NATO – one they were not ready to deal with.

    Meanwhile, things aren’t better in China after the person got run over by a tank.

    My point is not that force is always good – there are times where I do not think it would help (North Korea for example). But, that it a) can help, and b) should be used is beyond doubt in my mind.

    Moreover, in almost 30 years no one had managed to put a serious threat to Sadaam – nor would they have been able to. The sad reality is – we should have cleaned his ass out in 1991 but wern’t ballsy enough to do it. we did it now – and the next generation of Iraquis may grow up without the fear of speaking their mind. To me, as somone comming from a country where that wasn’t possible is plenty.

    one other thing Michael. I am not sure what your views of Reagan are. but consider this: in Eastern Europe and Russia many refer to him as the best president of all time. Apparently, his saber ratling is appreciated by those who give him credit. just saying…we don’t know how Iraquis 50 yeras from now will look at Bush.
       —David LIvshiz    Mar. 25 '05 - 03:19PM    #
  45. Michael- Let’s work backwards…
    My refusal to condemn all “terrorists” has to do with that being a loaded phrase. I’m sorry if you’re too naive to see that, but PETA is not the same as the Shining Path, though they’ve both been called terrorists. Like I said, I’ll support an end to terrorism when there’s a correct definition to work from. Until that time, you and the Bush camp can share a drink over your mutual support of the Patriot Act, which is, as we know, to fight terrorism.
    Further, your historical whitewashing is amazing. Hey, guess what, Mike— the American civil rights movement of the ‘60s depended heavily on force. Federal force was a huge coercive factor with regard to the end of segregation. And you do realize that behind every law, there exists the threat of force, correct?
    Another thing, Mike, just because force can be justly used in some situations does not mean that peaceful methods are to be ignored. But that’s a tactical decision made on the part of each movement. (I’m puzzled by your inclusion of China there: at what point has democracy come to China?)

    As far as Iraq: The power to act for good brings the responsibility to act for good, Michael. And we do have the duty to impose our values in many crucial ways. We value transparency in government, we value personal rights, we value happiness and freedom, we value mitigating the worst cases of suffering. As a globe, we have the right and the duty to impose those basic values on every government. Even our own. Not just because of utilitarian considerations (it would be better for everyone if no one was oppressed) but because it is, at its core, simply the right thing to do for other people. If you do not believe that it is acceptable for some to die in order for millions to be free, then perhaps you should pursue a life of ascetic Jainism.
    Again, Michael, you’re talking about sitting on the beach and saying “Well, but Saddam just has a different value system than we do… And I’m sure that the Iraqis don’t mind being tortured and killed for another 50 years or so, at least, until Uday and Qusay die off…”
    It was right for John Brown to use force to set slaves free, despite the South having a different value system. Who’s really to say that we were right to free the slaves, eh Michael? What if other slave-holding nations had attacked us because of it? Would it still have been right, or would you have advocated that more people die before their bonds were thrown off, because innocent people could die?
    As far as the supposition that my way of thinking leads to endless war, well, there’s no real support of that thinking.
    And as far as the left goes, I see myself part of the tradition that includes both Roosevelts, Kennedy, Stevenson, Jefferson, Madison… Well, the list goes on of leftists who haven’t embraced your fairy-dust notion of universal deploration of violence.

    I suppose a decent analogy can be drawn to the question of God and suffering. If God is good and has the power to end suffering, wouldn’t God have to do it in order to be good? If we are good and have the power to make the world better place, don’t we owe it to the world? I say yes, and I say that it’s only a coward who would argue that we should not use every availible avenue to affect change for the better in the world.
       —js    Mar. 25 '05 - 05:07PM    #
  46. The threat of force is different from pre-emptive strikes. I said I opposed unpovoked violence, not national or international law. It’s Bush who defied international law in the case of Iraq.
    You keep shifting your argument so you can say that if I don’t support the war in Iraq, I support doing nothing to change the world. Crazy.
    But I will gladly admit I don’t support killing people to make their lives better or force change on the world. That’s what terrorists do. They always have a loftier goal than we mere peasants can fathom.
       —Michael Betzold    Mar. 29 '05 - 12:46PM    #
  47. I can only imagine how you Michael would operate as president at a cabinet meeting. It is altogether too easy to sing Kumbaya and hope that Islamists don’t wish to kill us which clearly they do, whether we support Israel, have bases in Saudi Arabia or fully apologize for the crusades. I believe fully that the administration had to lie to us about WMD, because a strategy to bring democracy to the middle east would not have been approved, certainly not by the despots that Rule from Morocco to Somalia. The despots use the US as a scapegoat for their own failed policies and until they have to answer to their own citizenry, will continue to channel their anger towards an easy target us.

    Only democracy and frankly women’s rights will save themselves, and us from terrorism, and that is my belief, and I believe just as vehemently as you do that weakness and peaceniks cause more death and destruction than a 1000 Rumsfelds and Bushes.

    Having 2 children, I am very concerned about your movement inviting further attacks therefore I believe your ideas are very dangerous to the world and the US safety.

    I believe that we both hate war equally, you believe that pulling back will make the problem go away, while I believe in supporting even if by force, democracy.

    Arguments can certainly be made on both sides, but I believe the Bush policy is beginning to show fruit.
       —Peter Stitzel    Apr. 5 '05 - 05:56PM    #
  48. Michael: The threat of force has to be backed up by occassionally using force, otherwise the threat is empty.
    And the US violated the charter of the UN when it invaded Iraq, yes. How does that get us off the hook for the reconstruction?
    And if you support doing good in the world, why do you not support doing good in Iraq?
       —js    Apr. 5 '05 - 08:16PM    #
  49. Peter: Peaceniks don’t kill more than warmongers. That’s kinda one of those statements that’s so absurd on its face that it removes credibility from what you’re trying to say.
       —js    Apr. 5 '05 - 08:18PM    #
  50. Wiat – where is the violation of international law? the UN Charter provids for a collective right of self defense. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, Kuwait exercised its INHERENT right to self defense – and invoked collective security. When the war eneded, it was terminated by an ARMISTANCE, which included as one material condition that Sadaam disarm, and work well with internatioanl inspectors. When this didn’t happen (in 1996) US, UK and FRANCE all agreed that it was a materila breahc and authorized air strieks. What happened in the five yeras to change that.

    Koffi Annan does not have the power of a judiciary – he doesn’t declare the law, nor does he speak for the ICJ. THe bottom line, is that while the war may have been horibly unwise, there is a reason that France/Germany/etc did not take the case to the ICJ (not even on an advisory basis). they were afraid to LOOSE.
       —David LIvshiz    Apr. 5 '05 - 08:44PM    #
  51. Livshiz- According to the charter, no use of force may be made without either approval from the SC or immediate danger. The US met neither of those burdens, and thus violated the charter. The reason not to take it to the ICJ is that the ICJ has no effective enforcement mechanism and to get another judgement against the US out of it with no hope of ever having any consequences would only undermine the authority of the ICJ even further. It’s realpolitik that prevents consequences over the violation of the charter, not any ideological purity (or even loopholes) on the part of the US.
    (Further, it’s pretty clear now that Iraq DID DISARM, isn’t it?
    I dunno. One of the biggest reasons I was against the war was that once we “won” it, it was going to require years and years [and billions and billions of dollars] of occupation and reconstruction. Well, that and I believed that even if the war was fought to bring freedom, the people in charge would be so inept that it would set us back decades in international diplomacy and probably be a giant boondogle…)
       —js    Apr. 6 '05 - 12:06AM    #
  52. No JS – its a statute, and therefore does not account for everything. in this case, the UN had authroized military force in 1991, and since the “threat to world peace” was never resolved under UN law, US did not need (thoguth it did try to get) additional authorization. The 1991 is effective enough.

    Don’t kid yourself, ICJ can be quite effective. US ignroed the Nicaragua decision, yet magically did all that the court asked (just without acknowledging the court), same in the recnet death penalty case (Avina (Mexico) v. US).

    Moreover, there are other reasons why France/Germany would have gone there even if they couldn’t stop the US. Sepcifcally, is that a jdugement from the ICJ would hae made British participation hihgly unlikley b/c of hte confines of the EU treaty.

    Look – the war may have been stupid. i am just saying, under int’l law its not illegal. and i don’t see many lawyers who work in teh area of public int’l law cliaming otherwise. (the one exception i know of is Richard Falk).
       —David LIvshiz    Apr. 6 '05 - 12:16AM    #