العراق ’AL-CIRĀQ


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2004 May 6: Folk sayings

2003 December 18: Verdict of ignominy

2003 August 1: The subtlety of shades

2003 April 18: Armistice and convention

2003 April 16

For many war opponents, the purported issue was international law. But without associating myself with George Bush’s next move, which more likely than not will be foolish, it is necessary to say that international law, or any kind of law, is not a value in itself. International justice is. And an international system of law that protects régimes like those in العراق ’al-Cirāq and سوريا Sūrīā, or 中國 Zhōng Guó or Zimbabhwe or Cuba, is not just, not remotely. Nor is a system just which depends on the consent of tyrannies, as does a vote in the UN security council. 中國 Zhōng Guó, سوريا Sūrīā, Cameroun, Guinée-Conakry, and پاکستان Pākistān are definitely tyrannies, and Angola is no longer really democratic. And these are the states who should be determining what is right and what is wrong?

And where international law and العراق ’al-Cirāq are concerned, the issue is hardly, shall we say, unilateral. There were years’ worth of UN resolutions that العراق ’al-Cirāq was in defiance of, resolutions whose origin lay in العراق ’al-Cirāq’s invasion of another member of the UN. Resolution 1441 was merely the last of a long series of demands by the security council that العراق ’al-Cirāq give up certain weapons (which, to clarify a common misconception, includes nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, and any ballistic missiles with a range over 150 km). Resolution 1441 noted that العراق ’al-Cirāq “has been and remains in material breach of its obligations”, explicitly gave العراق ’al-Cirāq a “final opportunity to comply”, demanded “full and immediate compliance by العراق ’al-Cirāq without conditions or restrictions”, including a full accounting of all banned weapons, and explicitly threatened “serious consequences” (which in diplomacy means military force) should العراق ’al-Cirāq fail in even the slightest way. The exacting nature of the demands may seem draconian, but should not really be considered so, given the large number of previous chances afforded العراق ’al-Cirāq to cooperate, none of which it took. But draconian or not, those demands were international law, and this last resolution was passed unanimously. That, for supporters of international law, should have been the deciding factor. صدام Sad:ām would never step down voluntarily, he was an atrocious despot, he was completely faithless in all dealings with the world, and the world had not only given him a last chance, but threatened him with war should he fail to take it. Even Hans Blix could not paint the picture as one of full and immediate compliance. The position of France, Россия, and 中國 Zhōng Guó, all endorsers of the resolution, was then shown to be a bluff. They were willing to threaten consequences, but not deliver them. The fact is that authorization for military action was contained within previous resolutions, especially at the time of ceasefire in the first gulf war, and a positive vote in the security council would have been needed to remove that authorization. That vote never happened; authorization therefore still existed. There is something laughable about George Bush, who is not much of a UN supporter, being almost alone in his willingness to enforce a UN resolution. It is true that the will of the security council was opposed to war under any circumstances. But the words of the council were something else. International law must be a matter of words, not whims, just as domestic law.

This ultimately boils down to a matter of seeming. It seems like there ought to be something wrong with this intervention. George Bush is so odious that he must be doing something wrong. But it takes more than an impression to make something wrong. And in this case, I still have yet to hear a good argument that the world was a better place before صدام حسين Sad:ām Husajn and his party were removed from power. Are war opponents so frustrated with the process that they cannot nod in passing at the result? A ruthless tyrant is no longer in power. The only principle that has been breached here is the one which allows France and Россия and 中國 Zhōng Guó to extend protection to their pet tyrants. I can live with that.

2003 March 27

Cynical views of George Bush and his administration, of their motives and intentions, are mostly (but only mostly) correct. Cynical views about Tony Blair are only partially correct. And absence of cynicism about Churchill and Roosevelt (need I mention Сталин?) is incorrect. You can believe whatever biographical trend you wish, but I find the weight of evidence to depict Churchill as an imperialist with fascist sympathies, and Roosevelt as an opportunistic patrician. They both made common cause and jovially collaborated with Сталин, who was different from but every bit as bad as Hitler, and his willing ally but for Hitler’s faithlessness. Россия and the US entered the war only after attacks on their territories, Britain only after Hitler’s disrespect for the nation-state system became undeniable. Ending the holocaust was not a military objective during the war, either. Any belief that the war was by design a campaign against fascism or holocaust is ignorant of those designs, just as mythological as the belief that the US Civil War was designed to end slavery. Nor was there much reason to suppose beforehand that the behavior of the conquering powers would lead to just or even democratic government emerging from the conquered territories. Indeed, British policy and practice would have predicted a reinstallation of emperors in both Deutschland and Österreich. Русский policy, of course, correctly predicted totalitarian states that in most cases were much worse than the status quo ante. US policy was uneven at the time; only after the war did it become clear how little the US cared about democracy or justice when “more important” geopolitical interests were at stake.

I am not saying that صدام Sad:ām is on Hitler’s scale. But nor would I accept any counter-assertion that this war is on the scale of World War II. Anyone under arms participating in or defending murder and oppression is a legitimate target, even though we know that not every soldier for Deutschland or العراق ’al-Cirāq was or is an enthusiastic supporter of their respective states. So removing such deaths from the equation, we must consider civilians killed by interventionist force, and interventionist soldiers killed in combat (beyond the number who would be killed if they were at home engaged in training exercises or driving at 75 mph on the highways). By that calculus, if World War II was justified, as a matter of lives lost to lives saved and lives freed from tyranny, so is this war. No, it is not the same, but it is comparable on its own scale.

Hitler was a more successful expansionist, but not a more enthusiastic expansionist. In fact, after Hitler conquered Україна he was arguably done. Arguably not also, I concede; but to the west he was actually more interested in alliance with the Anglo-American cultures than war with them. صدام Sad:ām wishes to rule, preferably by adulation but if necessary by force, the entire Arab world, and to subjugate on its behalf and to his own glory neighboring peoples like the Kurds and the فارسى Fārsī. Certainly had he been more successful صدام Sad:ām would now be ruling ايران ’Īrān, الكويت ’al-Kūajt, and probably the entire عربى Carabī peninsula (and therefore the bulk of the world’s proven oil reserves, which, though we all might dislike the oil economy, would make us wholly dependent on him).

The belief that العراق ’al-Cirāq is not ready for democracy is unfairly dismissive and rather patronizing, which might be forgiven if it were correct. One could argue that Россия was not ready, based on the current state of its politics; but would continued Сталинism have been better? ايران ’Īrān is a society not far, if at all, beyond العراق ’al-Cirāq in terms of general education and political sophistication, and it clearly is ready for democracy, even though its democratic forms have no governmental power. Any flaws in the democracy in ايران ’Īrān are at least partially attributable to the stifling power of the Islamic Republic system, and are certainly commensurate with the misbehavior of “advanced” democracies (consider the issue of debt, for instance). The Kurds already have something approaching democracy in their autonomous regions in the north. But in any case, would another few decades of totalitarian rule in العراق ’al-Cirāq be preferable to possible ― not certain, only possible ― democratic or post-democratic chaos? Would totalitarianism prepare العراق ’al-Cirāq to be democratic at some point in the future? Or will it never be ready?

As I said, Hitler was actually pro-British and pro-US (mitigated in the end by the desires of his allies in 日本 Nitupon), whereas صدام Sad:ām is against both, and صدام Sad:ām is for that reason more of a threat than Hitler was, if we are concerned only for ourselves. But I find US or British interest to be a disappointing criterion. I am just as concerned for the lives of عراقى Cirāqī civilians as of US or British soldiers. I would balance out the deaths of عراقى Cirāqī civilians during war with the greater deaths, gruesome torture, and miserable lives of civilians under the régime. The risk to soldiers is like the risk to police. The police, who include my brother, make a decision to risk their own lives so that the lives of others might be better or safer. I have my issues with the police, but more so in practice than in principle. In principle we need a force to protect us from those who would otherwise subjugate and terrorize us. And from what I have heard, the majority of soldiers, in addition to being volunteers for the service to begin with, are supporters of this war against what they will tell you is a tyrant with a history of brutalization of his subjects and the ability and willingness to project force beyond his subjects. War opponents can call this propaganda if they like; but just because Bush may have ulterior motives doesn’t change the reality. (Orwell: “These things really happened, that is the thing to keep one’s eye on. They happened even though Lord Halifax said they happened. The raping and butchering in Chinese cities, the tortures in the cellars of the Gestapo, the elderly Jewish professors flung into cesspools, the machine-gunning of refugees along the Spanish roads ― they all happened, and they did not happen any the less because the Daily Telegraph has suddenly found out about them when it is five years too late.”)

Arguments from consistency fail also. True, there does seem to be an element of selectivity where صدام Sad:ām is concerned. But we cannot fight every tyrant simultaneously. Nor does it do the people of 조선 Co Sĕn or 中國 Zhōng Guó any good to leave صدام Sad:ām in place out of some strange sense of fairness to all oppressed peoples. And by the consistency argument, World War II was not justified because it dealt only with Deutschland, Italia, and 日本 Nitupon, but not with Россия, Britain, or 中國 Zhōng Guó (Nationalist or 毛 Máoist).

The concern that صدام Sad:ām has weapons of mass destruction and might use them in this conflict is a valid concern; but it is at the same time an admission that he has weapons of mass destruction and might use them; and if so, the sooner we bite the bullet and get rid of him and these weapons, the sooner we can be free of that concern. As for containment, a seductive case could be made, and perhaps there are times when we have no other option. But containment is at best the sanction of ghettoes of tyranny. It would apply equally to police protection in this country ― confine all crime to the ’hood. It would apply equally to mid-1930s Deutschland; but in the hypothetical world where Hitler had concentrated on killing only deutsche Jews, Rroma, and intellectuals, would this war’s opponents not have been hypothetically in favor of intervention?

The arguments made by war protesters today would have led them to oppose war against Deutschland. Their support for the earlier war after the fact is seen to rest on the present reality that, despite the war’s shady intentions, despite its predictably-enormous cost in blood and treasure, and despite the moral character of the principals, things have turned out for the better in Deutschland and the countries it was occupying. But that did not become possible to say for all those territories until at least half a century later. My support for this war rests on the expectation that, despite the war’s shady intentions, despite its cost in blood and treasure, and despite the moral character of the principals, things will turn out for the better in العراق ’al-Cirāq. And considering the reasonable estimates of the war’s cost in blood and treasure, I think the price is worth paying even without certainty. When do we ever have certainty?

Opponent states like France and Россия, and the majority of ordinary citizen opponents of this war, likewise oppose sanctions, even smart sanctions, and oppose genuine aggressive disarmament backed by force, and oppose the assassination of foreign “leaders” (as if صدام Sad:ām is anything like) or military interference in “sovereign states” (as if صدام Sad:ām’s régime is not itself a military occupation). By my estimate that eliminates all options other than coexistence. If war opponents endorse one of these options, they should tell me. If they have another brilliant option, they should tell the whole world as soon as possible. The war’s opponents were my allies before the war, will be so again afterwards, and are now on most other issues, while the war’s prosecutors are decidedly not. But I have yet to hear a sustainable argument against the war other than unconcern about tyranny and unwillingness to do anything about it. And to claim some moral credit for opposing Hitler in retrospect while offering no effective opposition to صدام Sad:ām in the present is all too convenient. We all want peace. We all want things to have been different in the past. None of us wants to risk soiling his hands by endorsing a policy that might not succeed. But we are all opinionated and political, and it is appropriate for us to be for something as well as against something. The world is an unsanitary place, and all the options available are likewise unsanitary. Condemnations of صدام Sad:ām without practical solutions to the problem he represents will, along with half a million dollars, buy a three-bedroom home in the nicest part of town.

2003 March 11: A strange and sordid business

2003 January 21: Truth is the first casualty of anti-war

2002 October 20

No longer content to grant himself the superlative, صدام حسين Sad:ām Husajn has begun achieving perfection in all things. Today he has decreed an amnesty for every single prisoner in العراق ’al-Cirāq. Even murderers will be released, with the consent of their victims’ families. If there were any political prisoners in العراق ’al-Cirāq, they, too, would be released. Everyone goes free, in a gesture of unsurpassable benevolence to commemorate the previous day’s unsurpassable electoral success. 100%; no half measures for صدام Sad:ām any more.

For those who missed the news, and the jokes, صدام Sad:ām has officially won the vote of every single one of the 11,445,638 eligible voters in his latest appeal to the عراقى Cirāqī people for their support. I could well believe that he had already killed anyone who might be inclined to vote against him; but there was not even a delay in the announcement for the votes to be counted. Fortunately, no one, and certainly not the عراقى Cirāqī government, accepts his reelection as being a valid exercise in democracy, but of interest was the explanation offered by some voters and the state itself: the rest of the world perhaps could not understand that, during a crisis, the عراقى Cirāqī people would speak as one, quite literally unanimous, in their approbation of their beloved leader.

Ah, but we can understand. Why else are we in the US, and our congressional representatives, being urged to unanimously endorse our own president? We are told that dissenting voices on any, any of his policies will weaken his hand on the world stage, for whatever it is he wants to do. There are limitations to the comparison, though. George Bush has a real electoral mandate. He is the chosen leader of a significant minority in the US; in fact, in the last election he placed a respectable second in the overall national vote. That ought to count for something.

2002 September 9: Champion to the cause

2001 March 18

Further evidence that العراق ’al-Cirāq does in fact have the resources to care for its people (should it so choose), even under economic sanctions, is provided by its current efforts to follow through on a promise made in December to provide $930,000,000 in aid to فلسطين Filastīn, humanitarian aid in light of the uprising against ישראל Jiśra’el. This is political, as everyone knows, an attempt to win support in the عربى Carabī world and beyond by charitable action in a sympathetic cause. But charity begins at home. Once again we see that the tyranny in العراق ’al-Cirāq will allow its subjects to starve to score political points. This is merely a novel approach.

2001 February 25

Deutschland is nominally a NATO ally of the United States and Britain, but it has not been a stalwart of the hard line against the régime in العراق ’al-Cirāq, not a reliable supporter of the enforcement of the no-fly zones or the sanctions or the inspections. So it will hopefully have a greater impact on sanctions opponents like France and Россия that it is Deutschland whose intelligence service has published concerns over the continuing efforts of العراق ’al-Cirāq to build weapons of mass destruction. Specifically, deutsch intelligence believes that the régime may be only three years from a nuclear device and four years from a missile that can reach as far as Europe. It remains actively in pursuit of chemical and biological weapons, having perhaps twenty facilities working on the former, and may actually have begun producing the latter. Some in Europe wish to dismiss the threat posed by this tyranny; but can they afford to ignore the capabilities of a state that has fired missiles at a non-combatant for political purposes, and has used chemical weapons against its own subjects?

2000 March 2

The government of العراق ’al-Cirāq has admitted that, while it weeps over the suffering of “its people” under UN sanctions, it continues to build palaces (“symbols of sovereignty”) for the ruling élite of the country. Works projects of this kind are outrageously expensive; we can be sure that the facilities will be opulent. And they are of no use to the oppressed عراقى Cirāqī people. Anyone who credits the report of this admission and still blames sanctions for the suffering in العراق ’al-Cirāq is, I am sorry to say, an incredible simpleton.

2000 February 12

Lifting the sanctions against العراق ’al-Cirāq is becoming a policy of the humanitarian faith in the world. But it is a policy of faith alone, not reason, and ultimately it is not humanitarian.

The facts are these: صدام حسين Sad:ām Husajn is a tyrant. He rules العراق ’al-Cirāq absolutely. He is almost entirely concerned with remaining in power and enjoying its trappings. He will use whatever resources are available to him to augment his power. He represses the people of العراق ’al-Cirāq unmercifully. He cares not at all about their suffering. He has used weapons of mass destruction against his subjects. He continues to develop nuclear weapons.

And these: After invading الكويت ’al-Kūajt and being driven out again, he agreed (under duress, of course) to submit to certain conditions for an end to the war, including elimination of his programs for weapons of mass destruction, and invasive monitoring to insure that. It was understood at the time that the sanctions would not be lifted until العراق ’al-Cirāq fully complied with the ceasefire terms. It was nonetheless agreed to allow العراق ’al-Cirāq to sell oil to purchase humanitarian goods, under close supervision of their distribution. His failure to comply with the terms of the oil-for-food program is partially due to dictatorial pride, and partially connected with a game of nerves with the West; he does not care about the suffering of the عراقى Cirāqī people, but is gambling that the West does, and will give to him what he wishes in order to alleviate that suffering.

And these: If صدام Sad:ām is allowed to engage in free trade, he will sell oil to purchase goods first and foremost to augment his power, to rearm his military, to furnish his régime, and to provide luxuries to the pinnacle of that régime, especially himself. The عراقى Cirāqī people will benefit last, if at all, from a lifting of the sanctions, and it will have become virtually impossible for them to overthrow the régime. Meanwhile صدام Sad:ām will develop nuclear weapons, and will then engage in nuclear blackmail, threatening to attack ישראל Jiśra’el if any moves are made against his régime. At best this will lead to a preemptive strike by ישראל Jiśra’el, and perhaps a war. At worst it will lead to a complete invulnerability for صدام Sad:ām’s tyranny from outside intervention as well.

In other words, eliminating the sanctions will not end the suffering of the عراقى Cirāqī people. Eliminating the sanctions will prolong that suffering. This cannot be what the humanitarians want.

1998 October 11

A laboratory in France is reportedly able to confirm tests done in the US which showed that العراق ’al-Cirāq had weaponized VX nerve gas. The français government, not surprisingly, is apparently suppressing the report. Whatever the agenda behind the support of France for lifting UN sanctions on العراق ’al-Cirāq, France must at least allow the decision to lift sanctions to be based on a realistic assessment of the situation, and that includes an acknowledgement that this régime has used chemical weapons and came close to the ability to use the worst of them.

1998 August 9

UNSCOM is standing firm for full compliance by العراق ’al-Cirāq on all weapons of mass destruction; as Richard Butler reports it, that means that the lack of compliance on biological weapons is holding up the end of sanctions. Surprisingly, صدام حسين Sad:ām Husajn’s defiance at present has been attributed to the effect sanctions are at last having on him and his régime. He is, as before, hoping to exploit divisions between the powerful states in the world. Specifically, France, Россия, and 中國 Zhōng Guó have all been working towards an end to sanctions. It is wholly fair to say that they are not doing so out of concern for the very real suffering being inflicted on the ordinary people under صدام Sad:ām’s rule. Nothing could go further towards an ultimate end to their suffering than a weakening of the régime. That does not seem to be much closer, but normal relations is not the answer. Humanitarian exceptions to the sanctions are already in place. If these exceptions are not adequately helping the common people, it is entirely because صدام Sad:ām does not wish them to be helped; and as long as he holds the power, they will not be helped, sanctions or not.

The apparent lack of resolve even in the case of the US and Britain for a showdown with العراق ’al-Cirāq now is somewhat distressing. Yes, this business has become tiresome. But in the face of tyranny, is that really an issue? Butler may simply be an ordinary person doing his job. But he is in real danger of becoming a hero, especially if he is left to do his job without convincing political support. It is important work, we must remember. It is severely important.

1998 June 28

Last week Richard Butler was about to certify العراق ’al-Cirāq as being in full compliance with UN Security Council resolutions demanding an elimination of weapons of mass destruction. That would have been a most welcome surprise ― a disarmed صدام حسين Sad:ām Husajn. This week we are back to the old state of preposterous lies and clear evidence of terrifying intent. العراق ’al-Cirāq had the material to make tens of thousands of tons of VX, the hypertoxic nerve agent. At first it claimed to have made none, then a few hundred kilograms, then a few hundred tons. It still maintains that it was never able to stabilize it for warhead mounting, and that it never attempted to construct any weapons. Now it has been demonstrated, to the point where Butler was absolutely convinced (which satisfies me) that warheads tested recently were armed with VX, which had been stabilized. The position of the United States, which some allege is that sanctions must not be lifted while صدام Sad:ām remains in power, is if anything too weak. This régime has used chemical weapons, repeatedly. It has mounted the worst of the nerve agents on warheads for what we must assume would have been a gruesome attack on תל-אביב Tel-’Abīb. It cannot be trusted, not now, not ever. If we can get food and medicine directly to the people of العراق ’al-Cirāq, we must do so. But we cannot allow any aid to fall into the hands of the dictatorship. If we inadvertently prolong this dictatorship, the people will suffer worse, and longer.

1998 June 14

The UN commission investigating compliance by العراق ’al-Cirāq is reportedly on the verge of certifying that العراق ’al-Cirāq is in full compliance with security-council resolutions, and no longer in possession of weapons of mass destruction. Richard Butler seems trustworthy, and I believe he is seriously interested in finding the truth of the matter, and I will credit his conclusion; but if the states of the world use this as an excuse to normalize relations with the brutal régime of صدام حسين Sad:ām Husajn, they will be making a grave mistake.