the assumption of responsibility for the welfare of the world
ARMISTICE AND CONVENTION
The rapid fall of Basra, Baghdad, Kirkuk, Mosul, and Tikrit have secured the liberation of Iraq ― and we should not hesitate to call it a liberation. Whatever war opponents may think of the process, they should be honest about the outcome. They should look, for example, at the emergence of free expression, not only expression against the former regime but also against the US and its allies, as a sign that something like real politics is taking place in Iraq now. There will be demands, alliances, compromises, boycotts, grandstanding, demagoguery, and occasionally wisdom. I look forward to the codification of this triumphant disagreeability in a parliamentary democracy, and it is now a genuine possibility, which last year it was not.
This liberation is a good thing; the war that created it was a good thing. Perhaps it was unrealistic to expect that the opponents of the war would immediately admit to being wrong. But was it also unrealistic to expect that they would immediately quit claiming to be right? Of all the gloating that has taken place during and after the liberation, a disproportionate share, perhaps even a majority, has come from the war’s opponents, still trying to make their case about why we shouldn’t invade Iraq. Many would even have had us pull out abruptly at any point up to and including the fall of Tikrit, as if the control of the coalition militaries was worse not only than the original regime, but even than the bloody reimposition of order by that regime that would have followed a mid-war withdrawal. Such logic is hard to follow. But some war opponents are so convinced that they can’t have been wrong that they continue to argue for their cause as logic and even reality abandon it.
Civilians were killed. The war protesters were right about that. But no one thought civilians wouldn’t be killed. And precious few were, considering how many have just been saved from decades of further oppression, torture, and even death. The loudest protesters insist on using Iraqi government figures for civilian deaths, when anyone who has done more than five minutes’ reading knows that the Iraqi government, as Robert Merle had it, lied the way it breathed, even when there was nothing to be gained. But even such figures would lead us to conclude that, as an average from the entire Baath reign, twice as many persons would have died at the hands of the Baathists over the course of the war as supposedly died to depose them.
Avoiding civilian deaths was treated as a high priority in this war. It had to be, since there were numerous satellite broadcasts and hundreds of embedded reporters waiting to expose any deaths, however regrettable. Skepticism is wise, and we know that brutality exists; but some war opponents only seem to believe it exists on our side, while utterly disregarding Saddam’s brutality. At some point, the charges against the coalition became slanderous against the humanity of ordinary soldiers. Imagine the young sentries at a checkpoint facing a speeding vehicle that is ignoring all warnings. The car may be filled with women and children. It may be filled with explosives. It may even be filled with both. If the sentries fire, as both caution and orders demand, they may end up killing children, and be forced to live with that for the rest of their lives. If the sentries do not fire, they may be killed themselves, as some of their comrades have been, and have no rest of their lives. Who can stand in judgement of those young persons and the awful choice before them? And yet often enough during this war, conducted in the glare of international scrutiny and severe skepticism, the coalition forces took extraordinary precautions to avoid civilian casualties, and even infrastructure damage, and put themselves at risk to do so. The price for those precautions included the lives of soldiers. It is a shame that those precautions receive so little credit from the very people who most demanded them.
Weapons of mass destruction have not been found in overwhelming amounts, or at least have not been confirmed found. But the same protesters who believed that it was possible for weapons inspections to work with Saddam in power, if only given enough time, are now expecting immediate results, even though there is no bureaucracy to assist in the search. Of course, only the protesters believed that the bureaucracy was assisting before the war. There were complaints from the moment the first towns fell that no sites had been found. Did they expect that coalition troops were going to take a break from fighting a war to rummage through databases and bunkers? Perhaps Iraq truly has no weapons of mass destruction, has destroyed everything it was previously known to have. That is highly unlikely, but either way, we would never have known with Saddam in power. Now, at least, it is possible to have a genuine search of the country. Would it also be possible to have more than a week to accomplish it?
On the matter of irrational expectations, the critics have expected the coalition forces to restore order to the country, not behave as a military occupation, and prevent the assumption of power by the regime’s criminals. It was quite obviously not possible to do all three simultaneously. Had the restoration of order, particularly the suppression of looting, come about swiftly and efficiently, the war protesters would have been treated to images that they would undoubtedly have compared to their own heyday in Seattle, but with US soldiers substituted for Seattle police. Would they have preferred such an outcome? The more efficient ― the harsher ― the response, the more like an occupation it would have appeared. But for the military to melt into the countryside, or withdraw altogether, would have been a disaster, in the absence of police, and so the only option for security in Iraq is, in fact, a military occupation. The least acceptable option is unfortunately gradually being employed, as former police of the regime are being pressed into service. This has been done because the critics were demanding the restoration of order, and its result may be the delay or even failure of de-Baathification. The war may have been started in defiance of public opinion and prominent critics; but it was conducted with more concern for public opinion and criticism than any I have seen or read of. Far too much concern, I would say, especially when that criticism has been so often ill-considered.
I am far from a nationalist of any sort, and have repeatedly aligned myself with Earth as a whole, and the cosmopolitan ideal. And the UN has tremendous humanitarian experience that should be employed to the fullest extent in Iraq. But, in line with my previous critique, the UN political structure, heavy with despotism, is not a body to be trusted with the governance of Iraq. The UN and its security council were largely in support of the continued reign of Saddam Hussein, in support de facto, de jure, and in some cases rhetorically as well. This was inspired by a self-interest in the inviolability of states, however wretched, and by a comfort with the business atmosphere created by a stable dictatorship. The system perpetuated tyranny in Iraq. To paint it as credible now is either self-serving or naďve; are so many dictatorships and their cynical partners to be trusted with the creation of a democracy? Let us bring in a few non-supportive democratic governments to share the decision-making and responsibility. While wishing there were more majority-muslim democracies to choose from, I would nominate India, Brazil, South Africa, Canada, Mali, and Sweden. It is a balanced, though hardly perfect, group, that at least has some credibility as advocates of democracy. (And is notably less enchanted by the idea of privatizing public assets.) And, as with the US and Britain, if we don’t like what their governments do, they can be called to account. They can be lobbied; they can be voted from office. The UN does not possess that virtue, and neither do many of its members.
And while not, I hope, vindictive, I believe that the French, Russian, and German governments and their corporate constituents should unhesitatingly be frozen out of the reconstruction process. We should do this for their own good, actually, because first, we would not want them to be required to explain their support for Saddam to the bitter end, and second, we would not want them to betray their principles by appearing in any way to endorse this action after the fact. Or can we imagine that they might have other concerns besides their lily-white souls? Chirac has already had his piece of what Leopold of Belgium would have called “this magnificent Iraqi cake”. He wants an extra helping now, but he shouldn’t be putting his fingers into the cake until he bothers to wash them.
One thing we should all agree on in the aftermath is that this reconstruction must be successful, and it must result in an actual democracy, and the US among others should be prepared to pay for that. Those who have been cynical about the coalition’s intentions should bring the maximum democratic pressure on coalition governments to fund this reconstruction. I personally believe that a sustained military presence is also a requirement (so to contrast with our failure to extend the reach of the government in Kabul), and we should be prepared to pay for that also. My open letter to Dick Lugar stated that US rhetoric about democracy would prove hollow if no democracy is created. In the same spirit, the war critics’ cynicism about US intentions, their massive display of political participation against this war, and their almost-incidental condemnations of Saddam, will also prove hollow if they do not put as much effort into securing this liberation as they did into preventing it.
It is good that the war is over. It is good that the protesters have had their say, and good that they were ignored. It is good that Iraq is freer now than it has been in its entire existence. It will be better still when it is freer still. While some of the war’s opposition amounted to appeasement, I have no interest in making distinctions now. I would like to see all those who oppose war and despise Bush make a united effort from this point forward. We should do everything possible to see that no further war in Iraq is ever needed, and that Bush is held to his word. We have failed Iraq for its entire past, and the Iraqis have never controlled their future. They control their future now, and if we fail them again, it is our future that will be in doubt.
Richard Lugar, US Senate
2003 April 15
As the tax deadline arrives and Tikrit falls, I want you to know that I am a supporter of using my own tax contribution for foreign aid, and I particularly want to endorse reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Any arguments that our government has made about democratization as a rationale for our intervention will have been hollow if we don’t stay on the ground providing assistance, if we don’t match our words with dollars. And if we overthrow two tyrannies and fail to secure their liberal-democratic replacements, we will have missed a rare opportunity, indeed be guilty of a great crime of omission.
Not incidentally, I am personally outraged at Congress’s collusion with the Bush administration’s scandalous fiscal policy. With my meager income, I am still being double-taxed through payroll deductions, while affluent investors are being treated “fairly”. If I am going to pay for current retirees (with no likelihood of future benefits myself), those beneficiaries should at least be means-tested. And if I am expected to pay taxes which might otherwise be used for basic expenses, the government has no business borrowing a record amount of money to fund yet another tax cut for the well off. It is very important to me, as your constituent, that you balance the budget, pay down the debt, stop appeasing the middle and upper classes with tax cuts, and end Congress’s part, and your own part, in the shame that will leave future citizens paying for present comfort.
These are moral tests; I ask you to be on the side of responsibility and compassion, not short-sightedness and convenience.
© O.T. FORD
Home of the Stewardship Project
and O.T. Ford