Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical

"a life uncommon..."

Remember my post of things that made me twitch? Well, the actual semester has yet to start, but there were lots of anti-war protests this weekend, and the other day i heard someone in the dining hall denouncing the war and i just get so frustrated by the simplistic nature of it all. My inclination is to oppose war because i’m really big on preserving life, but there’s also the question of quality of life. And i don’t understand sanctions much at all, nor am i very familiar with Saddam’s history, but for once i’m attempting to educate myself about a current events issue. (Though i know the community slants to the left, i’m still interested to see if this post gets any comments on the History Channel documentary on Saddam.)

So anyway, here’s the fruits of the past couple days of my information gathering, because i can’t fall sleep.

I love this article.
Let's do it: for the Iraqis' sake

January 18 2003

Saddam is the best reason to fight this war, as his own people will tell you, writes Johann Hari.

Why do we need evidence of a stash of anthrax or sarin to convince us that Saddam, the gasser of the Kurds and butcher of Baghdad, should be overthrown? Hans Blix and his UN inspection team issued an interim report in New York last week. They found no weapons of mass destruction, so war, it seems, will not come this month. Why does this make so many on the left relax? What has become of the left that argued that we had a moral responsibility to defend our fellow humans from fascist dictators? By taking the route of hunting for WMD, and only accepting the overthrow of Saddam on those grounds, we have made a crucial mistake. The greatest possible evidence for this is that, while some in the West celebrate today, the Iraqi people will be weeping.

Who, you may be asking incredulously, would want their country to be bombed? What would make people want to risk their children being blown to pieces? I thought this too until, last October, I spent a month as a journalist seeing the reality of life under Saddam Hussein.

Strangely, it's the small details which remain in the memory, even now, three months later. It's the pale, sickly look that would come over people's faces when I mentioned Saddam. It's the fact that the Marsh Arabs - a proud, independent people who have seen their marshes drained and been "relocated" to tiny desert shacks - are forced to hang a small, menacing picture of Saddam in their new "homes". It's the child wearing a T-shirt saying "Yes, yes, yes to Daddy Saddam".

If Britain were governed by such a man, I would welcome friendly bombs - a concept I once thought absurd. I might be prepared to risk my own life to bring my country's living death to an end. Most of the Iraqi people I encountered clearly felt the same. The moment they established that I was British, people would hug me and offer coded support (they would be even more effusive towards the Americans I travelled with). They would explain how much they "admire Britain - British democracy, yes? You understand?"

This evidence is, admittedly, anecdotal, and I would be wary of supporting a war based on my own impressions. But now there is concrete evidence. The International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based independent think-tank, by no means pro-war, conducted extensive interviews with the Iraqi population last year and, as their report explains, "a significant number of those Iraqis interviewed, with surprising candour, expressed their view that, if (regime change) required an American-led attack, they would support it. The notion of leaving the country's destiny in the hands of an omnipotent foreign party has more appeal than might be expected - and the desire for a long-term US involvement is higher than expected."

There are important conditions, however, attached to Iraqis' support for the war. They expect it to be quick - one person I spoke to said that "the few soldiers who fight for him will be defeated in a weekend," as happened in 1991. The extremely unlikely scenario of a protracted, Vietnam-style conflict would almost certainly lead to a change in their attitudes.

And, crucially, the Iraqi people expect the Americans to help to rebuild their country after the war. This, surely, is what we should be marching in the streets for - not to oppose a war that will remove one of the world's worst dictators, but to secure a guarantee from Blair and Bush that after the conflict we will stay and help its people to build a peaceful, federal, democratic Iraq. Those who scorn this possibility, either with the racist notion that Arabs are incapable of democracy or with a fashionable cynicism about political progress, should remember that their sneers could equally have been directed towards post-World War II Japan and Germany.

The Japanese had no history of democracy or freedom, and the Germans had only the memories of the disastrous Weimar Republic, but American occupations oversaw their transformations into successful democracies. We must campaign, then, to make sure that Iraq becomes a Japan or Germany and not an Afghanistan, bombed and then starved of the funds it needs to establish stability and basic human rights for its people. There is more hope for Iraq because its people are highly educated, it has a developed infrastructure, and because it would be morally obscene if the profits from Iraq's vast oil reserves did not go towards rebuilding the country.

It is time that, in light of the ICG report, we in the West admit that we have misunderstood the Iraqi people's position. We have been acting as though an attack on Saddam would be the beginning of another hideous ordeal for the population, the interruption of an otherwise peaceful situation. In fact, as the ICG report explains, "for the Iraqi people, who since 1980 have lived through a devastating conflict with Iran, Desert Storm, sanctions, international isolation and periodic US-UK aerial attacks, a state of war has existed for two decades already." Do not imagine that if we fail to act, the Iraqi people will be left in peace - quite the opposite.

Nor can we criticise this war, as figures such as Tariq Ali have, as an "imperial adventure". The Iraqi people are already living under imperial occupation. The 80 per cent of the population who are Shia Muslims live under the imperialistic rule of the minority Sunni clique with whom they feel no common identity. You might be thinking, "but they are all Iraqi - it is not foreign occupation". If so, you are misunderstanding the nature of Iraq. This is an artificial state created by Europeans in 1921 at the end of the Ottoman Empire, comprising many divergent groups (Kurds, Shia, Sunni, Christians, Jews and more). We have no reason to believe that they now have a collective national identity, so to be ruled by a Sunni is indeed akin to being under foreign occupation. Would you rather be ruled indefinitely by a totalitarian imperial ruler who will cling to power down to the last bunker, or a temporary American imperial ruler who might offer a democratic and stable future?

If your hatred of Dubya overwhelms your hatred of Saddam, then I sympathise - that is the reason why I, too, once viewed this war with dread and contempt - but I strongly suspect that if you were confronted with the reality of Saddam's Iraq, you would change your mind. Of course, forming an alliance with George Bush is an unpleasant experience, but we formed an alliance with Stalin to defeat Hitler. It is also possible that Bush, like his father, will betray the hopes of the people of Iraq - and we must campaign to prevent this.

We do not need President Bush's dangerous arguments about "pre-emptive action" to justify this war. Nor do we need to have the smoking gun of WMD. All we need are the humanitarian arguments we used during the Kosovo conflict to remove the monstrous Slobodan Milosevic - and this time, we can act in the certain (rather than probable) knowledge that the people being tyrannised will be cheering us on.

Johann Hari writes for The Independent, where this article first appeared.

And then there’s also this interesting article which includes the following:
There are at least three well-established reasons to favor what is euphemistically termed "regime change" in Iraq. The first is the flouting by Saddam Hussein of every known law on genocide and human rights, which is why the Senate--at the urging of Bill Clinton--passed the Iraq Liberation Act unanimously before George W. Bush had even been nominated. The second is the persistent effort by Saddam's dictatorship to acquire the weapons of genocide: an effort which can and should be thwarted and which was condemned by the United Nations before George W. Bush was even governor of Texas. The third is the continuous involvement by the Iraqi secret police in the international underworld of terror and destabilization. I could write a separate essay on the evidence for this; at the moment I'll just say that it's extremely rash for anybody to discount the evidence that we already possess. (And I shall add that any "peace movement" that even pretends to care for human rights will be very shaken by what will be uncovered when the Saddam Hussein regime falls. Prisons, mass graves, weapon sites... just you wait.)
Look, even The Guardian supports war with Iraq.

e-mail from my father:
Subject: Okay, this drove me crazy.

Click here: Protesters pack San Francisco for anti-war rally
I think this is an intellectually honest, if rather cold, anti-war argument:

People in Iraq are suffering because of a ruthless, aggressive dictator. And I don't like that. But the United States government is amazingly powerful (at least as far as the capacity to destroy goes). I fear that government and its military, especially when it is run by people like George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. War always means "killing people and breaking things." But even if this war is successful and relatively bloodless, it will encourage further use of the US military and down the road there will be bloodier and more destructive wars, and use of the threat of US military action to force people to do bad things. So on balance it is best for the US to refrain from military action here.

(Of course, it is also possible to say, "War is always wrong, period." but few people really think that. For example, I feel fairly sure that most of the people opposing military action by the US in Iraq supported Nelson Mandela's armed struggle against the apartheid government in South Africa.)

Anyway, what I think is so, so, so dishonest--or perhaps willfully oblivious--is the following:

"Saddam Hussein is not a good person, but he has not attacked us directly to give us reason to attack him," said Magda Saldana, 60, an elementary school teacher. "The Iraqi people do not have to suffer because they have a madman for a leader."

But they ARE fucking suffering! The country is a very unhappy place, with the whole rigamarole of a police state, with ordinary people struggling to keep body and soul together while the police, military, and political apparatus are kept well-fed and well-supplied. With torture and death for people those with power feel like torturing and killing. With all the day to day fears and assaults on your dignity, the necessity to lie and keep your opinions to yourself, the constant possibility that tomorrow someone will come to get you for something you did (or even something you didn't do; who are the authorities going to believe, after all?).

It makes me crazy. It makes me want to metaphorically shake her and say, "DON'T YOU CARE?"

I wind up thinking of the southern slave-owners who said their slaves were actually better off than they would be without slavery. Yeah, right.
from Andrew Sullivan:
[Sheryl] Crow showed up at the latest public relations exercise for the music industry, the American Music Awards, dressed in a sequined t-shirt with the message "War Is Not The Answer" blazoned across it. One word: Sequins? Here is a fabulously wealthy, famously cute singer, telling the impoverished men, women and children tortured, gassed and abused by one of the most disgusting dictators of all time that any attempt to rescue or liberate them is "not the answer." And she expresses this message in sequins. She couldn't afford diamonds?
excerpt from Megan McArdle:
Fellow Travelers

I've seen a number of people say that it doesn't matter that A.N.S.W.E.R. organized the anti-war marches -- they may be quasi-marxist apologists for Stalin using the anti-war rallies to advance a hard-left statist agenda, but why should we let that stop us from marching in a good cause?

Come again? Would you go to a fundraiser for abandoned puppies organized by the Klan? Please do not bother trying to convince me; of course you wouldn't. You'd donate money to a shelter, or adopt a puppy, but no matter how good the cause was, you wouldn't stand up to be counted alongside the guys in sheets.

When you go to a rally whose principal speakers are Jesse Jackson, Cynthia McKinney, et. al., your presence gives them power. It makes them the spokesmen for however many people showed up on the mall, power they can trade on to get a hearing in the press and on the Hill. It doesn't matter how much you protest that they don't speak for you -- they do, now. You let them. That's why all those Nader groups try so hard to get you to pay a nominal membership fee, sign their postcards and petitions, and put your name on their rosters -- because it allows them to go to your congresscritters and say "All these people support me. Give me what I want." That power generally extends far beyond the original issue that made you sign; you might have been in favor of reauthorizing the Clean Water Act, but six months later, your name, along with thousands of others, will be lobbying for single-payer health care.

Now, if you don't have a problem with A.N.S.W.E.R., or with the fact that your presence helps them advance their agenda (not to mention funding them, since they charge groups a cover to set up a table), then that's fine. But if you don't like the group, or what they stand for, then you have to ask yourself whether attending the rally is worth handing them more power. Protesting is a fundamentally political act. It doesn't matter what your private intentions were; what matters is the public effect. And the public effect was just to tell the government and the public that you support A.N.S.W.E.R. and all the people you weren't listening to on the podium. I've been to a lot of those rallies, and I know how hard it is to hear those speakers -- but if I ever go to one again, I'll be right up front, listening to what I'm telling the world.
and a comment [the thread has lengthened since i read it this afternoon (when there was just this comment) and has quite an interesting back-and-forth regarding this issue]:
"It doesn't matter how much you protest that they don't speak for you -- they do, now. You let them."

Um, no, they don't speak for me. I speak for me. Of course, if you are sufficiently witless, then perhaps you will now think that because I rallied for peace, then you can go to ANSWER to find out what I think. But you are outside of my control.

If high political muckitymucks, or the holy American People, or some such collective, takes my presence at the rally as anything other than asserting a desire for peace - they are also mistaken. However, at least in the case of the former I do not think them that ignorant. Politicians understand coalition building, and the necessary but distasteful aspect of it - working with the Kollectivist Klan for the puppies of peace, if that's what it takes.

Agreement on one issue is not support. To actually support ANSWER or other collectivists, vote for them, sign a lefty list or give a lefty money. I did none of these things at the rally. Mainly I stood there holding a libertarian party sign. The hope is to gradually move the left back towards its roots in libertarianism. But this won't happen in a day.

I "support" ANSWER in one thing: peace. The rally was for peace. I showed my desire for peace, held in common with ANSWER and presumably everyone else there, by showing up. No more and no less. Your assertion that attending a rally equates to meaningful support for the organizers is simpleminded propaganda, designed to suppress the peace movement by scaring off fellow travellers. The world is more complicated than you make it out to be.
from Joe's favorite website:
Other justifications have also appeared. Recently we have heard that war with Iraq will be a war for the liberation of the people of Iraq. Which is ironic, as it is arguable that the greatest oppression the Iraqi people face are U.N. sanctions backed principally by the United States. However, we must bear in mind President Bush’s notion of a preemptive war: that the United States should attack Iraq because we are certain that Iraq (which has no navy or long range aircraft) will attack us.

But, surprise of surprises, the inspectors are back. The Iraqi government appears to be cooperating. Certainly, the inspectors on the ground have reported no obstacles to free and unfettered access to Iraqi facilities. The weapons declaration might have its faults. And it is certainly possible that some nerve gas, or weaponized anthrax, might be hidden somewhere. However, if this is the case, then it most likely would only be used as a weapon of last resort — i.e. if America invades (this according to a CIA analysis).
from InstaPundit:
Protestors gathering for anti-war demonstrations in several cities around the globe called on Saddam Hussein to disclose all weapons of mass destruction, disarm and to comply with all United Nations sanctions.
I like what they're chanting, too. Heh. If only . . .
Quotes stolen from here:
"Peace means something different from 'not fighting'. Those aren't peace advocates, they're 'stop fighting' advocates. Peace is an active and complex thing and sometimes fighting is part of what it takes to get it." (Jo Walton)

"For every complex question, there's a simple answer. And it's wrong." (H. L. Mencken)
Digressing a bit, the controversial “SUVs funds terrorism” ads (RealPlayer and script format) are available here. I don’t think they’re very good commercials, but if they get people thinking critically about the amount of gas they use and become more responsible, then that’s great. Scripts for the proposed commercials opposing marijuana prohibition are here. And speaking of marijuana, this is an interesting website.

And from The Onion:
VOLUME 31 ISSUE 16 — 29 APRIL 1997
Ünited Stätes Toughens Image With Umlauts
WASHINGTON, DC—In a move designed to make the United States seem more "bad-assed and scary in a quasi-heavy-metal manner," Congress passed a bill Monday changing the nation's name to the Ünited Stätes of Ämerica. "Much like Mötley Crüe and Motörhead, the Ünited Stätes is not to be messed with," said Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). An upcoming redesign of the Ämerican flag will feature the new name in burnished silver wrought in a jagged, gothic font and bolted to a black background. A new national anthem is also in the works, to be written by composer Glenn Danzig and tentatively titled "Howl Of The She-Demon."
And now, lots of digression....

Following up on my post about the Oscar Wilde Bookshop closing i post this link.

I find this interesting and think of the part of the apple chapter in The Botany of Desire which talks about this place where every kind of apple is grown, even though most of them are inedible, to protect against the problems inherent in such a lack of biodiversity.

narnee says “Over Australia, the ozone hole is closing. Scientists think that the hole will no longer exist by 2050 if the current rate of closure continues. Yay!”

And to end on a note of amusement, check out thefirstevil.
Tags: issues: iraq war

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  • Shakespeare and our political moment

    The ASP season for next year came out last Wednesday. At Actors’ Shakespeare Project, it is our practice as artists to listen: to listen to our…

  • [2017] Logan [2017-03-04]

    I haven't watched any X-movies since the initial trilogy (in part because I'm not great at actually getting out to see movies -- and also because…

  • Congrats, team; we survived 2016.

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