Not to stir up another round of "you’re a coward;" "no, you are," but this was an interesting tidbit in
The Washington Post yesterday:
Some Loaded Comments at ‘Abu Ghraib’ Screening
When the lights go up after most documentary screenings, you usually can expect a politely snoozy lovefest at the "panel discussion to follow." So the folks who turned out for the preview of HBO’s "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib" at the Ronald Reagan Building last night were unusually lucky.
Among the VIPs on hand to discuss the Rory Kennedy project (set to air Feb. 22) were Uncle Ted Kennedy and Sen. Lindsey Graham. The latter livened things up in a big way when he denounced Army Col. Janis Karpinski, who was demoted from brigadier general after the prison torture scandal.
"Karpinski should have been court-martialed," said the South Carolina Republican, who sits on the Armed Services Committee. "She was not a good commander."
Awkward! For who was in the audience but Karpinski herself. "I consider you as cowardly as [Lt. Gen. Ricardo] Sanchez or [Donald] Rumsfeld or [former Guantanamo Bay commander Geoffrey] Miller," she shot back. "You’re saying I should be court-martialed — they didn’t want me in a courtroom because I would tell" the truth. Graham sputtered clumsily until moderator Jeffrey Toobin jumped in.
Afterward, Karpinski told our colleague Michael Cavna: "Ninety-nine percent of the story is still covered up. . . . Miller and Sanchez and Rumsfeld should be in those cells" with the Army guards who were found guilty.
Maybe Lindsey Graham has gotten a little too accustomed to speaking frankly on "Meet the Press," and neglected to consider the possibility that at a live speaking event, the person you’re talking about just might be there.
I don’t know who’s right here (although I’ve always blamed Rumsfeld), but I know I don’t want to make Col. Karpinski mad at me. I’m just going by her pictures (although she is smiling in this one, bless her heart). She looks like somebody you’d rather have on your side, or just avoid. Perhaps that’s her misfortune; her rather severe habitual expression makes her a convenient scapegoat (the "evil lady torturer" from Central Casting). Or perhaps she’s just as culpable as Miller and Sanchez and Rumsfeld and the Army guards who were convicted. There were probably no angels anywhere near the situation.
I just don’t know. But it would have been interesting, and perhaps enlightening, to have her testify.
Every married man has seen that look at one time or another in their life… 🙂
The question is, when will she retire so she can write the book?
I hope that there’s You Tube video of Li’l Lindsay holding his head.
Suprised Kaprinski did not inquire about Lindsey’s views on “Don’t ask, don’t tell”
These people are heavily invested in their “side” of the story. They all have money, power and ego riding on these affairs, and I don’t put it past ANY of them to shade the truth in their favor.
They are all politicians….even the Wicked Witch…and the truth is not friendly to them.
None of them are above stepping on the “grunts on the ground” in order to promote themselves.
RE: Oliver….OUCh, and I mean, OuCH!
I’m glad Brad brought up the Abu Ghraib incident. It underscores how atrocious warfare is and always will be. And that’s why whenever we go to war we know, in advance, that the cost will be very high. So we have to weigh the known high cost against whatever benefits are likely to result. The specifics of who is to blame is a somewhat minor point. By going to war in the first place atrocious incidents were inevitable.
In the case of Iraq the expected benefits were to rid the nation of an evil dictator and perhaps improve the well being of the Iraqi people. That is what I expected to occur and even with that expectation I opposed the war. (I never believed for one second it would actually make the American people safer. That was all a bunch of scare talk.) The expected cost of the war, simply put, exceeded the expected benefits.
But as we now know the expected benefits (even the modest benefits I thought would accrue) never materialized. But the costs certainly did. Abu Ghraib incidents occur in all wars so this is really of no particular surprise. It’s simply what happens in war. As they say, stuff happens.
But I’m afraid that many conservatives simply cannot grasp the essential point that wars have costs. Even wars that eventually succeed. Brad brings up Abu Ghraib for an entirely different purpose. Yet it serves to remind us yet again that wars have cost, sometimes those costs are not worth bearing even if we win.
The logical conclusion to my previous post is that everyone who supported the war is responsible for Abh Ghraib.
That is ridiculous.
PS… I make it a point not to discuss the war, as so much of what I hear is utter claptrap. But you refined your post, and were clear in your conclusion. So I commented.
No, bud’s right. Actions have consequences. Abu Ghraib is a consequence — although far from being an arbitrary one — of invading Iraq. No question about it. All you can do is your very best to prevent it, and punish those responsible — from the PFC to the SecDef — when in happens in spite of your best efforts.
There were GIs who made a practice of shooting Germans who tried to surrender in 1944-45. Not that many, but some. Their buddies tended to know who they were, and tried to keep them away from the prisoners. A well-known case of this — thanks to the book and TV series, “Band of Brothers” — is that of Joseph Liebgott, a paratrooper in the 101st who was known to have such proclivities. Liebgott, who was Jewish and probably figured many of the Germans would happily do the same to him, required special handling. Once in Holland, when his captain sent him to the rear in charge of some prisoners because he was wounded, he was stripped — in front of the prisoners — of all but one cartridge for his M1 carbine. It was understood by all that if he shot one prisoner, the rest would be free to jump him. It worked, that day. But in at least one subsequent case, he shot a German he had been sent to capture.
A license to kill — particularly to kill someone who just killed, or tried to kill, your buddies, or you, or your entire demographic group — can corrupt. And war provides a license to kill. One of the things that is particularly despicable about Abu Ghraib, however, is that it did not occur in the heat of battle, or just after. Those prisoners were not a present danger. There aren’t even decent excuses for it, much less acceptable reasons.
Now, having agreed with bud about that, I must DISagree “that many conservatives simply cannot grasp the essential point that wars have costs.” Conservatives DO understand that. That’s why true conservatives opposed the Iraq war. Waging war is a most unconservative thing to do, no matter how many pro-war people may call themselves “conservative.”
As Solozzo said in The Godfather, blood is a big expense. It’s very upsetting to the social order. Worst of all, in conservative terms, it’s risky.
Buds point is so broad as to render it pointless.
Example: A woman chooses not to have an abortion. The kid gets killed in car wreck at age 30….it’s the moms fault. Err…well, no. These are two unrelated events.
I did not support the war, and I do not support the war. But having said that a war for liberation of Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam does not lend responsibility to what unforeseen crimes may occur.
The logical extension of Bud’s argument is that everyone should do nothing. Then all will be perfect in the world.
Abu Ghraib was not a logical extension of the decision of war. It has been exploited to meet the ends of anyone opposing the war. But that does not mean it was a necessary outcome.
I have a pastor friend in Germany who was about 12 years old (but big for his age, and could have easily been taken for an adult man) towards the end of the war in the spring of ’45. American soldiers came into his village, and when he saw them, in his panic he started running. The soldiers yelled at him to stop, but he was too scared–and he is very glad today that they didn’t shoot him on the spot. Thankfully at least some–maybe most?–of our people think first before they shoot!
Thanks for the consider comment. Most Americans are good and honorable people. Bad things can happen, but they are the exception and not the rule.
I never supported this war. But those American men and women serving in our armed forces are, without a doubt, the best there has ever been. And I, for one, wish they were home right now. Given the pen of authority I would have them home or out of harms way in 30 days…every one of them.
“But I’m afraid that many conservatives simply cannot grasp the essential point that wars have costs. Even wars that eventually succeed.”
I’m afraid that many liberals cannot grasp the essential point that not going to war can have even greater costs. Even wars that “failed”.
Nobody but truly sick people *WANT* to go to war but there are times when we have no choice. By not standing up to our enemies’ provocations and acts of war we only encourage them to do much worse down the road.
There are times when we HAVE a choice.
We ALWAYS have a choice.
We can choose to turn the proverbial cheek, or we can choose to stand and fight back.
We can choose to intervene and defend the helpless from slaughter, or we can choose to stand and watch.
The debate is one of the costs versus the benefit, not one of having no “choice” but to act or not.
As bud said, “In the case of Iraq the expected benefits were to rid the nation of an evil dictator and perhaps improve the well being of the Iraqi people.” His conclusion, “The expected cost of the war, …exceeded the expected benefits” was the end to one of the most straight forward, rational statements of opposition to the start of the war that has been posted here (or anywhere else, for that matter).
(Unfortunately his statement was diminished by his follow up post.)
However, the action has been taken, Sadam was overthrown, and Iraq is now in turmoil, the battleground for a surrogate war between Sunni and Shia extremists in the region. The intervention of a future nuclear Iran and Putin’s visit to Saudi Arabia with offers of nuclear technology are but one small example of the broader context that the war should be viewed in. Debate over the correctness of the initial decision to go to war in Iraq is now academic (in most contexts).
The question and debate should now be what should we choose to do and what will be the costs of that action. What will the consequences be if we choose to withdraw from Iraq and what might be the benefits of continued intervention? Is, the price too high for the hoped for benefits?
Finally, to get back to the topic of the initial post:
Speaking as a professional soldier for my entire adult life, I can say that what happened at Abu Ghraib was a failure of the chain of command and not some sinister plot. It was the act of ill disciplined, poorly led troops who allowed their personal fetishes to overrule their professionalism and training.
If Col. Karpinski was half the leader she claims to be, she (and all the commissioned officers below her) would have resigned her commission knowing full well that she was derelict in her duty and recognizing the grave damage that dereliction caused to our country and the men and women who serve it honorably. She should be hiding in shame instead of allowing herself to be used in public as a political pawn and personally profiting from her shameful career.
Proponents of the invasion of Iraq refuse to acknowledge the evidence:
(1) Saddam had no role in 9/11.
(2) Saddam presented no threat to the U.S.
(3) Saddam was the least of many, many bit supporting players in international terrorism.
(4) Saddam was just one of many ruthless, evil dictators in the world.
(5) Saddam’s WMD programs were shells.
(6) Our professionally produced intel did NOT support invading Iraq. (Only Feith’s cherry picked intel buttressed with single-source unreliable intel supported invading.)
(7) Saddam’s conventional forces were no threat even to his neighbors.
The U.S. had a choice.
We could have pursued AQ and the Taliban in Afghanistan until we destroyed the leadership. We could have concentrated on rooting out the tentacles via para-military strikes or espionage. We could have waged public relations campaigns to win the moderate Muslims to our side. We could have begun economic and educational programs to make the ground less fertile for radical Islam.
Instead the neo-cons used fraud to whip up fear and invade Iraq– just as they’d wanted to do since the early 1990s and the Project for the New American Century. We’ve wasted our military might in Iraq and tied ourselves down to a no-win civil war. We’ve alienated most of the world– especially the Muslim world.
The benefit of NOT invading Iraq would have been retaining an armed forces that could have been used more judiciously. Over 3,000 Americans would be alive and tens of thousands wouldn’t have been wounded. We could have “finished the job” in Afghanistan. We might have international support to take on Somalia– another failed state terrorist breeding ground.
The sole benefit of invading Iraq? Deposing a vicious dictator who was a danger mostly to his own people.
This war isn’t just a “failure.” It was a mistake from the beginning.
What should we do now? Create a tripartite confederation. Patrol the borders for a year. Encourage the U.N. to insert a peacekeeping force. Withdraw entirely within a year (unless the Kurds offer us a base in Kurdistan). Let the Shia and Sunnis settle their differences.
And Saddam actually held radical Muslims in check, since he had nothing but contempt for religion in general. But the deed is done, the question is, what do we do now, and is RTH right? Maybe. I certainly wish we could focus on Afghanistan.
And Chris, I’ve got more stories like that. Like the American soldiers who brought a friend’s father’s watch back. The Soviet soldiers had looted everything they could find, but when they retreated, the Americans brought back a lot of stuff, and asked German families, “did this belong to you?” I’m sure that didn’t happen very often (how would you find the families, anyway?), but it did in this case. My friend, who watched his father’s amazement and joy at getting a family heirloom back, never forgot what he saw. Despite some bad people, our military has also at times spread a lot of good will.
Then there’s an elderly lady acquaintance who thinks Hershey’s chocolate is the best in the world, because that’s the first chocolate she ever had. She was just a little kid, escaping the Russian front from East Prussia in a horse-drawn wagon, when they crossed into Bavaria and ran into some American soldiers.
Maybe chocolate can be a message of good will, too.
I lived in Europe for nearly thirty years, and in spite of it, my favorite is still Hershey’s chocolate almond bars–if it only weren’t for the calories!
The Iraq war was a disaster waiting to happen. There were predictable and very high expected costs. The expected benefits were few. The premises for going in were false. The same people have prepared a new plan for new tactics. These tactics are little different from the old tactics. Yet those who oppose these tactics are branded as cowards who are undermining the troops and giving aid and comfort to the enemy (whoever the enemy is).
We may “have a choice” at all times but not necessarily a better choice. Often the only choice we have is between bad, worse and horrendous. IMO that is what we faced in Iraq and Afghanistan and Bush made the least bad choice.
So, Herb poses the question, “What do we do now, and is RTH right?”
RTH proposes that we: “Create a tripartite confederation. Patrol the borders for a year. Encourage the U.N. to insert a peacekeeping force. Withdraw entirely within a year (unless the Kurds offer us a base in Kurdistan). Let the Shia and Sunnis settle their differences.” All are serious suggestions.
For the first, I’m not sure the “tripartite confederation” is clear enough. Who exactly are we talking about here? I’m not sure.
What is clear, I think, is that there is not nearly enough participation in creating a solution by those countries that have either direct regional interests or that have sufficient political and economic pull to sway matters in the area.
Of those in the first category, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States (and we should probably include Jordan and Egypt, as well) certainly have direct, national interests in a stable Persian Gulf (or Arabian Gulf, as they would say). They also have the political, propaganda (Al Jazzera), military and economic power to either impose a solution or sway events towards peace. However, they should be understood in the context of their dependence on Sunni fundamentalists.
All of the Gulf monarchies are legitimized in their rule by Sunni clerics, who, in turn, are supported, licensed and paid by the monarchies. A stable, pseudo-democratic Iraq is a direct threat to their long term legitimacy and power.
The other regional power player is Iran which has a similar (in form, if not exact nature) parasitic relationship with its own Shia clerics. A stable, pseudo-democratic Iraq is also a direct threat to the Iranian government’s continued power.
Additionally, it is now in Iran’s benefit that the situation in Iran is chaotic and unstable. Iran’s long term goal is economic and religious domination of the Persian Gulf, backed up with nuclear weapons. The longer the US is tied up in Iraq, the longer they have to achieve their nuclear goals and establish an unassailable position. (It’s worth noting that the Iranians see this as establishing a “balance of power” against the Sunni Gulf States rather than domination.)
The best bet for a long term, peaceful solution in Iraq is certainly the involvement of the Gulf region powers, but it seems unlikely without a major diplomatic push by the US and with support from other international players.
Patrolling the Iraqi borders for a year is certainly a good idea if the intent is to prevent outside influence in Iraq (especially Shia support from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah). (Although, in fact, this is now being done at a pretty intense level and increasing the border presence would require more US troops.)
However, the Sunni support provided by moneyed interests from the Arab Gulf states is mostly in the form of funding and “blind eye” safe havens. Again, extreme political pressure on our regional allies is required.
I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance in a hot place of getting UN peacekeeping forces involved given the total lack of support for the US’s troubles, vis-à-vis Iraq, by our other international allies. Simply put, for those countries that have to deal with domestic politics (France, Germany, etc), there is absolutely no public support for such a commitment. For Russia and China, where domestic support is not such an issue, the economics probably preclude any help here.
Of the other major international power players, all except Britain, either have no reason to lend their weight to helping us (the US) solve a problem of our own making, or they have specific economic disincentives to involvement. For example, the Russians, the Chinese and the French all have serious economic ties to Iran and none are willing to jeopardize those interests in order to pressure the Iranians to use Iranian influence in Iraq towards peace. Russia sees the Gulf states as a lucrative market for nuclear technologies which the Arabs want to offset the Iranians.
A timely (one year) US withdrawal will almost certainly lead to the last suggestion, which is, let the Sunnis and Shia fight it out. This would pretty much be the situation as it is now, only at a much higher level of violence. I believe that the current civil war (and that is what it is) is a really surrogate battle between the Gulf Arab states (Saudi Arabia, in particular) and Iran. This is the reason that no matter what we try, it seems as if no progress can be made.
If left to its natural conclusion, within six months to a year of the US withdrawing, the Shia will be the victors, and al Sadr will be the Grand Ayatollah of Iraq. The Shia will take vengeance for the decades of Sunni oppression, and the slaughter will be comparable to Saddam’s worst. The Kurds will attempt autonomy in the north, but will largely be unsuccessful. The Saudis will continue to fund and support a Sunni guerilla war inside the country, and so there will continue to be low to moderate levels of violence until the last Sunnis are dead or driven out.
The end result of this will be an Iranian dominated Persian Gulf with Iraq as a theocratic Shia satellite, and Russia selling nuclear technology to the Saudis who will pursue their own “Arab” bomb.
I believe that the only realistic chance for stability and peace in Iraq lies in militarily maintaining the status quo while diplomatically forcing intensive intervention in Iraq by the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia in particular, with a secondary diplomatic effort aimed at reducing Iranian involvement. This secondary effort has to be led by the other major international players, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China.
A key to creating this pressure is to get the Russians to back off their offers of nuclear technology to the Gulf states and making it clear to them that the result of a failure to bring the Iraqis to peace is Iranian dominantion of the region.
Unfortunately, given the divergent national interests of all involved, this has about the same chance of happening as forcing the Israelis and Palestinians to come to peace. Not to mention the impossibility of achieving any consensus in the US (because of divergent political party interests) for both maintaining our occupation while ramping up diplomatic efforts to historic levels.
Great post. A well-argued perspective and helpful to those like me who have much to learn about the historic conflict in which we find ourselves mired.
Paul, you still have just as much to learn after reading that as you did before. For example, Iran does not have an advantage in a chaotic Iraq. And what is this “historic conflict in which we find ourselves mired”? Last I heard, it was us who invaded.
Oh yeah, and this:
“For example, the Russians, the Chinese and the French all have serious economic ties to Iran and none are willing to jeopardize those interests in order to pressure the Iranians to use Iranian influence in Iraq towards peace.”
turns a blind eye to what is actually going on. The Iranians and Syrians don’t actually NEED to be “pressured” to use their influence to help stabilize Iraq. Iran was all ready to help us out in 2001, and then that idiotic “axis of evil” speech really kicked the supports out from under the people who wanted to smooth relations with the U.S. In 2003, they made specific overtures to help out in Iraq, and these overtures were REJECTED by the United Sates. The Iraq Study Group recommended doing everythig we could to get Iran and Syria to help out. But Bush rejected the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations in favor of the insane “surge” strategy.
The issue isn’t that other countries won’t help out. It isn’t that they’re hostile to us, or that they’re taking the view that we made our bed, we can sleep in it. That’s true, but their own self-interest suggests that they should do whatever they can. The issue is that Bush WILL NOT do anything constructive. Iran CAN’T make any overtures toward stabilizing the situation in Iraq so long as Bush is constantly threatening war against them. Other countries can’t help either, because Bush essentially governs by tantrum, by doing the opposite of whatever is recommended to him.
Some of SGM’s points were valid, some were not, but none of them come anywhere close to addressing the situation in Iraq, which is that Bush sees himself as some sort of epochal figure, rather than what he really is, and spurns the help that he would receive if he asked for it, or even showed signs that he would accept it.
Mary’s right. The president is the problem and can’t be a part of the solution to the Iraq fiasco or any other foreign policy issue. Sadly the best we can hope for is to keep this dangerous man in check for the next 2 years to prevent our foreign policy from deteriorating further. True progress is going to have to wait until 2009.
Did anybody see Bush’s bizarre press conference where he tried to pre-sell attacking Iran?
Can you believe that we’re paying people (and, incidentally, entrusting them with the security of the country) who can’t come up with any better rationale for blowing up the Middle East than “Which would be worse: the Iranian government knowing that they were supplying arms to attack Americans or NOT knowing it?”
And, then there was Bush’s patented denigrating “humor.” The message is always the same: “I’m the President and you’re not so quit gettin’ above yourself.” Lame-o.
Most Americans have a high resistance to believing that the President and his administration are so totally incompetent. Most Americans don’t pay close enough attention. To feel safe they have to give Bush the benefit of the doubt. They have to believe that the Bushies wouldn’t wage a totally unnecessary war of aggression and sacrifice American lives and billions of tax dollars in a hopeless mess.
Fortunately, Bush is so unbelievably careless, clueless, and arrogant that he seems to be capable of overcoming the need for a strong leader generated by fear mongering after 9/11.
America see the rest of the world as allies…and that a “rising tide floats all boats”. When the world becomes safer and richer we become safer and richer.
The Russians, Indians, Chinese, French, etc…see the fall of America as a fundamental step in increasing their power and prestige. It is in their interest to see America stuck in Iraq for as long as possible, then to fail. This is leading to the fundamental rearrangement of the world, and it will not be pleasant.
SGM, here’s a round up of the partition idea at Slate.
Should we partition Iraq?
By Timothy Noah
Posted Tuesday, April 27, 2004, at 6:56 PM ET
“Iraq is not salvageable as a unitary state.” So writes Peter Galbraith, America’s pre-eminent Kurdophile, in the May 13 New York Review of Books (“How To Get Out of Iraq”). Leslie Gelb, formerly an assistant secretary in Jimmy Carter’s State Department and subsequently a diplomatic correspondent for the New York Times, made a similar point on the Times op-ed page in November. Ralph Peters, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who writes on military strategy, has been calling for the breakup of Iraq for nearly a year. Reluctantly, Chatterbox is starting to think Galbraith, Gelb, and Peters have a point.
Let’s be realistic. The American people will not tolerate an open-ended commitment of money and American lives in Iraq. The “surge” tactic demonstrates the bankruptcy of the Bush Administration when it comes to new courses.
Bush is too arrogant and clueless to run a diplomatic rodeo which might allow us to leave with a modicum of dignity and a fig leaf of deniability for the ensuing mess. Worst of all, if we don’t leave some framework for stability we may face a failed state which could lead to a Islamists with oil as a weapon/ATM for a jihad against the West.
It’s apparent that the Bush Hole Doctrine means that when we’re in a hopeless hole, bring in high explosives and make the hole bigger.
Until we can replace Bush & Co. we’re really faced with picking the least-worst options: (1) reducing casualties and (2) thwarting Bush’s ambition to set the entire Middle East aflame in time for Armageddon.
Comments like the below, written by Ready to Hurl…
Bush is too arrogant and clueless to run a diplomatic rodeo which might allow us to leave with a modicum of dignity and a fig leaf of deniability for the ensuing mess.
…are written for one purpose, and one purpose only. Self indulgent narcissism…
As no thinking person could actually believe such comments would be persuasive, or even entertaining. The comments serve to be divisive, and to spread discontent…and to stop legitimate and enlightening debate.
Tsk, tsk, tsk… Just more of the same ol’ same ol.’
Iran certainly does have an advantage in a chaotic Iraq if they are to achieve their (very publicly stated) goals in the region. Iraqi chaos diverts international attention away from them and ties up US resources and political capital that could otherwise be spent trying to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Mary is right, however, in that Iran doesn’t have to be pressured into acting in Iraq. The Iranian State Security (ISS) and the IRGC are already there with agents up to their burnooses in RPGs and freshly minted dinars. What they need to be pressured into doing is putting the breaks on al-Sadr and the Medie Army (which the Iranians train, advise, and supply).
Just how much influence they have is easily seen in that al-Sadr’s family lives in Iran (where he once lived himself, in exile) and the fact that he freely travels between Iraq and Iran (not something your average tourist does, I assure you).
As to Iranian offers to “assist” with Al Qaeda during OEF and in Iraq after OIF, the offers were just so many crocodile tears. During OEF, they almost immediately opened their border with Afghanistan to allow AQ and senior Taliban safe haven in Iran. And the offers to assist in Iraq were for the purposes of enabling an even greater influx of Iranian security officers into Iraq than are there now.
Be that as it may, it would have been better to have made an effort to engage them if for no other reason than to create conditions where they would have been under closer scrutiny. (And in both cases they were glad their offers were declined, as they expected, for just that reason.)
In so far as the lack of assistance from other Western powers (including Russia and China), the facts speak for themselves. It is their own self interests that keep them from helping. If that were not the case, then their failure to act when it is in their own interest (as Mary asserts) makes no sense. (Unless you count them as so petty that the current administration’s lack of invitation is justification enough to not act even in their own national interests.)
As to my not addressing the “real” situation in Iraq and the region, well, I’ve only to look out of my window to see it for myself and then read all the Arab Free Press articles in tomorrow’s local paper. (Almost got to see Putin the other day as his motorcade passed my by on the street, but the windows in his limo were tinted.) That most Americans are ignorant of what is actually going on here is no surprise. The situation is complicated and convoluted and much too hard to put into 30 second sound bites or address with clever political come-backs.
The main problem I have with this “debate” is the total inability of most of its participants to do anything more than piss and moan about the president or cry about the opposition party (which is, by the way, how the local and European papers describe the Democratic Party).
The administration’s diplomacy is simple minded at best and inept at worst. For a bunch of tough talking folks, they don’t have a clue about realpolitik. But the Democratic congress and party are no better and can’t seem to offer anything more constructive than continued finger pointing in the hopes of expanding and consolidating domestic political power. (A non-binding resolution denouncing the executive’s actions and proposed actions while at the same time stating support for the brave men and women in the US military blah, blah, blah… Give me a break.)
It’s all just politics as usual.
RTH: A partitioned Iraq is an attractive idea, but only on its face value.
The resistance to partition within Iraq from both the Shia and Sunni is very high, and opposition to that idea is possibly the only thing that could unit them. The only sizable population in the country that would support it is the Kurds.
Unfortunately for the Kurds (who floated the idea of succession of a Kurdistan early on), our NATO allies the Turks are dead set against the idea, too.
In order to partition the country and make the new borders stick, the US and somebody else (the UN, NATO, ??) would have to commit massive (way-more-than-we-have-there-now-massive) numbers of troops. And then be ready to fight tooth and claw to make it work. Partition worked in the Former Republic of Yugo because, with the exception of access to the Adriatic, one piece of dirt was just about the same as any other.
In Iraq it’s all about the oil and money and power, as they say. Any partition that takes into account actual ethnic and religious groupings (which, presumably, would be the point of the exercise) would leave too many without either the oil or a way to get it to market.
“The Iranian State Security (ISS) and the IRGC are already there with agents up to their burnooses in RPGs and freshly minted dinars.”
No they’re not.
This and the numerous other assertions you make that are contrary to fact undercut. It doesn’t MATTER if you want the U.S. troubles in Iraq to be part of some international conspiracy; the fact is that our troubles in Iraq are entirely of our own making.
“As no thinking person could actually believe such comments would be persuasive, or even entertaining. The comments serve to be divisive, and to spread discontent…and to stop legitimate and enlightening debate.”
Reaching for the smelling salts, Chris? It is you whose remarks are directed toward stifling argument. What you’re saying is that you disagree with RTH’s comments, but for you to say that “no thinking person” would be persuaded by them is to cast your own position as the normative one and to seek to marginalize a viewpoint with which you disagree. What you need to do if you are really interested in debate or discussion is to explain WHY RTH is mistaken, not to say that his viewpoint differs from your own and should therefore be silenced.
chris, I call it “recognizing reality.” Bush is an American Triumphalist. He’s always displayed disdain, in not contempt, for diplomacy. In Bush’s book, diplomacy is the failure of war.
Contrary to Brad’s belief, I don’t hate Bush. I hate what he done to my country. I find his ignorance and self-involvement dangerous in the extreme.
Please cite any diplomatic achievements by the Bush Administration. The recent North Korean agreement is just a retread of the Clinton deal. We probably could have signed it in 2001 and foregone the re-start of the North Korean bomb-making program.
Sorry if my views are too “divisive.” I’ve always found understanding whom you’re dealing with to be essential to obtaining the best outcomes.
sgm, it sounds like you live in an interesting neighborhood. Care to give us some clues?
Your critique of partition may be accurate but, I’d wager that it’s a fine proposal for an international peace conference to start with. As you note, the oil/money is the major sticking point plus Turkey’s opposition to a Kurdistan. Right now, defacto ethnic cleansing is moving Sunnis, Kurds, and Shia to consolidate geographically.
The solution wouldn’t be perfect and might just postpone full-fledged civil war– much like Yugoslavia. The question is what do you want?
(1) Ever escalating civil war/chaos with our troops stuck in the middle– the Bush Solution.
(2) Immediate and prolonged civil war/chaos (lasting probably a decade) when we disengage.
(3) Low-level proxy struggle between Iran and the Sunni nations with periodic dust-ups between Turkey and an autonomous Kurdish region?
And, those are the BEST alternatives. There are a lot worse possibilities. If you’ve got some better ideas, then I’m sure there are a lot of interested people.
If the point of your postings is to make yourself feel very, very smart, then by all means, keep using such language. Perhaps someone will speak up and say, WOW, that RTH has changed my mind. But I don’t think I will be seeing that anytime soon.
The point I was trying to make was language does matter when it comes to argument. If you inflammatory language alienates the very people you are trying to persuade, then you have lost the debate before you even begin.
You would not speak to your boss or wife or best friend that way….and expect them to respond positively. So why should readers of this blog alter their attitudes based on their writings.
I am a conservative, but I have a sincere appreciation for arguments from the intelligent left. Not the ranting left, which IMHO is most often represented in political debate today.
I am am member of the “get out of Iraq NOW” crowd. I would like to influence good and honest Americans …but inflammatory rhetoric like yours only serves to harden the positions of others, not change minds.
Perhaps I could send you a copy of “All I ever needed in life I learned in Kindergarten”. Playing well with others was obviously not your strong suit as a kidlet.
I call it “recognizing reality…
RTH…go home, look at your wife, an tell her she needs to lose 15 pounds, that she was more attractive in college than now, she is a lousy housekeeper and she should earn more and spend less…and then look for her positive reaction to your comments.
All the things said were probably true, but not profitable or prudent, and not meaningful in moving a good life forward. That is what those of you when you harp incessantly.
IMHO, the ranting left is as responsible for this war as is the right…as your childish, unrestrained arguments are not designed to win the argument, but to highlight the moral enlightenment of the presenter. This narcissistic desire does not enhance our life, nor alter governments.
Our treasure is being squandered in Iraq, and you guys would rather bathe in your own rhetorical excesses than change policy.
I’ll grant you that partition is certainly worth putting on the table if any kind of international peace conference should ever be convened. And it would have more than just a few proponents (not just the Kurds). If nothing else, in those circumstances, it’s a worthy idea if just to get people talking.
I’m not looking forward to any of the outcomes you projected, and under the wrong circumstances, each is a real possibility.
Personally, I believe we’ve long since passed the point where a “mostly” military solution can work, and have consequently been in the area where a political / diplomatic resolution is the only thing that can produce a favorable outcome for us. The definition of just what is a favorable outcome is perhaps the crux of the debate, since any solution to any problem should start with the desired end result.
Unfortunately, at the moment, the Sunnis and Shias continue to think that if they only fight the other guys just a little bit harder, their side might come out on top. Those positions are encouraged by external players (the Gulf Arabs and Iranians, mostly, but some might include the US as one of those, if one counts the Iraqi provisional government, and there are certainly other influences as well). So, from some points of view, a “mostly” military solution is still hoped for by many.
The problem with a military only solution is that as long as the other guy still has the will and means to resist, the fighting will not end. Since neither the Sunnis nor the Shias possess the raw combat power to achieve either the destruction of the other’s will or means, and the US doesn’t have the political will (thankfully) to employ overwhelming power against them, the current situation cannot resolve the problem.
This is your outcome (1).
I agree with you that if we disengage, the immediate result will be the beginnings of your outcome (2). However, in that circumstance, the Shia, with external support from Iran, will emerge victorious. They have the numbers, they have the weapons, and they will have the funding to eventually overwhelm the Sunnis. Given the general viciousness of the war, I would suspect that would happen sooner rather than later.
With consolidation of their power and position, the Shias will establish theocratic rule (imposing Shari’ic law and elevating al Sadr to Ayatollah of Iraq) and Iraq will become a de facto Iranian satellite state.
The traditional racism between Arabs and Persians is not nearly so pronounced between the Iraqi Shiite marsh Arabs and Persians as it is between the Sunni Arabs and Persians. The Sunni will have little or no ability to continue the fight with most either killed or exiled, and Saudi Arabia will begain very vigorously trying to develop nuclear weapons.
Periodic “dust ups” between the Turks and the Kurds (really unprovoked Turkish punitive incursions across the international border), will continue as long as the US and the EU allow it, and who’s in control of Iraq will have little effect on that. This has been the case, off and on, for the last 50 years or so.
So what is a favorable outcome for us? A pseudo-democratic Iraq with the beginnings of a representative government, ruled about equally between the three main ethnic and religious groups (think Lebanon, even if that’s a mess itself). Just about anything else either leaves us there indefinitely, dieing by inches in the middle, or cedes the country to Iran and ferments future conflict in the region.
To that end, I believe that we have to continue to militarily occupy Iraq, holding the Shia and Sunni apart until it becomes obvious to them that they must come to terms with each other and the Iraqi government can establish control. At the same time, we must seriously engage the rest of the world and get all the involved parties working towards bringing the Sunnis and Shia to stop fighting. This must involve the Saudis and other Gulf Arab states, the Iranians, the Russian, and the EU countries (especially the big-three, France, Germany, and Britain).
(BTW: I don’t happen to “want the U.S. troubles in Iraq to be part of some international conspiracy.” There is in fact no such thing taking place. Yes, our troubles there are largely of “our own making,” but that doesn’t mean that other countries are not trying to pursue their own national interest at the same time either. Of course they do; why would anyone think otherwise? If those interests happen to take advantage of our bad troubles, well, too bad for us. Blindly refusing to see the reality of the motives of national self-interest – even the self-interest of our allies or ourselves- is one reason that we’ve made such a mess of the situation in the first place.)
The American people will be forced to sacrifice money and lives until the current administration runs out the clock. January, 2009 is the deadline.
Since the Shia and the Sunni have been at each other’s throats for several thousand years I don’t foresee an epiphany (short of the Second Coming) occurring in next two years (or the next two thousand years).