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  • A response

    Posted by Andy B on December 15th, 2003 (All posts by )

    Upon hearing the Hussein story, I started an exchange with a good friend. He sent a message back saying that the capture of Saddam amounted to not much more than “an expensive Christmas present from” George W. to George H.W., and then he continued to ask: Why are we really in Iraq? If it is to stop genocide, why have we ignored the same in so many other instances in history? What is the September 11th connection? This is the reply I offered:

    Because I was not a good enough person to stand up for a just cause yesterday, or last week, or twenty years ago, does this absolve me of responsibility to my fellow man today? The argument that goes “the same or worse occurred at such and such a time, and we stood by and did nothing; why should we take action now?” is morally bankrupt, and I am astounded that it has been used by so many in this instance. It is a complete abandonment of the concept of redemption, and an admission that self-improvement, whether it is for an individual, for a family, or for a nation, is not an option. Hopefully I never reach that point in my life, because if I do, what would be the point of slogging through more days? I had might as well just cash in the chips right now. I harbor no illusions about our world ever being transformed into a state of Nirvana. That is a condition that is not of this world, although when I was a child I believed that it was possible. However, having said this does not change my belief in striving to be the best person that I can be, or my conviction that our country, having been so uniquely blessed with both physical and human capital, bears a sobering responsibility to make attempts at righting wrongs and to defend those who cannot defend themselves.

    I truly felt no smug satisfaction at hearing today’s news. What I did feel was a serene happiness for our soldiers, for those in the world that walked out on a tenuous limb with us in this broader action, and for the entire country of Iraq which may begin to shake off the specter of Hussein.
    Hussein, bin Laden, Pol Pot, Taylor, Amin, Stalin, Hitler, Nidal, and on…they are figureheads. We may catch bin Laden, we may never catch him, he might be dead, or he may die before we can ever get to him. I believe that there is a sublime brilliance in this strategy that started in Afghanistan and then sharply refocused on Iraq. Not only have we made concrete progress in removing brutal, oppressive regimes in two countries, but also we have drawn a concentration of various groups of violent terrorists into a fairly definable geographical area, to be systematically hunted down and destroyed. Ask yourself, Is it just a coincidence that there has not been a single terrorist attack carried out on U.S. soil since September 11th? We were so vulnerable on that day, and yet no group or individual has succeeded in so much as a car bomb attack since then, in the very country where our cultural norms make such an attack possible to carry out. That may very well change, but the chain of events set in motion by our seizing control of our own destiny has surely held further domestic attacks in abeyance. Like flies to garbage, Iraq has sucked resources and people from terror organizations around the world. And while I would willingly go to serve my country if needed, I would rather be in harm’s way on the streets of a foreign country than on LaSalle and Jackson.

    One of the most powerful messages that today’s events carry to the “Great and Fearless Leaders” of despotic regimes is: This could be you. You can bet that the message is being received and pondered by Jong, Khameini, Quaddafi, Arafat, and even Mubarak, the House of Saud, and Musharaff: These hypocritical dirtbags have sold “their people” a royal bill of goods for years. Did we as a nation have dealings with them in the past? Yes, of course we did. Does that fact preclude us from pursuing a more just view of the world which we by default, mind you, are left to lead? I say no. I do not want my three children to be dealing with the same intractable problems we have at present, nor do I want to lose them to some future military conflagration. I think that following our country’s current course of action radically reduces the likelihood of either scenario.

     

    15 Responses to “A response”

    1. Pouncer Says:

      All your remarks about our own hope of self improvement are true. But there is another aspect, focusing on Saddam.

      Saddam was like a convicted criminal out on parole. He had demonstrated his intent and his capacity for crime via invasion of his neighbors and torture of his own people — like a burglar and spouse-abuser. The resolution of the first Gulf War amounted to his conviction under the law, his sentence of punishment, and the terms of his parole which suspended some of the harshest parts of that sentence. In particular, like an individual parolee, he was forbidden certain classes of weapons.

      Now, there may in a neighborhood be more than one burglar, several spouse or child abusers, many who have, seek to obtain, or cobble together illegal weapons. But by civilized law the peace officers of the community may NOT simply descend upon whomever they suppose to be evil, kick in the doors of their homes, shoot up the premises, and haul their sorry butts to court. Much as we, their neighbors, may desire it. There are procedures — search warrents, arrest warrents, “knock and announce” requirements …

      The UN acted, with Saddam, as a over-patient parole officer, giving the guy chance after chance to try again, make restitution, relinguish his illegal weapons, reconcile with his spouse, … whatever. He failed. So the sherriff came a’calling. With a warrent, after “knock and announce”, and a chance to surrender himself and come to court peacably. Saddam chose the hard way.

      I consider the parallel case not to be Mugabe, Castro, Kim Jong Il, or other evil dictator. The case I would use for comparison is David Koresh of the Waco Branch Davidians. And where Koresh was killed in the attempt to arrrest him, along with all the women and children around him, Saddam has been taken alive with extraordinarily few collateral deaths.

      Those who say the fight against terrorism is a police matter rather than war have a good point. But, in fact, so far the war has been prosecuted in a very police-like fashion.

      So far we have no warrent to search Iran for illegal weapons. We have few grounds, as yet, to act against Syria, N. Korea, or other “rogue states”. Nor are we French enough to behave as
      Vichy police commander “Louie”, in the movie “Casablanca”, to simply issue orders to “round up all the usual suspects.” We show that there IS law, that it WILL be enforced, and we are proceding methodically and procedurally.

      Like good cops.

      I hope we can keep on doing so.

    2. Rich Reilly Says:

      I wish I heard Pouncer’s take on things more often. Although I honestly hope our Iraq action has an enduring chilling effect on other countries of questionable intent, Iraq was a unique situation. It was, in essence, an enforcement of laws that were flaunted for years combined with a heightened defensive interest courtesy 911. Although I don’t believe we should have deposed Hussein in Gulf1, he never conceded defeat and added still to his atrocities…alll while under teh reslution drafting, watchful eye of the UN/”international commmunity”. So, no, we can’t right every wrong in the world but we can certainly right a wrong where we clearly have jurisdiction and security interests.
      And in terms of the alliances of convenience we have had in the past, I was heartened by the recent words of Bush that address squarely the risks and failures of that approach. Can you picture another country (say France regarding its dealings with Iraq) acknowledging this?

    3. Pouncer Says:

      >I wish I heard Pouncer’s take on things more often.

      Sorry. I’m a Kansas kid, not a Chicago Boy, so wind up here only as a tourist…

      >It was, in essence, an enforcement of laws that >were flaunted for years combined with a >heightened defensive interest courtesy 911.

      “Flouted” ?

      There remain parallel cases. Aristide of Haiti, (arguably another “U.S. Puppet dictator” ) needs to be taken down and a better, more democratic government installed. The grounds, in international law, originate in OAS Res 822.(Organization of American States Joint Resolution 822)

      The U.S. took down one dictator in 1994 (Duvalier) and handed authority over to a “faith based” leader, Aristide. Multi-lateral institutions such as the World Bank and the U.N. moved in by 1995. The U.S. continued to back out, with the last four support personnel leaving in 2000. In the past nine years the situation has fallen apart.

      It’s as if, after having removed the wife-beating husband from an abused family, the sherrif turned it all over to Child Protective Services. Then a succession of incompetent social workers allowed all the underfed sick beat up kids to keep getting sexually abused by their MOTHER.

      Sadly, it’s time for the sherrif to step in. Again.

      It wouldn’t be so bad, being the world’s policeman, if only we could rely a slightly better posse.

      Anyhow, Shrub is committed to his religious right base to “do something” about AIDS. The grounds in international law to take action in Haiti are solid. The military task is no more dangerous than any other military mission. The problem of securing U.S. borders against uncontrolled immigration needs a demonstration of resolve. I don’t exactly EXPECT action there, but it sure wouldn’t surprise me, or hurt my feelings.

    4. Mike K Says:

      “Aristide of Haiti, (arguably another “U.S. Puppet dictator” ) needs to be taken down and a better, more democratic government installed. ” I would think that someone who refers to Bush as “Shrub” would hesitate to criticize the Aristide installation. It was done at the instigation of the Washington left. Haiti has no history, even a brief one like Iraq, of humane or demorcratic government. In addition, Haiti has no middle class of any size whereas Iraq probably has the best chance, other than Egypt, of a successful Arab economy.

    5. Rich Reilly Says:

      Uh..yes, I meant flout. Although it would be appropriate to say he flouted in a flaunting manner;)
      In terms of Haiti, I think what distinguishes Iraq is the intersection of the enforcement of Int’l law and “Bush doctrine” preemptive protection of security. I am not aware of Aristide being suspected of collaborating with Al Quaeda. Not to mention an attempted assasination of Bush1. You can make arguments for both but the threshold has been exceeded more often by Saddam.
      “The problem of securing U.S. borders against uncontrolled immigration needs a demonstration of resolve.”
      Careful there…you’ll be called anti-immigrant;)
      Wouldn’t it be great if illegal immigration was framed as discriminatory against legal immigrants from all over the world. It could even be dealt with within a pro-hispanic dialog. i.e. Illegal immigrants from Mexico steal legal “slots” from prospective immigrants from Nicaragua or Argentina. But i am afraid the cozy approach to Fox’s desires is beginning to return. And the economic/job argument? Do you suppose some other legal immmigrants(awaiting on lottery) might want to do those jobs that “most Americans” won’t do? Shhhhh. That’s anti-immigrant.

    6. Clay Ranck Says:

      Great post! One quibble, though….Kim Jong Il’s last name is Kim, not Jong….Jong Il Kim would be the “western” formulation of the name.

    7. Andy B Says:

      Thanks for the clarification Clay. Noted.

    8. freddie-poo Says:

      so much sanctimonious moral stuff about why we invaded Iraq. If we grant the arguements that he was evilk, killed his own people, invaded a nearbye country etc theen what of China and its invasion of Tibet? and on and on and on…what’s good for the goose is good for the gooser.

    9. Taras Bulba Says:

      hey, freddie-poo, I never argued that he was evilk, just that he was evil … and more seriously, so you argument is, I take it, that as long as there are multiple (several, many) evil governments in the world, it’s sanctimonious to do something about one of them without taking them on all at once? In the abstract, that may be a defensible position, but in the real world, it seems like a prescription for doing exactly nothing, ever, about any moral enormity. It would have made a fine argument against intervening in the Balkans, or in Rwanda, too.

      And while I like Pouncer’s take on things, comparing Sadaam to David Koresh is a bit unfair to David Koresh, I think. He was a nut-job, but compared to Sadaam he was an *extremely* small-scale nut-job …

    10. Pouncer Says:

      This person who refers to the incumbant president as “Shrub” is (a) aware of that president’s penchant for dubbing his associates with similar nicknames, and (b) goes by such a nickname himself — though not one bestowed by the Shrub.

      Don’t read too much into nomenclature.

      Thanks for the note about Kim. Jong. Whatever. I’ll forget, but I appreciate the gentle reminder.
      (Pity HE doesn’t have a pithy nickname! “SCUM”, maybe?)

    11. John Anderson Says:

      Did we go into Iraq to depose another nasty killer?

      Er, no, not exactly. Not even for funding terrorists. Saddam was active in ways lesser beasts were not – they mostly kill within their own borders, which is quite acceptable to the UN. Nor is he the only one to fund, accomplice before and after the fact, terrorists whose causes he probably does not believe in.

      No, he invaded Iran (while we stood by, by then the Ayatollah was not exactly a friend or even asking us for help – more like blackmail/extortion), conquered and despoiled Kuwait, and was moving troops for an invasion of Saudi Arabia just prior to Gulf I (he actually did make an incursion, but got his nose bloodied and then needed his troops at home). During the years of sanctions and “inspections”, he continued to say he would invade, at the very least, Israel and take another go at Iran.

      We’ve been accused of de-stabilizing the area by removing him from power. Huh?

    12. pat Says:

      Its not good enough to be the biggest badest nation on the block and then to feel that we are doing the ‘right thing’, and attack and take over another country because he was a bad man(he was) who did bad things(he did).

      It is critical that if we are going to ‘marshal plan’ the middle east that we take the rest of the world and get thier agreement and support. We didn’t. If we don’t set an example, of following international laws, then I don’t think anyone else will.

      Also, Bush doesn’t have america, or the rest of the world behind him in fixing all the repressive regimes that our out there. The symbolism of attacking a country who the Bush family had a grudge wtih, PLUS a country with the oil that Iraq has, by a government which is obviously closely aligned to big business oil…… means that it was a bad idea… and still is even though we caught him.

      One of the most powerful messages that today’s events carry to the “Great and Fearless Leaders” of despotic regimes is: This could be you. You can bet that the message is being received and pondered by Jong, Khameini, Quaddafi, Arafat, and even Mubarak, the House of Saud, and Musharaff:

      I think the message has been that you get nuclear and you won’t get fucked with.

    13. Brian (MN) Says:

      If we don’t set an example, of following international laws, then I don’t think anyone else will.

      Tell us, “pat,” about those countries who do follow international law. Which ones are they again? France? Germany? How about Russia? China? Syria?

      I think the message has been that you get nuclear and you won’t get fucked with.

      Oh, no one can be too sure about that.

      And now is it your contention that North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear programs date from Bush’s election?

    14. Miguel Says:

      Sooooo…because you tumble down one dictator you have to tumble ALL DICTATORS down? That is one of the most stupid arguments I’ve heard in my long 54 year-old life. Wow! What do this people eat to be so extremely moronic? (Just asking to stay away from that diet). International support? There are 194 countries in the world (I’m counting Puerto Rico, East Timor and Palestine, so you know if your account doesn’t add up to the same lol) Of those 194 NOT EVEN A THIRD, not even 65 are democracies. So, who would you count on for support? Other dictators? Other penitentiary-country rulers? The USA should create a new UN but only of democratic countries, accepting new members as they accede to democracy. THAT would be a beacon of hope for the future!

    15. Cobden Bright Says:

      The question of whether the US should be going around improving the humanitarian lot of the rest of the world seems not to have been discussed.

      Surely Iraq was invaded for reasons of US *security*? Sure, it is nice to free the Iraqis from Saddam, but that is not why we invaded. We invaded because he was perceived as a threat to the west.

      In which case a second question has to be asked. Why not simply to get the hell out of the Middle East and save us a whole lot of trouble? What the hell are we doing there, once we get rid of Saddam and an Iraqi government is set up?