February 03, 2003

Thought Experiment, for Tho...

Thought Experiment, for Those of You Who Opposed Gulf War I: Did any of you, in retrospect, come to believe that you were wrong? Leavwn precise position at the time (I was in Prague, it was cold, etc.). It was probably something close to the conflicted fudge I've been baking in 2003. But, in retrospect, I think it was a war worth fighting.

Posted by at February 3, 2003 04:25 PM
Comments

I'm the opposite. I supported it at the time, but now think it a colossal mistake. They were doing the "No Blood for Oil" bit back then, and in hindsight, I think they were right. If it wasn't about oil, then it wasn't about anything. Fighting to restore a freakin' monarchy? Eck.

If Bush had followed through, then I think it could've been called a success. The current situation is an obvious refutation of his decision to stop. That decision was probably the worst by a U.S. President since the Wilson Administration. We had to keep troops in Saudi indefinitely, which did more to serve the propaganda of the radical Islamists than any of our foreign policy decisions have. It also made us more cozy with the Saudis, which is never a good thing. Saudi is at the heart of most of this terrorist nonsense, but since they've become our de facto "strategic partners", we can't get to the heart of the matter. We're in bed with the very people supporting, financing and exporting the people trying to kill us, and I don't see any real way of untangling ourselves from them. Would it have been as bad had we removed Saddam in the early 90's? I honestly don't know. The terrorists may have well just used another excuse to rail against us if we didn't have troops in Saudi.

On the other hand, I don't see any way we could've avoided the war in the first place. Saddam had to be checked, lest he claim the Arabian oil fields and bring most of the Middle East's oil under his rule. "Liberating" Kuwait was alright, but that should've been a stepping stone to removing Saddam once and for all. As it was, the war was an exercise in futility and did more to harm us in the long run than anything else.

Posted by: Paul at February 3, 2003 05:09 PM

I protested the Persian Gulf War in the streets of Eugene, Oregon. I was very strongly against it. Now I'm a liberal hawk. On the war, I'm probably to the right of Bush himself.

Check out my blog and article archive to see just how far a Gulf War peacenik has come since his college daze.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 3, 2003 05:34 PM

I was in college at the time and opposed the war because I didn't want to get drafted. That would have seriously cut into my drinking.
I went to one rally, strictly to meet girls. I remember thinking that Iraq was wrong to invade, and I was secretly glad that we were standing up to Sadumb, but I considered myself a pacifist at the time and all my hippie friends were against it, so I fell in line.
I now consider it to have been the right thing to do and in fact wish that Bush 1 had finished the job etc.
I firmly support the liberation of Iraq now. It sounds wrong to say I'm pro-war because I know war is bad and abhor conflict in general. But I now have read enough history and had a chance to study human nature enough to realize that sometimes war is the morally correct thing to do, and that in the end it can save more lives than the alternative. That is the "moral calculus" that I think many anti-war people ignore.
Plus the people of Iraq deserve freedom.
Plus I don't think many Iraqis will fight for Sadumb.
Plus we need to show the islamo-fascists that we have the will to fight them. Etc.

Posted by: Swagger Stick at February 3, 2003 05:39 PM

I was one of those who wanted to "give war a chance" as P.J. O'Rourke had put it at the time. Still haven't changed my mind about it today: By invading Kuwaitt, Iraq had threatened our national interest, which was--and still is--to preserve our wide and almost unfettered access to petrol. And I'm for defending our national interest: I supported going after Saddam and taking him out back when the idea was somewhat unfashionable.

This proposed war is a far different animal. Iraq hasn't invaded either an ally or an oil supplier since the first Gulf invasion. Saddam neither presents a threat to our interests nor has been proven to be a financial and military supporter of Al Qaeda. Therefore an invasion isn't warranted. An war against Saudi Arabia? Now that's a far different story.

Posted by: RiShawn Biddle at February 3, 2003 05:51 PM

This is off to a thoughtful start! Thanks, all. I have noticed, in the person-to-person conversations I've had about the prospective war with friends, bloggers and even hawkish family members -- the discussion is far more intelligent that the barbs I've seen back and forth online. For what it's worth, etc.

Michael, I've been meaning to link to your site for a while, and will do so once the brain-cramp subsides. No telling when that will be, though.

Posted by: Matt Welch at February 3, 2003 05:52 PM

Uh, "than the barbs," not "that the barbs." See what I mean about the brain-cramp?

Am I noticing here that the assembled believes that Saudi Arabia is more of a "root cause" than Iraq?

Posted by: Matt Welch at February 3, 2003 05:54 PM

I was very much opposed to it, and even demonstrated against it (every Saturday afternoon, as a senior at U. of Wyoming; four years later, I entered Navy Officer Candidate School and was commissioned later in 1995). I thought at the time that it was blood for oil (I pretty much assumed rapacious economic motives for all our interventions; now, I still believe that things like Vietnam and aiding the Contra rebels were wrong, but no longer doubt that they were based on genuine national security fears, and not for ulterior motives like "tung and tinsten"), and even worse, it was a war to clean up a mess made by hypocrites who gave Saddam every reason to believe that his actions would be tolerated.

I still wholeheartedly believe the latter, and even agree that economic motives played some role. But now I realize that neither of these reasons were valid arguments against the war.

The fact of the matter is we stomped on a very bad man, and the end result was for the benefit of mankind (though I agree that toppling Saddam would have been much better, especially after having induced his opposition to rise up against him.

So what if our motives had little to do with the lip service we paid to things like respect for sovereignty and international norms. We didn't enter World War II for the purest of motives, but I don't think that disqualifies us for credit for the results of our efforts in that war, either.

Kuwait was not simply conquered by Hussein. It was raped. Even a corrupt monarchy deserves protection from that. I would even be in favor of coming to the rescue of the Saudis if Hussein had invaded that country, though I would ensure that the reinstated House of Saud's days of exporting Wahabbism were over.

Posted by: Bill Herbert at February 3, 2003 06:23 PM

I was in highschool in a small town in northern Missouri. Everyone, including me, was for the war. We had several hometown boys serving over there who later came and talked about their experiences. Nothing back then during the fighting made me feal any different. However, two things after the fighting ended (prematurely, I thought) made me queasy. One, was Bush I's appeal to the people of Iraq to rise up, but then just to leave them hanging. I thought it was very careless for a president to do something like that and I'm suprised they still trust us (maybe they have no choice). The Second thing that made me queasy was a little article I read about how Saudi Arabia and to extent Kuwait started temporing they're treatment of Hussein in their papers. The author of the article posited that both of the regimes were afraid that if Sadam fell, a democracy might arise, which would be bad for them. It was only then that I started really assesing who are 'friends' were in this fight. It was great to see the full page adds in Time and Newsweek that S.A and Kuwait bought, but it seemed to me then that we had just been used.

Posted by: Scott at February 3, 2003 07:07 PM

At the time I was opposed (and a teenager) and now I'm conflicted, leaning toward. You're right in calling it a "thought experiment" -- in fact maybe a more pointed "thought experiment" would be to ask how the pro-war among us would react to the current campaign against Iraq if Sept. 11 had never happened. Sounds like a cliche, but imagine if midway through an otherwise peaceful presidency, Bush had decided to wanted to finish off Saddam. I'd be freaking out, as I'm sure even the most hawkish liberal interventionists would be. And yet now -- even though doubt there's a strong enough Qaeda-Iraq connection to justify war by itself -- it frankly doesn't seem like such a crazy idea.

Posted by: Scott at February 3, 2003 07:35 PM

obviously it was wrong not to target Saddam personally in '91 but I'm not sure it was all Bush 41's fault. One of the premier terms of Arab involvement in our coalition was THEIR demand that we not go after Saddam once he was kicked outta Kuwait. yes, he was scaring them. but they were equally uneasy about us exerting regime change in their neighborhood.

obviously, they should've let us do it then because THIS time, regime change IS gonna come to their countries as well (not militarily but by the shift in US oil buying, bases being removed and the new pressures from an imploding Iran and alienated Saudi Arabia).

Posted by: dan truly at February 3, 2003 07:53 PM

Absolutely, yes. It's a huge, perhaps the dominant, factor in my leaning a bit pro-war now.

I was absolutely 100% wrong in 1991, I later concluded. I was then fully behind "containment worked for the Soviet Union, it and sanctions will work to get Hussein out of Kuwait." And I'm a keen student of the Cold War and 20th cenutry political history, so I didn't lack for evidence and backing for this view.

That sanctions later failed to do much of anything at all to Saddam Hussein, and that we found out that if not for the '91 war, and subsequent inspections, he'd have nuclear weapons, made plain to me the limitations of sanctions and containment alone in preventing joining the nuclear club, or changing a status quo.

That weighs immensely heavily in my current analysis.

Posted by: Gary Farber at February 3, 2003 08:26 PM

Incidentally, speaking of the betrayal of Iraqis in 1991,I immensely recommend this first person account of that, this piece I blogged here.

(I've blogged an awful lot in the last day or three, again, if you get a minute to take a look.)

Posted by: Gary Farber at February 3, 2003 08:41 PM

I welcome this invitation, especially given the friendly auspices. At best, all I can say in hindsight is that I opposed it because I felt our military was being used exclusively as a mercenary force, and that I deeply distrusted the motives of our president. And I was barely post-adolescent. But at the same time, I wound up feeling disappointed when Bush, Powell et al didn't follow through. I felt like if SOME good was to come of this affair, it could only come through a full-scale commitment to the ouster of Sadaam and the rebuilding of the nation.

I feel fairly justified, albeit alienated for that call. Not that you asked, but I oppose this one, too, but now it has more to do with my lack of confidence in this administration's ability, NOT its motives.

Thanks for the forum!

Posted by: Andrew at February 3, 2003 08:58 PM

My initial reaction was that the kind of imperialist move Iraq made against an area of strategic interest to the rest of the world had to be countered. GHW Bush did an admirable job of creating a coalition of the nations most affected. (As I recall, he got the Japanese to pony up a bunch of dough to help pay for it.)

I've read allegations that the US gave Saddam some kind of "green light" to attack Kuwait. The actual message seems to have been that the US considered the resolution of the border dispute with Kuwait a matter for the two nations to settle. If that's a green light, I'm not subtle enough to understand "diplomat-speak."

The prosecution of the war was brilliant. Not pushing on to Baghdad was one of the weirdest military decisions ever, just unthinkable at the time. In hindsight, it was either a colossal mistake or some kind of deal that tried to take too many competing interests into account.

The way Bush let the Kurds twist in the wind was a shame. In some ways, Bush, by leaving Saddam in power has to assume responsibility for the subsequent degradation of the Iraqis. He had to know Saddam would repurpose any technology and infrastructure away from his people to re-arm and reinforce his position.

In my suspicion of the military/industrial complex, this gulf war seems like an elaborate live-fire exercise and leaving Saddam in power an excuse for expanding the defense budget to erase any "peace dividend" from the end of the Cold War.

Posted by: c A at February 3, 2003 10:15 PM


Interesting question. I wasn't opposed to the first war - was all jabbed up and ready to go, in a supporting role, admittedly - but the funny thing is that today's misgivings were more relevant then: it really was about Oil; he really was closely-tied to America; he had, kind of, been given a green light; and we all guessed the bad end in store for Marsh Arabs and Kurds as Paw Bush scrambled not to scare the Saudis or the "International Community" by pushing too far.

Well, his time's up: or "his tea's oot", as we say in Scotland.

Posted by: Trevora at February 3, 2003 10:57 PM

9/11 hijackers: Arab muslims
Iraq: Full of Arab muslims

Americans are extremely racist people, and 60% of them think Iraqis were on the flights.

So there is your answer.

Posted by: Franklin at February 3, 2003 11:32 PM

Well, I'm not in the opposed then, favor now camp, but ... being the long-winded sort I am, I'll answer any way.

Gulf I was certainly the beginning of my turning from left to right ... I supported the war. I supported it because 1) I opposed Saddam's aggression aginst Kuwait regardless of their government or our interests in that region; 2) I thought the country needed a chance to kick some ass and get over Vietnam. On both these counts, Gulf I was a success.

On the long-term geopolitical issues, though, Gulf I was a failure. We gained nothing over the longterm. Saddam is still in power and our needed presense in Saudi Arabia fuelled the Islamic hate that led up (though it probably would have happened anyway) of 9/11.

Posted by: Howard Owens at February 4, 2003 12:12 AM

Jeez - I live here, know a ton of americans, but not a single one that thinks Iraqis were on those flights.

Must be some other "America" - some mythological Racist Oppressor In The Sky. Not *this* one, bud.

Posted by: Trevora at February 4, 2003 12:30 AM

At the time of the first Gulf War I was in Bratislava working for a group that was trying to bring the blessings of liberalism to Slovakia -- or at least persuade the population not to strangle their elected representatives in the streets.

The problem was price liberalization. With rumors that everything was about to triple in price, goods disappeared from the shelves. I didn't see sugar for six weeks (and still drink my coffee unsweetened today).

So we all got to thinking -- what would happen to the fragile new democracies of Central Europe if Saddam seized Saudi supplies and tripled *oil* prices? In the middle of the first winter these people had spent under a democratic government in 50 years?

I tried to volunteer for service in the Gulf but the war was over before I could sign up.

Posted by: Chandler at February 4, 2003 08:02 AM

I remember basically ignoring it in the news as the rhetoric heated up -- after growing up during Reagan's bombing of Libya, I think I assumed the US really was too chicken to actually fight a real war.

When the bombing of Baghdad started, I remember being shocked and (reflexively) anti-whatever the US was doing. It was especially easy, because I had very little knowledge of why the US was there, why Iraq had invaded Kuwait in the first place, and who Saddam Hussein was anyways.

I also remember being pretty grossed out by the CNN coverage, which struck my 17-year old mind as sooooo tacky and hypocritical and whatever other term I could find to express my general indignation at the world.

Interestingly, all this changed when scuds started flying at Israel. It was at this point that I remember thinking a massive strike on Baghdad was a good idea now. I could have given two shits about Kuwait (at the time), but an attack on Israel got me very scared. I knew they had nukes.

Since then my attitude has changed insofar as I see the war as half-fought, and therefore half-finished. It has to be finished now. There's the famous quote that Thatcher warned Bush 41 not "to go all wobbly" shortly before the US attack. But he did, in the end. His promises to the Iraqi insurgents were lies (and for this I don't see how Powell can't also be held responsible). There are old conflicts to be finished, and old promises to be kept.

Maybe I've become hopelessly naive now in my twenties, but I belive the US is about the only country in the world that might actually feel, at a governmental level, that such things as righting past wrongs actually matter. I hope they stick to it.

Posted by: Adam in Montreal at February 4, 2003 08:55 AM

For the first gulf war, I was in my last year of high school. I supported the war strongly then. In about 93 or 94 I went through a phase of thinking the war had been a mistake (because the Kuwaiti princes were less than desirable allies), but came to realize that the real mistake was in not liberating the whole country.

Now I am extremely hawkish, largely because I have decided that human suffering is a greater evil than human death -- that life is cheap compared to tyranny.

Overall I'm in a strange political position - I'd like to see the drug war end, I'd like to see marriage defined as a contract between two or more people of any gender, I like many social welfare programs, and I think that the quality of life here in America could be greatly improved by expanding capital punishment to cover repeat offenders in all violent or property felonies. There's really no political party for that.

Posted by: Jeff Paulsen at February 4, 2003 08:56 AM

As a young `liberal' (in the mainstream sense of the word), I protested against the Allied effort to remove Stalin Hussein from Kuwait (you can even see my picture, vaguely, on the front of a local tabloid paper which covered a major protest just prior to the start of the war. I think it was at these demonstrations that I began, as it were, awaken from my dogmatic slumber and become conscious of the truth of authentic (or `classical') liberalism (not `libertarianism'), when speakers began denouncing the `fascism' of President Bush the elder, his government and the U.S. in general. One speaker even tried to justify the Iraqi invasion of Iran years earlier, AS WELL AS the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

It was then I began to think about what I believed in. Of course, today, I think the U.S. should become an army of liberation not only for the middle east, but for the rest of the globe as well. I don't think there's any reason why the U.S. shouldn't bully every single dictator in the world, not only the near east, into holding democratic elections, recognizing Israeli and opening up to free trade.

Posted by: Authentic Liberal at February 4, 2003 09:13 AM

I was strongly against it then. Given the extent to which our current mess is linked to the fallout from that war -- it turned both Saddam and bin Ladden against us, and it helped keep the terror-supporting Saudi government in power -- it seems, in retrospect, like an even more collosal mistake.

I'm against the upcoming war with Iraq too, but I think it actually makes more sense than the last one. Whatever you think of the idea that Saddam might use his weapons against American civilians, it's a lot more credible in this context than it was 12 years ago.

Posted by: Jesse Walker at February 4, 2003 09:14 AM

I was 13 at the time and I would say that I had reservations about the action and didn't at all feel comfortable with the national glee that followed. While I continue to see it as a complicated matter, although in somewhat different ways than I did then, I do believe that I was basically right.

Posted by: micah holmquist at February 4, 2003 09:15 AM

I have a question for those who did support Operation Desert Shield, which was, at least publicly, initially only designed to protect Saudi Arabia. Do you think protecting Saudi Arabia is worth the efforts of the U.S. military?

Posted by: micah holmquist at February 4, 2003 09:17 AM

I was opposed to the Gulf War. As I think back to my reasoning, I was a little detached from most of the passion and rhetoric, and not just a little ignorant of the region's history. On the map, it looked to me that Kuwait was carved out of Iraq, probably by European colonialism, and even if it meant the ruling elite in Kuwait paid a heavy price for unity with Iraq, it probably shouldn't be a separate country. Upon liberation, I was horrified by the stories that came from newly liberated Kuwait, many of which proved to be fiction. I'm quite sure I remember that our propaganda machine made it clear that Saddam was evil and not the Iraqis, so why was he left in power?

I'm much more hawkish this time around, but I have to go on record saying I don't think the President has made a case for connecting Iraq and Saddam with Al Qaeda and Osama. That Saddam is a vicious and dangerous person, I'm convinced. But how did he come to the head of the line? I know that there's little love lost between Islamic fundamentalists and the Baathist Party. I would have looked to Iran as the more natural supporter of Al Qaeda, not Iraq.

So it becomes an issue of do I trust President Bush and our government? For the moment, yes, but it is a guarded yes. If this is proved to be something other than what is being presented, his term in office will be limited to the initial 4 years and his party will be discredited for a generation to come. I have faith in the President, but it isn't a blind faith.

Posted by: Ray Bridges at February 4, 2003 10:03 AM

I agree with Ray Bridgh Ray Bridges that the connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda is unproven, though I don't doubt its possibility nor its probability in future. Both Saddam and Bin Laden have been happy to deal with "Satan" when it suited them in the past.

Also remember that Bush was talking-up dealing with Saddam before he became President. 9/11 has made that easier for him to bring to fruition, because Americans are now of a mind to settle accounts and get real serious about their enemies: kind of like when you were a kid, you'd goad your dad by misbehaving over and over and over again, until you go that one step too far, and BANG! you've been slapped on the head and knocked on your arse, and been given a good kicking.

I don't doubt that Saddam would use Bin Laden as a delivery vehicle. Don't doubt it at all. And I have no problem using Saddam to serve as an example to... others.

Posted by: Trevora at February 4, 2003 11:02 AM

This is very interesting everyone, thanks! Micah -- speaking only for myself, my retrospective support for Gulf War I is entirely a question of reversing one country's invasion of its neighbor. And this, too, had become 41's justification after the initial protect-the-Saudis bit.

I'd like to add to Chandler's Slovakia memory & the question of oil supply -- that particular winter was INCREDIBLY cold. The Czechs kept telling me it was the coldest in 20 years, maybe 50. At that time, there were still Soviet troops everywhere, and the Central European countries relied heavily on Soviet petroleum.

The Herald-Tribune and USA Today were filled with advisories about Americans living abroad, and placed the ex-commie countries very high on the list. Warned us about "not appearing too conspicuously American," etc. I remember responding by riding the Prague subway in an enormous black cowboy hat, hair down half my back, three earrings, high-tops....

Posted by: Matt Welch at February 4, 2003 11:08 AM

I was "weakly against" the first Gulf War as an undergraduate. In my mind at that time, the big arguments against were (1) the military's estimates of 20K-30K American casualties and (2) a loose sense that the Iraqi government wasn't so much worse than the undemocratic Kuwaiti government, so why should it matter.

On point (1), clearly I and many other people were misinformed. The actual number of casualties was (IIRC) less than 200, many from friendly fire. It wasn't until I read Gregg Easterbrook's article "Apocryphal Now: The Myth Of The Hollow Military" almost 10 years later that I understood why: the American military is light-years ahead of its counterparts abroad. (I recommend that article now; it's aeds some partner countries, whose governments _do_ have people skills. As it is, it's far too easy for me to foresee a brilliant military campaign followed by blown chance after blown chance when we have to deal with Iraqis afterward.

Posted by: Michael Farris at February 4, 2003 01:18 PM

In 1991 I was still on the hard left in Britain but my heart was no longer in it.

I took a cop out position - yes he had no right to invade Kuwait and had to be driven back but I still couldn't bring myself to support a US led military campaign.

The 'anti-war' movement was much smaller then than it is now and I wasn't involved in it.

I suspect, in fact I know, that there a lot of people on the radical left who still have that mixed emotions thing - they accept most of the points about the need to do something about Saddam but they just can't bring themselves to support the US in military action.

It's not really political for a lot of people.

Its emotions, history, symbols and a fear of being on the same side as people you disagree with about so many other things.

As one emailer to my blog put it the other day "I didn't get involved in left politics to be a cheerleader for George Bush and the US Marines".

Neither did I but I think there is such a thing as a coincidence of interests.

The one (ex)communist whose views I still find useful to look back to is Mikhail Gorbachev. He made a big point of saying how the left had to accept the concept of "general human values" that (should) transcend class, race and religious divides.

I'd like to see those human values be given a chance in Iraq.

Posted by: Harry at February 4, 2003 01:59 PM

I remain opposed to any war. I was opposed to GWI and remian oppsed to this one. However one of the biggest animating impulses I have in relation to current events is I don't trust 43 to do any better of a job at this than 41 did.

As I was raised, in a long line of military folks who have served in every war this country has ever been in, you do not take on a project you have no intention to finish. 41 proved he couldn't do the job. No matter what excuses the pseudo-potus may throw out there the fact remains that we are in this mess because 41 abandoned his responsibility to the Iraqi & American people.

I understand 43 wanting to make right the sins of his father but just as surely he should I understand that I don't trust the lot of em to finish the job.

Posted by: filchyboy at February 4, 2003 02:00 PM

I find it interesting that there is a general consensus that a) our one mistake in 91' was in not finishing the job by going to Baghdad and that b)we should be as multilateral as possible in gathering support. We shoul pause a little and realize that (a) was a result of (b) at the time, which. At the time, tho I supported the war, I mistakenly thought Bush/Powell/Schwartzkopf et al were right in not messing around with Baghdad. In retrospect, Bush I would have been smart to shed some of our multilateral support and bite the bullet by taking over the country. Course that woulda been easier said than done. Clearly we'd have been even more excoriated than we are now. BTW, to Micah I would answer no on the Saudis, which I think is the big unspoken reason we are going after this guy in the first place.

Posted by: Lloyd at February 4, 2003 02:53 PM

I find it interesting how people always talk about going to war with "Saddam" when in reality we will be going to war with ordinary Iraqis and not Saddam. There will be thousands of civilian casualties, all for one man. All of the logic of going after Saddam is good logic-- so why can't we go after him without an invasion? The answer, in my opinion, is that the Bush administraion is full of motherfuckers who don't give a damn about human lives, and know they can get 100% control over Iraq in a war that they might not get in a coup. They might have to destroy Iraq to save it, and that's OK with them.

It's quite possible that they are right in their assessments that only a few thousand Americans and 10,000 or less Iraqi civilians will be killed. However it is also possible that they are wrong, and that this invasion could cause more problems than it solves. Which is why I stand against this war-- not because of some pacificsm or leftism, but because it is better for everyone, especially America, to not use invasion but to use other means. Think creatively and there are so many ways to get things done.

I supported the first gulf war, it was a clear case of theft by Hussein, who needed cash and invaded to get it. He fucked up and paid the price. Well he has done the same now, but an invastion of Iraq? Stupidity on a grand scale, designed by men who want to be remembered as heroes. Well I do not want Americans or Iraqis to die so someone can be a hero-- our objectives (safety, toppling of hussein) can be achieved without War, and without risking so much.

Posted by: Rich at February 4, 2003 04:52 PM


Re Rich (immediately above): When one man holds the keys to a national army, and the thumbscrews on a nation, your attempt to go after that one man requires an invasion.

K

Posted by: Ken at February 4, 2003 06:04 PM

Trevora says
I live here, know a ton of americans, but not a single one that thinks Iraqis were on those flights.

Must be some other "America" - some mythological Racist Oppressor In The Sky. Not *this* one, bud.

My guess is that your ton of Americans doesn't comprise a cross-section of America.

See this Knight Ridder poll of 1,204 adults:

As far as you know, how many of the September 11th terrorist hijackers were Iraqi citizens: most of them, some of them, just one, or none?

 Most of them 21%     
Some of them 23%
Just one 6%
None 17%
Don't know 33%

That's pretty fucking scary. 83% of America either doesn't know or is dead wrong.

Posted by: Young Luke at February 4, 2003 06:11 PM

Rich -- On what basis do you believe that thousands of Iraqis will die in an invasion?

And on what basis do you believe that Saddam Huessin, given ample opportunity, wouldn't kill 100 times as many.

So what is more important the possiblity that "thousands" of Iraqis will die in a U.S.-led invasion, or the probability that SH would kill 10s of thousands if left in power?

If you want to talk numbers, do the math.

And how many lives are worth freedom? Would you undue all the deaths of World War II if it meant the U.S. would be divided between a fascist in the East and a Dictator on the West Coast? Would you rather have SH continue to murder and torcher his own people than liberate them?

I suppose it doesn't matter to you that all attempts to take out Saddam individually have so far failed, that those who have attempted have been executed, that his use of body doubles and multiple bunkers make a precision strike by the U.S. impossible.

Posted by: Howard Owens at February 4, 2003 08:55 PM

First, I was 100% in favor of GW 1, and I'm 100% opposed to GW2. What's the difference?

1) I realize now how heavily snookered I was by the nonstop propoganda. Now, I lived in Germany at the time of GW 1 (interesting how many posters on this board have lived overseas ... certainly gives one a different perspective than the average American), so I got more than just the US-slant. But I fully bought into the babies-dumped-from-incubators, hundreds-of-thousands-of-troops-on-the-Saudi-border, elite-Republican-guard-as-super-human-fighters, and most importantly the surgical-strikes-that-only-hit-military-targets lies that we were force-fed nightly by CNN international. I argued endlessly with German friends about the analogy of Saddam to Hitler (you can imagine these discussions were interesting), and the need to avoid appeasment. I fully bought into the idea that the baby food factory and the bomb shelter where 700+ died were Saddam's ways of sacrificing his own for the sake of PR. I knew one of his "guests" who formed the human shield, a guy who was on site at one of our customers in Kuwait when the invasion occurred ... he never was the same again. I thought the highway of death was an example of justice. I rooted for the Patriot missles and was suitably inflamed reading quotes from Palastinians about the war. I was deeply disappointed when the war ended.

BUT, certain contradictions knawed at me. In subsequent years we learned that Saddam was invited into Kuwait by the US ambassador; that the incubator and at-the-border-of-Saudi-Arabia stories were outright lies, that the power of the Iraqi military was greatly exaggerated, that the accuracy of the smart bombs was no better than the dumb ones, and that lots of civilians died as a result. That the bombing of civilian infrastructure and sanctions have caused massive misery and death among innocents.

Now I trust nothing I hear from the administration. I don't trust their motives. I'm told there are WMDs, but every expert outside the administration, and some withing (CIA, FBI) say there is no threat to the US. I'm told how bad Saddam is, as though this were a war with one person and not a likely civilian bloodbath. I'm told this war will liberate Iraq and improve the civilian's lot, but upon reading non-US coverage of current conditions in Afghanistan, where things are no better than when the Taliban was in charge, I have no faith there is any truth. I'm told Saddam is a bad guy who gasses his people, tortures, etc., but then I see our govt sending suspected "terrorists" to allies who do equally bad things to their people, in order to subcontract our torture.

My only hope is that all this sabre-rattling is a ruse to get Saddam to agree to exile in exchange for a peaceful takeover of his country. Alas, I also had hoped in GW 1 that Bush 1 would wait a couple days after the UN deadline before bombing, to allow Saddam a chance to save face before giving in. Alas, Bush 1 waited less than 1 hour. Bloodthirsty. Just like Bush 2.

Summary: Iraqi people's lives will probably be made much worse by a war. The threat has been over-exaggerated. This does not meet any of the criteria for a just war.

Posted by: Another viewpoint at February 4, 2003 09:31 PM

Young Luke,

Maybe you're right, and my ton of americans doesn't comprise a cross-section of America?

But they're the ton I know, and they're as good a ton as any, and none of them believe the terrorists were Iraqis. And since I know them, but not Knight Ridder, I'll make my own judgement and extrapolation.

I will add, though, that that same ton of americans covers a very large cross-section of the planet, and pretty-much every corner you can think of would be represented by it.

Oh, and 99.99999999999999999% of americans weren't asked, but I ain't gonna argue with statistics, not me.

Posted by: Trevora at February 4, 2003 10:52 PM

Trevora: None of the people I know believes Iraqis were aboard the planes either. I don't know anything about you, but I'd guess that the people you and I know have a pretty similar profile: educated, urban people who read a newspaper more than once a week.

If you're that dismissive of polls (similarly, 80% of Americans don't vote, but I ain't gonna argue with democracy, not me), then how about a dare: Go to your nearest Wal-Mart and ask the first 100 people the question about the planes and the Iraqis. I'd bet my Nation subscription that at least 50 of them will either not know or give a wrong number.

(Horribly elitist of me to use Wal-Mart? Sure. For shame. But where else will you find a truer cross section? Certainly not my in address book, and certainly not in yours or anybody's.)

L.

Posted by: J. Luke Seemann at February 5, 2003 09:13 AM


Aaargh - just got mugged at "Target" for asking some guy that very question, who told me to mind my own effing business before launching his kids and his wives (he was Mormon) at me. But I'm sure, like Fisk, I deserved it for being representative of anti-american Europeans.

My original beef was with the guy who wrote:

"Americans are extremely racist people,
and 60% of them think Iraqis were on the
flights.
So there is your answer."

And that's just bollocks, and I don't need a poll to back me up on that.

Posted by: Trevora at February 5, 2003 12:20 PM

Target's no good. Too upscale.

But which point do you find bollocks? Americans as racists or Americans as extremely ignorant about current events?

I, too, would say saying "Americans are extremely racist people" is stupid and untrue, but you cannot deny that, yes, 50% of Americans think Iraqis were on the flights and 33% are unsure. It's embarrassing but true. Sort of like our grandparents not being sure whether there were Japanese pilots on the planes that attacked Pearl Harbor.

Posted by: J. Luke Seemann at February 5, 2003 12:43 PM

Both parts really, but mainly the "racist" part, and the implicit use of that to justify the "thick & ignorant" part that followed.

One of the most enjoyable things I've found about immigrating to a new country is having so many of my pre-conceived notions of the place blown apart by the mundane everyday life I've found since I got here.

I don't like opinion polls (not to be confused with electoral polls) for many reasons, but chiefly I think because pollsters are happy to extrapolate up (from 1200 to 128million) but not down (from 1200 to, say 50). That, and the microcosm I inhabit repeatedly confounds their predictions. I still don't know, for example, which of my five kids is the "gay" one.

Target is waaay closer.

Posted by: Trevora at February 5, 2003 01:22 PM

Those who believe polls have neither taken them, nor studied them.

I've worked as a low-level, and medium-level, poll-taker, for major and minor pollers. They are all extremely unreliable. Vaguely useful, but the clue is in "vague."

Even at their best, they are a snapshot of what a bunch of people, absent certain information, think on a given day. This is of limited usefulness.

Posted by: Gary Farber at February 5, 2003 08:57 PM

I suppose it doesn't matter to you that all attempts to take out Saddam individually have so far failed

Well I think we can do better than that. Ooooh body doubles, I'm so impressed. If we wanted to, we could nail him in the space of 6 months. The problem is that only a full invasion will ensure control of the oil, which is what makes it all worth it. And although it's tempting, I can't support that.

Posted by: RIch at February 5, 2003 10:14 PM

I was against the last one (went to demonstrations, etc.), b/c GBI never convinced me as to why he was doing it. The reasons kept changing. "We need to protect the Suadis" But they're dictators. "Well, um, we need to protect the Kuwatis." But they are also dictators. "Well, um, we need to secure the oil resources." War for oil?!? "NO! I mean, um, Sadam's a bad guy." So are the monarchs we're protecting. "Well, um, we have to enforce international law." Actually that last one would have convinced me if it had been the sole message. But by that time I just didn't believe him.

In retrospect, I still think the war we fought was a mistake. The result has been the sanctions, snuggling up to the Saudis, the energizing of Al Quaeda, constant bombing, and now this crisis.

Had their been a U.N. Security Council resolution that stated simply that Sadam broke international law and would be removed from power as punishment and example, followed by a U.S. lead invasion to do just that, *THAT* probably would have been a just and successful war. But the one we actually did fight? No.
-Decnavda

Posted by: Timothy Roscoe Carter at February 6, 2003 12:47 AM

Hey Rich, once we get Saddam in your scenario, would you nominate Uday or Qusay on your list of lovelies in the line of succession. Or maybe they'll just drop their weapons once our fearsome coup leader somehow makes his way to the big S.

Posted by: Lloyd at February 6, 2003 01:36 PM

Great question. I actually was in Prague (briefly) around the same time. I remember the Euro-papers whose headlines mentioned the "Golf" crisis.

At the time I was against the war. I marched in S.F. protests (as I did not this time around). I wanted to let sanctions work. I was outraged by April Glaspie. I thought Bush I sent troops in preemptively and then had to use them.

Now that sanctions are seen to be babykilling (shades of incubators) and bad, I wonder about my old positions.

Both times I have doubted the motivations of my own leadership.

Once the first war started I was glad it ended quickly, but not glad that we gave Saddam his helicopters back and let him put down rebellions in the north and south.

Once the war was over I thought that Saddam was bound to comply with the terms of the ceasefire and thus believe we have every right to hold him under our thumb now.

Did I answer the question?

Posted by: xian at February 7, 2003 10:12 AM

I was all for it then and now. Everything I'd observed of recent history was that incomplete wars only come back to bite you later.

We achieved our primary goal in Viet Nam (although the CIA analysts were too blind to realize at the time) of making the Soviets pay top dollar for every bit of ground they took. We failed in letting popular sentiment that was largely sponsored by pro-Soviet types get in the way of our obligations to the people where the Cold War turned hot. THe abandonment of those people to the horrors wrought by the communists should never be forgotten when we consider leaving things incomplete in future confrontations with evil.

Posted by: Eric Pobirs at February 9, 2003 03:54 AM
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4;aol.com">Timothy Roscoe Carter at February 6, 2003 12:47 AM

Hey Rich, once we get Saddam in your scenario, would you nominate Uday or Qusay on your list of lovelies in the line of succession. Or maybe they'll just drop their weapons once our fearsome coup leader somehow makes his way to the big S.

Posted by: Lloyd at February 6, 2003 01:36 PM

Great question. I actually was in Prague (briefly) around the same time. I remember the Euro-papers whose headlines mentioned the "Golf" crisis.

At the time I was against the war. I marched in S.F. protests (as I did not this time around). I wanted to let sanctions work. I was outraged by April Glaspie. I thought Bush I sent troops in preemptively and then had to use them.

Now that sanctions are seen to be babykilling (shades of incubators) and bad, I wonder about my old positions.

Both times I have doubted the motivations of my own leadership.

Once the first war started I was glad it ended quickly, but not glad that we gave Saddam his helicopters back and let him put down rebellions in the north and south.

Once the war was over I thought that Saddam was bound to comply with the terms of the ceasefire and thus believe we have every right to hold him under our thumb now.

Did I answer the question?

Posted by: xian at February 7, 2003 10:12 AM

I was all for it then and now. Everything I'd observed of recent history was that incomplete wars only come back to bite you later.

We achieved our primary goal in Viet Nam (although the CIA analysts were too blind to realize at the time) of making the Soviets pay top dollar for every bit of ground they took. We failed in letting popular sentiment that was largely sponsored by pro-Soviet types get in the way of our obligations to the people where the Cold War turned hot. THe abandonment of those people to the horrors wrought by the communists should never be forgotten when we consider leaving things incomplete in future confrontations with evil.

Posted by: Eric Pobirs at February 9, 2003 03:54 AM
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