Sunday, December 14, 2008

Just a Fun Video

Iraqi journalist throws his shoes at Bush. Nicely done.

21 comments:

Rhoadan said...

So, is that size 10 American or European? They're different. Sorry, I had to ask. [ducks]

MWchase said...

I... would appear to be respect-deficient.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFldBVWFgWo

Dark Jaguar said...

PZ, whom I normally agree with, kinda stepped over the line saying he not only says this was a good move, but that it should be done more often. I simply can't condone violent forms of protest, in any form, including this.

I mean who throws a shoe, honestly?

Also I've seen too many medical shows to ever think of tossing a shoe at someone as "totally harmless". Who knows what sort of potential head bleeding that the impact may have excacerbated? Sure that's very unlikely, but when it comes to violence I'm like that. It just strikes me as the sort of bullying you get when someone feels like they have to "defend their honor", or "knock some sense into that boy".

And let's be real here, if all the protests in the world don't do a thing to change his mind, what makes anyone think a physical assault is going to do anything? If anything, it'll just galvanize him more.

That said, I do appreciate civil disobediance and there were other ways to make that guy's complaints known, such as pulling some costumed stunt there, anything that doesn't swing into violence would do fine.

I'm not one for a slippery slope fallacy, but while shoe tossing may not immediatly lead to sniping, it can certainly lead to people trying to one-up each other, with say a large clown shoe, or a horse shoe, or a rock, each thinking it's just a "little" more dangerous, and one of these days that retard's catlike reflexes would fail him.

So no, I say that violence like this should not be praised in any way.

Akusai said...

As I understand it, the intent was probably less "hurt the president by throwing a shoe" and more "drastically insult the president by hurling a shoe," as shoes are considered incredibly unclean in the Middle East. Even showing someone the bottom of your shoes is a terrible insult.

Throwing a shoe at someone is like flipping them the bird while calling them retarded and assfucking their mother as you pour sugar into their gas tank.

Dark Jaguar said...

I'm not sure cultural differences are sufficient to excuse this for me. I'm sure he'd also find the back of my hand very displeasing, but other than that it would also be physical assault. He could have flipped him the sole rather than flinging it his way.

I should make one thing clear, I don't expect he'll get charged with all that much and I'm not really making that big a deal about this one incident, except to note that Bush isn't as popular as he thinks he is there. Further, people being detained for commenting on it should never have happened.

That said, I just don't take the position that violence is excusable, even if it's some common insult in their culture.

Dunc said...

Dark Jaguar - are you an absolutist pacifist? Nothing wrong with that, you just don't meet very many...

Look at it this way: the guy's an Iraqi. Twenty years ago, his country had probably the best infrastructure, health and education systems in the Middle East. Since then, it's been completely smashed by successive US governments, at least a couple of million of his countrymen have been killed and another few million displaced. Where there was once a fairly well-developed modern state, there is now a patchwork of ethnically-cleansed Bantustans with no electricity, no clean water, no sewerage system, run by an ex-patriot kleptocracy in cahoots with the occupying power. Bush is both the latest representative of the political system that did all of that, and personally responsible for at least a third of it. He is viewed by many Iraqis in much the same way that Hitler was by the Jews, or Cromwell by the Irish. (Before anybody squeals about Godwin: I'm not saying Bush is like Hitler. I'm just saying that many Iraqis view him that way.)

In that sort of context, throwing a shoe is a pretty tame response. If you subscribe to a view that violence can be acceptable for anything other than immediate personal self-defence, it's hard not to see some scope for justification here.

Jimmy_Blue said...

Dunc:

Not disagreeing with your assessment of the state of Iraq's infrastructure 20 years ago, but lets not try and paint (either deliberately or not) Iraq before 1991 as a paradise. Nazi Germany was after all a very well organised and modern society before the Allies bombed it into the stone age, but it was still an horrific dictatorship.

Iraqis weren't exactly big fans of Saddam Hussein either and I always think anti-war arguments based on Iraq having the best health care in the Middle East before 1991 are missing something - like the price your average Iraqi had to pay for one thing.

Dunc said...

I'm certainly not trying to paint pre-1991 Iraq as a paradise, as it obviously wasn't. Everybody knows that Saddam wasn't what you'd call a political liberal and that he was extremely unpleasant to anyone he regarded as an enemy, so I didn't really feel that it merited a disclaimer. I mean, that's like pointing out that the sky is blue.

However, to say that "Iraqis weren't exactly big fans of Saddam Hussein either" is a gross over-simplification. The fact is that many Iraqis were big fans. Many were not, and a great deal more probably weren't really that bothered as long as they had jobs, homes and food on the table. The "average Iraqi" didn't personally pay much of a price unless he was a political dissident. He paid tax, sure. And he didn't have to watch his children starve or die of dysentery. His daughters could go to school. Heck, they could go to university and study medicine.

Many people are perfectly happy to swap the freedom to argue about politics for decent living conditions and economic opportunities. It's easy to value "democracy" when your belly is full and you're sitting in a nice warm house, busy not dying of easily-treated diseases. It's easy to value "democracy" when you haven't had to bury your entire family, literally with your own bare hands. "Give me liberty or give me death" is the slogan of a highly privileged individual, who most likely doesn't expect to die in the immediate future.

King of Ferrets said...

"Give me liberty or give me death" was from the American Revolutionary War, I believe. Where they probably expected to die soon.

Akusai said...

To be fair, Patrick Henry probably wasn't expecting to die any time soon. He was one of the privileged. Now, if Washington had said that, then yes, because his crazy hardass self was always on the front lines being a humongous badass.

Jimmy_Blue said...

Dunc:

However, to say that "Iraqis weren't exactly big fans of Saddam Hussein either" is a gross over-simplification.

Everybody knows that Saddam had his supporters within Iraq, so I didn't really feel that it merited a disclaimer. I mean, that's like pointing out that the sky is blue.

The fact is that many Iraqis were big fans. Many were not, and a great deal more probably weren't really that bothered as long as they had jobs, homes and food on the table.

Now you're getting into the realms of over simplification. Saddam's support came mostly from the Sunni minority of Iraq, about 20% of the population. Almost certainly that could then be divided up into his family and close supporters from the Tikrit area, memebers of the Ba'ath party, and those who benefitted from his position. Saddam spent much of his early years basically buying support throughout Iraq through building programs etc. The Kurds and the Shi'a majority were certainly not fans of his however, most of the opposition to him came from here. To gain some measure of support from them, he either bought them off or brutally repressed them.

The rest of your comment about the 'average Iraqi' is mere speculation. And of course, it depends on your definition of not paying much personally.

The average Iraqi could not vote. Only 8% of the population was allowed to participate in what limited political process there was.

The average Iraqi was not allowed to assemble legally unless it was in support of the government, and political parties were all controlled and run by the government.

The average Iraqi had to pass through police checkpoints if they travelled just about anywhere.

The average Iraqi could not travel abroad without government permission.

The average Iraqi woman could not travel abroad without a male relative.

If the average Iraqi happened to be Kurdish they could find themselves on the end of genocide like Halabja and Al-Anfal. Chemical weapon attacks, imprisonment, disappearance of friends and family, mass executions, destruction of nearly 2000 villages.

If the average Iraqi's relatives had been involved in political opposition to Saddam, and yet that relative could not be found, then that average Iraqi could expect to be imprisoned instead.

The average Iraqi may have had to sign a statement saying they were responsible for a relative's actions if that relative was released from political imprisonment, and they would be held responsible if that relative then fell foul of the authorities again.

The average Iraqi was expected to inform on neighbours, and could have found themselves in trouble if someone decided to make up information regarding their actions.

The average Iraqi would collaborate because they thought in doing so they were protecting themselves and their families. Hence adding to the illusion of support for Saddam's government.

The average Iraqi could expect to be arrested and tortured if they belonged to any outlawed political parties, or if a relative did but the relative couldn't be found.

The average Iraqi could be arrested arbitrarily, and often was, for a little as allegations of insulting Saddam.

Yes, life sounded just peachy for the average Iraqi.

Many people are perfectly happy to swap the freedom to argue about politics for decent living conditions and economic opportunities.

Over simplification again.

It's easy to value "democracy" when your belly is full and you're sitting in a nice warm house, busy not dying of easily-treated diseases.

And it is easy to pretend that life for the 'average Iraqi' was just fine as long as they personally managed to avoid even the mild appearance of wrong doing, and as long as no-one informed on them to save their own skin, when you have never had to live without any of the things we take for granted and dismiss as "democracy" like it doesn't really mean something important and fundamental.

It's easy to value "democracy" when you haven't had to bury your entire family, literally with your own bare hands.

And it is easy to dismiss it simply as "democracy" when you haven't had to live under a regime where that could very easily happen to you, at any time, and for no reason.

"Give me liberty or give me death" is the slogan of a highly privileged individual, who most likely doesn't expect to die in the immediate future.

Are you serious? Put your money where your mouth is then. Defect to North Korea, or Iran, or China. Let us know how it goes for you. Provided you actually can.

People are so busy hating Bush and everything he did, that they actually forget just exactly what and who Saddam Hussein and the Ba'athists were.

Tim said...

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2008/12/20081215144834440817.html

Just a few choice quotes from the source above:

"It was the least thing for an Iraqi to do to Bush, the tyrant criminal who has killed two million people in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.

"Our defence of Zeidi will be based on the fact that the United States is occupying Iraq, and resistance is legitimate by all means, including shoes."


"Throwing the shoes at Bush was the best goodbye kiss ever ... it expresses how Iraqis and other Arabs hate Bush," Musa Barhoumeh, editor of Jordan's independent Al-Gahd newspaper, wrote.

"It indicates how much antagonism he's been able to create in the whole region," former Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher told Reuters

"The Iraqi journalist is a true and free Baghdadi," said a Saudi private sector employee who gave his name as Abu Faisal. "He was brave and did us proud. Bush destroyed (Iraq) so surely he deserved to be beaten with a shoe."

Khalid al-Dakhil, a Saudi university lecturer in social politics, said the incident summed up Bush's impact on the Middle East, which "will haunt this region for a long time."

"A shoe company in Hebron claimed the attack on Bush and they will give the attacker shoes all his life," runs one joke being exchanged on mobile telephones in the Gaza Strip.



This comes less than one month after a crowd in Baghdad pelted an effigy of President Bush with shoes.

This is the translation of what the Iraqi show-thrower said as he threw the shoes.

First Shoe:

This is the gift from the Iraqis this is the farewell kiss you dog.

Second Shoe:

This is from the widows, the orphans and those killed in Iraq.

Microdot said...

OPEN QUOTE
The outgoing US leader had just told reporters that while the war in Iraq was not over “it is decisively on its way to being won,” when al-Zeidi got to his feet and hurled abuse – and his footwear – at the US president.
The Iraqi reporter called Bush “a dog” and shouted out “this is the end”.
END OF QUOTE



So Bush had just issued a threat/sneer. It must be incredibly infuriating to see and feel your country in shambles around you and have the destroyers gloat in your face like that.

Dark Jaguar said...

I'm not really an absolutist pacifist, since I do subscribe to the idea of not just self defense, but defending others with violence if it's necessary, I just don't see chucking a shoe at someone as serving any goal at all.

That said, I think I should clarify one thing. I can understand where this guy was coming from. As much as I railed against the act, it was in a general sense. I get that with a background like that, this was pretty tame, and I get that there can be a lot of anger there. While I can wag my finger, and do, it's very understandable.

The same can't be said when someone promotes this as acceptable behavior for Americans to do to someone they disagree with on a regular basis, as PZ seemed to do. That's the thing I was railing against.

So to make it clear, I don't condone this and my rant was against those who suggest that this should be a regularly occuring thing for citizens to do. It's not much to slide back into the days of fist fights in congress.

As to this specific case, I don't think the guy should be restrained for more than a week and pay a small fine at the most. It ended up a very small thing in the end and it is understandable considering his background and what our president has done to that country. Forcing liberty onto people has never been as succesful as liberty being taken by a rebelling populace.

Dunc said...

Jimmy_Blue:
[Re: Give me liberty or give me death]: Are you serious? Put your money where your mouth is then. Defect to North Korea, or Iran, or China. Let us know how it goes for you. Provided you actually can.

I am fortunate in that I do not have to choose between living under tyranny or dying, and suggesting that I should throw that good fortune away in order to prove a self-evident point is just stupid. However, if those were my only available choices, I would certainly choose the former.

If the Iraqis had preferred to die rather than live under Saddam, that option was always open to them. Since they didn't commit mass suicide, I conclude that most of them preferred to live.

Is it really that radical to suggest that most people would rather live under tyranny than die?

As for your list of the horrors of life under Saddam: all true. And almost all of those things are equally true of the current regime, although the precise identity of the minorities suffering the worst oppression has changed somewhat. The situation for women in particular is now dramatically worse. So how, exactly, are things sufficiently better to justify millions of deaths? Let me say that again: MILLIONS OF DEATHS. MILLIONS. Visualise a pile of corpses the size of city. The death toll is a thousand times worse than Halabja, and it's not over yet.

Dark Jaguar: I see where you're coming from, and I pretty much agree. I'm willing to grant a lot more latitude to people living under foreign military occupation than to people living in a more-or-less functional democracy.

Jimmy_Blue said...

Dunc:

Sorry, but you missed the point completely and managed to misquote me all in one go. I was not referring simply to the quote of "give me liberty or give me death", but to the point that it is an idea espoused only by people who don't expect to die soon.

The Maquis? The German resistance? The Dutch resistance? American revolutionaries? That was my point.

I am fortunate in that I do not have to choose between living under tyranny or dying, and suggesting that I should throw that good fortune away in order to prove a self-evident point is just stupid.

If that had been what I was doing, you may have had a point.

My point was that people only think liberty is a privilege of those not in danger of dying when they have never had to live without liberty. If you think living under tyranny is not so bad if you keep your nose clean (as you claimed, not me), why don't you try it? See how easily you dismiss the benefits of "democracy" when you have to live without it.

And North Korea? Good grief. That just shows the limits of your knowledge of the scope of tyranny.

If the Iraqis had preferred to die rather than live under Saddam, that option was always open to them. Since they didn't commit mass suicide, I conclude that most of them preferred to live.

Can't quite find the words to really respond to this. I mean, you really are putting this forward as an intelligent argument? You casually dismiss the thousands (that we know of) of deaths of political activists in Iraq by saying "Hey, if the Iraqis didn't enjoy Saddam's rule they could have topped themselves. Since they didn't, they must have been content to live under him and not really cared about freedom." If it was a piss poor attempt at humour it was bad taste. If it was serious, it was simply moronic.

Is it really that radical to suggest that most people would rather live under tyranny than die?

No. However, that does not mean they want to, or they are content to, which is what you argued originally. Many did die fighting Saddam's rule, a fact you seem content to ignore as long as you can condemn Bush.

And almost all of those things are equally true of the current regime, although the precise identity of the minorities suffering the worst oppression has changed somewhat.

Source?

The situation for women in particular is now dramatically worse.

Define dramatically. And before you get on your high horse, I am aware of the horrific treatment of women in Islamic countries, I'm just curious why you think the plight of women is dramatically worse now than it was under Saddam.

So how, exactly, are things sufficiently better to justify millions of deaths? Let me say that again: MILLIONS OF DEATHS. MILLIONS.

Don't be hysterical:
Iraq Body Count = 89,892 - 98,151

Antiwar.com = 1,297,997.

In 2006 the Lancet put the figure at 655,000, but this was criticised as too high Huge gaps between Iraq death estimates

The BBC covers most of the current published figures here.

Where are your figures from? What exactly constitutes MILLIONS in the eyes of the hysterical anti-war movement nowadays?

Incidentally, if you are new to having your views of the invasion and occupation of Iraq challenged, this is the point where you can throw in some nonsense about me not caring about civilian casualties.

Visualise a pile of corpses the size of city. The death toll is a thousand times worse than Halabja, and it's not over yet.

Yes, because I must be one of those cold hearted pro-war neo-cons who doesn't think the deaths are important, and has no concept of the scale of casualties from war. Right?

And of course, Halabja was one incident, so of course it is entirely fair for you to compare that to wildly varying casualty figures taken for a 5 year old war and occupation. Why don't you compare the 5 year invasion and occupation figures to, say, the deaths of Iraqis under the Ba'athists?

A quick Google search returns a lot of articles, take this state department one:

Life under Saddam Hussein

From the article:

There have been documented chemical attacks by the regime, from 1983 to 1988, resulting in some 30,000 Iraqi and Iranian deaths.

...

Human Rights Watch estimates that Saddam's 1987-1988 campaign of terror against the Kurds killed at least 50,000 and possibly as many as 100,000 Kurds.

...

The largest was the attack on Halabja which resulted in approximately 5,000 deaths.

...

According to Human Rights Watch, "senior Arab diplomats told the London-based Arabic daily newspaper al-Hayat in October [1991] that Iraqi leaders were privately acknowledging that 250,000 people were killed during the uprisings, with most of the casualties in the south."


And they are just the deaths we know of. Not so clear cut when you can't just pick and choose your comparisons, is it? And since you point out that the occupation is still going on, why don't I point out that we could have had another 10, 15 or 20 years of Saddam's rule without the invasion. How high might the figures gone then?

So far you've given us nothing that hasn't been taken from the standard anti-war screed:

Iraq may have been a little unpleasant, but it did have good health care before 1991.

The average Iraqi was ok under Saddam as long as they didn't cause trouble.

MILLIONS have died thanks to the US led invasion.

People would rather live than resist tyranny.

And you added your own pearl:

If a population doesn't commit mass suicide, then they must be alright with living in a dictatorship.

No, I can't imagine why people use 'liberal' or 'the Left' as an insult nowadays.

But all this has raised a troubling thought in me. Why do many people now seem to hold the belief that it is ok to live in a dictatorship as long as you personally can manage to stay clean? What do these people think resistance fighters and political dissidents are doing if not fighting for liberty and risking their lives?

A further thought that develops from this is:

Just how casual have we in the West become about our freedoms that we consider them no longer worth dying for, whether for ourselves or for others?

Dunc said...

OK. ok, I don't want to drag this out into a massive argument about the war. A couple of things I do want to address:

Firstly, casualties: I was covering the entire period from the start of the first Gulf War in 1990. The IBC's "methodology" is absurd, and to rely on their figures as a meaningful estimate of total casualties is equally absurd. The UN estimate for excess deaths due to the sanctions regime is 1 million (with other estimate ranging up to 1.7 million) [can't find the primary source right now, I'm afraid, so you'll have to live with the wikipedia article), and several studies put excess deaths post-2003 at in excess of 1 million. Casualty figures for the first round (1990-91) are massively controversial, ranging from 20,000 to 200,000 military casualties and up to 200,000 civilian casualties. So, to state that the excess deaths for the entire period from 1990 to the present runs into millions does not seem unreasonable.

Now, on to the more important point: dying for freedom. My main point here is that there's a huge difference between choosing to die for freedom, and being killed because somebody else has chosen to launch a war (ostensibly) for your freedom. You want to die fighting for freedom, then good on you. You chose to kill a few hundred thousand people and claim that it's for their freedom, that's a completely different matter. You can choose to die for freedom, but you don't get to make that choice for somebody else.

As for why I "think the plight of women is dramatically worse now than it was under Saddam", that's simple: it's what they say. (Again, note that my comparison is to pre-1990 Iraq. Things did get much worse after GW1, as one might expect. War does that sort of thing.)

As for disturbing questions, I have one of my own: Why do many people now seem to hold the belief that it is OK to commit what the Nuremberg Tribunal described as "the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole", as long as you can claim you did it with the best interests of your victims at heart?

I should also note here that there is no shortage of viciously murderous tyrannies in the world, every bit as bad as Saddam's, and that many of them are our allies, just as Saddam himself was when he was gassing Halabja. I therefore submit that all this fine talk of freedom is, in fact, utter bollocks and propaganda. We (by which I mean specifically the UK/US governments, and in a wider sense all governments) chose to support or oppose specific regimes based not on any consideration of human rights or the principles of freedom, but rather based solely on realpolitik considerations of geo-strategic advantage. "We" then sugar-coat it with fine-sounding lies so that the citizens can feel good about it.

Jimmy_Blue said...

Dunc:

I was covering the entire period from the start of the first Gulf War in 1990.

Why didn't you say so then?

The IBC's "methodology" is absurd, and to rely on their figures as a meaningful estimate of total casualties is equally absurd.

Two points: Why is it absurd? And I didn't rely on them. In case you didn't notice I cited 3 different casualty figures directly, and linked to the BBC article looking at most of the current published figures.

The UN estimate for excess deaths due to the sanctions regime is 1 million

Wait, so now it is the UK/US fault that Saddam didn't comply with the UN sanctions regime requirements? That the Ba'athists, apparently with the collusion of some surprising names, abused the oil for food programme?

So, to state that the excess deaths for the entire period from 1990 to the present runs into millions does not seem unreasonable.

Sure, as long as you are absolving Saddam and his cronies of any blame. As long as you think that the UN, regardless of what you view their motives as, were wrong to demand Saddam withdraw from Kuwait. As long as you do this, you can hysterically yell that their have been MILLIONS of deaths and imply it is all down to the UK and US.

Now, on to the more important point: dying for freedom. My main point here is that there's a huge difference between choosing to die for freedom, and being killed because somebody else has chosen to launch a war (ostensibly) for your freedom. You want to die fighting for freedom, then good on you. You chose to kill a few hundred thousand people and claim that it's for their freedom, that's a completely different matter. You can choose to die for freedom, but you don't get to make that choice for somebody else.

So how exactly do you view the Allied liberation of occupied Europe? There is a huge difference between choosing or someone else choosing for you. But what if you can't choose to fight? Or you have chosen but don't have the means to fight for yourself?

As for disturbing questions, I have one of my own: Why do many people now seem to hold the belief that it is OK to commit what the Nuremberg Tribunal described as "the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole", as long as you can claim you did it with the best interests of your victims at heart?

Firstly, that wasn't stated by the Nuremberg tribunal, but by the American prosecutor Robert H Jackson. Second, the definitions and laws around wars of aggression are unfortunately too flexible, third, the Nuremberg principals have been criticised for making laws to overshadowed by the emotions of the time.

You are seriously going to argue that there can never be a justified war of aggression?

I should also note here that there is no shortage of viciously murderous tyrannies in the world, every bit as bad as Saddam's,

This is a common argument and it is irrelevant to the argument over whether or not it was right to get Saddam. Because there are lots of bad people, we shouldn't get any of them?

Incidentally, for the record, I think we should be doing a lot more to punish, reform or remove all of these tyrannical regimes.

and that many of them are our allies, just as Saddam himself was when he was gassing Halabja.

Another common anti-war argument. Also irrelevant. Because we were wrong in the past, we can't correct that or get it right in the present?

I therefore submit that all this fine talk of freedom is, in fact, utter bollocks and propaganda.

In your opinion. And do you mean my talk, or simply the governments?

We (by which I mean specifically the UK/US governments, and in a wider sense all governments) chose to support or oppose specific regimes based not on any consideration of human rights or the principles of freedom, but rather based solely on realpolitik considerations of geo-strategic advantage.

Don't disagree with that assessment. Doesn't mean we don't do the right things ever though - such as the British intervention in Sierra Leone. And doing the right things for the wrong reasons is not necessarily a bad thing.

"We" then sugar-coat it with fine-sounding lies so that the citizens can feel good about it.

Is that supposed to be a criticism of people like me who don't agree with your position? Because obviously I can't form my own opinions or examine the facts for myself. Right?

Jimmy_Blue said...

Sorry for the double post, but I didn't have much time earlier and missed a few things.

Firstly, how are the figures you count for casualties separating out those caused by Saddam's regime, and those caused by the actions of the US/UK? Do they even do so? Or do you just blame every death in Iraq from 1990 onwards on the US/UK?

Second, if you were referring to casualties from 1990 onwards, that makes your reference to millions being worse than Halabja even more absurd and dishonest. You are trying to make a point by comparing an 18 year period to a one off incident?

In reference to women's rights, I can't disagree that they have lost almost every right they had - but (and this is a point I made earlier) is this simply something you can blame on the US/UK, or does Islam have nothing to do with it? The problem with letting people choose their own leaders is you might not like those leaders and their ideology. On top of that, do you have a source yet to back up your claim that the terrors I listed from Saddam's regime are still going on?

Finally, on wars of aggression, how do you feel about the invasion of Afghanistan and the removal of the Taliban? How about the retaking of the Falkland Islands? How do you define a war of aggression? How does international law define it? Can you really think of no occassion where a war of aggression is justified?

Sorry to go on but I can't help but feel that often skeptics are great at applying critical thinking to woo, but they balk at doing so to their own politics.

Dunc said...

I was just going to let this thread die, but what the heck, it's a time for goodwill to all men, so lets try and wrap it up nicely.

Firstly, most of my uses of "you" and "we" were rhetorical. I'm not particularly trying to get at you personally, and I'm sorry if it's coming across that way. Like you, I'm just trying to make sure that you're (both personally and any rhetorical "you" reading) applying the same critical thinking to your politics as you would apply to other subjects. After all, you were the one who started out with an unnecessarily defensive reaction to my suggestion that the journalist in question might regard himself as entirely justified in "attacking" Bush, a reaction which was almost entirely unrelated to anything I had actually said. I will certainly grant that I have occasionally been overly hyperbolic in my rhetoric since then, but I think your repeated accusations of hysteria are uncalled for.

To round up:

I don't think it's at all problematic to regard the excess deaths under the sanctions regime as being largely the responsibility of of the coalition. By definition, the excess deaths are those over and above what would have been expected to occur, compared to the baseline of Saddam's previous rule. The particular design of the sanctions regime was widely criticised at the time (including by two of its own senior administrators) as having an necessarily severe effect on the ordinary people, and being fundamentally unjust. If you're going to essentially hold an entire country as hostages, you don't get to blame the guy refusing your demands when you start killing them, no matter who he is or what those demands are.

As for whether there can ever be a just war of aggression, I'm prepared to concede there may be. However, I do not think that this is it, nor is the current war in Afghanistan. The Taliban were a bunch of medieval bastards, but their opponents were (and still are) largely also a bunch of medieval bastards, and I don't think we've improved the situation there much either. War is such a terrible business, and its ultimate consequences so unpredictable, that it really is hard to see a situation where there aren't any better options outside of resisting aggression. And if you are going to engage in a war of aggression and claim that it's morally justified, it's very hard to see how you can avoid acknowledging that your opponents have a moral right to resist.

I see the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan as merely the latest parts in a long history of essentially continuous neo-colonial foreign policy on the part of both the UK and USA. That policy has always been directed above all else at geo-strategic advantage, with no concern whatsoever for the rights or lives of the people affected. We carved up the entire area when the British Empire was falling apart, setting one faction against another, alternately supporting and then opposing a whole succession of tyrants across the entire region. I see no reason to suppose that this policy has suddenly changed, that this time we really do mean the best. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me about 20 times over the course of a hundred years? I'm starting to suspect a pattern here.

Other loose ends... Claims of tyranny under the current arrangement: well, there's still no shortage of police checkpoints - they're the standard target in most bombings, frequently reported. We know that the police have been directly involved in death squads as recently as 2006, and it seems unreasonable to assume that that's completely stopped given the circumstances. The US is currently holding a large number (I've seen claims of 27,000 in total worldwide) secret prisoners, and the only real reason to keep prisoners secret is so that you can get up to all sorts of unpleasantness without the Red Cross breathing down your neck. So I don't see any moral high ground to be claimed there...

I'm prepared to admit that history may well prove me wrong, and that one day the people of Iraq will look back on the events of the last 20 years as a regrettable but necessary stage on the path to freedom. I certainly hope so. However, the history of foreign interference in the region doesn't exactly fill me with confidence. I fully expect that in 20 years time we'll be fighting another war to "liberate" them from the people we're setting up now.

Now, having hashed over most of the ground, can we agree that there is a great deal of scope for reasonable disagreement about what exactly does or not constitute a just war, that such disagreements naturally involve a great deal of emotion, and carry on with our lives? I'd really prefer not to have to write a complete book on the history of UK and US policy in the Middle East in a series of blog comments, and besides, I'm not touching the internet over the Christmas period and I doubt I'll check this thread when I get back. Merry Christmas!

Jimmy_Blue said...

Dunc:

No need to rehash UK and US history over the last 100 years, you'll get no argument from me. But there are some points I need to respond to:

After all, you were the one who started out with an unnecessarily defensive reaction to my suggestion that the journalist in question might regard himself as entirely justified in "attacking" Bush, a reaction which was almost entirely unrelated to anything I had actually said.

I think perhaps you have me confused with somebody else, particularly since I agree that the Iraqi journalist was justified in throwing his show at Bush, just not in the same way you believe he was. My first post was pointing out that the old argument of "Iraq had a great health care system before 1990" was disingenuous at best. I was responding directly to something you said.

I will certainly grant that I have occasionally been overly hyperbolic in my rhetoric since then, but I think your repeated accusations of hysteria are uncalled for.

Perhaps, but I think I demonstrated that it was more than mere hyperbole.

I don't think it's at all problematic to regard the excess deaths under the sanctions regime as being largely the responsibility of of the coalition.

Oh, so now it is excess deaths? You've moved the goal posts and provided no evidence that this can or has been determined. You made no mention of only counting excess deaths, only deaths. It was only after I pointed out how misleading this might be that you switched to excess deaths and yet you provide no real definition of this, nor do you give the figures for what might be the baseline, and what might be excess - so you are still using total figures and implying they are excess deaths.

It's hard to argue with someone when they change their position after every counter point.

If you're going to essentially hold an entire country as hostages, you don't get to blame the guy refusing your demands when you start killing them, no matter who he is or what those demands are.

Saddam could have complied, he didn't. Let me be clear in saying this does not absolve the US and UK of all responsibility, but neither does the fact that these two nations led the call for tough sanctions absolve Saddam. It's not black and white like the anti-war movement would have us believe.

However, I do not think that this is it, nor is the current war in Afghanistan. The Taliban were a bunch of medieval bastards, but their opponents were (and still are) largely also a bunch of medieval bastards, and I don't think we've improved the situation there much either.

I would argue that if either of these were, then Afghanistan certainly was a just war. Their opponents are certainly not all as bad as them, that's more oversimplification, and things have certainly improved, but going from a shit pit to a dung heap doesn't impress us much in the cozy western world.

And if you are going to engage in a war of aggression and claim that it's morally justified, it's very hard to see how you can avoid acknowledging that your opponents have a moral right to resist.

What if they are resisting on behalf of a morally unjust regime or system?

I see no reason to suppose that this policy has suddenly changed, that this time we really do mean the best.

I agree, but as I said before, sometimes the right things are done for the wrong reasons, and sometimes we certainly do intervene for the right reasons and really do mean the best.

well, there's still no shortage of police checkpoints - they're the standard target in most bombings, frequently reported.

And the reasons for those police checkpoints are ....?

We know that the police have been directly involved in death squads as recently as 2006, and it seems unreasonable to assume that that's completely stopped given the circumstances.

That story reports how the US arrested those men, how the Iraqi government launched an investigation into the death squads, how the police involved were part of an Islamic religious group (and therefore this was certainly religious rather than state sponsored political killings) and a British officer is quoted in the report as saying that they had found groups masquerading as police officers. The police force as a whole are clearly not involved. How is this similar to the state sponsored killings under Saddam, using the whole police force as a means of repression?

The US is currently holding a large number (I've seen claims of 27,000 in total worldwide) secret prisoners, and the only real reason to keep prisoners secret is so that you can get up to all sorts of unpleasantness without the Red Cross breathing down your neck.

I don't disagree that this is wrong. I have felt that the Guantanamo Bay prison was a massive mistake from the moment it was created, and I disagree very strongly with secret prisons, special rendition and all the other violations of human rights the US has committed during the 'War on Terror'. I concede that this is similar to the situation in Iraq under Saddam, but it is misleading in the sense that first, not all the prisoners are Iraqi, second they are not political prisoners in the sense that most were under Saddam, and third, they are not all being held in Iraq. Let me reiterate that it is still wrong though.

I fully expect that in 20 years time we'll be fighting another war to "liberate" them from the people we're setting up now.

Possibly so. I would argue that by then we may have developed less of a reliance on oil and we will no longer give a crap what is happening in the Middle East, unless we finally start putting our money where our mouth is over human rights.

Now, having hashed over most of the ground, can we agree that there is a great deal of scope for reasonable disagreement about what exactly does or not constitute a just war, that such disagreements naturally involve a great deal of emotion, and carry on with our lives?

Absolutely. Hope you had a good holiday period!