Our perverted Iraq policy
once said in a speech that the mistreatment of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison expressed the “essence” of the U.S. policy in Iraq. Meaning that the essence of our involvement in Iraq is to subject Iraqis to sexual humiliation. Well, that was a statement by a demented America-hating loon. But here is something that really does express the perverted essence of our involvement in Iraq. As Diana West writes
, last year, early in the surge, an elite U.S. Army sniper squad was hiding out in insurgent-controlled territory south of Baghdad when it captured an al Qaeda sympathizer. The man was obviously going to inform al Qaeda about the squad’s whereabouts if it released him. Facing a desperate choice, the squad’s commander ordered Sgt. Evan Vela to kill the man, and he did so, and the squad ultimately returned safely to base. Vela was then tried and convicted of murder and sentenced to ten years in prison, in a trial that took place not in the U.S. but in Iraq after his division had returned home.
Why does Sgt. Vela’s story express the essence of our involvement in Iraq? Because we have invested our country’s wealth, prestige, energies, and the lives and limbs of our young men in helping a country whose people are not our friends, but our unappeasable enemies; indeed, they are ordered by their god to be our enemies. We put our soldiers in life-threatening situations where, if they kill enemy sympathizers in order not to be killed themselves, they will be sentenced to prison as murderers, based on the false, neoconservative assumption (the same assumption guiding our entire Iraq policy) that the Iraqis are just regular folks, like us, desiring to live under “democracy,” like us.
And this perverted situation connects to a still larger perversion, which is that even if we achieved “success” and “victory” in Iraq (which I’ve said for the last five years that we do not even theoretically have a plan to achieve), it would still gain our country nothing. How would it help us, in our confrontation with resurgent Islam, to have transformed Iraq into a stable, sharia-based, Shi’ite ruled country hostile to everything we stand for? Yet this massive outpouring of our nation’s best energies, which, even given the best possible outcome, can do nothing for us but only harms us, has been defined by “patriotic conservatives” as the supreme patriotic cause of our lifetimes, which we must “win” at all costs. And that is perverted.
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CN, a long-time liberal acquaintance and occasional VFR reader, writes:
I was impressed that years ago (I didn’t know it was five), you realized we had no plan for victory or success in Iraq. Turns out, there were people who more than five years ago realized there was no such thing as victory or success in the then-proposed misadventure. Those people were at the time called things ranging from naive to blasphemous to treasonous. They were right. They were, I suspect, mostly on the left-end of the political spectrum. You know, “liberals.” Those people, who were right, have never received an apology from those who were dead wrong. Indeed, to this day, some of them are called “demented America-hating loons.”
Your headline reminds me of something I’ve noticed myself, but don’t think I’ve ever heard or read elsewhere. It’s about the success of the surge—which we heard this week from Petraeus/Crocker, then Bush, is no such thing, but rather an escalation. Put aside the issue of whether “success” means reduction of violence vs. the political progress we were told when it was announced. If you add, to a small area, 30K of the best trained and equipped soldiers that history has ever known, if the level of violence didn’t decrease, you’d be shocked. Most everyone agreed, Yes, the level of violence is down, so the surge was successful if that’s your definition of success.
But didn’t the reduction in violence coincide with the Mahdi Army cease-fire? (Yes, maybe they cease-fired bec of the presence of the add’l service people; can’t address that now.) The point is, they unceased firing. This led to a buffoonish demonstration of the Iraqi gov’t”s incompetence and independence from—really, the rejection of—the “help” the U.S. is supposedly offering to the Iraqi gov’t.
Let me skip a few steps to get to the end more quickly: our decisions about how long the U.S. must have surged or enhanced or escalated … or baseline, or reduced, or ANY … military presence in Iraq is dependent upon the whim of a pre-medieval cleric who was never elected by anyone; whose view and knowledge of Islam is his own; whose understanding of auslanders is lower than everyone’s except the people who started this war; who can’t look into the eye of anyone he is talking to; who depends upon support and aid from Iran. If he snaps his fingers (at least until his own followers decide to abandon him, which they will for another bozo), there’s fighting in Basra, proving that the “gains” theretofore figmented by the Imam are fragile and reversible, so we have to stay in Iraq with extra numbers for so many more months. Whether American servicemen are in harm’s way depends on one idiot in the desert.
So yes, as I mentioned above, I’m shocked.
You write: “I was impressed that years ago (I didn’t know it was five), you realized we had no plan for victory or success in Iraq.”
It was 4 1/2 years ago, starting on September 10 2003, that I began saying that we had no plan to win in Iraq. This present post is dated April 11, 2008, one day over four and a half years from September 10, 2003. So, ironically, I was just barely justified in rounding it off to five years.
You write: “there were people who more than five years ago realized there was no such thing as victory or success in the then-proposed misadventure. Those people were at the time called things ranging from naive to blasphemous to treasonous.”
This is false. People were not called treasonous for saying we could not win. They were called treasonous for attacking the United States, for denying its good faith in its concern about Iraq, for speaking about the U.S. administration as though it were the enemy, and for taking the side of countries that at the time were acting as America’s enemies, particularly France, which had stabbed us in the back in the UN and was actively campaigning against us in an attempt to humiliate and hamstring us.
Most fundamentally, people on the left were called treasonous for attacking the proposed U.S. occupation of Iraq as evil fascist imperialism, which they did then and have done ever since. Then and now, these leftists have described Bush’s policy of spreading democracy to Muslims as “fascist.” They did not oppose Bush’s policy because they thought it wasn’t realistic; they opposed it because they said Bush was evil, and because, with the exception of the U.S. invason of Afghanistan coming right after 9/11, they oppose any use of U.S. power to defend Ameican security and interests abroad.
There were people who argued, more modestly, that it was wrong to launch a pre-emptive war. Such people were not called treasonous. The people who were called treasonous were people who attacked the United States.
Second, when people said we couldn’t win, they were saying that we would be unable to topple the Hussein regime, that our military forces would be defeated. They were wrong. Our forces defeated the Hussein regime in three weeks.
These people were not saying: “The U.S. will be able to topple the Hussein regime, but then it will be be unable to bring about a stable successor government and be stuck in Iraq for years.” They argued that the U.S. invasion force would be pinned down and defeated.
On the surge, I have said from the start of the surge that of course if we increased our forces and kept them in each area that they had cleaned out, that this would reduce the violence. I also have said over and over that as soon as the surge ended, the same problems would reappear again. There were however a lot of people on the left including Democratic presidential candidates who argued that the surge would not even succeed in reducing violence.
Bill Carpenter writes:
Strong stuff. I will have to check out the Vela story. Why wasn’t military necessity a complete defense? It sounds like we have not yet learned one of the lessons of Vietnam, not to hinder our military with rules of engagement that are incompatible with the realities of war.
Steven Warshawsky writes:
Absolutely right. I am increasingly frustrated by this misguided mess in Iraq. Here we are fighting, dying, and spending billions of dollars in Iraq—for what, exactly?—while we and our European allies continue to let Muslims immigrate en masse into our countries, establish their own mosques, schools, and community centers, and openly advocate the overthrow of our free, humane, Christian societies. Even the “War on Terror” stalwarts (including most establishment Republicans and conservative commentators) are either unable, or refuse, to acknowledge the true nature and scope of the Islam problem. (Hence they continue to use the absurd term “Islamists.”) I fear we are exhausting ourselves in the wrong fight, while “ordinary” Muslims—who are as hostile to our civilization as the most committed communist ever was—are streaming into our country unimpeded. No good can come of this.
Chris B. writes:
You write: “Al Gore once said in a speech that the mistreatment of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison expressed the “essence” of the U.S. policy in Iraq. Meaning that the essence of our involvement in Iraq is to subject Iraqis to sexual humiliation.”
I’ve been thinking about Al Gore’s comment and I believe it contains the germ of an important point.
In my opinion the way a country conducts torture tends to reflect its values, and often its very highest values. For instance, the Japanese in World War 2 believed their enemies were no better than animals and treated them accordingly—from forced labour to vivisection—for at the centre of the Japanese world view was of course the belief in Japanese racial superiority—bolstered by a sort of Darwinian belief that might makes right. The Nazi Germans highly valued hygiene and efficiency. The diabolical efficiency and cleanliness of the holocaust is instructive is in this regard. Finally the Arab methods of torture I have observed to be crude, brutal, and unimaginative. They are limited mainly to physical beating. I wonder if this stems from a phallic and narcissistic desire in Arabs for others to regard them as vital and powerful?
In the case of Abu Ghraib, my opinion is that the American torturers chose to sexually humiliate those men in a homosexual manner because they know (or at least believe) that generally Arabs are old fashioned in their attitude towards homosexuality. This can be contrasted with the proud post 60’s sexually liberated America—the America that believes itself the universal model for all humanity—where “homophobia” is a crime and “homophobes” themselves are baited as loathsome psychologically and sexually repressed cretins begging to come out the closet. Could it be possible that this habit of thinking lead to Abu Ghraib? For in Abu Ghraib the “homophobes” were encouraged to simulate homosexual sex with one another so as to turn their loathsome prejudice against themselves? And could it be possible that the infamous Cultural Marxist slogan (which I believe was coined by Herbert Marcuse) “make love not war” lead indirectly to Abu Ghraib? If Americans were still as opposed to Sodomy today as they were 50 years ago would Abu Ghraib have happened?
Face it: the conservatives are also influenced by left wing liberalism (that is their religion). This has been the downfall of many empires.Go back to the Greeks who for philosophical reasons (that was their religion) decided that only one child per family was the to be the accepted thing. In the end they did not have enough soldiers to hold the many territories the captured.They were forced to use the local population to manage those states however those chosen for those “good jobs” had to act and dress as the Greeks.The rest of the story we read in school but fail to comprehend.
Larry, if there is only one sane guy left standing it is you.And I worry that you should not cave in. Oh yes there is one more but he is on serious medication.
Some on the left said some of the things you ascribe to them, some on the right said some of the things you ascribed to them. But during the drumbeat to war, there is no question that some people said it was folly to try to supplant Hussein or occupy Iraq, for the same reasons used by George Bush, Dick Cheney and Colin Powell in 1991. In two words: “Then what?” By now, we’ve come a long, sad way in beginning to learning “then-what.” Look back, Larry. The other George Bush and the same Dick Cheney and loads of administration hacks and enablers called people with those views naive, weak and traitorous. There was an attempt, hugely successful, to stiffle all dissent, and not just by force of argument. There were concerted efforts to have lapel-pin Americans think that war doubters and objectors were stupid and unpatriotic for expressing disagreement or doubt, regardless of the merits. Other “lefties” may have said other things and may have been called those or other names. There are people who accurately predicted in 2002 and 2003 what would happen if we invaded. The people in power or with influence who made personal attacks—and who were tragically wrong about what would happen—have never apologized. So respectfully, Larry, you can make whatever points you want about what some other people said back then. You can even be right or wrong about it. I frankly don’t know what your position was pre-invasion or what personal attacks you may (or may not) have levelled against some skeptics. But my statement, contrary to your three-word sentence, is not false.
“[D]uring the drumbeat to war, there is no question that some people said it was folly to try to supplant Hussein or occupy Iraq, for the same reasons used by George Bush, Dick Cheney and Colin Powell in 1991. In two words: ‘Then what?’ … The other George Bush and the same Dick Cheney and loads of administration hacks and enablers called people with those views … traitorous.”
This is a false and baseless statement. No one was ever called traitorous simply for asking what we would do with Iraq after occupying it.
“There was an attempt, hugely successful, to stiffle all dissent…”
That is an absurd and fantastical statement. Far from legitimate criticisms from the left being suppressed, the leftist demonization of the Bush adminstration proceeded unhindered then and up to the present.
Josh F. writes:
CN claims to have foretold the disastrous consequences of this war before it ever started. Likewise, we are to believe that his pre-war predictions have matured to reality. But what was the basis of his predictions? Have his predictions played out? And why were those like him labeled unpatriotic?
First, on the indices of war, such as American casualties, civilian deaths, refugees, cost, etc., those on the left opposing the war were far off the mark in their predictions versus reality. Furthermore, their predictions were devoid of substance. Why would we fail in Iraq? I have yet to hear a leftist claim that the failure in Iraq would be a failure of an Islamic people to embrace a foreign doctrine called democracy. I never heard a leftist predict massive bloodletting between fellow Muslims as a legitimate tactic of war. I never heard a leftist predicting the beheading of civilians by Islamic jihadists shown on YouTube.
All I did hear were leftists predicting the war to be a failure because it was illegal. Then we heard the “No WMDs” and “No ties to terrorist” soundbite over and over again. These slogans were the closest the left got to explicitly rebutting the original casus belli. Yet they look as silly now as they did before the war even commenced. So what was the basis for CN’s predictions? Those on the left treated the casus belli for the war as mere fantasy … a concoction … an evil plot. The idea that the casus belli was certainly plausible and hence legitimate, especially after 9/11, was mocked and ridiculed, as exemplified by the anti-war slogans. It is whence such characters as CN earned their unpatriotic label, of which they now indignantly complain.
Josh F. will, I think, have to admit that I nowhere in my comment did I take credit for having been right. I said some people were, and that those people are entitled to have the people who were wrong acknowledge that they were wrong.
My point—my minor point—was that some people questioned the invasion for one of the reasons the Bush I team did not take Baghdad in 1991. There would be little way to know what would follow, and even littler ability to affect, much less control, it. It really wasn’t incumbent on critics, Josh, to predict with accuracy the exact ways in which terrible things would follow a mistake, though many people came pretty close.
Why was it predictable that five years on, Iraq would be the mess it’s in? Well, for starters, let’s remember that Iraq is in the mess it’s in. A better question would be, Why would those who brought us this war have any reason to predict any other outcome? There’s a pretty deafening silence about that … now. At the time, of course, they had lots of reasons to predict the flowering of a Western-loving democracy that would spread throughout the Middle East. Let’s hear from those who turned out to be wrong, and who had the power to drag the rest of us with them, explain why they were wrong. That’d be a much better use of the space of this blog—or anywhere—than for the people who were right to explain why they were.
This, of course, is aside from some things that war-makers have never explained away, much less apologized for ignoring. There’s that history thing. For instance, where’s the dependable history of any genuine democracy among religious Islamic countries? Where’s the dependable history of democracy ever having successfully been installed at the point of a gun. Where’s the first “country” that was shot-gunned together by outside forces that has survived the demise of a strong-man to hold the country together. (Josh, don’t you remember people saying in 2003, “Remember Yugoslavia?” If all you heard was that the war was illegal, you simply weren’t listening. Or if you were, it was only within a shell you built for yourself, so that you heard about what the objectors said from the true-believers.)
But now you’ve got me spending more time on a minor point. Will we get a response to my major point? If we take it that Petreaus and Crocker are giving us their unvarnished, complete opinions, then the number of U.S. troops in Iraq is dependent on whether al-Sadr decides to stop fighting and can keep control over his “army.” (Of course they don’t say it that way, but that’s what they’re saying, upon which the decider-in-chief is acting.) What about the fact that we have built a foreign and military policy that forms major American policies, actions and commitments around the whim of unelected boneheads with a temporary violent following? The world will never lack for unelected boneheads with violent followings. Could someone who supports this administration please explain how we ever extricate ourselves from these kinds of messes if we subject ourselves to such outside control.
Or, admit that we can’t. And at least apologize and stop digging us in deeper. This is turning out to be an odd conversation, since it started with agreeing with you that we have a perverted Iraq policy.
Let’s hear from those who turned out to be wrong, and who had the power to drag the rest of us with them, explain why they were wrong. That’d be a much better use of the space of this blog—or anywhere—than for the people who were right to explain why they were.
In making these arguments, CN is in line with an obsessive theme of this website over several years. I don’t think there are many people, this side of irrationaliy, who have criticized Bush and his supporters over the Iraq policy as strongly and repeatedly as I have. I supported the invasion, for what I thought were purposes of national defense. I’ve opposed everything else about the Iraq policy.
Van Wijk writes:
Regarding Sgt. Vela’s conviction for murder, this zero-tolerance, second-guessing-of-every-action policy is one of the reasons I accepted an early discharge from the Army and later swore an oath never again to take up arms on behalf of the state as it now exists. I wonder how many troops have died because in the backs of their minds they thought “If I shoot this guy, I might go to prison.”
Chris B. said: “If Americans were still as opposed to sodomy today as they were 50 years ago would Abu Ghraib have happened?”
Acceptance of homosexuality within enlisted military culture is virtually non-existent. The flippant accusation of homosexuality is one of the staples of military hazing and jocularity, and not just by the lower ranks. One of my old First Sergeants was very fond of referring to my unit as a “bunch of faggots” whenever we did something that was not to his liking.
Lastly, from what CN has written in this post I believe he may suffer from Monolith Syndrome, as I described here.
Mark P. writes:
What started the Iraq war was Saddam Hussein’s violation of UN resolutions and his interference with UN weapons inspections. Saddam had a deadline by which to comply, he didn’t…voila…we invaded.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 11, 2008 06:30 AM | Send
I remember those on the left disingenuosly arguing that we should give the UN weapons inspectors “more time.”