Friday, 13 April, 2007
It is one of the ironies of modern politics that those on both the Left and Right were both wrong about Iraq. The pro-war Right (not all of the Right was for the war, a fact that is often overlooked) didn’t sell the war as a way to fight Al Qaeda. They also didn’t sell it as exclusively about WMD. Part of the justification was Saddam’s refusal to allow UN inspectors to certify Iraq had complied with the cease-fire agreement after the Gulf War, but there was also the fact that the Iraqis were in the habit of trying to shoot down coalition aircraft enforcing the no-fly zones, in and of itself an act of war. The Saddam regime did use chemical weapons to kill some of its citizens both before and after the war. We now know from the information Libya has given us about their nuclear program that much of the funding and some of the scientists were from Iraq. From reports and books produced by the Iraqis in charge of various WMD programs, it is clear that Saddam thought he had WMD programs but was being lied to (telling Saddam something was not possible tended to be deadly, so they took the money and feathered their own nests). Also, Saddam did harbor terrorists including Abu Abbas of Achille Lauro fame and paid cash to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. He also turned the UN’s Oil-For-Food program into the world’s largest criminal enterprise, involving payment to Russian and British politicians, UN officials and skimming off tens of billions for himself while his own citizens starved. Saddam was a tyrant and international criminal and the world is better off without him.
The pro-war Right assumed that we would be greeted with ‘flowers and candy’, that it would be a quick and painless operation and we would soon have the Iraqi oil fields running at capacity. We failed to engage the Iraqi military, instead allowing them to retreat and disband into the civilian population, providing the core of the insurgency. We failed to understand the Muslim concepts war and honor, where attacks on civilian targets is seen as not only a valid tactic but the preferred on. To Western minds, this is incomprehensible, that killing your own people will lead to victory because the other side cares more for your people and country than you do. We also failed to see that we were dealing with many tribes and sects instead of a homogeneous population, ensuring out message would be misheard. Our military, trained for short and sharp conflicts of rapid movement and overwhelming firepower, was broken up into small units unable to support each other and forced to fight a static and defensive war where the enemy used civilians as human shields and increasingly used cell phones to detonate mines as we drove by. We also assumed that everyone wanted or style of democracy, not understanding that it is not a concept that divergent tribes that hate each other and that have been oppressed for decades could understand. As Orwell might have said, they understood freedom only in terms of an absence of something (he used the example of fleas in 1984, but that would of course be offensive and insulting if I used it). The Kurds want to be left alone and, for a long time, only required a force of 200 (yes, two hundred) troops to police the northern third of Iraq. The Sunnis want to retain power that they took by the sword, refused at first to participate in the government and were the first wave of terrorists and insurgents. The Shia seem heavily influenced by Iran, want revenge for decades of suppression and now support the second wave of terrorists and insurgents. None particularly wanted to be in the same country as the other two groups, so it would have made sense to divide the country as it wasn’t really a country until Churchill drew it (literally) at the end of World War One.
Part of the problem with the war is that the facts quite often fail to be facts. Many of the news services use native stringers or reporters and they have occasionally been found to be working with insurgents or terrorists. Several months ago, we were told that several mosques had been set on fire and worshipers had been drug out and killed. It turns out that this didn’t happen and the person that had given dozens of reports didn’t actually exist, although there was a delightful series of reports from the wire service that the person existed under this name or this name or this name and one of the people they claimed to be their source flat out denied it. Four out of five bombings and murders takes place within fifty miles of Baghdad, leaving the rest of the country safer than Afghanistan. Also, under the rules of engagement and media, an IED that is discovered and disarmed counts as a failure for the US. The situation in Iraq is horrible, true, but the casualty rate is far lower than that of World War Two.
One of the great Left cries of the war was that it was for oil. Bush and Cheney were going to invade the friendly state of Iraq and take all the oil. Well, there’s less oil coming out of Iraq than before the war, something that is odd considering how the we came to steal oil. Recently the first large postwar oil contracts were given out… to China and India. Iraq had not spend significant money on improving their oil industry’s infrastructure in decades, long before the first Gulf War, and terrorists were very successful in disabling much of the system at the beginning of the occupation. It seems the oil companies that were waiting to take over didn’t have any spare parts or pipelines laying around and have been unable to diagnose the problem, something that you would expect oil companies to be good at. So… they were cunning enough to trick Saddam into not complying with any of the demands of the UN cease-fire or the dozen UN resolutions because they wanted to get in and steal that oil but, simultaneously, they were utterly incompetent and had no idea that oil can’t be pulled out of the ground with big straws and carried across the desert in buckets. Some of these Leftists claimed that the invasion of Afghanistan was to allow a huge oil pipeline to be made connecting the Caspian oil fields to the US market. Because, of course, terrorists would never think of blowing up a pipe full of highly flammable liquid under immense pressure. And after six years, there’s no sign of the pipeline being built.
It used to be that when mistakes were made, people actually studied what went wrong and learned from them. With our hyper-politicized culture, no one can admit to any sort of mistake or miscalculation because it would mean the other side could make it look like a mistake was made. Both sides made errors and misjudgments but are afraid to explore what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again. We will be dealing with tinpot dictators in the future that are trying to obtain WMD, but we aren’t asking what we did wrong in gathering intel or running non-proliferation programs and are also failing to ascertain what deters and what doesn’t. It appears that our military will be going into third-world countries run by those tinpot dictators and occupying them for several years while we attempt to rebuild shattered infrastructure and incubate democracies, noble goals, certainly, but we haven’t gotten it right yet and we don’t seem to be wondering how to do it. Do we invade with a far stronger initial force or bring in a larger and less heavily armed group later? Are we better served performing humanitarian functions such as building schools and sewers or do we provide security by crushing militias? Do we need to change the military itself into a smaller and more elite fighting force with a large Peace Corps-like division? Should the military invest in hundreds of small power generators and first provide services to the areas that support us or should we attempt to repair and upgrade the often archaic and poorly-designed systems already in place? These are important questions that aren’t being asked because of fear that people that never agree will… not agree.
Try to imagine Pelosi, Kerry and Reid congratulating the Bush administration’s handling of something. Doesn’t matter what, just try to imagine it. Now try to imagine Cheney shaking the hand of Hillary Clinton and thanking her for her leadership in something. Imagine an editorial in the New York Times or Washington Times stating the paper was utterly wrong concerning an issue. If you’re laughing or unable to imagine such a thing, you’re at the right blog and, alas, in the wrong time and place for unity. If you sputtered and yelled at the computer screen, well, you might be in government. Get out. Now. 🙂
Tuesday, 10 April, 2007
In Orwell’s essay, Why I Write, there is a poem about how the times forced him to become political instead of being a writer of pleasant and descriptive novels. While it is certainly dated (does anyone know who Eugene Aram is or why Duggie always pays, at least without googling?), there are lines that speak to me such as:
It is forbidden to dream again;
We maim our joys or hide them:
Horses are made of chromium steel
And little fat men shall ride them.
as well as
I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls,
And woke to find it true;
I wasn’t born for an age like this;
Was Smith? Was Jones? Were you?
I am of a certain age, my mid-thirties, and I don’t remember the Vietnam War at all and only a few bits of the Carter Administration (disco and defeat, mostly). Reagan was the president of my clindhood, much as FDR was the president of my grandparents. I remember increasing confidence in America and the weakening of the Soviet Union and Communism in general, to the point that the Berlin Wall fell as I was starting college. We had a few short and sharp military actions in Panama and Kuwait that went well and it truly felt like the end of history, or at least the end of frightening and important history. We had a decade where we worried about the Presidential Penis and the Republican Party pretty much cut off its conservative wing in favor of pro-big business and pro-big government regulation of those that couldn’t afford lobbyists. Democrats pushed Political Correctness and celebrated diversity of everything but thought. Heck, in 2000, I voted for Ralph Nader, hoping to help create a viable third party.
Then 9/11 happened. Nineteen people reminded us of the fact history still happened. At first, the world, or at least the parts we could find on a world map, were with us and politics took a back seat to security. Many of us were expecting a unified America like the ones we saw in old war movies and the History Channel. Instead, the Left almost immediately started saying we had to talk to terrorists to understand why they hated us so. Various reasons, such as the Crusades or that America was responsible for failed British and French colonialism, were bandied about and I felt myself, a former member of the World Federalists and a social worker, disgusted with my own side. I lost decade-old friendships because I was questioning whether or not Islam and the West were compatible. I supported the Iraq War not because of WMDs but because I felt it was the last chance for the UN to be relevant, to actually do something besides condemn Israel for responding to constant terrorist attacks. Of course we now know the predictions of the Bush Administration (flowers and candy?) were foolish and we allowed the Iraqi army to disperse instead of defeating it, helping to create the backbone of the Sunni insurgency. My few remaining liberal friends started ranting on a regular basis (and with increasing volume) that it was a War For Oil and that the whole thing was a setup for Halliburton to make money. Although I didn’t remember the 1960’s radical and anti-war movements, it started to feel like a bad acid flashback from that era.
Once I started questioning the liberal viewpoint, I found that there weren’t many facts attached to it and it relied mainly on shouted slogans and a media that seemed to have a blatant liberal bias. There was also the beginning of an alliance between the more radical Left (pro-gay, pro-women’s empowerment) and Muslim interests (pro-gay-murder, pro-female genital mutilation) that still amazes me (in a real Sharia, the Left’d be the first to go). Conservatives, whom I had always assumed were racist Bible-thumpers, turned out to have a vibrant intellectual community and were much more articulate, person for person, than the Leftist community. So in 2004, I voted for Bush.
George Orwell was a socialist that eventually came to be the greatest critic of the Left; in 1984, the movement that produced Big Brother was ‘Ingsoc’, or English Socialism. He still believed in the ideals of democratic socialism but felt they had been corrupted by those that wanted to win more than they wanted to do right. While fighting for the Anti-fascists in the Spanish Civil War, Orwell found himself in the cross-hairs of the Communists who decided to purge (via the rifle and the grenade) non-Communists in the middle of the war. Much of the things he said against the Left in the late 1930’s and through World War Two could be said against the current Leftist movement. One of the most offensive trends to Orwell was the corruption and weakening of the English language. He even coined a term, duckspeak, to describe speech that relied on stringing political phrases together and required no actual thought.
I am starting this blog for several reasons. First, I love to write, to think, to discuss. Ideas excite me and a free and honest discussion is something I’m hoping for. Second, I miss being a Democrat. My former party, the party of Truman and JFK, has been taken over by whiners and duckspeakers and those willing to let soldiers die as long as it suits a political agenda. I want my party back and I will raise my voice against those that dishonor my former party and whore it out for momentary triumphs. Third, I’m hoping to develop some of the clarity of thought and elegance of prose Orwell was so rightly famous for. Writing is often painful, hard work, but having written, though, that is glorious. Let’s begin.