Shifting Sands

Domestic anti-war sentiment is lessening as the war progresses. According to a radio report I caught today, polls showed around 67% support for military action in Iraq two days ago. But by this afternoon, that figure had risen to 77%. So 10% of people feel better about invasion now that it’s begun. There are a lot of reasons for this I can see — U.S. forces seem to be doing a good job of keeping civilian injuries very low, and we’re hearing more about Iraqis dancing in the streets to celebrate their liberation from Saddam. Here’s the bit (UPI) that really made me sit up:

A group of American anti-war demonstrators who came to Iraq with Japanese human shield volunteers made it across the border today with 14 hours of uncensored video, all shot without Iraqi government minders present. Kenneth Joseph, a young American pastor with the Assyrian Church of the East, told UPI the trip “had shocked me back to reality.” Some of the Iraqis he interviewed on camera “told me they would commit suicide if American bombing didn’t start. They were willing to see their homes demolished to gain their freedom from Saddam’s bloody tyranny. They convinced me that Saddam was a monster the likes of which the world had not seen since Stalin and Hitler. He and his sons are sick sadists. Their tales of slow torture and killing made me ill, such as people put in a huge shredder for plastic products, feet first so they could hear their screams as bodies got chewed up from foot to head.”

The liberation angle was not part of the discussion for most of the months leading up to war. Bush talked about WMD and disarmament, terrorism, etc. He only started playing the liberation card late in the game. And when it did come up, the left would respond that Iraqis had not requested U.S. or U.N. assistance in dealing with Saddam. But now that it’s clear that Iraqis welcome U.S. soldiers, the right gets to take credit for liberation, while the left has to deal with the fact that we’ve been actively resisting efforts to take out a brutal dictator, even if for good reasons.

It was during the 2nd SF protest that I first began to ask myself just how brutal a dictator Saddam would have to be for me (and others on the left) to become convinced that this might be a just war after all. Have your sentiments about this war changed since it began?

Music: Big Star :: I Come and Stand at Every Door

10 Replies to “Shifting Sands”

  1. IMHO – The left needs to stop protesting against the war and start playing watchdog. This war can be changed from an unjust war to a just one if we ensure that it is a primary goal of the campaign to liberate Iraq, and assist the formation of democracy and free determination of the Iraqi people. If the left does not “step up” to this task it risks becoming irrelevant in the near-future debate.

    Unfortunately it seems to me, it is the worst nightmare of many people on the Left that Bush might succeed in forming a democracy in Iraq. It would not just legitimize his tactics up to this point but de-legitimize the tactics and thought of the Left.

    It?s certainly a pickle to be in. Do we help (ensure) that Bush succeed (success being defined as Iraqi Democracy), or do we throw a temper-tantrum and ignore the opportunity that can come from disaster? We cannot afford to ignore the great opportunity that presents itself just because that opportunity will also allow Bush, and his associates, might have ulterior motives.

    If the war is because of Bush’s failure to live up to diplomacy, a lack of democracy in post-war Iraq will be because of the Left’s failure to live up to our own principles. But, are we willing to possibly let Bush get credit for our pressure and work? He might get it without our work, too…

  2. This reminds of an editorial written by an kurdish Iraqi living in exile, and published a couple of weeks ago on zeit.de (the online edition of the newspaper “Die Zeit”).

    The author did relate some examples of the atrocities committed by Saddam’s regime, and in essence the article argued that taking down Saddam would be a good thing regardless of the exact reasons for doing so.

  3. Dang, Larry – thanks for pointing that out. Now I find myself wanting 3rd party confirmation of the story of the returned shields. If anyone sees this somewhere else, do let us know.

    Helen Thomas resigned because of it? She’s stead as a tank. Amazing.

  4. A more reliable source on Iraq –

    A series of PBS Frontline specials:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/longroad/

    “The War Behind Closed Doors” is an amazing documentary that is a nice overview on the war between Rumsfeld/Wolfawitz and Powell (and how Powell lost) over Iraq.

    “The Mind of Hussein” is most likely what your looking for. It chronicles how he works, how he thinks.

    Lots of other goodies there, too.

    As always, there are going to be people in Iraq who love us and who hate us. Its up to the media to broadcast both, but we’ll most likely only get focus on the former. The latter will be ignored or squelched.

    I do find it hard to believe that Iraqis would not be happy to see Saddam go, however, knowing hardship is sometimes more comforting than the unknown…

  5. The point is not whether Saddam is a barbaric, evil dictator — he clearly is, and everyone can agree on that. To frame the question as such is to buy the Bush administration’s sleight-of-hand posturing that this is a war about the liberation of the Iraqi people.

    Many of us will be shocked if this administration’s claimed goal of bringing (non-theocratic) democracy to Iraq truly takes root in a few years, after the military campaign ends.

    Let’s move beyond the question of “Is Saddam a terrible tyrant?” to questions such as:

    How legitimate will any US-installed government be in Iraq?

    How will the US put the pieces together (Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds) in a way to assure freedom for them all?

    How does the US justify toppling a repressive regime in Iraq while leaving intact repressive regimes in Iran, Burma, Syria, Kurdistan, North Korea, and on and on and on?

  6. mrgrape, excellent URL – thanks for that. Will have to digest some of that when the smoke clears around here a bit.

    JD, you’re absolutely right – the proof will be in the pudding, i.e. the viability of whatever happens next. A friend recently sent a list of countries the U.S. had bombed since WWII and not one of them currently had a democratic government in place. History seems to show that the technique just doesn’t work.

  7. “How does the US justify toppling a repressive regime in Iraq while leaving intact repressive regimes in Iran, Burma, Syria, Kurdistan, North Korea, and on and on and on?”

    One possible answer is: you have to start somewhere.

    But of course that leaves the US between Scylla and Charybdis: if they do not go on and attack the other countries, they are dishonest and the Iraq campaign was never about liberty. If they do go on, they are an imperialist country vying to take over the world.

  8. I’m a lefty Dem and have been back and forth over the legitimacy of the war on Iraq. I’ve never questioned whether S. Hussein deserved to be dethroaned–there’s ample evidence of his brutality and oppression. My objection to the Bush administration’s tactics include:

    -Strong-arming our allies in public
    -“You’re with us or against us” mentality
    -unilateralism
    -not using war as a last resort
    -inept, counter-productive diplomacy
    -publicy denigrating our allies and the UN
    -it is obvious they chose war over other means a long time ago

    I’m sure I could go on. The arrogance and entitlement displayed by this administration is astonishing. Listening to Tony Blair, I could be swayed. Never by Bush. He didn’t answer one question during his press conference before the war began. Bush never tried to appeal to the nation. He only kept telling us believed he had to disarm Iraq. Freeing the people of Iraq was an afterthought. The administration is full of Cold War relics who are trying to finish the Cold War by expanding capitalism now that there is no Soviet Union to stand in their way.

    Lefties calling Bush a fascist and so on do themselves a disservice, however. Even as Bush is simple-minded and single-purposed, and as he and Ashcroft are doing their best to infringe upon our privacy and rights, there is a world of difference between a Hussein and a Bush.

  9. Other good linkage –

    Salon has been putting out some great articles recently. Below is an excerpt from an opinion piece that I really liked. Its challenges the standard arguements that the Left has thus far made against the war in Iraq, questioning whether we should support it, but not necessarily on Bush’s terms.

    Salon has been doing this a lot recently – not walking the leftist line, but rather gently challenging those who are knee-jerk reactionaries (and lefty loyalists) to think things through a little more carefully.

    An early extract from the article and the link:

    See no evil
    Progressives have lots of arguments against the war on Iraq — some of them compelling. But why aren’t they burning to free Saddam’s oppressed masses?

    On balance, though, the left in America and Europe has come down strongly against the war. And in protest marches, antiwar advertising and local arts events, the evidence leaves one to wonder whether this highly visible bloc of the left has weighed these issues — weighed life by life the repression of the 24 million Iraqis who live in a ruthless police state, not to mention the thousands or tens of thousands who have been imprisoned without trial, tortured, exiled or killed. Instead, it sometimes seems that the left is so averse to war, especially war waged by America, that it is prepared to turn a blind eye to even the most ghastly realities. Perhaps it is because the left no longer sees these realities that its antiwar arguments tend to justify continuation of the status quo.

    That, too, is a form of paralysis. But it is emblematic of an evolution in leftist values that has occurred so gradually over a period of decades that the profound nature of the shift is often not noticed. Today, the political counterculture and the antiwar movement in the West often seem to be one and the same. Instead of fighting fascists or other genocidal tyrants as it might have during the Spanish Civil War or World War II or even during the Central American conflicts of the 1980s, the modern left fights war; because the United States is the world’s most significant military agent, and because it has so often used military power to support anti-democratic governments, the left understandably fights the United States. Such opposition to war is reflexive, and too often outweighs its outrage on behalf of the oppressed. Its capacity for the kind of muscular empathy that leads to action has atrophied, leaving only the possibility of reaction, of opposition. The antiwar left does not mount massive protests against China, Pakistan or Egypt. Millions do not pour into the streets on behalf of the student-led democracy movement in Iran. And Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are not angrily compared to Hitler — that treatment is more often reserved for George W. Bush.

    More

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