See No Evil

I no longer carry the fullest conviction that this is an unjust war. People left a lot of very good comments in a post from a few days ago, Shifting Sands. Especially a pointer from mrgrape to a Salon piece titled See No Evil, about the paradox of the left’s opposition to this war. Salon is a bastion of the left, but is asking some very difficult mirror-gazing questions here.

As one watches protest marches, antiwar advertising and local arts events, one has to wonder whether the left has really weighed the moral issues posed by the horrors of Saddam’s regime — 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. 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.

Worth the read. Worth subscribing even, though Salon is allegedly on its last financial breath.

We attended the first two SF protests against invasion in the months leading up to war. But once war began, it became difficult to see what protesting could possibly accomplish. And the more it became apparent how Iraqi citizens were generally joyous at the prospect of liberation from Saddam, the harder it was to feel unequivocally opposed to this war. My question now is, do protesters really believe that Iraqis and the world as a whole would be better off if we just pulled out, brought our soldiers home, and left everything as it is? If you can’t answer yes to that question, then why are you still protesting?

17 Replies to “See No Evil”

  1. but you still can’t trust the motives of this administration. it’s like all those legislative bill riders — you wan’t $10 billion for education? sure, it’s in senate bill A14356. just ignore those lines about cutting corporate taxes by 50% and gutting the NEA…

    just pulled this off
    Now, after the war started, it seems there are not just political but also financial reasons for Mr. Cheney’s strong support for the raids on Iraq. When it comes to making money from a war in Iraq, few can match the firepower of the company once headed by Dick Cheney, Reuters reported.

    Houston-based Halliburton Co. can build roads and bridges and camps for US forces. It can transport personnel and provide other logistics. And after the war, assuming a U.S. victory, it can help restore Iraq’s infrastructure and oil production.

    At the same time, the company’s oilfield services business, which is second only to Schlumberger Ltd., is likely to supply most of the heavy equipment to fight fires in oil wells and oil fields.

    And should the U.S. emerge victorious, Halliburton — which develops oil fields and drills for oil all over the world — has the connections and businesses to play a major role in “rebuilding” Iraq.

    you’re right – it’s not just about oil.

  2. It’s not about oil. It’s about vested interests. Who benefits by this war. Don’t answer quickly.

    Protestors are a mixed bunch, that’s democracy. What many of are saying is Bush and Co. are not setting a good example on how to use power, to quote Demond Tutu

    I don’t know if one can impugn the entire nebulous left at being uninterested in the “liberation” of oppressed Iraqis, although many of us are reflexive.

    That being said, we should not comfort ourselves w/ the thought that a war is for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

    In all situations involving mixed motivation there is a mix of positive and negative result. Without doubt there are many Iraqi’s who will be relieved, just as there are many who will continue to suffer.

    If oppression is a criterion for military response we should begin by liberating the Navajo and Hopi from the Bureau of Indian Affairs/Peabody Coal at Big Mountain.

    Then there are many other countries to attack!

    Amnesty International’s Annual Report 2002 details human rights violations in 2001. It records:
    Confirmed or possible extrajudicial executions in 47 countries in 2001.
    People “disappeared” or remained “disappeared” from previous years in 35 countries.
    People reportedly tortured or ill-treated by security forces, police or other state authorities in 111 countries.
    Confirmed or possible prisoners of conscience in 56 countries.
    People arbitrarily arrested and detained , or in detention without charge or trial in 54 countries.
    During 2001, people were sentenced to death in 50 countries and executions were carried out in at least 27 countries. These figures include only cases known to Amnesty International; the true figures are certainly higher.
    Serious human rights abuses by armed opposition groups committed serious human rights abuses, such as deliberate and arbitrary killings of civilians, torture and hostage-taking, in 42 countries.

    it’s a brave new world my friend


  3. Apologists for the war are ignoring history:

    “In Iraq, the US record speaks for itself: it backed Saddam’s party, the Ba’ath, to capture power in 1963, murdering thousands of socialists, communists and democrats of all shades; it backed the Ba’ath party in 1968 when Saddam was installed as vice-president; it helped him and the Shah of Iran in 1975 to crush the Kurdish nationalist movement; it increased its support for Saddam in 1979, the year he elevated himself to president, helping him launch his war of aggression against Iran in 1980; it backed him throughout the horrific eight years of war (1980 to 1988), in which a million Iranians and Iraqis were slaughtered, in the full knowledge that he was using chemical weapons and gassing Kurds and Marsh Arabs; it encouraged him in 1990 to invade Kuwait when the Arabic-speaking US ambassador in Baghdad, April Glaspie, told him on July 25 1990 that the US had “no opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts” when she knew that Saddam’s forces were only one week away from invading; it backed him in 1991 when Bush suddenly stopped the war, exactly 24 hours after the start of the great March uprising that engulfed the south and Iraqi Kurdistan (US aircraft were flying over the scenes of mass killing as Iraqi helicopter gunships were aiding Saddam’s forces crush the uprising); and it backed him as the “lesser evil” from March 1991 to September 11 2001 under the umbrella of murderous sanctions and the policy of “containment”.”,3604,916235,00.html

    The UN estimated we could bring adequate water, clean sanitation, and basic necessities to everyone on earth for $50 billion.

    Bush just asked for $75 billion to liberate Iraq for Halliburton.

    Bush war budget ‘does not add up’

    Mark Tran
    Tuesday March 25, 2003

    As President George Bush today formally asks Congress for $75bn (£48bn) for the war in Iraq, his emergency request has already come under fire.

    The proposal includes $63bn for the war itself – enough to keep American troops in Iraq for nearly five months – $8bn for international aid and relief, and $4bn for homeland security.

    Of the $63bn for the war effort, $53bn will go towards the deployment of troops, $5bn to replenish weapons and $1.5bn in payments to Pakistan and others, and unspecified classified expenses, most likely for the CIA.,2763,921657,00.html

    This is why we protest.

  4. baald, the Haliburton stuff is seriously fscked up. However gross though, I don’t see it as a *motivation* for war, only a golden egg Cheney will be happy to suck the yolk from.

    The history is messed up. The way we’ve gone about this is messed up. The balance is messed up. But let me put this another way (and I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything, just grappling with these things). Let’s assume we all agree on these points:

    – The administration’s motivations are not pure. There are lots of reasons they felt the need to go to war, some of which are good and some of which are not.

    – The Saddam regime is bad and must be removed (note here: It doesn’t really matter what the history is – our various administrations through history tried to do their version of “the right thing” when their times came). Whether we provided Saddam with chemical weapons or not is not important now – Saddam is evil, dangerous to Iraqis, and almost certainly dangerous to the world. He is a dictator probably at the level of any of history’s cruelest dictators.

    – It would have been better to have gotten the world on board – there was no urgen reason to go before inspections were complete.

    – Priorities in America and in the world are and always have been messed up.

    All of that said and agreed upon, we are there now. We simply are, and no amount of protest is going to change that. Meanwhile, in the big picture, removing Saddam with minium civilian casualties will probably have a net benefit for Iraqis and the world, rather than a net detriment. This is the part I am coming to accept.

    The time for protest was before we went in, and we did plenty of it. Now protest just serves to help us vent our outrage – it’s not going to get us out of Iraq, and I’m not sure that would be a good thing at this point anyway.

    We can all find a dozen dozen reasons why the Bush admin is a destructive force in the universe and I’ll agree. But none of it changes the fact that it’s going to take a war – this war – to remove his regime from the world stage. I just don’t see a way around the fact that it’s probably a just war, worth fighting.

  5. If it’s a just war you should be willing to take up a gun yourself.

    I didn’t think so.

  6. That’s kind of rude to answer for me before giving me a chance to answer for myself. In fact, quite rude.

    Yes, I think that at this point I would probably go voluntarily if at a younger age and not with new family. But that’s a hard question, as I am still grappling with all of this.

    Still, my question remains: Do you think we should pull out now and leave Saddam in place?

  7. The Premise:

    1.”- The administration’s motivations are not pure. There are lots of reasons they felt the need to go to war, some of which are good and some of which are not.”

    and the good ones are…
    which country is more likely to sell WMD to terrorists?

    B)North Korea

    answer: A thru D have all sold weapons to terrorists.

    Bush almost never cited “liberation of Iraqis” as a reason for war because he knows Americans don’t care about them.

    2. ” It doesn’t really matter what the history is – our various administrations through history tried to do their version of “the right thing” when their times came.”

    It does matter, because history repeats itself until the perpetrators acknowledge the error of their ways.

    3.”- It would have been better to have gotten the world on board – there was no urgent reason to go before inspections were complete.”

    There is one reason: Bush and Co. want to show total control. and UN be damned if they won’t go along.

    4.”- Priorities in America and in the world are and always have been messed up.”

    Granted, generally. But that does not mean we have to cave in. If we follow that logic, there would still be apartheid in South Africa.

    The Conclusion:

    Meanwhile, in the big picture, removing Saddam with minimum civilian casualties will probably have a net benefit for Iraqis and the world, rather than a net detriment. This is the part I am coming to accept.

    This is the part where I become incredulous. Planting the American flag in the capitol of an Arab nation
    will have a net benefit for the world?

    cheaper gas maybe.

  8. That’s kind of rude to answer for me before giving me a chance to answer for myself. In fact, quite rude.

    Yes. Please accept my apology. :-(

    I’m sorry, I was and am disturbed that people (especially friends) are inured to the ramifications (short and long term) of war and talk about this process like it is a tooth extraction.

  9. Joshua, you look like you?re very set against the war. Have you read the article yet? I would be interested in hearing your counterarguments to its counterarguments.

    Where I have come down –

    I was against the war before it began. I was against the war because it will not make us safer; it will make us less safe. Even the intelligence community says this. As we speak Al-Quada and other terrorist organizations are using the war in Iraq as a recruiting call, and an effective one at that.

    Now that the war has begun, I am still against it, but realize that stopping it now would be doubly worse. To give the impression of defeat would give anti-American terrorist groups an even greater gift – proof that the United States can be beaten. If it appears that the United States is weak or on the run will cause a field day on us, and our interests around the world.

    So if this is true, what do we do? We need to look for a benefit out of this war, we need to look for and steer towards a good even out of the mistakes made. That single good is the creation of a self-determined, and stable, Iraqi democracy. We need to hold Bush to his final words of Iraqi liberation, which were made at the last moments, as an afterthought, before the war began. We need to keep the pressure on so that Iraq is not pushed under a rug, it needs to be center stage until this work is done.

    It will not be easy. The news reports and briefings thus far have indicated that the military and administration calculated wrong when they predicted a quick and painless war and the Iraqi people would welcome us as saviors. Things are going to get uglier before they get better.

    Now the big problem — I think the administration is making a calculated move. They know that in the short term this war will not make us safer, but in the long term it will. The idea is that if the Iraqi regime falls so will the other unfavorable regimes around it. I don?t think this is true, however, if a free and fair democracy is established in Iraq it will most certainly take the wind out of terrorist operations against the United States. That is partly why we need to push for democracy now. If we leave it up to the administration its hard to know exactly what it is they will do. They may act alone and establish a democracy, or they may not. Either way we need to fight for them to do precisely that, even if the administration is the one who gets credit for it. It is the only realizable good that can come out of the war. Standing on the moral high ground but not achieving anything tangible does little good.

  10. On another note ? a lot of people point at the nefarious connections, profits, and motivations of the Bush administration. For a long time these things disturbed me, too. But as I have read more about the strategies and ideology of what is being done I have come to realize that what Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al are doing is consistent with their worldview and values, it is not some deeper and darker aberration. Just as a committed environmentalist will buy and invest in sustainable or green products and services, or sit on the board of a local water purity council, etc, so do people on the other side of the political spectrum. Only instead of being focused on the environment the focus is national security/safety. Its rather odd to think about it that way, that Rumsfeld et al could be as passionate about their ideology as an environmentalist is about their ideology. It is much easier, and less challenging, to think of President Bush and his advisors as throwing smoke screens rather than doing what they honestly believe is right. How can they be right, after all, if what they are saying contrasts so sharply with what we say/believe?

  11. Pull out now?

    Are you asking what I would do as Commander in Chief?
    You’d laugh.

    Anyway, we are hopelessly overcommited. The seige of Baghdad may yet prove to be the scourge of Rummy & Co.

  12. Even though I am against it, war needs to be carried out, and the coalition forces (read American, British and a few Aussies) need to succeed. Lots of people around the area but not in Iraq have family members there that are communicating the tragedies that are occurring to them. This is stirring up a lot of anti-US sentiment for people who might not have held a firm opinion, and giving validation to those who did. Given the histories of England and the US and the shared ethnicity, this is not hard to do. We’re already there, and they are not going to pull out. As much as I despise the current administration (I live in Missouri and voted for a deceased man only to watch his opponent be appointed to Attorney General–you know, the one that covered up the “naked” statues and was behind the Patriot Act), I want this war to succeed. We need to be seen as liberators.

  13. I agree with Scot that the Salon article is excellent, thought-provoking, and that the left does need to spend at least some time thinking about Iraqi liberation.

    That said, it’s notable that this only came up after the war started. Smells fishy to me – like successful (rightwing?) manipulation of the media agenda. Nobody, not the righties, not the lefties, gave a shit about Iraqi Freedom until they coined the operation’s name. Curious, no?

    It’s also instructive that the administration cares about human rights, the Geneva convention, etc., when our rights are at stake (ie our captured POWs) but not when they’re somebody else’s (ie Al Qaeda people held at Guantanamo). Shows that the emphasis on Iraqi “Freedom” is just so much PR. I don’t buy it.

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