Black and White

The narrative of this war is one of bullies vs. liberators. The scene is complex. No complex thing can be cast in terms of black and white. That’s what the right does so well — sees everything as good and evil, black and white. That’s why the airwaves are filled with conservative commentators. They can pound their fists and act like the world is unambiguous. The trap the left is falling into is seeing things in black and white. Don’t buy it.

The outcome of the war may be on the whole good for Iraqis and good for the world, even though it has been waged for all the wrong reasons. Even though profit is involved. It’s a classic question of whether the ends justify the means. Liberation is a good outcome even if it’s hypocritical (because lots of other peoples need liberation too) and even if it’s being used as a convenient excuse (liberation was never a reason for invasion until it was convenient).

*If such measurements can be performed — please don’t ask me how many innocent lives are worth Saddam’s deposition, because I don’t know — is 10 too many? 1,000? 1,000,000?

With all the Al-Jazeera bashing, it’s worth remembering that Iraqis think Al-Jazeera is biased toward the U.S..

Music: Julian Priester :: Prologue & Love, Love

11 Replies to “Black and White”

  1. Scot writes:
    “The outcome of the war may be on the whole good for Iraqis and good for the world, even though it has been waged for all the wrong reasons. Even though profit is involved. It’s a classic question of whether the ends justify the means.”

    War waged even for the “right reasons”, i.e. self-defense of last resort can have devastating consequences. This is evident especially with regard to carpet bombing, cluster bombing, destruction of water lines, destruction of sanitation, and and the use of toxins like depleted uranium (which the U.S. continues to use.

    War waged for the wrong reasons, as you call it, such as deceit, plagiarism (of outdated “intelligence”), hypocrisy, greed, and an insane rush to judgment and destruction, world opinion be damned, will have untold negative consequences.

    What goes around comes around, my friend.

    “Brute force has been the ruling factor in the world for thousands of years, and mankind has been reaping its bitter harvest all along, as he who runs may read. There is little hope of anything good coming out of it in the future. If light can come out of darkness, then alone can love emerge from hatred.”—M. Gandhi

  2. I don’t doubt there will be an environmental price to pay, and a diplomatic price to pay, not to mention the price of the thousands of war dead. But we are certainly not seeing unhappy Iraqis tonight. It is all a balance. Has the war on balance been better to have been waged than not? I can’t help but think so. But I’m wary of talking about it like it’s past tense. It’s not over. Iraqis are still wary of the U.S. staying too long, although I get the impression the U.S. also wants to get out as quickly as possible. That remains to be seen.

    WMD never did materialize.

    This never did turn into a Vietnam quagmire.

    Retaliatory terrorist events in the U.S. haven’t yet come down.

    And we all conveniently forgot why we were there.

  3. as long as they have control:

    “So, we’ve got a crook, a Zionist and an old spy who thinks this is the beginning of WWIV set to run Iraq. How lucky can the Iraqis get? Is this what we thought we were fighting for?

    According to David Sanger’s analysis in The New York Times, “Some hawks in the administration are convinced that Iraq will serve as a cautionary example of what can happen to other sates that refuse to abandon their programs to build weapons of mass destruction, an argument that John Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control, has made several times in recent speeches.”

    The administration’s more pragmatic wing fears that the war’s lesson will be just the opposite: that the best way to avoid American military action is to build a fearsome arsenal quickly and make the cost of conflict too high for Washington. ”

    http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0409-07.htm

    watching an after war party does not show were better off.
    you have to consider:
    we put him his party in power 1963.
    we supported his rise to power 1970’s.
    we funded his terror campaign, sold him weapons
    and encouraged war in Iran 1980’s.
    we gave the green light (“the US is not interested in Arab-Arab
    conflict”) in 1991.
    Then we decimated his military.
    Then we starved his people of medicine and other necessities.
    Then we bum rushed the show to demo shock and awe.
    and now we’re planning to install goons.
    This is empire. We just happen to live on the “good side”.

  4. | watching an after war party does not show were better off.

    No, but millions living free who could not before just may.

    | you have to consider:
    | we put him his party in power 1963.
    | we supported his rise to power 1970’s.

    One does what one perceives to be the right thing at any given time.

    | Then we decimated his military.
    | Then we starved his people of medicine and other necessities.

    The sanctions were more cruel than this war (I know, perhaps both could have been avoided, but still).

    | Then we bum rushed the show to demo shock and awe.
    | and now we’re planning to install goons.

    Last I heard we’re setting up free elections.

    | This is empire. We just happen to live on the “good side”.

    This war is a mixed basket. Let’s hit it head-on, seeing both its good and its bad attributes. I’m saying the U.S. is not all evil. Can’t we celebrate this joyous outcome for five minutes before finding endless additional reasons why the U.S. is evil? Is it about proving the U.S. is evil, or about seeing the situation for what it is? The sole point of my post was to say there is an overall good outcome despite all the problems and reservations. And that has turned out to be true (though, again, I don’t want to speak of the war as though it were a done deal – several other shoes could drop before this over).

  5. >The sole point of my post was to say there is an >overall good outcome despite all the problems >and reservations. And that has turned out to be >true

    I disagree. I don’t think you can talk about “outcome” in any meaningful way yet. The end of Saddam is hardly the end of the American military presence, or the consequences thereof. The truth on the ground is still obscured by the fog of war and propaganda. All we have seen is grossly distorted images of a few dozen to a few score Iraqis tearing down a statue, a lot of rehashed congratulatory rhetoric from the Pentagon, and some right wing commentators who think all this invalidates the anti-war position.

    lemme see, where is that link?
    http://blog.kynn.com/shock/archive/000311.php
    (some uncropped photos of the “huge celebration” that give context)

  6. I think we’ve seen a lot more than one scene of a statue coming down – the networks have been broadcasting footage of celebrations and crazy freedom looting nearly nonstop since yesterday. As for the blog.kynn image, I agree with the comments following the post.

    I mean, are people suggesting that people aren’t overjoyed to have Saddam gone? i.e. suggesting that people *liked* living under a brutal dictator? That would be an interestig first.

  7. Scot, I’ll grant that the results of circumstances are mixed, black and white, if you will. It depends on perspective o’ course. If your a Kurd living in the North, it’ll be a great relief to hear that Hussein is gone, jubilation perhaps.(One wonders what kind of parties around the world we’d see if Bush was disposed.) Later that perspective may change when the U.S. and interim government do not allow sovereignity over your lands because they happen to sit on enormous oil reserves.

    Also, if you happen to be Ahmed Chalabi, would-be ruler of Iraq living in exile, you’d be pretty happy too, since you’ve been feted by Rummy, Wolfie, and Tommy;
    “American military planes flew Chalabi and 700 troops, the newly named “First Battalion of Free Iraqi Forces,” into Nasiriyah Sunday to be integrated into Gen. Tommy Franks’ command. Landay reports, “Senior administration officials said that Chalabi had had difficulty recruiting enough forces to go into southern Iraq and may have tapped the discredited Badr Brigade, an Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim group, to get his 700 soldiers.”
    http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0409-07.htm

    Please excuse my cynicism, Scot, because we are having a political discussion. You want me to rejoice in the happiness of people suddenly free from the yoke of a megalomaniac dictator. I do.

    You say that I try to prove the US is evil, rather than seeing the situation for what it is. This characterization of the debate is itself black and white. I have only pointed to the history behind this conflict. Our gov’t is implicated up to its eyeballs in the problem. And then they presume to solve it by occupying the country. Please read what is happening in Afganistan currently to see why many of us look dubiously at our gov’t’s intentions.

    http://www.truthout.org/docs_02/12.30A.afgh.pipe.htm
    http://www.ichrdd.ca/english/prog/women/warlordAfghaLetterPowell.html

    Your response to our gov’t’s beleaguering history with Iraq is that “One does what one perceives to be the right thing at any given time”. On a personal level I would tend to agree, except that I know that I’ve done foolish and wrongheaded things in the past where my conscience dictated otherwise. At other times, I was simply being mindless.

    But in the political sphere, this statement is disingenuous. Was Saddam simply doing what he perceived to be right?
    Or does our own gov’t’s aggressive protection of vested interests merit special consideration?

  8. Well, my point is that they *arent’* black and white, as both teh left and right would have us believe. They’re mixed as you say, ie all shades of gray.

    Re: World happy if Bush were eliminated: No question U.S. popularity is at an all time low.

    Last I heard, money from oil proceeds is to be used to reconstruct Iraq.

    Glad to hear you’re happy for the Iraqis. Very glad.

    It’s Not just you – I’m seeing it virtually all of the anti-war discussion, everywhere I turn. Lots and lots of good discussion and arguments, but almost no acknowledgement that a great moment in history has just
    occurred, that millions of people have just been freed from oppression. It’s just incredibly hard for me to understand this resistance against admitting that any good could possibly come of this war.

    We shall see whether the problem is solved or not, but so far so good.

    I think Powell’s recommendations to the U.S. govt on Afghan warlordism are spot-on, but I’m not sure I see the connection to the Iraq situation.

    You know I didn’t support our reasons to go to war with Iraq. You know I know that we propped up Saddam and gave him weapons. You know I agree on all that stuff. I only think there is a silver lining. And I am frustrated that it’s almost impossible to say that out loud and still be counted as “one on the left.”

    I’ve never bought the “blood for oil” argument, and don’t believe we are going to take over oil for ourselves. When the admin says they are going to use the oil money to rebuild Iraq I believe them. Maybe I’ll be made to look foolish in the end, but the U.S. doesn’t just plow over
    small countries and help itself to their resources.

  9. “Not just you – I’m seeing it virtually all of the anti-war discussion, everywhere I turn. Lots and lots of good discussion and arguments, but almost no acknowledgement that a great moment in history has just
    occurred, that millions of people have just been freed from oppression.”

    “While the celebration of the dictatorship?s overthrow is undoubtedly heartfelt by many, a number of observers on the ground noted that quite a few of the celebrants are young people who had been cheering for the regime just a few weeks earlier. Furthermore, the crowds were neither as large nor as enthusiastic as those that greeted the downfall of the Communist dictatorships in eastern Europe in 1989 or the Marcos regime in the Philippines in 1986. This is not because Saddam?s regime was any more popular than these other dictatorships, but rather is a reflection of the real difference between throwing out the tyrant and tearing down his statues yourselves and having it done by an invading army. This is particularly true when the invading army is from a government that backed the dictatorship through its most powerful and oppressive period in the 1980s. ”
    http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0410-08.htm

    You impugn the “left” for being one-sided but this essay and others have acknowledged that Hussein’s departure (to where?) is a cause for rejoicing, and before the war, many of us agreed that Hussein was a “bad” man. But the criticism of our government centers on its duplicity, hypocrisy and arrogance. We have also emphasized that war has enormous social and environmental impacts that can’t be counted in war dead.

    So the Iraqis are now free–great.
    But what does this mean to be free?
    Free to loot? You may think I’m belittling this,
    but this was not a revolution, it was an invasion.
    Please enlarge the context a little.
    You haven’t addressed my main concern.
    The US gov’t supported and armed Hussein,
    aided and abetted Iraq’s devastating (10yrs!)
    war w/ Iran, imposed insane sanctions,
    and now finishes the job.
    There is ZERO acknowledgment on our gov’t’s side
    in its involvement. Only self-serving propoganda.
    The same mistakes will be repeatedly endlessly until
    there is acknowledgment.

    “I think Powell’s recommendations to the U.S. govt on Afghan warlordism are spot-on, but I’m not sure I see the connection to the Iraq situation.”

    The link is a letter written TO Powell. The pt is that while the rest of the country is focusing on Iraq, the US has shirked Afganistan, (who we promised to rebuild remember), supported warlords (the keep the peace), and focused our attention on a 3 billion (!) dollar pipleline.

    “the U.S. doesn’t just plow over small countries and help itself to their resources.”

    Empire is more sophisticated today. NAFTA. The IMF. Multinational corporations that bribe and coerce. Gunboat diplomacy. Its about hegemony, not pillaging. Pillaging isn’t successful in the long run. Vested interests does not mean only oil. But if we’re going to discuss oil, we have to examine our country and our military’s ENORMOUS dependence on oil, and the enormous lengths they go to maintain that it be freely flowing.

    I’m glad that you give attention to the silver lining.
    But i have continued this debate because I think that the powers that be want to hogtie us w/ these silver linings. Its wonderful to see the silver linings, but i feel we must resist the lies surrounding them.

  10. “No complex thing can be cast in terms of black and white.”

    Well, this is fairly complex ;-)

    Seriously though, I agree with your point – fuzzy logic rules, let the grey into your life. But I also agree with Joshua’s Gandhi quote – I believe that violence begets violence, I hoped when 9/11 happened the US might realise that its chosen role as “world policeman” was a big part of the reason why so many people were out to get the US. It seems that no lessons were learned, quite the opposite.

    I agree that things have gone well so far, but it takes longer than a couple of days for dissent to brew – remember the euphoria in Eastern Europe in 1989, and look how many people in that part of the world now look back fondly on communism.

    There will be positive outcomes, there will be negative outcomes, but on balance I’d rather somebody took the brave step to break the cycle of violence.

  11. We ignore history at our own peril.

    “We all agree that Iraqis would be better off without Hussein. Just as their subjects would have been better off without Ceausescu, Suharto, Marcos, Duvalier, Mobutu,….. — quite a long list. I’ve just listed those who were supported by the present incumbents in Washington, just as they supported Saddam Hussein. Some, like Ceausescu, were easily comparable to Saddam Hussein as tyrants and torturers. All were overthrown, from within. There’s every reason to believe that SH would have gone the same way if the US hadn’t insisted on devastating the civilian society, strengthening the tyrant, and compelling people to rely on him for survival — the primary effect of the US-UK sanctions, as has been pointed out for years by the Westerners who know Iraq best, the administrators of the UN programs, Denis Halliday and Hans van Sponeck — among others.

    If there had been any interest in allowing Iraqis to determine their own fate, these considerations point the way. But there wasn’t. Hence the call that their torturers must use violence to “liberate them.” An intelligent Martian watching this would be bemused, to put it mildly.”

    http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3357

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