February 16th, 2007

Democracy, its spread, and the neocons (Part II: Iraq)

Neocons are accused of having started the war in Iraq in order to further the naive and unattainable dream of bringing liberal democracy to the Middle East.

But the Iraq War was actually a multi-determined one—although the Left often seems to focus sequentially on whatever cause they might be critiquing at the time, pretending for the moment it was the only cause of the war, or at least the most important one.

I doubt that the goal of imposing democracy, in and of itself, would ever be considered a justification for war, even by neocons. The reasons for this war that were stated most often and emphatically were (in no particular order) (a) defensive: the idea that Saddam actually had WMDs or was developing them shortly and might give them to terrorists and/or threaten neighbors (b) humanitarian: the repressiveness and extreme cruelty of his regime, including sadistic torture and mass murder on a large scale; and (c) legal: his violations of the terms of the Gulf War armistice, including his lack of cooperation with UN arms inspections, which also of course ties in with the first reason.

But critics of the war routinely disregard these reasons—or, rather, they cite them only when trying to debunk them (“no WMDs”). They see the “real” impetus behind the war as having been to control that country’s oil (the complaint on the Left) and/or to impose democracy on Iraq (this is a complaint of both the Left and the isolationist wing of the Right, although each group complains for different reasons).

To the isolationists on the Right, neither humanitarian motives nor the goal of making Iraq a democracy would have justified an invasion. Only the idea that Saddam represented a substantial and uncontrolled threat to our security, or that of our allies, would have sufficed.

The Left, however, has traditionally considered that military intervention in other countries can be justified for humanitarian reasons. In fact, humanitarian reasons alone are often considered by the Left as sufficient for such intervention. So, why their objection to overthrowing Saddam?

Saddam’s rule was widely acknowledged as tyrannical and murderous; this fact is really not in dispute. So, to the Left, the invasion should have been overdetermined, not underdetermined; the fact of Saddam’s butchery of his people ought to have been enough. But the Left opposed the war from the start with such vigor that one can only conclude humanitarian considerations and goals were hollow in this case.

So, was it Bush Derangement Syndrome—anything the nefarious Bush does is automatically wrong? Alliance with internationalism and “old Europe,” which had its own reasons for opposing the war (hint: they were not humanitarian)? Or was it the fact that Iraq has strategic importance to the US (unlike, for example, Haiti), and that deposing Saddam could benefit us, making the prospect of doing so a self-interested one as well as a humanitarian one and therefore automatically suspect (only when a war is for purely humanitarian reasons, it seems, does it pass the Left’s muster)?

Or is it the fact that the Left likes to make a big to-do about its humanitarian goals, and yet almost always opposes the possible ways to free a people from an oppressive regime, such as military intervention or other means of forced change, such as assassination? (See this, for example.)

Once the decision was made that it was necessary to remove Saddam, the US faced the question of what its role should be in determining what sort of government might replace him. These were the choices: (a) walk away and let things sort themselves out without US help (likely to result in much bloodshed and a new tyrant of some sort, and perhaps a worse one); (b) in the time-honored realpolitik manner, install a dictator friendly to us who would crack down on the opposition in a Draconian way; or (c) try to help establish a functioning liberal democracy.

The Bush Administration choose (c) as the best of a bad lot (“bad” in the case of (c) only because of its difficulty in execution), and in doing so they made the error of underestimating the murderous forces arrayed against them. But those who criticize the decision are comparing choice (c) to an imaginary ideal alternative that simply did not exist.

What about the alternative of not going to war, and leaving Saddam in power (really, the only remaining one)? If that had happened, no doubt his own carnage and obscene cruelty to his people would have continued—and, on his death, would have gone on under the hands of his murderous sons, schooled almost from birth in sadism and power. And, when sanctions against Saddam were lifted (as they would have been—and fairly quickly, at that), all the evidence indicates that he might indeed have assembled a nuclear and/or chemical arsenal and given it to terrorists to use, or threatened his neighbors with it. These arguments about the probable results of inaction in Iraq are pooh-poohed by the Left, of course, who need to ignore them in order to maintain their own stance.

But why were all the alternatives in Iraq either so bad—or, if desirable (democracy), so very difficult to achieve? Some people are of the opinion that Islam is innately incompatible with democracy. But there are countries in the world (Turkey, for example) in which the two coexist, although somewhat tenuously. And Iraq itself has its own history with democracy: a system of constitutional monarchy somewhat resembling the traditional British one, with a bicameral legislature featuring an appointed branch and an elected branch, and a Constitution. This phase lasted approximately 25 years, from 1925 to the early 1950s, and was toppled in 1958 by a military coup that ended the monarchy and abolished the parliament. That ushered in the current era of dictatorships, culminating in Saddam, who had learned from the errors of previous dictators and consolidated his power through a long-lasting reign of terror.

Yes, Islam and democracy are a not an easy match, but they seem to be a possible one. Another—and perhaps more important reason—it’s been difficult for democracy to gain traction in Iraq is not any inherent and absolute incompatibility, but that fact that a population as traumatized as the people of Iraq have been under decades of Saddam have had their social contract broken. To use a therapy cliché, the country has become dysfunctional, both structurally and psychologically. Saddam unified the nation through force and through fear, warring against all groups who might be his rivals. Thus, the seeds of great anger and the need for payback were sown on the part of the victims, as well as the creation of a climate of distrust, one in which the use of violence had become the standard way of dealing with differences. And this climate had lasted for decades.

Another factor not to be ignored in the difficulty of establishing an Iraqi democracy is the influence of its neighbors such as Iran, who have a vested interest in causing instability in Iraq to spiral, and who see a golden opportunity to create a sphere of influence there.

The difficult task the Bush Administration took on in Iraq was not impossible, in my opinion. But it required a great deal: commitment to a fairly lengthy period of occupation, knowledge of the best way to go about the task in terms of balancing firm guidance with increasing Iraqi autonomy, the effective sealing of the borders, willingness to suffer US casualties that would be far greater than in a quick operation such as the Gulf War, and a US public who understood the long-term need for commitment and sacrifice as well as the possible payoffs of success.

It’s very clear that not all of those necessary elements were in place. Some deficits were the result of errors in judgment or execution in situations that could or should have been anticipated; some were due to the rise of unforeseeable circumstances.

But wars virtually always contain errors and surprises. I remain of the opinion that declaring “failure” in Iraq is premature, and that if the will were there on the part of the American people, Iraq could still—over a period of some years—become a functioning if imperfect democracy, with the ability to defend itself against internal and external threats. But I am not at all convinced that we have this will.

However, I am well aware the task is a difficult one. As far as I know, Iraq is the first time it’s been tried under these exact conditions. Can a nation that has been under the lengthy sway of a brutal and divisive dictator who is then violently overthrown by an outside force, a nation with divisive factions and a weak history of democratic institutions, lacking a strong sense of national identity, be rebuilt as a democracy after a war to depose that dictator? A further question, if the answer is in the affirmative, is what the minimal conditions would be for the success of such a transformation.

We need to know the answers, because it is possible that another set of circumstances might arise in the future–especially in this brave new world of rogue nations and international terrorism—in which we find we have no realistic alternative but to invade another country and try to rebuild it. My guess is that we can and should be far more cautious about doing so next time, both in our threshold for invasion and in the comprehensiveness of the plans we make—that is, that we learn greatly from our mistakes.

But, unfortunately, we may again find ourselves in the regrettable and dangerous situation in which all possible choices we face are very bad—and that the neocon agenda is (to paraphrase Churchill)—the very worst of them, except for all the others (although I will no doubt be labeled “warmonger” for even venturing to say it).

But the truth is that developments in recent years have made it possible, for the first time in history, for rogue nations and/or terrorists—or both in league with each other—to wreak havoc on the West. It used to be that such elements either threatened only their own people, or that the destructive power of their aggressive acts were limited by their own undeveloped technology. But technological advances in weaponry combined with modern communications and ease of travel, as well as an influx of money, have it possible for a small and fiercely angry group to obtain weapons with enormous destructive power, and to deploy them against the West, with the help of rogue nations and leaders who feel their own interests lie in such an attack.

Encouraging the growth of liberal democracy in the region would short-circuit that process, if successful. The big question is, of course, can it be successful, and what are the keys to that success.

Do the Iraqi people themselves want a liberal democracy? The high voting turnout in the elections can be seen as a “yes;” or, if one wants to be cynical, as a strategic effort to grab power for one group against another (of course, this is not incompatible with democracy; peaceful elective power struggles are part and parcel of it).

The evidence is that many Iraqis value liberty, however, even if they have no idea how to effectively combat the forces conspiring to deprive them of it. In a recent interview with Charlie Rose, New York Times journalist John Burns, a reporter who has observed and written about Iraq for many years (and who is certainly no neocon), and who has spoken to a large number of Iraqis, said:

…so yes, I do believe, number one, that most Iraqis still believe that for all of the price they have paid, amidst all of this chaos, that the possibility of a different kind of future for the country that was opened by the arrival of American troops was net an advantage….

And then Burns stated the dilemma in all its complexity, including the fact that we don’t yet know whether the goal of liberal democracy is possible there:

[M]y sense of it is that if [the Iraq reconstruction] fails, that history may say it was mission impossible from the beginning, which is to say that when you remove the carapace of terror that Saddam had imposed on that society, what was revealed underneath it was an extremely fractured society which had never resolved the question of power, political and economic power…[A]n extremely complex, extremely violence-prone society, a society that has proven to be resistant to, not yet ready for, and maybe will not be ready for a very long time, for Jeffersonian democracy of the kind that the United States hopes to install there. We’ll have to see what history’s verdict is, but my sense is that Iraqis still, in the main, are happy at least that Saddam is gone, very unhappy about other things, but happy to see him gone.

Iraq has been a tragic country for a long time. It remains one today. But history has not yet given its final verdict on whether it will continue to remain so indefinitely.

120 Responses to “Democracy, its spread, and the neocons (Part II: Iraq)”

  1. stumbley Says:

    Oh, and by the way, Denmark has troops in Iraq. WAR CRIME!!!!

  2. stumbley Says:

    That the Left—they of the “Free Tibet”, “No Genocide in Darfur” and “Humanitarian Interference in Bosnia”—would be so resistant to attempts to establish democracy and liberate Iraq is astounding to me. As you’ve said, Neo, the case for Iraq intervention would seem to be overdetermined. All I can imagine is that the “hate America first” wing of the LLL is on the ascendant, much to the country’s misfortune. I worry that we are about to be gobsmacked by history.

  3. Islam skeptic Says:

    Some people are of the opinion that Islam is innately incompatible with democracy. But there are countries in the world (Turkey, for example) in which the two coexist, although somewhat tenuously.

    Turkey is actually an example of how democracy is only possible by reducing the influence of Islam (Kemalization)…

    Neo-neocon writes that “there are countries in the world” where Islam and democracy coexist. She names Turkey as one example, but the plural form of the noun implies that she knows of other countries beside Turkey in which Islam and democracy coexist. Could she perhaps name these countries?

    Yes, Islam and democracy are a not an easy match, but they seem to be a possible one.

    Only to the extent that Islam is not actually practiced, in which case it is actually a matter of less Islam making more democracy possible, not a matter of Islam being somewhat compatible with democracy.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    Islam skeptic: Turkey is an example of an accomodation Islam has made with democracy. But it is an example nonetheless; Turkey is still both an Islamic country and a democracy. And my example of the beginnings of democracy in Iraq in the earlier part of the 20th century is another example. Not a great one, by any means. But it was still a functioning, although flawed and tenuous, deomcracy, until the Fifties.

    Is it really Islam that’s the problem? Or is it a general problem in the third world as a whole? The temptation for coups, dictators, and strongmen is rampant, and by no means confined to Islamic countries.

    That said, I agree that Islam represents a strong obstacle. My only point is that it is not an insurmountable one.

  5. the Unknown Blogger Says:

    Wikipedia to the rescue!

    Islamic Democracy

    The following list indicates those countries which are members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and are either generally considered to be democratic or have substantial democratic elements in their system of government. For example, Iran has popular elections, but the candidates are selected by the Council of Guardians and the Assembly of Experts. Furthermore, the political climate in some of these countries has varied greatly in recent years, while in some of the countries there have been accusations of vote-rigging.

    Albania (Europe) (70% Muslim)
    Algeria (North Africa) (99%)
    Bangladesh (South Asia) (83%)
    Comoros (South eastern Africa) (98%)
    Indonesia (South-East Asia) (88%)
    Kyrgyzstan (Central Asia) (75%)
    Lebanon (Middle-East) (59.7%)
    Nigeria (West Africa) (50%)
    Malaysia (South-East Asia) (62%)
    Mali (West Africa) (90%)
    Morocco (North Africa) (98.7%)
    Niger (West Africa) (80%)
    Senegal (West Africa) (94%)
    Sierra Leone (West Africa) (60%)
    Turkey (Europe / Asia) (99.8%)
    Yemen (Arabian peninsula – Asia) (+90%)

    I guess we can take our pick which one we want Iraq to look like before it’s ok to leave…

  6. Sergey Says:

    I can also mention India. This is democratic country with very large Muslim population, and this population almost everywhere accepted democratic rules of political and social behavior. Another example is Russia, not exactly a democracy, but 25 mln of its Muslims also adopted norms of secular society. In Moscow there are 2.5 mln Muslims, one quarter of its population. There are no ghettoes, and generally no problems with them. (Most of them are Tartars living here for 300 years.)

  7. Islam skeptic Says:

    Turkey is an example of an accomodation Islam has made with democracy. But it is an example nonetheless; Turkey is still both an Islamic country and a democracy.

    It is true that Turkey can be considered both an Islamic country and a democracy.

    However, Turkey doesn’t represent an example of Islam and democracy being compatible, as democracy in Turkey is made possible because Islam is being restrained, not because Islam actually allows democracy. (Another question is whether democracy in Turkey is viable in the long term…)

    Is it really Islam that’s the problem?

    Islam is certainly a big part of the problem – however, that does not necessarily mean there aren’t other problems as well.

    That said, I agree that Islam represents a strong obstacle. My only point is that it is not an insurmountable one.

    Then how should the obstacle be faced?

  8. Sergey Says:

    But, of course, almost no one country in the list above can be called a liberal democracy.

  9. neo-neocon Says:

    A liberal democracy would be preferrable. A functioning democracy that doesn’t represent a threat to us or our allies would be acceptable.

  10. the Unknown Blogger Says:

    Seems like the biggest political obstacle to democracy in Iraq is not Islam itself but rather that darn Sunni/Shia split, normally put around 60% Shia, 40% Sunni.

    So I got curious and looked up the demographics for the muslim populations in the countries listed above. Most are overwhelmingly one or the other (or something else altogether).

    Only Lebanon (35% Shia, 21% Sunni) and Yemen (52% Sunni, 48% Shia) have similar splits, so those countries might make relevant yardsticks for measuring Iraqi progress.

  11. Lee Says:

    Islam Skeptic is right. The only way democracy and Islam can coexist is by “total separation of church and state”. One is the ideology of freedom and individuality; the other is the poligious doctrine of “submission”, Islam.

  12. Lee Says:

    neo-neocon, there were voices in the ’20′s and ’30′s who warned us about Hitler( yeah, lefties, Churchill among them). They had read “Mein Kampf”, and they said he would do it, and of course, he did. Muhammed’s “Mein Kampf” has been among us for 1300 years. We better wake up as a people. Read the Qur’an and the Hadiths to see exactly what “Allah” has in store for the world.

  13. Lee Says:

    The last time the world ignored such a blatent message, it lost 55+million people. This time it will be billions.

  14. Ariel Says:

    This from the Wiki will give you an idea of the measure of freedom:

    Freedom Ratings

  15. Analyst Says:

    The justification that will matter to history and students of world affairs is this: that it forces the terrorists arrayed against the USA and against civilization itself to fight against soldiers rather than against civilians, and to die without achieving their goals. We have taken the war to the enemy: we have captured something he cannot afford to lose. Anything like a functioning Arab democracy and the enemy’s cause is imperiled. Not lost–as long as there is irrational hatred in the world looking for a target or a mark looking for a free lunch to be had by tearing down the engines of the economy, the terrorist will find recruits.

    The best gauge of how we are doing is not what the critics say, but what we have forced the enemy to do. Terrorists from all over the Mideast are flocking into Iraq? Good! We have drawn them into a war of our choosing, not theirs; if we are at all competent, we can force the choices: our strengths against their weaknesses. And while the price of killing them may seem high, it is cheap compared to any other way of doing it.
    The recent attempt of Al Quaeda to establish and expand bases in Africa and to make that continent its center of operations shows that they fear the loss of the Mideast. That is their home, and they will fight for it–but they will not go down with the ship.
    They don’t have the resources or the support to be the full apparatus of government; even the Taliban in Afghanistan could only play overlord to the contentious tribes. But they can destroy any other kind of civilization, and they will–unless they are killed.
    This justification will matter to history. It should be the one that will matter to us, because it will improve our situation against our enemy–civilization’s enemy–and it will gravely weaken that enemy, both by taking from him something he cannot afford to lose and by bleeding him dearly in his attempt to hold it.

  16. somuch Says:

    nen-neocon says |quote|In fact, humanitarian reasons alone are often considered by the Left as sufficient for such intervention. So, why their objection to overthrowing Saddam?|quote|

    Were it that simple.

    I would venture today’s liberals are not are not necessarily hopped up on the idea of violent solutions in general, for instance. (neo’s have their guns with hair triggers on, by comparison)

    Many of us did not see a cakewalk. If you create more trouble than you’re solving, what was the point?

    Those are just two reasons –and there are probably more, but that’s off the top of my head.

  17. somuch Says:

    Some things are more simple – just saw this:

    |quote|“TENERIFE, Canary Islands (Feb. 16) – A fast-thinking pilot with passengers in cahoots fooled a hijacker by braking hard upon landing, then accelerating to knock the man down. When he fell, flight attendants threw boiling water in his face, and about 10 people pounced on him, Spanish officials said Friday.|quote|

    http://news.aol.com/topnews/articles/_a/pilot-passengers-overpower-armed/20070216074109990001?ncid=NWS00010000000001

    Hopefully, no one will ask why I would have a problem with the above –because I don’t.

  18. Lee Says:

    Fine, somuch. Give us your “complicated” solution.

  19. somuch Says:

    Eat more fiber.

    Seriously, it’s like those 3 guys who went mountain climbing in Oregon in December with a minimum of gear, got caught in a snowstorm and ended up dead. Sometimes things just have a lot of negatives going for them. I don’t get paid to figure out an alternative plan — though I would have suggested not going mountain climbing in Oregon in December for starters.

  20. Lee Says:

    Getting paid to bitch, and moan, and cry, and groan?

  21. stumbley Says:

    Intelligent comments….not somuch.

  22. Sergey Says:

    Viability of liberal democracy is, indeed, have a lot to do with prevailing religious tradition of society. In 20 century European political map was divided along religious divides: all Catholic countries succumbed to fascism, Eastern Orthodox – to communism, and only Protestant completely rejected home-grown totalitarian movements. So it became historic mission of Brits and Americans to liberate Europe from these menaces, by every neccessary means, from direct military intervention to Cold War strategies of containment, ideological struggle and economic strangling.

  23. Sergey Says:

    When Fukujama in early 90 declared the end of history, he completely overlooked existence of the last undefeated aggressive, expansionist, totalitarian ideology – Islam. It is called “religion”, but it is religion in name only because of its clearly stated political goals. Historically some other religions also declared such goals, but were urged to drop them when confronted and challenged by liberal political philosophy; this reform was the heart of Enlightenment. Islam has not undergone this transformation, and it is not clear yet whether it can accept it or survive it. So, Islam is the enemy. By diplomatic reasons it would be unwise to declare it officially; diplomacy inevitably includes good portion of hypocrisy. But it would be a suicide to fool ourselves by “religion of peace” rhetoric. Eradicate Islam is not possible now, but it is not needed. Our goal is to defeat, defang and disarm it, put it back into lethargic submission, which is its natural disposition.

  24. Sally Says:

    Taking on all of Islam may be necessary at some point, but it’s not clear we’re there yet, despite the points made by Islam Skeptic, and Sergey, above. (His comment at 6:49 is a good one, but his own earlier one regarding the “peaceful coexistence” of Islam in Russia seems to contradict it at least in part.) What was clear, after 9/11 however, is that there was and is a need to take on the Middle East and its immediate environs, since that was the swamp that was breeding suicidal mass-murderers like flies. It is impossible to understand Iraq and the American invasion of it except in this context. WMDs, the cruelty of the Saddam regime, the prospects for democracy — all are relevant aspects of the reasons for war, but all must be seen in the context of a more general strategy for addressing the real “root causes” of the current epidemic of terrorism: an upsurge in islamist global ambitions, inspired by deep hostility to the West and to the modern world, and fueled and supported by oil-rich regional tyrannies, theocracies and thugocracies. Iraq was supposed to be but the thin edge of a wedge into the heart of that benighted region, never merely a one-off. And if we lack the stomach to carry it through now, we may well find ourselves gutted later.

  25. Sergey Says:

    Sally, there is no contradiction. Russian Muslims were driven into submission by one of the most harsh, stable and efficient autocratic regime in human history.

  26. gcotharn Says:

    This was an outstanding summary.

    What is lost, in brief retrospectives, are the various political nuances which were in play during 2002, 2003, etc. Examples would include the Bush Admin.’s terrifying fear of OIF being labeled a religious war; and the various actions which were politically possible – and politically impossible, at various moments during the period from 9/11 to the present.

    I will always wonder if a Reaganish orator-President could’ve made a larger difference by hammering – as Reagan hammered the Soviet Union at every opportunity – the threat of Islamofascism at every opportunity? Sigh.

    I maintain the Coalition has already injected democracy into the front of the region’s consciousness. Even if Iraq goes back to dictatorship, the people of the region are awakened in a way they were not before. Whether or not Iraq reverts to dictatorship, it is obvious (to me) that OIF is a historical watershed. OIF will long be remembered as a significant goad towards the modernization of the region, and, hopefully, towards the reformation of the religion.

  27. Wild Rice Says:

    The reasons for this war…“:

    (a) Defensive: We were not attacked. Therefore this war is illegal – it is a violation of US law.

    (b) humanitarian: Saddam has been indictable since 1980.

    (c) legal: The ceasefire exists as a UN Resolution. The UN has made no determination that it has been violated.

    You still cannot accept the rule of law (a key concept of “modernity”). Rather you persist in the notion that we are free to start wars at will.

  28. Lee Says:

    (a) But our ally Kuwait WAS attacked. Then Saddam agreed to certain terms to cease hostilities. Then Saddam violated those agreements. Then we resumed hostilities. Defensive and quite legal. (b) Then why didn’t you drag his ass before The Hague in 1980? (c) to quote the other side of your mouth: “Saddam never signed any agreement with the U.N.” So, exactly which rule of law do you refuse to accept?

  29. Lee Says:

    They make up so many lies they can’t remember what they lied about before.

  30. TC Says:

    If humanitarian motives were under consideration the war would never have happened.

    WMD was never a serious concern either – as I said before – and it is a fact – the evidence for WMD was either fabricated; exaggerated; or claims were made about Saddam’s past use of WMD eg. 1982 – which wasn’t evidence that he still had them or would use them(when he did he did it with the tactical support the U.S). If the issue of Iraqi WMD was taken seriously by the MSM and the U.S congress the war would never have happened. The Bush administration pushed this claim – they exaggerated and twisted evidence(rather than ‘lied’)- but there never was a serious threat to the U.S from Saddam. It was know then it is known now.

    There was no legal basis for the war. The only body that can authorize war is the Security Council with a specific resolution. The war was/is illegal. None of the reasons above provided evidence that military action was required to nullify the threat. Most significantly none of Iraq’s neighbors identified Saddam Hussein as a threat – not one.

    Iraq holds the second largest oil reserves in the world. The United States government has long identified the region as of enormous strategic value and it is official policy that U.S will control the region militarily – and it has had this policy for a long time.

    The war hasn’t helped Iraq. The war hasn’t helped the U.S. The war has destabilized the region – and will probably lead to more wars and has already lead to the proliferation of WMD – most likely including nuclear weapons.

    All of which lead us closer to the complete destruction of the human species.

    Shouldn’t those be the issues most important to all of us?

  31. TC Says:

    “Saddam’s rule was widely acknowledged as tyrannical and murderous; this fact is really not in dispute. So, to the Left, the invasion should have been overdetermined, not underdetermined; the fact of Saddam’s butchery of his people ought to have been enough. But the Left opposed the war from the start with such vigor that one can only conclude humanitarian considerations and goals were hollow in this case.”

    There seems to be a misunderstanding about why the left would oppose the war for the reasons above. Those of us who were against it predicted(accurately I think) that the war would be an unmitigated humanitarian disaster – both in the short term(in Iraq)and the long term(more war, more military build up). Nobody likes Saddam Hussein – but there isn’t a basis in international law for just removing leaders we don’t like and for good reason(precedents – Hitler cited humanitarian reasons too for his atrocities; he too was ‘liberating’ Eastern Europe) and thats why it doesn’t wash. If different steps had been taken- take your pick – but the fact is that U.S engagement in Iraq whether it was through direct aid or sanctions which crippled the population while leaving him unscathed – was the major reason why he wasn’t removed by Iraqis. Which personally I have no doubt he would have been. It’s ridiculous to ascribe humanitarian motives to the Iraq war without looking a the history of U.S involvement. We supported the devil when it suited us and we removed him when it suited us. Maybe thats the way it should be, but there is no way in hell anybody can say this is a humanitarian process…

  32. Sally Says:

    Lefties keep crying that the Iraq invasion was “illegal” — why hasn’t anybody been arrested, tried, convicted, sentenced, and punished then? Hmm? … Anyone? … Anyone? …

  33. TC Says:

    Because the United States of America, the most powerful nation on the planet, simply sees itself as outside the law – the very laws that it helped create, ironically.

    A bit like a crooked cop, really….

  34. TC Says:

    The UN is irrelvant – not because it occasionally and symbolically opposes U.S breaches of international law – but because it simply serves as a device that legitimizes U.S war crimes.

    There is not doubt that the Vietnam war – whether you support it or not – was a grave international crime of the highest order – and yet there was no resolutions requiring the U.S to remove it’s troops from Vietnam not even a condemnation. And yet we’re talking about serious, even evil crimes – when you kill 3-4 million people, mostly civilians in a poor, rural country there isn’t really any other way to classify it.

    Even if we had the ‘best intentions’….

  35. Sally Says:

    Well, you see, TC, I could say that you are a war criminal if I wanted. But that wouldn’t make you one, would it? Similarly, you saying that the US is committing a crime — even when you say that “there really isn’t any other way to classify it” (which is pretty persuasive evidence and logic, everyone would have to admit) — that just isn’t enough to make it so.

    Sorry.

  36. Isaiah Hunahun Says:

    but because it simply serves as a device that legitimizes U.S war crimes. A cop arresting the bad guy does not a bad cop make.

  37. Sally Says:

    You see, the point is that “law”, in any legitimate sense of the term, simply has no meaning when you lack a legitimate means of making law, of interpreting or judging law, and above all of enforcing law. We may regret that that’s the case, but we should also face the fact that it is. “International law”, then, as I’ve said before, is merely a facade, a wish at best, and a left-over from a largely failed vision of a top-down imposition of international order. The facade is invoked from time to time by various national actors for their own purposes, but the only people impressed by it are naive and gullible lefties.

    Of course, not all lefties, whatever their other faults, are naive and gullible — some of them understand very well that, in the absence of an international justice system, they can make any claims they like, or think will advance their own nefarious agendas, just as though they personally were some sort of international judge and jury. It’s just one of they ways they use to herd the sheep.

  38. Islam skeptic Says:

    (…) the threat of Islamofascism (…)

    Actually, it should be the threat of Islam, not the silly term “Islamofascism”. There is no “Islamofascism” as distinct from Islam.

  39. Sergey Says:

    “Rule of law” is a concept applicable only to domestic affairs, in realm of national state. There is no international state, no international government, or international police force to enforce any law. So, no international law exists, and, for bad or for good, such international institutions are impossible now and totally incompatible with a notion of national sovereignty. What sometimes is called “international law” are only gentleman’s agreement between civilized nations. Sometimes they hold, sometimes do not, but no gentleman’s agreement can restrict such bullies as Hitler, Suddam or Ahmedinejad: they are not gentlemen. So, as it was during all history along, every country is free to chose any measures to defend itself, that it find appropriate, preemptive war included.

  40. Wild Rice Says:

    …applicable only to domestic affairs…“:

    I do not know what the situation is in the Russian Federation but in the US the prime law document is the US Constitution. This document says, among other things, that the rule of law shall exist within the US (and nobody is above the law) and that treaties entered into by the US are US law. One such treaty is known as the UN Charter. Another is Kellogg-Briand. Under both these treaties the invasion of Iraq was a crime under US law.

    Your notion that treaties are “only gentleman’s” agreements may have been true in 19th century Europe but the Major Wars Crimes trial ended that interpretation. Counts one and two of the indictment came from Kellogg-Briand.

  41. Isaiah Hunahun Says:

    WR — I think you’re connecting dots with grappling hooks.

  42. Sally Says:

    Under both these treaties the invasion of Iraq was a crime under US law.

    A perfect example of leftwing fantasy substituting for the real world. This particular troll has been touting this lunacy for a while now, but never manages to say why charges have never been laid, or why he can’t even find a single prosecutor anywhere willing to convene a grand jury. Of course, in their own little bubble, “charges”, “grand juries”, etc. are unnecessary nuisances anyway — they believe they’ve already rendered a verdict. That’s just how the “rule of law” works in Looking-Glass lefty world.

  43. Isaiah Hunahun Says:

    but there isn’t a basis in international law for just removing leaders we don’t like and for good reason

    As has been point out there is no such thing as International Law, but there was a basis in the UN Charter — that member states are mandated to act immediately in cases where a state is committing genocide, committing aggression against neighboring nations, harboring internationally wanted criminals, and fooling around with non-proliferation treaties. If Security Council member ignore their duty then is that right?

    Other crimes of Saddam’s regime — shooting at coalition aircraft on an almost daily basis — the oil-for-food scandal that was rendering poor Iraqis disconnected from the bureaucrats of the regime without proper nutrition and medical care.

    A state in this condition is spiraling to the pits of an abyss, like Rwanda. There are people that stand on the side lines and giggle – and people that say, NO MORE!

  44. TC Says:

    “Similarly, you saying that the US is committing a crime — even when you say that “there really isn’t any other way to classify it” (which is pretty persuasive evidence and logic, everyone would have to admit) — that just isn’t enough to make it so.”

    Well I’m not just “saying” it, Sally – I’m basing it on the events of the U.S war on Vietnam(and Laos, Cambodia). The deliberate targeting of civilians – actually the specific charge with regard to the Vietnam war would be both “aggression”(the unprovoked, unwarranted military assault on a sovereign state), and “international terrorism”(the deliberate targeting of a civilian population).

    When I say “there is no other way to classify it” I’m talking about those two undeniable facts – however you view U.S involvement in Indochina and whether intervention was warranted.

    Under international law – and as I say with excellent reason – there is no acceptable motivation for military action beyond self defense from an imminent attack.

    Thats what I’m talking about…

  45. Sally Says:

    But there is no such thing as legitimate international law, in the first place. And you’re wrong about Vietnam, in the second place — you are, in fact, “just saying it”, and that means that it’s sufficient for others to “just say” the opposite. (Some day, TC, you should learn that your mere assertion doesn’t cut it for anyone other than possibly your friends and family.)

  46. TC Says:

    Hold on there – fine – you don’t believe in international law. You don’t believe there is a legitimate body for international law, which is fair enough and your, unfortunately in my opinion, right.

    I provided two examples of what I’m saying – you’re implying that I’m making it up. Look Sally – the two examples I provided are fact. The U.S did do these things – that’s not disputed.

    Are you saying it didn’t happen?

    Or are you saying it didn’t happen ‘the way I’m saying it’?

    Now try to keep it calm there tiger – just trying to get to the bottom of things…

  47. stumbley Says:

    “The UN is irrelvant”

    Exactly. That’s why to claim that it’s “the only body capable” of “authorizing war” is a bit, well, frankly,
    STUPID. Yet you keep bringing it up, why?

  48. Sergey Says:

    there is no acceptable motivation for military action beyond self defense from an imminent attack

    As a matter of fact, there is – intervention in order to help one’s ally in case of aggression against it. This is the basis of all military alliances, multy-lateral or bilateral, and also the basis of international security in 20 century. (NATO, Warshav Pact and so on.) Some other reasons already were metioned in UN Chapter – humanitarian intervention to stop or prevent genocide and other dire situations. Impotence of international institutions to implement its own declared goals clearly shows that this vacuum of power and law should be addressed by the only superpower that now exists – US. I prefer it be done legally correctly, if possible, and if not possible, to be done anyway. Laws are not all etched on stone, they are created by precedents, and world leading nations should create such precedents.

  49. Sally Says:

    Look Sally – the two examples I provided [presumably "the unprovoked, unwarranted military assault on a sovereign state" and "the deliberate targeting of a civilian population" by the US, in or during the Vietnam War] are fact.

    No. They’re NOT fact.

    The U.S did do these things – that’s not disputed.

    Yes. It IS disputed. By me, among many others.

    I don’t know where you’re getting this sort of misinformation from, TC, but it’s wrong, plain and simple. It’s one thing to parrot things like this in a left-wing echo chamber where no one is going to think twice (or even once) about the most ridiculous nonsense as long as it’s anti-American — but to come on a blog like this and make these sorts of absurd generalizations as though they were actual “examples” of anything other than lefty fantasies is to make yourself look like just a simpleton or a troll or both. But let’s make the assumption that you’re not a troll at least and really are just “trying to get to the bottom of things” — here’s a clue and a start: look at your own use of the term “warranted” in the this comment.

  50. Sergey Says:

    Hi, folks, have you learned these verses at school?

    Take up the White Man’s burden
    The savage wars of peace
    Fill full the mouth of famine
    And bid the sickness cease;
    And when your goal is nearest
    The end for others sought,
    Watch Sloth and heathen Folly
    Bring all your hope to nought.

    If not, it is understandable why we have so much Sloth and Folly here.

  51. Wild Rice Says:

    …you don’t believe in international law.“:

    But the US does. The evidence for this, for example, is President Truman’s signature on the UN Charter. Other evidence is the vote in the Senate in order to ratify this treaty. There were no votes against and no abstentions.

    We should remember that the US was one of the inventors and chief promoters of international law.

  52. stumbley Says:

    “the US was one of the inventors and chief promoters of international law.”

    …when it looked like the “international community” might actually abide by the UN Charter. Unfortunately, that has proven not to be the case. As TC says, “the UN is irrelevant.”

  53. Lee Says:

    There’s a difference in abiding by international law and abiding by their twisted, convenient intrepretation of international law. If you guys have “evidence”, cite the cases and the specific “international laws” they violate. Not some vague “he kills women and children” crap, Book and statute.

  54. Wild Rice Says:

    …when it looked like…“:

    I had the 19th century in mind when I was making the original statement.

    I should point out that the perception overseas is that it is the US which is the main non abider of international law. And, from an objective point of view, it is hard to think of another country which has attacked other countries as many times as we have since WWII.

    When we are talking of the UN Charter we are, of course, talking of US law. And we are not in the habit of making our observance of US law contingent upon the observance of law by other countries. For instance, we do not decide to abandon our prohibition against burglary simply because country Y takes a more, and deplorably, relaxed attitude towards that crime.

  55. Sally Says:

    It’s hardly a matter of “believing in international law” — it’s rather a matter of whether or not there exits a legitimate legal structure by which international law can be made, interpreted, and enforced. And there doesn’t. The signature of President Truman is, therefore, a signature of failure. And the whole project of a top down imposition of international order fails with it. Of course, anti-American lefties, relying upon an anti-American preponderance in the corrupt United Nations, love to invoke this bogus and illegitimate farce, but most people are obviously and properly unimpressed. This doesn’t mean that someday we might not be able to forge a legitimate concept of international law, one that treats tyrants as tyrants and democracies as democracies — it’s just that we’re not going to achieve that by adherence to some blind cultural and/or moral relativism, or worse.

  56. Sally Says:

    Just a brief correction: it’s quite irrelevant what the “perception overseas” of the US is — it’s entirely possible that such a perception is simply wrong. Also, it really doesn’t say anything that the US has “attacked” X number of countries — the only question is whether or not such countries should have been attacked.

    And a question: how many times has the UN Charter been invoked in US legal cases? How many times has it been determinative? Ever? Never? Yes, I think it’s the latter. In which case, maybe that should tell you something about the status of the UN Charter in US law.

  57. TC Says:

    I don’t know where you’re getting this sort of misinformation from, TC, but it’s wrong, plain and simple. It’s one thing to parrot things like this in a left-wing echo chamber where no one is going to think twice (or even once) about the most ridiculous nonsense as long as it’s anti-American — but to come on a blog like this and make these sorts of absurd generalizations as though they were actual “examples” of anything other than lefty fantasies is to make yourself look like just a simpleton or a troll or both.

    Instead of blathering insults Sally why don’t you tell me what exactly is wrong with the facts that I’ve offered.

    Are you missing the part where I said that you may disagree with U.S motives and that they were good or whatever – but it is simply impossible to say that they didn’t target the civilian population of Vietnam. Impossible.

    It is also impossible to claim – under the very structured international legal system that the U.S was under threat in any way.

    Your knowledge of the UN international law, and American history is next to nil, Sally. Sorry.

    It’s got nothing to do with ‘left’ or ‘right’ or lefist blah-de-blah, anti-American whatever. It’s a legal issue based on fact.

    Sally – You really are an idiot.

    I’m really sorry – but you are.

    Sorry….

  58. stumbley Says:

    “Sorry.”
    “Sally – You really are an idiot.”
    “I’m really sorry – but you are.”
    “Sorry….”

    I guess there’s not a sorrier person than TC…

  59. Sally Says:

    it is simply impossible to say that they didn’t target the civilian population of Vietnam. Impossible.

    Oh yeah? Watch this: the US didn’t target the civilian population of Vietnam. Hey, the impossible is easier than you think!

    Say goodnight, TC.

  60. neo-neocon Says:

    TC: if you’re that sorry, don’t say it.

    As for the more substantive part of your comments, about the US targeting civilians in Vietnam–it is actually extremely possible to say that was not official US policy at all.

    If you read more than just the cursory surface information about Vietnam you will learn that South Vietnamese civilians were terrorized by the North Vietnamese and Vietcong, and villages were taken over against people’s will. Just as in the current wars in the Middle East, the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong hid behind civilians, coerced them, used them, and pretended to be them. In doing so, they hid behind the cover of being civilians themselves when they were not.

    Except for rare and terrible aberrations like My Lai, the US tried to avoid killing civilians. But the absolute truth is that it was incredibly difficult to tell who was a civilian, and the distinction was purposely made difficult–by the enemy, for propaganda purposes.

    A while back I linked to a fascinating and lengthy article that was a report on My Lai. But when I tried to go to the article again right now and give you the URL, I discovered it had been taken offline. However, I have a quote I’d taken from the article earlier, even though I can’t provide a working link at present. Here it is:

    The Viet Cong conducted a guerrilla war that can best be described as “clutching the people to their breast.” They disguised themselves as civilians, hid amongst civilians, often fortified villages (with noncombatants being the vast majority of the population), and even used civilians of all ages and both sexes (little children, women, and old men, included) for logistical support, intelligence, and to plant mines and booby traps. There was widespread belief among American soldiers that the Viet Cong would use the type of civilians mentioned above to throw grenades. An expert on the Vietnamese army remarked that “the Vietnamese communists erased entirely the line between military and civilian by ruling out the notion of noncombatant.”

  61. Sally Says:

    You’re certainly more patient than I am, neo. If someone makes a blanket assertion in a context where he knows (or should know) it’s going to be questioned, but makes not the slightest effort to back it up with even one example or one source, then I tend to think it’s quite enough just to deny the assertion. Especially when that person seems to think that “backing it up” is as simple as saying that it’s “impossible” to deny it.

  62. TC Says:

    “Except for rare and terrible aberrations like My Lai, the US tried to avoid killing civilians. But the absolute truth is that it was incredibly difficult to tell who was a civilian, and the distinction was purposely made difficult–by the enemy, for propaganda purposes.”

    No – again impossible to claim, Neo.

    And I am sorry – for you. Your understanding of the war, it’s history; your inability to seperate official government propaganda from fact make it difficult for you to comprehend reality – but I do understand.

    The fact is when you carpet bomb a country – which is what happened in Vietnam – and when you have a policy of razing villages and killing people because you can’t seperate friend from foe – then you are the enemy.

    Your assessment of the what happened during the war regarding the North and South is skewed too by offical government line – which contradicts the reality of South Vietnam – while disregarding what would have happened with out the criminal intervention of the U.S.A – the reunification of the country.

    But I’ve clearly touched a nerve – keep that wall up people, it’s the only thing you have.

    So I’ll leave it alone. Promise….

  63. TC Says:

    “Oh yeah? Watch this: the US didn’t target the civilian population of Vietnam. Hey, the impossible is easier than you think!”

    LOL!! You are a riot, Sally.

    ps Is it possible for me to claim the earth is flat?

    I like your style, Sally – you’ve really motivated me to be all that I can be….

  64. TC Says:

    “If someone makes a blanket assertion in a context where he knows (or should know) it’s going to be questioned, but makes not the slightest effort to back it up with even one example or one source, then I tend to think it’s quite enough just to deny the assertion. Especially when that person seems to think that “backing it up” is as simple as saying that it’s “impossible” to deny it.”

    Well it’s not a blanket assertion – it’s an observable fact. And seeing as you think it’s not I will procede to demonstrate that it is -with sources if that’s what it takes Sally.

    http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=6105

    If you serious in what you say above, Sally – than read this for a start. If I were to also provide evidence in the form of U.S claims that the idea was to literally destroy Vietnam ‘in order to save it’ – would that convince you the U.S willingly and purposefully targeted civilians?

    If I were to provide evidence that the U.S carpet bombed rural areas, villages in South and North Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos – dropping more tonnes of bombs on indochina then were dropped during the entire second world war – would that convince you?

    If I were to provide evidence that these crimes were official U.S policy in Vietnam -would that convince you?

    If it wouldn’t – than I would be wasting your time.

    So let me know….

  65. TC Says:

    http://www.commondreams.org/views/050300-102.htm

    If any of the claims in this brief essay strike you as odd, or you need further sources to verify any of the claims – just let me know….

  66. TC Says:

    And I know I said I would leave it alone – but if we are going to have a serious debate than I’m all for it.

    And I apologize for calling you an ‘idiot’, Sally.

    I didn’t understand what you meant…

  67. TC Says:

    Neo – read this in regards to your claims about My Lai being an isolated incident in Vietnam…

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-vietnam6aug06,0,6350517.story

    If your serious…

  68. Wild Rice Says:

    …an isolated incident…“:

    Here is another one.

    The real problem wrt targeting civilians was a lot more casual. For instance the Free Fire Zones. They were not called “Indian Country” for nothing.

  69. Ariel Says:

    Here’s the Wolfowitz quote on OIL from the Hitchen’s article:
    “The difference between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil. In the case of North Korea, the country is teetering on the edge of economic collapse and that I believe is a major point of leverage whereas the military picture with North Korea is very different from that with Iraq.” The sense was clearly that the US had no economic options by means of which to achieve its objectives, not that the economic value of the oil motivated the war.

    So your right, it was the oil. Just not how you meant it. This is the problem of secondary sources with agendas. I know because I have personally gone through it on a local basis. An “accurate” quote that meant the exact opposite of what I said.

  70. Sally Says:

    There now — that’s more like what “backing up” a blanket assertion is supposed to mean, TC. Good for you. (It’s still not an “observable fact”, since it’s a generalization of a lot of supposed observables, but nevertheless….)

    Unfortunately, if we look at your sources, it’s quickly evident that two of them are so severely biased ideologically as to be pretty much worthless in anything like a neutral forum. I’m sure your leftwing friends accept them as gospel, but most people would realize that their virulently anti-American standpoint contaminates and renders doubtful any substantive claims regarding American bad behavior.

    The LA Times study, on the other hand — though it comes from an MSM source known to be biased toward the liberal left — is sufficiently neutral and fact-based that it needs to be taken seriously. It claims that there were indeed widespread abuses by American troops during the Vietnam war, and possibly that these were inadequately handled by authorities at the time and later. I don’t see any indication that neo’s point regarding the deliberate mixing and hiding of enemy troops with the civilian population was taken into account, and I’d certainly want to consider multiple sources before coming to a conclusion about this — but it is at least prima facie evidence that the level of abuse was higher than has generally been accepted.

    But under any circumstances this is a far cry from saying that American forces deliberately targeted civilians as a matter of policy. In fact, it presents evidence exactly to the contrary — that the US considered such targeting abuse, and did in fact prosecute and punish many of the people involved, even if inadequately. People who seize on such reports and analysis not as means to improve America but rather as clubs with which to beat it are people for whom this country really is the enemy.

  71. stumbley Says:

    For all those who continue to bleat about the importance of “international law”, I offer the following:

    “In other words, the prospect of prosecution by an ICT may sometimes exacerbate the risks of humanitarian atrocities. Finally, prosecution by an ICT may also exacerbate conflicts though a political opportunism effect in which local politicians will have an incentive to free-ride off ICT efforts and turn a blind eye to the kinds of institutional reforms that are more likely to prevent future atrocities.”

    complete link at: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=931567

    Be careful what you wish for.

  72. Lee Says:

    “you’ve really motivated me to be all I can be…” Is all you can be a jerk?

  73. TC Says:

    “Robert Jensen is a professor in the Department of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. He can be reached at rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu

    “Fred Branfman, then Director of Project Air War, exposed U.S. bombing of civilians in Indochina as it was occurring after interviewing thousands of refugees in Laos. He is currently a Santa Barbara-based writer.”

    You may consider the sources as left-wing and so unworthy of consideration, but I would look at just who is saying what.

    Futhermore, the content of these essays is well documented and sourced.

    You might not like the angle being looked at – is this bias? -but as I say it contains what I believe are well founded assertions about the Vietnam war – including the charge of international terrorism.

    Nobody would claim that Osama bin Laden was trying to cripple the economy and the military establishment of America on 9/11 and that the 3000 Americans who died were unitentional victims(despite the fact that he could argue as such). No – we quite correctly claim that when you fly fully fueled aircraft into a highly populated area you are intentionally targeting and killing civilians.

    When you drop massive tonnage of bombs on highly populated areas as we did in Vietnam – you and intentionally targeting and killing civilians (which was how the vast majority of civilians deaths occurred in Vietnam). Saying you weren’t – like saying the use of agent orange was used only as a defoiliant when it was known to cause enormous human damage – isn’t going to change that very observable fact.

    Reckless disregard for human life?

    Whatever you say – it fits quite clearly into what we call ‘terrorism’.

  74. TC Says:

    Stumbley – what in the world is that suppossed to mean?

    Can you explain to me what this means to you?

  75. stumbley Says:

    “Stumbley – what in the world is that suppossed to mean?”

    Well, gosh, TC, if you managed to read it, you’d find out…but the version for simpletons goes like this: sometimes, the fact that an Internation Criminal Tribunal (ICT) exists tends to exacerbate the very crimes it seeks to punish, either by encouraging the “criminals” to be more ruthless prior to their capture, or—through their belief that the ICT will “punish” wrongdoers—prevent them from establishing the reforms that would negate the crimes for which the Tribunal is established. In other words, ICTs make the problems worse, and don’t solve anything. Ergo, “international law” is not the panacea that will alleviate humanitarian disasters; it often is a factor in increasing the suffering.

  76. TC Says:

    Yeah – that’s what I thought.

    What complete and utter rubbish.

    I particularly like this part:

    ” (ICT’s will)prevent them(war criminals)from establishing the reforms that would negate the crimes for which the Tribunal is established.”

    So in other words, let’s not bring criminals to justice and send a powerful message to corrupt governments and officals – no let’s do nothing so that these same groups will naturally transform their behavior like all war criminals eventually do.

    Like I said, utter crap.

    And yes, sometimes war criminals do speed up the criminal process to allow for their policies to be implemented – like Milosevic did after the U.S bombs dropped on Belgrade in order to prevent a humanitarian disaster.

    So we should just drop all forms of international justice in favor of doing nothing – lest we, Americans, of course should run afowl of these tribunals.

    No – we are judge, jury and executioner.

    Whatever our constitution says – and i t does recongnize the UN charter as the “official law of the land”.

  77. stumbley Says:

    “Whatever our constitution says – and i t does recongnize the UN charter as the “official law of the land”.”

    TC, this is so wrong. And I’m glad that you dismiss as “utter crap” a well-reasoned paper by people who know what they’re talking about. I guess I should bow to your unbounded knowledge of international law.

    What firm did you say you were a partner in again?

  78. TC Says:

    “Has there been, and if so, on what scale, bombardment of purely civilian targets, for example, hospitals, schools, medical establishments, dams, etc?

    Yes (unanimously). We find the government and armed forces of the United States are guilty of the deliberate, systematic and large-scale bombardment of civilian targets, including civilian populations, dwellings, villages, dams, dikes, medical establishments, leper colonies, schools, churches, pagodas, historical and cultural monuments. We also find unanimously, with one abstention, that the government of the United States of America is guilty of repeated violations of the sovereignty, neutrality and territorial integrity of Cambodia, that it is guilty of attacks against the civilian population of a certain number of Cambodian towns and villages.”

    The Russel tribunal on U.S war crimes in Vietnam.

  79. Anonymous Says:

    No stumbley – it’s quite right.

    Article VI, Clause 2 of the US Constitution.

    * Summary of Article VI. The article states that international treaties such as the U.N. Charter, which was ratified by the US in 1945, are the “supreme law of the land.” The article reads:“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.” [US Constitution]

    * Violation. The United States Congress violated Article VI of the Constitution when it passed Joint Congressional Joint Resolution 46 [S.J. Res 46] ‘authorizing’ the President to order “the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq.” The President then violated this article when he ordered the commencement of the official invasion of Iraq.

    Not to put to fine a point on it….

  80. stumbley Says:

    The UN Charter is not a “treaty”. Sorry to disappoint you.

  81. stumbley Says:

    Moreover, if (and that’s a big if) it were indeed “international law”, there’s not a country in the world that hasn’t violated it at one time or another. Not one.

  82. Anonymous Says:

    “And I’m glad that you dismiss as “utter crap” a well-reasoned paper by people who know what they’re talking about. I guess I should bow to your unbounded knowledge of international law.”

    The link is to a paper by law students, stumbley – and requires quite a bit of reading to give you a complete definite statement on it. Which is why I asked you what it meant to you – in which case I say, yes, it is utter crap that war crime tribunals actually make humanitarian disasters worse; and/or they are ineffective or have unintended conscequences.

    But if you think reading it thoroughly will make a difference, I will. Or you could point out what contemporary examples might make me think different.

  83. stumbley Says:

    “The link is to a paper by law students”

    Jide Nzelibe
    Assistant Professor
    Northwestern University – School of Law

    Julian Ku
    Associate Professor of Law

    You were saying….?

  84. TC Says:

    I wasn’t belittling it because I thought it was written by students – wrongly as it turns out. I was pointing out that it required quite a bit of reading – that on the face of it I felt(and still do)wasn’t worth the time.

    Which, again, is why I asked you what it mean to you…..

  85. stumbley Says:

    “The point is the U.S constitution recognizes the UN Charter as official law”

    The point is, TC, the US Constitution does not recognize the Charter as official law. You’re the one overreaching.

    In any event, it’s clear that your views on this subject can’t be swayed by reason or facts—pretty much like your views on anything else—so it’s pointless to try to debate.

  86. TC Says:

    “Moreover, if (and that’s a big if) it were indeed “international law”, there’s not a country in the world that hasn’t violated it at one time or another. Not one.”

    Since the ratification of the UN charter in 1945?

    Your joking, right? There are alot of countries who have – but there are even more who havent’….

  87. TC Says:

    stumbley – your alot bigger than that man…. You can read in what I posted for you damn clear that the UN charter is offically recognized in the U.S constitution ….admitting you are wrong isn’t going to hurt dude…..

  88. Sally Says:

    TC: …it fits quite clearly into what we call ‘terrorism’.

    This from a guy who says he’s “just trying to get to the bottom of things”. Some people would call that sort of thing “disingenuous” — others would call it lying. Take your pick.

    As for the laughable use of the term “terrorism” here — notice that we never heard this charge, even from the usual suspects, prior to 9/11 did we? Think this might be nothing more than a simple-minded attempt at anti-American propaganda, along the lines of the schoolyard “you’re another!” taunt? I think you’d be right.

    It’s true, of course, that war is a nasty business, and for some time now civilians have not been exempt from it. As most people know very well, and as those in the military understand better than most, it’s something best avoided if at all possible. But that’s not always possible for a country or people that wish to remain free, and when it’s not, war is something that must be won, as quickly and decisively as possible. Within that context, we should do everything reasonable to safeguard the genuinely innocent — not quite the same, as we’re increasingly seeing, as so-called “civilians” — and we should punish those who genuinely abuse their role as soldiers; but we should dismiss with contempt the efforts of those who hate and detest America to use the ugliness of war as merely a propaganda club against it.

  89. stumbley Says:

    TC, I read the UN Charter. It’s not a treaty. It’s simply a statement of the operation of a group of nations that has agreed to try to cooperate on matters of international importance. It has no provisions for enforcement of “international law” other than Strongly Worded Denunciations, or the application of military force if a country doesn’t comply with UN requests and insists on doing belligerent things, like, oh…shooting at airplanes enforcing a “no-fly” zone mandated by UN resolutions, for instance. The US violated no “international law” by invading Iraq. If it did so, then let the UN’s “International Court of Justice” prosecute. It hasn’t done so…I wonder why?

  90. Wild Rice Says:

    It’s not a treaty.“:

    See Treaties in Force, page 476.

  91. Wild Rice Says:

    …mandated by UN resolutions…“:

    That should read “not mandated by UN resolutions”. This lack of a mandate was acknowledged by Great Britain, France and the US on a number of occasions.

  92. Wild Rice Says:

    …I wonder why?“:

    It is individuals who are prosecuted as war criminals. An example of this was the first Nuremberg Trial.

  93. Sally Says:

    It is individuals who are prosecuted as war criminals.

    You might notice that ol Riceroni here clams up completely when asked about prosecutions of the Bush administration as war criminals. He seems to be having some trouble finding the necessary prosecutor, grand jury, etc.

    I wonder why?

  94. stumbley Says:

    “but there are even more who havent’….”

    Name one.

    And I’ll admit that I was wrong wrt the UN Charter, as demonstrated by WR. Nevertheless, let’s see anyone try to prosecute the current administration for “war crimes”.

  95. stumbley Says:

    A liberal interpretation of UN Resolution 688 would suggest that a no-fly zone could have been authorized by its language, given that the flights were designed to monitor Iraq’s compliance with the humanitarian efforts mandated by the resolution. In any event, since coalition aircraft were being fired upon daily, use of force was authorized by the UN Charter itself.

  96. Wild Rice Says:

    …let’s see anyone try to prosecute…“:

    I’m sure that you support and believe in the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. One of the central themes of both of these documents is the concept known as “the rule of law”. And one of the key propositions of the rule of law is that no one, whom ever they may be, is above the law. From that it follows that if a prima facie case exists then a prosecution must proceed.

    A prima facie does exist: a country (Iraq) has been invaded by another on a basis other than in response to an attack. Given your support above I’m sure that you will now support a prosecution.

  97. Wild Rice Says:

    …since coalition aircraft were being fired upon daily…“:

    Using your reasoning if, for instance, planes from the PRC where to appear over the US and they then proceeded to deny us our airspace and attack ground installations, and we fired back, then the PRC would be within its rights to invade. I suspect that you do not adhere to that proposition.

    The defendants could, of course, try and use that line for their defense but I do not believe that it would fly in a court.

  98. stumbley Says:

    WR, you’d be in favor of indicting Bill Clinton for bombing an aspirin factory and the Chinese embassy, then?

  99. Anonymous Says:

    “Some people would call that sort of thing “disingenuous” — others would call it lying. Take your pick.”

    Or some, who’d rather make observations in reality and truth, would call it terrorism – ‘the purposeful targeting of civilians or civilian infrastructure to influence a political outcome’, exactly what bombing campaigns in Vietnam were designed to do. And as I showed – this happpened in abundance.

    “As most people know very well, and as those in the military understand better than most, it’s something best avoided if at all possible.”

    People in the military take orders. Thats what they do. And when your leaders say drop tonnes of bombs on rural communities in Vietnam with the full knowledge that their are civilians down there – you do it. War is nasty business. And it’s a shame you know so little about Sally – or about what terrorism is. Crying shame.

    “notice that we never heard this charge, even from the usual suspects, prior to 9/11 did we? Think this might be nothing more than a simple-minded attempt at anti-American propaganda, along the lines of the schoolyard “you’re another!” taunt? I think you’d be right.”

    No – but notice how Sally just can’t understand what I’m saying – because in her world the only truth is a lie – that America doesn’t engage in terrorism – because our leaders say so. Sally would probably love “Pravada” if she was Russian. But she talks about school-yard taunts and the like! Oh, what a scream. Simple-minded? Yes you are Sally – you are that to a tee.

    “But we should dismiss with contempt the efforts of those who hate and detest America to use the ugliness of war as merely a propaganda club against it.”

    As we should those who gleefully bend over and take American propaganda on with such stupendous ignorance. And those who attempt to call holding governments accountable for their crimes in so-called liberal democracies, “anti-American”.

    Oh Sally – just when it seems like you might have something intelligent to say you fall back on your blathering insults – well I like that game too.

    Whatever you want baby….

  100. stumbley Says:

    “exactly what bombing campaigns in Vietnam were designed to do.”

    Well, no. They were designed to interdict supply lines from the North and from Cambodia. Your knowledge of Vietnam is really pitiful. How old are you again?

  101. Wild Rice Says:

    …you’d be in favor of indicting Bill Clinton…“:

    Yes.

  102. TC Says:

    If we are interpreting the UN charter as regards to war, stumbley, there are loads of countries that haven’t violated it.

    Sweden,Canada, Denmark, Mexico, ….loads of em.

    Why would you say this????

  103. stumbley Says:

    Canada had troops in Korea. If I wanted to waste the time, I could come up with humanitarian or other violations by each of the countries you named. It’s just not worth it.

    Bombing supply lines or other strategic and tactical targets as a tactic in war is justified.

    I have no attitude other than impatience with a person who is consistently antagonistic, refuses to listen to facts, and is constantly calling other people names. How old are you again?

  104. TC Says:

    Fair enough in Korea with Canada – I’m not sure. But are you sure there wasn’t a mandate for military action at the UN? Or that Canada entered directly into the Korean war? Canadian’s also fought in the American army during Vietnam -but Canada as a nation did not send troops to Vietnam.

    No – you won’t find any violations for Sweden, Switizerland or literally dozen’s of cases.

    But please, if you think you can, by all means go ahead..

  105. TC Says:

    “I have no attitude other than impatience with a person who is consistently antagonistic, refuses to listen to facts, and is constantly calling other people names. How old are you again?”

    Answer the question – what supply lines were being bombed in South Vietnam, stumbley.

    Stop the games. It’s not a question of your patience – it’s a question of what you don’t want to believe. And what ‘facts’ are you offering? That a bombing campaign of the magnitude of Vietnam was directed at disrupting ‘supply lines’?

    Is that a fact? Prove it…

  106. TC Says:

    “Has there been, and if so, on what scale, bombardment of purely civilian targets, for example, hospitals, schools, medical establishments, dams, etc?

    Yes (unanimously). We find the government and armed forces of the United States are guilty of the deliberate, systematic and large-scale bombardment of civilian targets, including civilian populations, dwellings, villages, dams, dikes, medical establishments, leper colonies, schools, churches, pagodas, historical and cultural monuments. We also find unanimously, with one abstention, that the government of the United States of America is guilty of repeated violations of the sovereignty, neutrality and territorial integrity of Cambodia, that it is guilty of attacks against the civilian population of a certain number of Cambodian towns and villages.”

    The Russel tribunal on U.S war crimes in Vietnam.

  107. stumbley Says:

    TC: We’re done. Good luck with the war crimes. Hope your back feels better.

  108. stumbley Says:

    And hey, if Simone de Beauvoir says we’re guilty, who am I to argue?

    TC, you’re always good for a laugh. Now we’re really done.

  109. Sally Says:

    From that it follows that if a prima facie case exists then a prosecution must proceed…. I’m sure that you will now support a prosecution.

    Heh. Looks like he doesn’t really think that the prosecution must proceed after all, does he? Or he wouldn’t be having to go around begging for support.

    The problem here has to do with the Rice Man’s understanding of a) international relations, b) the US Constitution, c) law, d) history, e) logic, and f) reality. Other than that, he seems no worse than the most lefties (e.g., his sense of justice and morality is also impaired but no more so than average for that wing).

  110. Lee Says:

    “prima facie” case? Gee, I thought Saddam violated the terms of his cease-fire agreement he had with coalition forces, therefore RESUMING fire as a continuation of HIS aggression against Kuwait. What law was violated?

  111. Anonymous Says:

    …I thought…“:

    You are mistaken. The cease fire agreement was given effect by a US Security Council Resolution.

  112. Sally Says:

    You are mistaken.

    Given his track record regarding war crimes trials for the Bush administration, I think we can safely disregard anything Wild Rice says about matters of fact, even if he’s now posting as “Anonymous”. (And that’s probably a “UN” Security Council Resolution he’s trying to allude to, since the US doesn’t have a Security Council.)

  113. a guy in pajamas Says:

    TC: Under international law … but there isn’t a basis in international law … Because the United States of America, the most powerful nation on the planet, simply sees itself as outside the law … (etc., ad nauseum)

    Ya know, this newfound appreciation for Law among the Left, it baffles me. It’s almost like, it’s just a weapon to attack their enemy with, or something. All the lefties I’ve known personally have been rather dismissive of law; they’ve certainly never been legalistic or felt that they personally were obliged to obey the letter of the law themselves. Heavens no, quite the contrary.

    I mean, they’ve never decried Lenin’s crimes, Stalin’s crimes, Mao’s crimes … You never hear them talk about Chinese and Soviet violations of international law in Vietnam, nor the North Vietnamese violations, like their policy of assassination or directing major supply lines through a neutral country. Nor do we get treated to dissertations on the legal perfidies of the Khmer Rouge, another of their lefty buddies, nor the significant and undeniable millions of crimes committed by other nations over the last 50 years. Nor do we hear about Saddam’s war crimes; no thoughts of bringing him to justice (before the new government of Iraq brought him to its meager justice), nor of bringing France to justice for violating a number of UN resolutions regarding Iraq in the 1990s, nor anything about war crimes and terrorism committed by Iran, or international crimes committed by Syria, or, um, ANY other nation except the US. Oh, sometimes we hear about the crimes of US allies, as a way of indicting the US. That’s true.

    I don’t know, I just can’t overcome the feeling that their newfound respect for Law and Order is a bit, well, politically convenient.

    Anyway, for the legalists among us, the current US presence in Iraq has been sanctioned by the UN and an invitation from the officially recognized sovereign government of Iraq. We seem to be legally required, under the Law of the Land, no less, to have a military presence there, fight the people we’re fighting, and help Iraq out. Goodness, we could’t possibly ignore the expressed will of the international community, made law by our own beloved Constitution, now could we? Certainly, TC, WR, and the various anonymice must strongly support our efforts there now that they are sanctioned by Law, both international and domestic.

  114. Ymarsakar Says:

    Link

    The creation of the UN was riddled with communist spies from the US State Department and the highest levels of government (Roosevelt’s circle).

    So combined with this post, you can see that the Soviets intended to use the UN to discredit and limit the power of the US.

    Dear fellow bookwormroom readers,
    Below is from the site http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=260 . It is long and I apologize for pasting so much of it here but I think it is required reading. I promise to never post such a long tract again. Please read. It offers an explanation of many of the themes we explore and argue about today.

    Gramscian damage
    Americans have never really understood ideological warfare. Our gut-level assumption is that everybody in the world really wants the same comfortable material success we have. We use “extremist” as a negative epithetic. Even the few fanatics and revolutionary idealists we have, whatever their political flavor, expect everybody else to behave like a bourgeois.
    We don’t expect ideas to matter — or, when they do, we expect them to matter only because people have been flipped into a vulnerable mode by repression or poverty. Thus all our divagation about the “root causes” of Islamic terrorism, as if the terrorists’ very clear and very ideological account of their own theory and motivations is somehow not to be believed.
    By contrast, ideological and memetic warfare has been a favored tactic for all of America’s three great adversaries of the last hundred years — Nazis, Communists, and Islamists. All three put substantial effort into cultivating American proxies to influence U.S. domestic policy and foreign policy in favorable directions. Yes, the Nazis did this, through organizations like the “German-American Bund” that was outlawed when World War II went hot. Today, the Islamists are having some success at manipulating our politics through fairly transparent front organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
    But it was the Soviet Union, in its day, that was the master of this game. They made dezinformatsiya (disinformation) a central weapon of their war against “the main adversary”, the U.S. They conducted memetic subversion against the U.S. on many levels at a scale that is only now becoming clear as historians burrow through their archives and ex-KGB officers sell their memoirs.
    The Soviets had an entire “active measures” department devoted to churning out anti-American dezinformatsiya. A classic example is the rumor that AIDS was the result of research aimed at building a ‘race bomb’ that would selectively kill black people.
    On a different level, in the 1930s members of CPUSA (the Communist Party of the USA) got instructions from Moscow to promote non-representational art so that the US’s public spaces would become arid and ugly.
    Americans hearing that last one tend to laugh. But the Soviets, following the lead of Marxis

  115. Ymarsakar Says:

    t theoreticians like Antonio Gramsci, took very seriously the idea that by blighting the U.S.’s intellectual and esthetic life, they could sap Americans’ will to resist Communist ideology and an eventual Communist takeover. The explicit goal was to erode the confidence of America’s ruling class and create an ideological vacuum to be filled by Marxism-Leninism.
    Accordingly, the Soviet espionage apparat actually ran two different kinds of network: one of spies, and one of agents of influence. The agents of influence had the minor function of recruiting spies (as, for example, when Kim Philby was brought in by one of his tutors at Cambridge), but their major function was to spread dezinformatsiya, to launch memetic weapons that would damage and weaken the West.
    In a previous post on Suicidalism, (1) I identified some of the most important of the Soviet Union’s memetic weapons. Here is that list again:
    • There is no truth, only competing agendas.
    • All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West’s history of racism and colonialism.
    • There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such standards is an evil oppressor.
    • The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be impoverished and miserable.
    • Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal. Poor criminals are entitled to what they take. Submitting to criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it.
    • The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only victims are virtuous. Therefore only the poor and criminals are virtuous. (Rich people can borrow some virtue by identifying with poor people and criminals.)
    • For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself. But ‘oppressed’ people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.
    • When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist’s point of view, and make concessions.
    As I previously observed, if you trace any of these back far enough, you’ll find a Stalinist intellectual at the bottom. (The last two items on the list, for example, came to us courtesy of Frantz Fanon. The fourth item is the Baran-Wallerstein “world system” thesis.) Most were staples of Soviet propaganda at the same time they were being promoted by “progressives” (read: Marxists and the dupes of Marxists) within the Western intelligentsia.
    The Soviets consciously followed the Gramscian prescription; they pursued a war of position, subverting the “leading elements” of society through their agents of influence. (See, for example, Stephen Koch’s Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals; summ

  116. Ymarsakar Says:

    Get the rest here.

    link

  117. Lee Says:

    The “supply lines” being bombed in the north and south and in Laos and in Cambodia were collectively called “The Ho Chi Minh Trail”. Any objective study of the conflict in SE Asia surely MUST have mentioned these supply lines TC insists didn’t exist.

  118. Lee Says:

    “you are mistaken.” Actually the cease-fire was put into effect by the treaty of Safwan, and enforced by the signatories(coalition forces). The UN merely ratified said agreement, they are NOT the enforcing body.

  119. Lee Says:

    Well, TC, according to Amnesty Int’l, Sweden has violated the UN Charter. See the case of Mohammed El Zari and Ahmed Agiza confirmed by the Human Rights Council on 10 Nov, 2006. Utopia isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

  120. Lee Says:

    According to the Univ of Pittsburg Law Dep’t. paper “The Jurist”, Mexico and Denmark are being investigated by the UN for alleged human rights violations. That list of non-violators and utopias keeps getting smaller and smaller.

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About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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