Monday, June 26, 2006

What Horrible Genie Have We Unleashed?

By Cassandra D

When we were about to launch the war in Iraq I was deeply troubled. I remember driving by a candlelight vigil for peace and having the urge to stop and participate, yet I drove on. I also remember that my neighbor had a sign in her lawn that said, "War Is Not the Answer," and I wondered how she was so sure of that. I knew I supported the war in Afghanistan, but I was confused and uneasy about Iraq and wished I knew what stand to take.

After the fighting started I had the vague feeling, I'm sorry to say, that my neighbor's sign was unpatriotic. When the war began I was still very uneasy about it but I took a deep breath and hoped for the best, hoped our leaders knew what they were doing.

Now I wish that I had gone to that vigil, that I had put up a yard sign, too. Not that it would have made any difference.

I wonder how many Iraqis are truly happy with their liberation from Saddam Hussein. I suppose the Kurds are the happiest. But the rest of the country has slid into horrible sectarian violence, with tit for tat torture and religious "cleansing."

A Sunday Times article details the horror that is found at a Baghdad morgue. Read the whole thing, but here is an excerpt:

"...It receives 20 to 30 bodies on a quiet day. Last month it processed a record 1,384. Most autopsies have been cancelled; there are simply not enough doctors or officials to cope.

As a former trauma specialist in a hospital casualty department, Dr Baker Siddique, 29, thought he was inured to scenes of carnage. But nothing he had witnessed prepared him for a visit to a pathologist friend working at the mortuary.

"I saw a street packed with people and coffins standing up vertically," he said. "There wasn't enough room to lie them horizontally."


As the doctor talked to his friend, a police pickup truck pulled up with a dozen or more bodies piled in the back. "I could not believe that the dead were brought in such a way," Siddique said. "They were one on top of the other like animal carcasses."

When the police found that no porters were available to help, they threw the bodies off the truck. It was then that Siddique noticed the corpses of two boys aged about 12 lying in the pile on the ground.

"Each had a piece of knotted green cloth tied around his neck and I could see they'd been strangled," the doctor said. He also noticed round holes that were slightly inflamed in several parts of their body, a sign that they had been tortured with electric drills before being killed. "Even their eyes had been drilled and only hollow sockets remained," he said.

When he pointed out the injuries to his friend, the pathologist shrugged and took another drag on his cigarette, saying this was now routine. "

(emphasis added)

Yes, Saddam and his torturers are gone, but now everybody's neighbors have taken up the slack.

Iraq has become hell on earth, and a little bit of democratic icing on top doesn't seem to be changing that.

(via The Moderate Voice)


At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Brett said...

Cassandra --
Respectfully, for your "taking up the slack" comment to be accurate, the number of deaths in Iraq per day would have to more double the "record month" the Sunday Times article names.
In a March 22nd article in Australia's Herald Sun, writer Andrew Bolt cites groups such as the Human Right Watch and Documental Centre for Human Rights, whose low end guesses at Saddam's death toll during his 24 years in power would come out to between 90 and 120 per day. Saddam's signature is on death warrants for boys in the village of Dujail as young as the two the Times story mentions; it's what he's on trial for now.
Iraq is a dangerous place still, and one Iraqi murdered for any reason is too many. But the insurgents who randomly kill Iraqi people that are just trying to live their lives haven't yet taken up Saddam's slack. They haven't even gotten close.

At 6:25 PM, Blogger Cassandra D said...

The Iraqi people sure learned from a master, I agree. Electric drills in children? Monsters.

At 11:54 PM, Anonymous Red Dirt said...

Cassandra, I don't disagree that Iraq is a hellish snake pit. In fact I shared that information repeatedly in conversations with various individuals before the war, if I am not mistaken? I believe that I also indicated that though I supported the invasion, I expected our occupation to last years, with a long and bloody trail?

Yes, the daily horrors we hear about are disturbing, disheartening and sickening. Anyone who expected an antiseptic, science fiction invasion and aftermath was simply delusional -- and that includes the Bush administration officials who played into that mindset in a desperate PR gambit.

And I don't disagree that Bush and Co. screwed up the planning in the aftermath of the invasion -- Rumsfeld clearly ignored advice from Pentagon brass to put more boots on the ground, both before and after.

This, too, I have repeatedly said.

However, I simply disagree that things were any better before we invaded. Surely I do not have to revisit the genocidal and ecological nightmares of the Orwellian, Baathist charnel house that existed before we invaded. Surely you would agree that Iraq was hellish in the decades before we invaded. Surely you would agree that Saddam had shown a notable propensity for threatening the entire region, for launching ballistic missiles on a whim, and had even carried out genocidal attacks.

And I'm not arguing that we've actually improved things -- though one could easily argue that a fledgling democracy, no matter how imperfect and bloody, is always an improvement over the unremitting hostility of an aggressive and adventurous totalitarian regime.

But after all the heartache, missed opportunities, bungling and pure ugliness (such as Abu Ghraib) I still have not read a solid logical case on Huffington Post or or Daily Kos or any other number of such places to show me that forestalling an inevitable confrontation with Saddam would have put us in a better situation than we are now.

That is the bottom line.

Let us slice through the rhetoric and remember a bit of history: People always seem to conveniently forget that Clinton and his cabinet were moving toward an invasion of Iraq in 1998, until Republicans at the time made his life miserable and used his foreign policy decisions to make baseless "wag the dog" accusations. Clinton pulled back at the last minute not because "war is not the answer," but because of domestic concerns.

That was an unfortunate hinge of history. The door closed. But the intractable problems behind the door did not disappear.

As you know, I saw that "war is not the answer" yard sign too, and felt it was an incredibly offensive expression of a not-so-serious mind -- a worldview that will countenance evil, shrug and go back to growing raggedy sunflowers.

Sometimes war is the answer. Sometimes it is not.

But a knee-jerk yard sign that expresses extreme, morally untenable pacifism in the face of overwhelming evil certainly is not the answer.

That yard sign went up days after 9/11, after a global organization out of some Ian Fleming novel, bent on the destruction of our civilization, launched its opening salvo against complete innocents (unless, that is, one agrees with various vile ivory tower leftist professors who believe those who worked in the Twin Towers were part of "the system" and had it coming).

I wanted to kick that yard sign over, because it was clearly unpatriotic. Your instincts were right. You should have stuck to them.

No question about it. Sometimes dissent is patriotic. Absolutely. But let's have a moment of unvarnished honesty: Can we agree that sometimes dissent is just knee-jerk leftist or right-wing garbage? Can we agree that, at the very least, sometimes dissent is simply tasteless posturing meant to self-aggrandize one's self, or to polish one's bona fides as a "peace activist"?

Neo-nazis and shrill leftists share a lot in common, in my view. They are both filled with deep, abiding hostility to the American experiment.

My wife was pregnant at the time that sign was poked into the anemic, weed-choked grass of that yard. My wife was in the hospital with complications, and we were about to bring a baby into a post-9/11 world.

I respectfully stayed silent and let the execrable yard sign sit there, balefully sharing its banal message with the street -- the tattered cardboard a dull symbol of the banality of evil, in fact.

And so deeply unpatriotic. The expression of a bitter, leftist, geratric ponytail who would never deign to support a nation that had won the Cold War and had consistenly fought for freedom, even within its own borders.

Looking back on it, I wish I had taken that silly sign away in plain view of that particular individual. It would have been wholly appropriate. It would have been a bold and righteous act of patriotism. Today, I would take that sign and break it in two. I would not hesitate, because it expresses an extreme viewpoint that is devoid of logic.

That's how much 9/11 changed me over the weeks and months after the worst attack on American soil.

And I will never forget that a bunch of nihilist adolescent sociopaths with bad body odor and ridiculous fantasies about doe-eyed virgins in heaven still sit in the deserts and mountains of a blasted region, hating Western civilization for actually progressing beyond the 14th century. They will plot and wait, dreaming of mutilating women's genitalia, dreaming of burning books, dreaming of destroying American cities, dreaming of blasting ancient monuments, dreaming of bringing plague to innocents, dreaming of more beheadings that give them some sick psychosexual satisfaction -- all for the glory of their violent god.

They will continue to do these things, until we so decimate their ranks that their plotting and waiting and hellish dreaming is merely the activity of a smattering of useless, wild-eyed, babbling idiots.

They declared, "We love death, you love life."

I take them at their word, and do not fantasize about campfire sessions where we could toast marshmallows together and sing great protest songs from the '60s on our mandolins. No, that's the sclerotic fantasy of a particular person who put a hateful yard sign in her grass before she even knew all the facts.

By the way, many of these same men conducted their plotting and waiting in Iraq BEFORE we invaded, lest you forget. They even tested various demonic weapons on animals, I hear. Even videotaped some of their experiments -- which were then broadcast worldwide.

Five years after Clinton almost made a fateful decision to decisively confront Saddam -- and after a horrific attack on our own soil changed the foreign policy calculus about aggressive, totalitarian regimes forever, regardless of any connection to 9/11 -- we invaded.

Decision made.

I do not dismiss your despair. Look back in anger or sadness. But let's deal with the now, too. Ugly as it is, I have yet to see clear logic to show me that things would be prettier in an alternate universe where we had not invaded.

Sometimes war is the answer. Because sometimes it's the only way to get any peace.

At 12:31 AM, Blogger Cassandra D said...

I see I punched your buttons with this, Red Dirt.

First, in defense of the sign poster, I don't doubt her patriotism. She has been active in our state and national politics with passion for quite some time, which indicates to me that she values our country and our political processes, even if I don't always agree with her.

Second, I am totally convinced that invading Afghanistan was the right thing to do. In fact, I think we should have finished that war rather than leave it for Iraq. Afghanistan doesn't make the news very often, but we are failing there, too.

Saddam kept the wacko "Islamofascists" under control, for his own diabolical reasons. Yes, he was horrible. But why was his Iraq more of a threat to us than North Korea or Iran? It wasn't.

We should have done Afghanistan right. That's where bin Laden was, where the terrorists were, where the Taliban was. Did we solve those problems? No. And now the terrorists have spread into Iraq.

Suppose we did need to go into Iraq. We should have gotten the world truly on our side and should have done it right. Now it serves only as a place for wanna be bad guys to come get their jollies by killing Americans. It should have been THE WORLD coming down on Saddam, in the form of a true coalition, rather than the US and a sham coalition.

I never ever said that the people in Iraq were better off under Saddam. Never. I just wonder how many are really happier now.

My point is this: even if there are lots of great people in Iraq who love freedom and democracy, there are so many evil bastards who hate each other with ancient and new grudges that I don't see how this is going to turn out well. It isn't even about us. They hate each other and torture each other's children. How in God's name are we supposed to fix that?

At 8:26 AM, Anonymous Red Dirt said...

Iraq was not more of a threat than Iran or North Korea, as many defenders of the conflict have also repeatedly stated.

However, invading North Korea has never been an option. Ari Fleischer repeatedly answered this question ad nauseam in press conferences until I thought he was going to reach out and shake a reporter by the lapels: Seoul would be leveled in half an hour in a conflict with North Korea, because of artillery fortifications the North Koreans assembled decades ago. The immediate loss of life would be immeasurable.

Iran is a much more populous country than Iraq -- almost three times as many people inside its borders -- and while it is considered part of the axis of evil, it has also not threatened its neighbors over and over. It has backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, but has not invaded other countries, or used weapons in an indiscriminate and genocidal campaign. Confronting Iran, too, requires different tactics than Iraq -- which we are now engaged in. These factors have also been repeatedly discussed since 9/11.

I don't know how many times this argument about North Korea and Iran has been addressed at length. Here I address it yet again.

The "long war" - the GWOT - must and will continue to be a multi-front war. There is no other way. It will take decades to completely stablize Afghanistan. We are not "failing" there; we are fighting there. Again, I am sorry for those who felt this would be a quick and easy endeavor.

And if we waited until we were "finished" there, all sorts of new threats will have metastisized. To suggest that we sit out global affairs until we've mopped up the Taliban is a specious argument.

Al Qaeda was and is all over the planet -- not merely in Afghanistan. You seem to have conveniently forgotten attacks like Bali. That was not caused by our invasion of Iraq -- or, for that matter our invasion of Afghanistan. It was part of a sustained Al Qaeda network.

To say the terrorists "have spread into Iraq" suggests that you believe they were not there before 9/11 -- and it is abundantly clear they WERE there before 9/11. Your statement also amazingly discounts other factors such as the fedayeen. Please tell me that you understand otherwise.

There also seems to be some misunderstanding about the term "Islamofascist." I'm not sure who coined it, perhaps Victor Davis Hanson, but it is not meant to describe Al Qaeda by itself. It is used by people like former CIA director James Woolsey to describe an axis collusion between Islamists and old guard pan-Arabic fascists (who, by the way, learned their trade from the Nazis).

Islamofascists are people like Saddam, Osama, Zarqawi, the Syrians and more. They are Hitler's legacy, Marx's legacy and Mohammed's legacy. They are a hybrid movement -- and Saddam, as an Islamofascist himself, was in the process of converting Iraq's Sunnis into a rabid, radicalized populace because the old pan-Arabism was no longer working. As any good dictator would, he was looking for the next hot fashion trend in mayhem. That's part of the reason we've seen such a bloody aftermath.

I grow weary of the arguments about a real coalition, etc. We had the support we had, and that's just the way it was. Germany and France were never going to come along, nor were their proxies. After all, France had too many financial interests in propping up Saddam, as did Russia. France helped make Saddam a real player. They were proud of him. No amount of cajoling or shuttle diplomacy would have changed that.

Dithering in the salons and continuing to engage in the mental masturbation that is today's United Nations would have simply delayed the inevitable.

Let me be frank (and not Nancy): Perhaps we cannot "fix" Iraq, or that region. I just read this weekend that millions of Arab Sunnis across the region secretly believe that Shi'ites have tails. They will not verbally express this belief to a Westerner when here on a visa for study, because they understand it makes them look primitive.

Huh, ya think? How can we possibly reason with such a medieval mindset?

Perhaps we can't. But we can effectively neuter the region with enough democracy so that madmen like Saddam cannot rise to power to threaten the world with genocidal madness.

Finally, involvement in the political process does nothing to connote patriotism, in my view. Marxists, neo-Nazis, people who voted for Lyndon LaRouche. Yep, all "involved" in the political process.

Putting up ridiculous knee-jerk yard signs, however, connotes gauzy intellectual lassitude and a clear lack of perspective. And yes, under the circumstances, it indicated a clear hostility to the American experiment and a lack of patriotism. It's okay to call some things anti-American, especially when they clearly are. To do so does not turn one into a McCarthyite. It simply indicates being in touch with the reality of the moment.

At 8:55 AM, Blogger Cassandra D said...

Who said Afghanistan would be easy? But we should have poured money into restructuring and stabilizing that country. I'm talking about nation building. We are doing a half-ass job. Why didn't we make it the shining example of democracy in the region?

We're doing a half-ass job in Iraq, too. I don't know the solution, but our politicians need to stop posturing for the elections and come up with some sort of strategy.

Yes, al Qaeda is everywhere. Bali had nothing to do with Iraq, though. Iraq is becoming their rallying cry. We need to PICK OUR BATTLES well, and it is clear that we didn't.

You are right. The GWOT is a long-term endeaver. It needs to be waged wisely because we have limited resources.

At 8:56 AM, Blogger Cassandra D said...

I should have said that Bali had nothing to do with Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

At 9:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually Bali had nothing to do with Iraq whatsoever, and I think I clearly stated that...

"You seem to have conveniently forgotten attacks like Bali. That was not caused by our invasion of Iraq -- or, for that matter our invasion of Afghanistan. It was part of a sustained Al Qaeda network."

And I think I've already agreed that we need to be doing more in Iraq and Afghanistan -- not less.

So what are we arguing about again?

Is it now down to whether the yard sign was unpatriotic or not? On that point, I would just say go with your gut.

Your original gut reaction to the yard sign was that it was unpatriotic. I would stick with that original reaction. It was honest and right.

At 9:27 AM, Blogger LiteraryTech said...

RedDirt is clearly just a fascist waiting to happen. In spite of the huge volume of rhetoric that is poured out here, there is clearly an effort to do nothing more than impugn the character of someone with whom he disagrees.

RedDirt, did you stop and offer to visit with the individual in question? Did you listen to what she had to say? You seem awfully familiar with her character and personally acquainted with the nature of her thoughts on war and peace.

Besides attacking her interest in keeping a smooth, chemically treated expanse of grass that is watered every day with drinking water, what is your point? That it is unpatriotic to have an opinion that differs from the current government? In spite of your heavy handed rhetoric and character assassination, your point seems to boil down once again to "Saddam was a bad bad man."

If this is the criteria, we have a lot of people still left to shoot, torture, imprision and mutilate, so get your gun and let's go.

At 9:36 AM, Blogger Cassandra D said...

LiteraryTech, all I can say is I am amazed you are with us this far. With our looooong comments I thought that for sure it was just Red Dirt and me here.

At 9:46 AM, Blogger Chase McInerney said...

Enough is enough.

There needs to be a semblance of civility and respect on this blog, or I'll just start banning people from posting. Or just blow the fucking thing up. It's not worth having loved ones, friends and neighbors trashed.

At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Red Dirt said...

Chase is right. I will no longer impugn the character of anyone, and I apologize to the anonymous yard sign poster, offensive though the yard sign was (as both Cassandra and I could attest to).

But I would ask LiteraryTech to elevate his sensibilities a little bit. To ignore the arguments that have been made thus far, try to lump them together into some simplistic one-liner, and then merely stoop to the tired leftist trope of calling me a fascist is beneath LiteraryTech's intellectual capacity.

"A fascist in waiting" - that's a shameful bit of hasty blogging.

At 10:52 AM, Anonymous Red Dirt said...

Oh, and LiteraryTech on a gardening note, one can easily have a well-tended, green and healthy yard without dumping herbicides, pesticides and synthetic fertilizer on the soil. It just takes someone willing to take some pride in their home and surrounding grounds.

At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who needs Ambien when you've got Red Dirt?

At 10:58 AM, Anonymous Red Dirt said...

Who needs sitcoms when you've got anonymous stand-up wannabes to "entertain" and avoid serious discussions?

At 11:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous Anonymous Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know you are but what am I? Nanny nanny boo boo, stick your head in doo doo.

At 11:08 AM, Anonymous turtleboi said...

I've read this far too, Cass, and I must ultimately agree with LiteraryTech. Whatever reasonable and interesting points Red Dirt made were obfuscated by his hateful, vitriolic diatribe against his unwitting peacnik neighbor.

At 11:22 AM, Anonymous Red Dirt said...

Left-wing hate and right-wing hate are kissing cousins. One does not get a pass because it clothes itself in the costume of "peace."

At 11:24 AM, Blogger Chase McInerney said...

Gosh, I wish I had elicited so many comments when I bragged that my baby could raise one eyebrow.

You people have screwed-up priorities !

At 2:56 PM, Anonymous james said...

I have never seen such a gross need for a blog apocalypse. Calm the fuck down.

There is virtue in the phrase "war is not the answer," in that it can be applied to all sides, but especially the suppurating assholes who attack innocents.

Who wants this shit? I understand that you don't roll over when attacked, but who the fuck chooses a state of war over all other possible states as an ideal state of living? Maybe our attackers do, but does that mean it is time to consign our future and our children's future to one of never-ending, all-encompassing war? Whenever a good nation finds itself at war, that good nation always wants to see that war end, because "war is not the answer."

When someone says "war is not the answer" (or posts a sign), it might be idealistic and sound a little naive and hippified, but that in itself is not an act of aggression, or anti-patriotic, or anti-troop. They'd like for soldiers to not have to be overseas and risk getting injured or killed by IEDs, bullets, grenades or rocket launchers. They want a world where people do not act as aggressors, forcing the other side to take up arms. Wanting a world without bloodshed is not a vile value. The most experienced military leaders all agree on this point, but are forced to execute the grim responsibilities of their positions because some shit-smoking fuck in another country doesn't believe that "war is not the answer."

But, let's be clear, and this cannot be said enough: those with great enthusiasm for war should seriously get themselves to a recruiting station. Our fighting forces need all the help they can get, because there always seems to be someone out there who thinks that the answer to everything is a great and never-ending state of war.

At 5:39 PM, Anonymous Brett said...

Yikes! Twenty-plus comments, some of them twice as long as the original post? Indeed, Cassandra, what horrible bandwidth-genie have you unleashed?

At 5:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good God, Red Dirt...

Does Chase pay you by the word?

When does comment section become manifesto section?

At 6:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish. I'd be a rich man, because I have a little ole condition known as diarrhea of the keyboard.

James makes the most cogent case yet for common sense. Thank you James, for soothing my synapses that immediately flash to scenes from the Holocaust whenever someone suggests "war is not the answer."

I have no enthusiasm for war -- and certainly not this godforsaken mess we're in. But I always want to confront the leftist twits who make bald assertions that it's not the answer. Tell it to Anne Frank.

I call extreme pacifism morally untenable because I believe it's akin to saying, "Auschwitz? Eh, I can live with that. Pass the brownies."

But James, couldn't someone put up a sign that said, "Let's pray for peace" instead and get across the same sentiments you describe without coming across as a self-absorbed Aquarian completely out of touch with reality?

At 9:48 AM, Anonymous James said...

Well, there are only subtle and semantic differences between the two. In my view, "Let's Pray for Peace" constitutes a more passive position, in that you are conceding power to a god or gods rather than than trying to convince human beings with free will that they should do the swords/plowshares conversion thingy.

At 11:07 PM, Blogger Cassandra D said...

I want the last word!


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