Why Iraq, Like Vietnam, Is Immoral and Unnecessary

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Mr. Kirstein is professor of history at St. Xavier University and a member of Historians Against the War (HAW). His article is excerpted from a lecture at Ohio Wesleyan University. Kirstein's website address is http://faculty.sxu.edu/~kirstein/.

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There are numerous parallels between America’s wars in Vietnam and Iraq. Both were unnecessary, unjust wars that severely damaged the international reputation of the United States. While it contravenes the vision of American exceptionalism, the U.S. is reviled for its preemptive, unilateralist foreign policy that is characteristic of state-sponsored terrorism. It is no accident that Europeans consider the United States a major threat to international peace and security.

A Pew Global Attitudes Project's poll conducted in France, Germany, and Britain found widespread disapproval of the United States with favorability ratings of 37 percent, 38 percent and 58 percent respectively. Sixty years after American forces helped liberate Europe, most French and Germans feel unfavorably toward the United States. Even Osama bin Laden has favorable majorities in Pakistan (65 percent), Jordan (55 percent) and Morocco (45 percent) which are considered allies and “moderate” Muslim states. A serial unilateralism had already tarnished “the shining city upon a hill”: rejection of the Kyoto Treaty, withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and non-recognition of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. Yet it was the invasion of Iraq that sealed its rogue-state image among the international community. Even John Lewis Gaddis, the realist historian, noted in Foreign Affairs (Jan.-Feb. 2005): “From nearly universal sympathy in the weeks after September 11, Americans within a year and a half found their country widely regarded as an international pariah.”

America invaded Vietnam to prevent decolonization after World War II. It was fueled by the messianic Kennan containment policy, NSC 68, a puerile vision of falling dominoes and a Manichaean bipolarity of “Atheistic Communism” v. the “Free World.” America’s Cold War strategy transmogrified 1840s Manifest Destiny from continental subjugation to global imperialism. The demise of Nazism and Japanese militarism gave rise to a new militaristic hegemon whose objective was global domination under the dissembling guise of containment.

The architects of illusion construed Ho Chi Minh as a cog of monolithic communism, and not as a valiant nationalist seeking independence after a millennium of colonization by China and France. There was no just cause. Vietnam was a preemptive war against a nation that sought unsuccessfully to obtain American assistance for independence in 1945. U.S. unilateralism eviscerated international efforts at conflict resolution with its cynical subversion of the comprehensive Geneva Accords (1954). In Iraq, Dr. Hans Blix’s UNMOVIC weapons’ inspections were interrupted as neoconservative militarists rushed to war.

Iraq was invaded for multiple reasons: for oil, to avenge a dictator who resisted American domination and to gain strategic control of the Middle East. The Project for the New American Century lobbied for war in 1998, and its advocates became the national-security elites of the Bush administration. Their casus belli was not extending democracy and freedom but anticipatory-self defense based upon the fantasy of Saddam Hussein’s strategic threat to the United States. The climax of this disinformation was a “Stevenson moment” in reverse when then-Secretary of State Colin Powell told the United Nations, on February 5, 2003, that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear-weapons program and even displayed a mock vial of weaponized anthrax . He averred:

My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence. I will cite some examples, and these are from human sources.

Vietnam and Iraq were crusades of exaggerated virtue. In Vietnam, the U.S. declared that its war aims were containing communism and extending freedom to Southeast Asia, yet for much of the war African-Americans could not vote, practice miscegenation in many states, use “white only” drinking fountains or unfetter themselves from Jim Crow cars. America’s war against Islam is buttressed by Judeo-Christian ethnocentrism with its inevitable clash of civilizations. Muslims are construed as backward, non-democratic, antimodern “Axis of Evil” that should emulate secular-western democracies and adopt Chicago-school free-market capitalism.

The Iraq war is waged with incompetent tactics and excessive force that guarantees failure and caused needless deaths for more than 1,500 American soldiers and 100,000 Iraqi civilians. Generals usually plan for the last war, and in Iraq and Vietnam, America expected conventional wars where superior firepower would shock and awe the opponent into capitulation. However, instead of victory with Iraqi crowds blowing kisses and draping rose garlands on M1A1 tanks, American forces are mired in a guerrilla war like Vietnam. Both the Weinberger Doctrine (1984) and Powell Doctrine (1991) were influenced by the Vietnam quagmire and recommended that before committing ground forces, war should be a last resort and backed by significant domestic support. Both doctrines ignored the need for international support, which never materialized in either conflict. In addition, the Powell Doctrine urged that prior to war, there must be a clear exit strategy that is starkly absent in the Iraq quagmire.

In Vietnam, America was defeated by a guerrilla insurgency of Vietcong and North Vietnamese. In Iraq the resistance fighters are Baathist revanchists in the Sunni triangle, supported by a coalition of the willing including Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. However, as in Vietnam, the resistance is overwhelmingly indigenous. “Guerrilla” is Spanish for “little war.” Guerrillas have no air force, navy, marines or $500 billion war budgets. Guerrilla strategy deploys small-fighting units that scrupulously avoid set-piece battlefield engagements that would insure annihilation. Insurgents avoid defeat and patiently wait for the stronger foe to quit the field of battle. Ho Chi Minh once warned a French general: “You will kill ten of our men and women, but we will kill one of yours and in the end it is you who will tire.”

During the Tet offensive in 1968, when Hue was destroyed, counterinsurgency relied on massive firepower which is self-defeating. This also occurred in Falluja where 300,000 civilians fled for their lives prior to its destruction beginning on November 8, 2004, a week after President Bush’s reelection. Although America can win conventional battles, the greater force it deploys against guerrillas that live among the people, the more alienated the civilian population becomes. According to Mao Zedong, “Guerrillas are like fish, and the people are the water in which fish swim. If the temperature of the water is right, the fish will thrive and multiply.”

The U.S. pursued nation-building in Vietnam with Strategic Hamlets, pacification and Nazi-style assassination Phoenix programs. It forcibly segregated peasants from the Vietcong and coerced them to support a reclusive Diem or a megalomaniacal Ky. Nation-building failed. Guerrilla wars are waged for the hearts and minds of noncombatants: an invader cannot impose democracy on a nation chafing under occupation. The U.S. slaughtered two to three million Vietnamese, was never defeated in battle and lost the war. The U.S. invaded, captured Saddam and cannot win this war. William Pfaff succinctly observed in the International Herald Tribune ( Dec. 21, 2004):

[We are] dealing with politically motivated revolutionaries, in the case of Al Qaeda, and nationalist and sectarian insurgents in the case of Iraq. [We have] an army, good for crushing cities. But the [opposition] is not interested in occupying cities or defeating American armies. Its war is for the minds of Muslims.

Ending the carnage requires renouncing permanent bases and developing a timetable for withdrawal. Iraq will tragically experience continued security challenges but without United States military forces. A Shiite alliance may cobble a majority within the provisional National Assembly but will lack legitimacy under U.S. occupation. Withdrawing American forces may unleash civil war with possible intervention from Turkey or Iran. A successful exit strategy is elusive because wars solve nothing, but the heavy hand of the American occupation must be lifted. From the 1991 Gulf War, the twelve year No-Fly-Zone-War, the crippling sanctions and the current conflict, more Iraqis died, perhaps, than under Saddam Hussein’s autocracy. Greater instability and deprivation exists without adequate electricity for homes, cooking gas for kitchens and even gasoline for cars!

Establishing a Palestinian state would mitigate the consequences of withdrawal. Without dismantling all Israeli settlements and allowing the right of return for some of the Palestinian diaspora, continued instability will dominate the region and threaten U.S. interests. The Arab world sees striking parallels between the American occupation of Iraq and Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Withdrawal from Iraq would improve U.S. relations with Syria and Iran, and create greater stability for Iraq. These are Iraq’s neighbors and there is little incentive for Iran to abandon its putative nuclear ambitions with a nuclear-armed Israel and the menacing presence of American forces in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan. Syria may yield on its occupation of Lebanon but will defy American diktat with 150,000 American troops on its eastern front and Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights.

Ending the war might diminish American militarism as well. At Abu Ghraib a thousand photographs served as trophies of achievement. Photos of Iraqi prisoners hooded and slung over prison railings, tethered to leashes as animals and piled naked in human-trash heaps were digitalized and emailed to friends and family back home. The late Susan Sontag compared them to lynchings of African-Americans when pictures of corpses adorned postcards and souvenir photos. Bob Dylan begins “Desolation Row” with: “They're selling postcards of the hanging.” Soldiers were immune from compassion as defenseless, non-resistant prisoners were mercilessly tortured and killed. This is war—the dehumanization of the enemy. In Vietnam insurgents were called “gooks” and “slants.” In Iraq they are dismissively called “terrorists” and by Professor Gaddis as “gangs” without considering their grievances or vital interests.

Reverend Jesse Jackson appropriately described Mr. Bush’s War as “without moral, legal or military legitimacy.” Hopefully, Americans will demand a reorientation of American external relations toward diplomacy and peaceful coexistence and reject the neoconservative craving for power maximizing with its legacy of war, torture and national dishonor.



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Patrick M Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Gentlemen,

Between December 1, 1961 and December 31, 1964 the US lost, according to DOD figures, 392 brave American combat troops in Vietnam. So far Iraq II has, from March 1, 2003 through March 7, 2005, cost the lives of 1,510 of our irreplaceable sons and daughters. After only 719 days of conflict the Iraq insurgents are outpacing their Vietnamese counterparts at a clip of 4 to 1. This is 2.34 of our kids dead per day, every day. Remember, Vietnam losses totaled 58,000+ until wars end in 1975. Therefore, the Iraq numbers extrapolated over the same period may well top 150,000 dead. I believe there is no comparison between Vietnam and Iraq. The numbers clearly show that Iraq is proving to be a much tougher go, from the start, than the Vietnam War.

Here another little treat. 437 of our kids out of the 10,800+ (DOD refuses to give figures) wounded have been diagnosed with TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). It seems that the flak jackets work so well (for those troops fortunate enough to have them issued) that the survivors of IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) suffer severe brain injury from the concussion of the blast. As Agent Orange was to Vietnam and the government denied Gulf War Syndrome was to Iraq I... TBI will be Iraq II's gift from our benevolent leader AWOL Bush. This is only one category of wound... amputations abound and suicides are currently spiking within the ranks... and our troops are so hard pressed that the military can't meet recruiting goals... If you want to compare Vietnam to Iraq I guess you can say they are both catastrophes.


Patrick M Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Dear Bill,

"Does the overthrow of a tyrant"... "really strike you as (a) disaster(s)". Well yes it does! Especially, when that tyrant was fully supported, armed and advised by the US Government, given carte blanche weapons of mass destruction to use against his own people without US objection, offered satellite imagery and assistance against an Iranian enemy. Then the toppers... Rumsfield meeting and praising Saddam, April Glasby telling Saddam that the US had no interest in his affairs in Kuwait or the US's gutless stand by not protecting Kurd's or supporting the Southern Iraq Uprising following the first Gulf War.

I will not even address the "free election" fallacy. Some folks live in a memory hole. Bill you need to climb out of yours. If not, tell it to the 1510 families who have lost kids during this current debacle.


Patrick M Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Thanks Charles...


Patrick M Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Dear Charles,

You are correct and I totally agree with you that analogies between Iraq and Vietnam are weak to non-existent. I had to begin somewhere and August 1964 may have been a better starting point. However, let's review... in January 1955 the US began to funnel aid to Saigon and agreed to train the South Vietnamese Army. On February 6, 1962 the US formed a military command with 12,000 advisors unfortunately, on January 2, 1963 the Vietcong soundly defeated the US trained South Vietnamese Army at Ap Bac. This defeat caused the US to increase to 15,000 the number of advisors. Although classified in advisory roles these US military specialists reportedly fought along side their South Vietnam counterparts. Lucien Conien of the CIA was US point man in country during this time period.

On November 1, 1963 Ngo Diem and Dinh Nhu are killed followed by JFK's assassination on November 22. On January 30, 1964 General Nguyen Khanh takes control of Saigon but keeps Doung Minh as head of state. Then on August 2, 1964 the USS Maddox is seized in the Tonkin Gulf and on August 4 a second incident is reported. On August 7, 1964 the Tonkin Gulf resolution is adopted by Congress and the US begins bombing North Vietnam. On October 30, 1964 the North Vietnamese Army attacks Bienhoa Air Base and we are off and running. By 1965 the US had placed 200,000 troops in country and by 1968 540,000.

In closing the dates used are easy to debate but Iraq does not have Soviet support... MiG fighters, heavy artillery, surface to air missile defense... that the NVA had yet, the Iraq insurgents have still managed to kill 1510 of our finest. I believe we are in for the long haul and many more of our sons and daughters are at risk of loosing their lives.


Patrick M Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Dear Charles,

I hope you are right. I would have preferred a different path such as capturing/killing Osama bin Laden first and stabilizing Afghanistan. Then move against Iraq, Iran and Syria. Unfortunately, the wild card in all this is Saudi Arabia. If the US truly wants to root out terrorism and establish democracy in the ME then it will have to deal with the Saudi's at some point...

Quick question... During the US Civil War was the North a true democracy or a military dictatorship led by "King" Lincoln... suspension of Habeas Corpus, military suppression of draft riots and imprisonment of war dissenters (read more about this at Lew Rockwell.com) and when did the South hold democratic elections to place Jefferson Davis into the Confederate Presidency? Just how democratic has the US been throughout our history... white/male/landowner vote only, slavery, women's suffrage, extermination of Native Americans... another interesting discussion for the group...


John Chapman - 12/24/2005

treu


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/18/2005

The two were inseparable although clearly the draft galvanised opposition. Had the war been popular then resistance or dissatisfaction with conscription would have been less intense as it was in both world wars.


Michael Barnes Thomin - 3/14/2005

"The Blind Men and the Elephant"
by John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)who based the following poem on a fable which was told in India many years ago...

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind


The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”


The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”


The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”


The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“ ‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”


The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”


The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”


And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

Moral:


So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!


It applies to politics just the same!


Bill Heuisler - 3/13/2005

Mr. Hildering,
Thank you for your generous assistance in the bewildering world of grammar and spelling. I particularly enjoy your delightful proletarian patois - you stoop to amuse and we all appreciate the effort.

In order to avoid offending your delicate sensibilities in the future, I hereby abjoor all mispellings.
Bill Heuisler


Jonathan Pine - 3/13/2005

Bill,

Okay, got your drift. Especially about the reality. Thanks for the exhange.

Cheers,

Jonathan


Les Hildering - 3/13/2005

Existance preceeds essence.
Existence precedes essence is kinda a tad more intelligent.

Yep, don't surprise me none that you and Adam who fill up these posts don't agree on much do ya? Yeah, well ya sure do enough bro when it come to the slaughtering of them Palestinians. You betcha!!


Bill Heuisler - 3/12/2005

Jonathan,
"Sartre’s philosophy...transmogrified...undergone a change for other purposes by lesser minds yet still valid as reality."

Oh come on. Existance preceeds essence? Same free-will vs deist- omniscience argument men have been having since Buddha examined a blossom and Paul fell off his horse.

Sartre wants us to abandon the traditional notion of humans as artifacts of a divinity. Instead, each of us simply is in the world; what we will be is then entirely up to us. According to Sartre, being human just means having the capacity to create one's own essence in time. So, we're all little Gods. There's no uncaused cause, no universal good or evil, no objective truth.

"Still valid as reality..."? Sorry. Who's reality? In Jean Paul's world there's no reality, Jonathan. You say I
"could be dead wrong in the end, in everything." Problem is, according to you and Sartre, nobody is ever "wrong".
Bill


Bill Heuisler - 3/12/2005

Adam,
In North America the Athabascan tribes apparently wiped out the Anasazi and other older or "aboriginal" peoples. The Apache were relatively new across the Bering Bridge and they were displaced and shoved South by larger groups like the Navajo. Aztec displaced and slaughtered other less warlike people in the Central Basin of Mexico.

For Chomsky disciples to damn a specific segment of the natural anthropological progression of Macro-Darwin is not only ignorant, but would backfire were their thesis to be carried (or backed up) a century or so.
Bill


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 3/12/2005

This is very true. I once noted to a colleague of mine who was lamenting the cultural extinction of Native American culture in exchange for the Western political ideologies that the cultural extinction of North Africans to Islamic culture was equally unfortunate, since both the languages, cultures, and very history of numerous African peoples were wiped out to the point where even physically, North Africans are Arab-looking, not Negroid. This, of course, is what the Sudanese government and militias are attempting to do right now as we speak.

This is not to say that either is right or that the one is okay since other people did the same. It is merely to note the historical reality of pre-modern concepts of race and culture.

As for it being “less dangerous in Jerusalem than it is in New York,” statistically, you are probably right, but this has done little to sooth the concerns of my wife :)


Robert F. Koehler - 3/12/2005

Mr. Kirstein

Strategic Studies of the US Army War College
Strategic Implications of Intercommunal Warfare in Iraq
http://www.carlisle.army.mil/ssi/pubs/display.cfm/hurl/PubID=595

Though your article has its merits I don't think analogies comparing Iraq with past wars provides the insights we need for the problems the US faces today, especially in the Middle East. Though I browse web media like everyone else, I prefer diving into the websites of those pubic & non-governmental agencies, departments and institutions within the foreign policy and defense establishments that have a hands on stake on international diplomacy, affairs and military preparedness. The last thing in the world I have any use for are the propaganda and talking points of ignorant partisans and party ideologues, who don't know what they are talking about and blindly support party leaders who lead this country into quagmires & potential ruin. Whether your an ideologue or not I don't know, so I refrain from laying that charge at your feet.

The above report was released on 1 February this year and concerns the possibility of civil war in Iraq, one of the many possible outcomes that could occur in that country. The US is by no means out of trouble because of an election (sic) in Iraq, or for that matter anywhere else in this region. The reports time line ends in December 04 before the election in Iraq in late January 05. This by no means cripples this report since all the factors, realities and complexities of that world have not been overturned by an election that happened under occupation, an on going insurgency, and that voters had no knowledge of the candidates on the ballots because of security considerations. Consequently Iraqis voted along sectional, tribal, ethnic and religious lines and those facts, which this report deals with and much more makes it all the more informative and timely.

If the worst case scenario should become an Iraqi reality the US will need more than the "cavalry" to bail its sorry ass out of Iraq, it will need a miracle.


Jonathan Pine - 3/12/2005

Bill,

"Is the US the enemy?"

Not to me I love America (even as I, from a distance, believe it is dying) - I love its original spirit and intent), it nurtured me, made me what I am - who one of the many out of our country who feels that dissent, even though this administration seems to discourage it, is crucial to democracy’s survival, the right to have articles like the one above published, and so forth, without being branded as unpatriotic or treasonous or part of a movement that is dangerous to America’s wars or national agendas, and also, as someone who examines his own life and its relationship to the world; and in this particular context you have to examine what the word ‘enemy’ can mean. Does it mean the tyranny of the strong over the weak? The powerlessness of people to determine their own destiny because a government decides, through some, in my view, misconstrued political philosophy, that it knows what’s best for the people? If I were a fledgling politician trying to get elected today I would run on a platform, among others, of truth without fear of reprisals from those already entrenched in power. Nothing can really flourish in a land where fear prevails over our daily lives. Those in power who are abusing power at the expense of the rest can be the ‘enemy’ of Americans. Right inside our own camp so to speak. That’s how Persia and other civilizations fell. The enemy was always within. Because their rulers/ governments were not honest with the people they were governing.


"The source of our disagreement might be your apparent belief that truth is relative and may vary according to the individual or the circumstance. For instance, you objected, "...as if the world is only seen from one point of view. It puts you out on a limb which makes it difficult to genuinely explore other viewpoints." Been there. Sartre fell into similar philosophical entropy…"

Maybe you’ve been ‘there’ but it’s still ‘there’ in my view, Sartre’s philosophy has kind of transmogrified, has indeed undergone a change for other purposes by lesser minds yet still valid as reality. But that’s another subject.

"Your word, "genuinely" reveals disdain for my beliefs…"

No. not intentional, don’t be sensitive, - I type this quickly during my busy life.

" and for my ability to measure facts"

Now, measuring facts is another matter - maybe you’re better at it than some - but why not have a little humility in that area - no one is infallible, the pendulum swings back and forth in power struggles, the world’s purpose and meaning - regimes come and go - you could be dead wrong in the end, in everything. The Leftist’s dreams may die in one form but arise in another that we cannot conceive of at this time. By the way, I am neither a Liberal, Republican, or other , even though you might assume that.

"Just as Jeffery Dahmer is assessed by his appetite and the heads in his refrigerator, so also can Socialism be judged."

This, I’m not sure what point you are making here. ..but getting back to your use of the word ‘eurosocialism’ - you’d have to live over here to understand that’s a misconception. Speaking for myself, there’s nothing socialist over here, you don’t get something for nothing. If you want to live in luxury, you have to work for it as they do in the US. Wealth is opulent here. The class distinctions out in the open, in my view. Nothing communistic as I see it. Ever since the Age of Enlightenment arrived it took most the power away from the oligarchy. And now there is a social net for those who simply would be in dire poverty and misery, like the unfortunate in America, without this compassionate, humanistic safety net. The strong helping the weak. A bit Biblical for a secularist society.


"But wait, maybe Castro has a relatively reasonable point of view. Do you disagree? "

Like you said, this is a history site. And to me this is a philosophical question. But, yes, I’d only disagree if I were looking at it from Castro’s point of view. I’ve been to Cuba recently. It’s a coin with two sides. I wouldn’t want to live there though if Castro had something against me. But I wouldn’t want to live anywhere if a Homeland Security, an Minister of Immigration, or the state police were on my tail because they thought I was a terrorist or felt my political views were dangerous to their agenda.


Jonathan



mark safranski - 3/12/2005

Arnold,

If you feel that you were terminated without cause hire a labor attorney. If the institution was a public one you were probably entitled to some kind of due process which may or may not have been observed by the administration. If it wasn't observed, then you have a cause for filing a legal complaint.

Not having been present at the time, I can hardly comment on the merits of what you said and to whom and in what manner.


Robert Howard Whealey - 3/11/2005

There are differences between to two invasions, but as time goes on the similarities grow. Good article


John Henry Haas - 3/11/2005

I wonder if the large number affiliated with the anti-Vietnam-war position was due less to opposition to the war, than opposition to the draft?


Robert F. Koehler - 3/11/2005

Mr. Kirstein

Its not an arguable fact that this administrations policy's have resulted in failure, though on the other hand it is arguable that the blundering miserable performance of this administration has inadvertently created opportunities for progress. Throughout all of 2004 the administration was besieged within and without government over its policies & strategies, not just only by oppositional partisans & pundits in the media though this administration deserved every bit of it. The real battle went on within the Pentagon, SoS, intelligence communities, Congress and a host of foreign policy think tanks. Much of these battles happened behind the scenes but some of it leaked out into the public sphere in the form of policy statements by analysts, retired generals & pols, the leaking of classified information and the final route and collapse of this administration in mid 2004 by the twin disasters of insurgency and total capitulation to Al Sistani.

While pro administration types were getting wet over the elections in Iraq, CSIS analyst Anthony Cordesman had this to say before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on 1 February 2004:

"In summary, we have made nine major mistakes:

1)"We went to war on the basis of the wrong intelligence and with a rationale we could not defend to the world or the Iraqis.

2)"We bypassed the Interagency process. We ignored warning after warning by US intelligence experts, State Department officials, military officers with experience in the region, and outside experts that we would not be greeted as liberators fighting a just war, but by a highly nationalistic and divided people who did not want outsiders and occupiers to determine their destiny.

3)"We planned fought the war to remove Saddam from power without any meaningful plan for stability operations and nation building. We allowed political and economic chaos to take place as we advanced and in the immediate aftermath of Saddam’s fall.

4)"We did not prepare our military forces for civil- military missions, to deal with terrorism and insurgency, to play the role of occupier in a nation with an alien religion, language and culture, or the have the mix of HUMINT and weapons they needed for the "war after the war." As a result, we forced our military to slowly adapt under pressure and in the face of a growing enemy.

5)"For a year, we assumed that a proconsul in the form of the CPA could govern Iraq and plan its future, rather than Iraqis. We staffed much of the CPA with inexperienced political appointees and ideologues that spent virtually all of their time in a secure enclave and only served for brief three to six month tours.

6)"For a year, we developed idealized plans for political reform that did not survive engagement with reality. We focused far too much on national elections and drafting a constitution without having a similar focus on effective governance at the national, regional, and local levels.

7)"For a year, we had military leadership in Iraq that would not work closely with the leadership of the CPA, and which lived in a state of denial about the level of popular hostility we faced and a steadily growing insurgency.

8)"For a year, we made no serious attempt to create Iraqi military, security, and police forces that could stand on their own in dealing with a growing insurgency, terrorism, and lawlessness. Instead, we saw such Iraq forces largely as a potential threat to our idealized democracy and felt our forces could easily defeat an insurgency of 5,000-6,000 former regime loyalists.

9)"For a year, we tried to deal with an Iraqi economy that was a command kleptocracy as if it could be quickly and easily converted to a modern market-driven economy. We sent in CPA advisors with no real experience and no continuity. We created a ridiculous long-term aid plan without a meaningful understanding or survey of the economic problems Iraq faced, an understanding of Iraqi needs and expectations, and the talent in either the US government or the contract community to implement such a plan or develop the kind of plans and programs focused on short and medium-term requirements that Iraq actually needed."

Mr. Cordesman further went on to note before this committee that:

"We have moved Iraqi policy beyond the disastrous policy cluster in the Pentagon, weakened the hold of failed neoconservatives, and begun to implement a serious Interagency approach.

"We need to give the Americans now in Iraq—and especially the civilians and military actually in the field outside the Green Zone—full credit for these changes. They have not stood idly by, failed to adapt, or failed to challenge the many failures in leadership they received from Washington.

"America’s "neoconservatives" may be an unmitigated national disaster in shaping policy towards Iraq, and in virtually every other aspect of foreign policy they have managed to affect. We have seen, however, that realists, true area experts, and adaptive military professionals can produce far better answers and have already begun to compensate for many of our past mistakes.

"We need a clear declaration of our goals and principles. We do not need declarations of American values or general good intentions. We need clear and unambiguous statements from the President and Secretary of State that refute the key conspiracy theories that poison our relations and undercut the legitimacy of the Iraqi government.

"To be blunt, we need a lot less lofty rhetoric, and a lot more pragmatic action. We need country-by-country strategies and plans that move progressively towards balanced and stable reform. We need country teams in each embassy that can work with both friendly governments and local reformers on a quiet and steady evolutionary basis. We need to work with regional experts and media, our allies, and international institutions.

"We don't need slogans; we need meaningful action."

Exactly at what specific date or time this triumph or overthrow of the neo-conservatives & war hawks occurred within the administration I don't know, but Cordesman presentation before the Senate took place on 1 March of this year so it must have occurred sometime during the last half of 2004. Consequently, what we see of success actually has little to do with this administration, though it has & will undeservedly get credit for it. These seemingly current breakthroughs or successes of late rests primarily upon the shoulders of the realists in the foreign policy & defense establishment who were expunged, ignored, smeared or kicked out of the policy loop prior to the Iraqi invasion. The Iraqi imbroglio is George Bush's mess, but better men and women have retuned and come forward to clean and sort it out. Lets hope they remain and succeed.

CSIS has just today posted an executive summary of a year long project "From Conflict to Cooperation: Writing a New Chapter in U.S.-Arab Relations" in pdf format on the front page of their website. I think you will find it interesting.

http://www.csis.org/

You can access a transcript of Cordesman testimony before the Senate at the bottom of the "What's New" column. Its entitled "An Effective US Strategy for Iraq."

http://www.csis.org/hill/


Edward Siegler - 3/11/2005

One more thing - insurgencies have often defeated foreign colonial powers but they have never defeated domestic democratic majorities. A victory by Iraq's insurgency would be without historical precedent.


Bill Heuisler - 3/11/2005

Jonathan,
Cheers back at you. Now we're getting somewhere. Too many words to mention, you say, but you manage to mention each one. Engage the strong words. Does pacifism aid the enemy, for instance? Perhaps you don't recognize the enemy. Is the US the enemy?

The source of our disagreement might be your apparent belief that truth is relative and may vary according to the individual or the circumstance. For instance, you objected, "...as if the world is only seen from one point of view. It puts you out on a limb which makes it difficult to genuinely explore other viewpoints."

Been there. Sartre fell into similar philosophical entropy
where there was never verity, only slippery evaluation. Your word, "genuinely" reveals disdain for my beliefs and for my ability to measure facts. But sentient human beings can determine facts by observing results. Just as Jeffery Dahmer is assessed by his appetite and the heads in his refrigerator, so also can Socialism be judged.

This is a history site; it doesn't take a genius to explore the Socialist Stain on the Twentieth Century - Hitler, Stalin, Ho, Mao, Castro, death, desolation and despair - and declare the Marxist point of view a proven human disaster. Those who cling to pieces of the bloody dream in spite of history are deluding themselves.

But wait, maybe Castro has a relatively reasonable point of view. Do you disagree?
Bill Heuisler


Bill Heuisler - 3/11/2005

Adam,
Your post was as nearly perfect as I've ever seen. One addition: On Racism, you wrote if, "neither party in the conflict is white, then no one is at fault..." May I add that if neither party is white, then Western Colonialism is at fault, no matter the dispute. Also, when Western Colonialism is castigated, the colonialism of the USSR and China is nearly always ignored.

The Romanian restaurants on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv are worth the trip. Travel to Israel is most interesting when you fly into Cairo, visit the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo (the oldest synagogue in Egypt) among other places then and take a bus or rental car across the Sinai. None of the battle debris has been cleaned up - exploded tanks overturned APCs half-buried in sand - and arriving at the Israeli border near Gaza shows you some real security. Get there quick before real peace sets in and all those damn tourists raise prices, jam the hotels/restaurants and ruin everything. As to danger, it's probably less dangerous in Jerusalem than it is in New York; rent a car at Lod and never ride a bus.
Bill


Edward Siegler - 3/11/2005

Vietminization, or the creation of a South Vietnamese army powerful enough to defend the country against communist attack, was in some ways a success. The ARVN, along with U.S. air support and some leadership, proved capable of repelling a full scale North Vietmanese invasion in 1972. The vast majority of U.S. ground forces had left the country by this point. You can fill a room with statistics about the ARVN but the anology between Vietnam and Iraq will still break down completely when you compare the Vietcong/NVA with Iraq's insurgents. The Vietcong received massive support from China, the Soviet Union, North Vietnam and in varying degrees the South Vietnamese people. They also had some support from communist groups in Laos and Cambodia and free passage through those countries. The Vietcong forces were large, well led and highly motivated and in the later stages of the war were directly supported by the North Vietnamese Army with tanks, artillery pieces, mechanized transport and other heavy equipment. They followed a clear nationalistic ideology that held wide appeal. Iraq's insurgents are a disparate and isolated lot composed of former Baathists, Islamic extremists and common criminals. They are almost completely without the support of the Iraqi people outside of the Sunni triangle and a few locations in the Kurdish north and offer nothing in the way of a vision for the future other than civil war and the reestablishment of authoritarian rule. Their suicidal attacks, which have often been directed against fellow Iraqis, have been condemned even by Sunni clerics, who have made it clear that such violence stands against Islamic law. The insurgents are a force of nihilism. Most Iraqis know this and surprisingly large numbers are signing up for the military, despite constant attacks and threats. The new Iraqi military is taking shape with not only American support, but the involvment of many other countries and organizations as well. The key factor is not its size but the quality of the men, and most importantly its officer corps. American support is likely to continue despite the budget deficit, which is being addressed with various measures. If the current economic expansion continues, tax revenues will increase and help shrink the deficit. America has huge resources and a clear commitment to building an Iraqi army and reducing its military presence there. The international community and obviously the Iraqi people have a large stake in establishing a stable, democratic Iraq. As this process moves forward we are seeing more support emerge.

Thanks for the comment on the "liberation" of Saigon in 1975. After a long week I needed a good laugh. Surely you must know that Phnom Penh in neighboring Cambodia was also "liberated" by Pol Pot at the same time.

As far as the Historians Against the War changing their position, I don't expect it will ever happen. It's common for people, once they make up their minds about something, to never change - no matter the weight of the evidence. There are Nixon supporters who will go to their graves believing that Watergate was no big deal. Ther are Truman haters who will always think that a war crimes trial should have been held over his use of atomic bombs on Japan. However I can't help but wonder if you EXPECT the Iraq war to be lost to the insurgents as Vietnam was or if in fact you HOPE that it is lost. In either case you'll be waiting a long time for Zarqawi to "liberate" Baghdad. That ain't gonna happen, pal.


Jonathan Pine - 3/11/2005

"What I'm witnessing in the US and on this site is the final death-throes of the Radical Left. They can't help themselves, but even after all their causes are lost, they still bite the system that feeds them. They clothe treason with pacifism and hatred of the US with insipid words and false idealism. Multilateralism and thinking like Eurosocialists has become a joke. Funniest part: the Left still takes itself seriously. Face it, siding with the enemy became passe after 9/11."

Lot of strong words and phrases here, too many to mention all of them; like treason, pacifism, false idealism, multilateralism, Eurosocialists, the Left taking itself seriously, siding with the enemy, are all used by you as if the world is only seen from one point of view. It puts you out on a limb which makes it difficult to genuinely explore other viewpoints. And all of what you have posted in the above paragraph are generalizations, absolute statements, about a lot of people who you seem to assume all fall into the same specific or general category. The accuracy of your claims cannot be quantified or always truly verified. Sources again. What sources? How good are they? It’s all subjective, like CNN, FOX, Straussian ideology, etc. But you would be correct if you said all these things exist in some people. But not in all people, not by a long shot either on the Right, Left, or other. What you are doing here is portraying, politically categorizing, yourself as someone who is intolerant of anything you don’t believe in because you feel it’s wrong. And being insulting about it to boot. But where are the real facts behind the statements you make? Books? Experience? You accuse me of lousy sources. You are implying only your sources are impeccable. But like someone who seems to come from between the Right to extreme-Right political spectrum, you use sources that express the very same opinions from that very core. You say you have witnessed things. So have I and so have most people and everyone processes this information in their own stubborn way and fall into the same traps to a certain extent. I’m not siding with the enemy nor am I a socialist although one could argument that socialism ( a form of communism) began with the essence of Christ’s teachings. There’s an interesting book I’ve only read excerpts of called: God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It. It’s not exactly partisan and you can tell that from the very beginning. Although it's a non-scholarly book it's making the point bout the trap people from both the Right and Left always fall into.

I am sure you’re a nice fellow with sincere views but I bet if you met face to face with a real ‘Eurosocialist’ like myself, as you call those who live on the other side of the Atlantic (a whole lot of Americans live here), the whole equation might change a little.

Cheers,
Jonathan


Charles Edward Heisler - 3/11/2005

Patrick, alas, there is no such thing as a true democracy anywhere at any time. Like all human relationships it is born in an ideal state and always seeks perfection.
I think it is wrong to deny the legitimacy of a democratic form of government simply because it is imperfect. We always strive to improve the model and I think we do a fine job of improvement as we move along.
No elections were held in the South, except for those held and not counted during the 1864 Presidential election in Louisiana and Kentucky.
Still, an election was held throughout the South in 1860.
Jefferson Davis was only a provisional president of the Confederacy--I assume there was an intent to "elect" a permanent president in the future. Seems that the Confederacy had more important things to do than hold elections after 1861.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 3/10/2005

Bill,
I thank you for that thoughtful and honest post. While I do not necessarily share your appraisal of the UN, I do share many of your concerns with the organization. I happen to believe that the UN’s treatment of Israel borders on anti-Semitic, and it has used none of its international legitimacy or position of respect (which it does have in many countries) to make life better for those people being exterminated by brutal and genocidal regimes.

I also, believe it or not, would fully support your recommended reforms for the agency, particularly some standards for membership, or at least membership onto specific committees of importance (although I have no problem with them staying in NY where we can keep an eye on operations).

As for your association with liberals, I am genuinely surprised but happy to hear about them and am jealous of your travels to Israel (I have not yet had the pleasure but have vowed that I will not leave this earth without doing so).

There are indeed many different kinds of liberals and I get frustrated to see the label taken over by the likes of, say, Noam Chomsky, whose political ideology you summed up quite accurately.

I would refer you to a post on this board that I wrote recently in an attempt to define this group who is often referred to only as the “far left.” I would be curious to get your reaction to it.

http://hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=55396#55396


Bill Heuisler - 3/10/2005

Agreed, Adam,
You are correct about my estimation of the UN. The so-called world body lost my respect after its treatement of Israel. Thugs like Mugabe, Hussein, Khadaffi and Jong II use the UN for cover and the US pays nearly a quarter of its budget while hardly ever receiving the support of the General Assembly. Only a thorough audit, overhaul and a set of standards for membership, plus a move to Geneva or Paris will begin the redemption in my opinion.

Liberals? Some of my best friends are Libs. We love to argue/discuss local and national politics and sometimes it gets rough and loud, but we're still friends. I've been involved in politics in Pennsylvania and Arizona for many years. Been elected to local office, been a state committeeman, organized and led a statewide organization, been a member of dozens of political clubs and active organizations of all sections of the Left-Right spectrum.
Last November I got 113,000 votes out of over a quarter million cast here in Pima County. Unfortunately my Dem. opponent got 130,000. We're a Democrat County by about twenty percent and W lost by that margin. My travels have taken me to Israel many times - first during the first intifada when Jerusalem was wonderfully empty of tourists and a friend (a tank commander) took me to the Golan to show where his friends died for their country. He's a Lib. There is no monolithic Liberal, you are right. But most share (recently) opinions I consider dangerous for our country and for their Party.

Never be sensitive when discussing politics, it's seldom personal and too damn important to allow hurt feelings to interfere in the process. I enjoy picking your brain and bouncing my thoughts off your intellect. My impatience stems from process, not content.
Bill


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 3/10/2005

1) “Adam, where are you insulted? You consider my beliefs a rant? Now that's an insult, but let it go. After reading more carefully you will note how I was quite careful to couch some terms in generalities. No insults unless you consider my comparing your opinions to Chomsky an insult.”

In point of fact, I do, as was the obvious intent of the reference. You compared me to Chomsky and then accuse me of blaming “nearly every evil in the world on the United States,” shrugging “off comments about post-war deaths in VN by blaming the US,” and other things that Chomsky believes and you assume (incorrectly) that I agree with.

You also accuse me of the following: Not responding to your points, but instead ignoring them which you say I have done “before” and am now “doing it again.”

You accuse me of not answering your questions, and of not reading my own references. You accuse me of “forgetting” the article as well as my own posts.

You accuse me of “pretending” that your posts are ambiguous, and finally, you accuse me of being “inarticulate.”

(Just to preempt yet another personal attack, this is not “whining,” but a direct response to your post).

The remainder of your posts reveal such an irrational contempt for my opinions and statements, including the suggestion to “Stop whining and engage” it is difficult to know how to respond to someone is simply not interesting in exchanging thoughts or ideas but instead to level insults and accusations. Nevertheless, as always, I will do my best.

2) “For instance, had you read more carefully, you would've noticed the butchers were Khmer Rouge and VN allies and certain members of the UN. Do you dispute this? Or has criticism of the UN and opinions of Chomsky made you inarticulate?”

I am not familiar with “certain members of the UN… resettling, imprisoning and murdering hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese.” Furthermore, I am not sure how or why failure to dispute a point makes one “inarticulate”?

Perhaps if you cited some evidence for the claim, I would be more than happy to take a look at it.

3) “BTW the point of most of that post you hated so much is when someone attacks a shibboleth of the Left, the Left's reaction is to bring up supposedly similar behavior of the US instead of denying or defending the behavior.”

Why should I deny or defend the behavior if that behavior is wrong? Why can I not denounce the behavior but correct attempts to exaggerate it? I will repeat: “As I have in my previous post, the scandal was egregious, and I in no way defend or condone it.” My point, again, is that “The OFF scandal is awful, but if I’m being honest, I believe that many people who have always been critical of the UN are simply using the episode for ideological purposes, and ignoring both the US’s own role in the scandal as well as our own corruption problems pertaining to Iraq.”

Perhaps the reason for your disdain for all things “left” is that you have never had experience with one as a colleague or friend. I assume this based on your, to be blunt, total ignorance of what a “liberal” actually is, choosing instead to believe that while conservatives differ on issues like the Iraq war and Bush’s policies, the “left” is some monolithic, America-hating, terrorists-loving sect of society. It is your right to believe that, certainly, but it is not reflective any actual reasoning power or ability to analyze a situation intelligently.

4) “That formula is the heart of Professor Kirstein's article and the heart of your defense of the UN. (Crimes of VN Communism ignored and sidestepped by accusing the US; crimes of the UN minimized by accusing the US.”

Bill, there is no point to continue these personal exchanged. Let us try to get back on track by responding to each others points and those alone rather than me having to spend time to refute some personal attack against me.

I have never, I will repeat that, NEVER ignored or sidestepped crimes of VN Communism so your attempt to put me in one large jar labeled simply “The Left” with the author of this article, or Mr. Chomsky is invalid and insulting.

As for the UN, my point is simply that the UN has its uses, as even traditional conservatives believe. You seem to disagree, arguing that the organization serves no real function and has made the planet far worse off than it would have been without a UN. Is that a correct assumption, and if not, what exactly do you believe about the UN?

As for the OFF scandal, we will simply have to agree to disagree on this one. I believe that the scandal is horrible, does tremendous damage to the UN and should not be condoned. However, it has been grossly exaggerated at the expense of acknowledging America’s role in it and has been used as an ideological tool against the organization as a whole.

You believe that it is the “largest scandal in history” and that any and all attempts to point out American involvement amounts to “denying or defending the behavior.” You also believe that I am somehow trying to blame “corporate America” for the scandal.

Is this an accurate overview of our respective positions?

You may feel free to respond to any point in this post, but I would request that you refrain from assuming that as a liberal, I must by definition hate America, love terrorists, agree with every wacko left-wing person or group, and in exchange, I will refrain (although I don’t actually believe this anyway) from assuming that as a conservative, you must be definition, hate all minorities, the poor, and the working class, wish to establish a worldwide American Christian empire, and believe in fascism and totalitarianism. Agreed?


Arnold Shcherban - 3/10/2005

I was deprived of part-time employment at the New York Culinary Institute, as a math instructor, for expressing
my views on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the teacher's lounge in 2003.
Of course, I have not been told that they would never
request my help anymore on the reason of my political position, but there was no other reason for terminating my temporary contract with them and they did not cite any, except that they didn't need it, that's all.
How about this fact of life Mr. Safransky, the apologet of everything this country does internally and externally?


Arnold Shcherban - 3/10/2005

Bill,

<My doctor says I'm not marasm-stricken.>
Being you I would obtain the second opinion...

<My opinions are my own and the result of many years of reading, political activism and, yes, I've even witnessed a few things.>

So are mine, and I, perhaps, witnessed much more than you did on the both sides of the ideological argument, plus (what to any scientist is much more illustrative)
prognosed many historical events and/or their outcomes,
some recent world events inclusive. I wonder how I've been doing it for many years based on my faulty ("lost", in your definition) ideological premises, while the overwhelming majority of highly reputed pundits of neoconservatism and so-called American liberals failed miserably in the prognostic department.
I really have no idea what and whose enemy you determined
me siding with, but I was always siding with the real, not
bribed or qausi democracy, i.e. the power of people for the people, peaceful internal and foreign policies, and with the people's minimum basic rights: to be mealed, clothed, and dwelled. In our materialistic world it essentially means to be employed, have free or almost free health insurance, and free or low cost, good quality education.
The rest is bound to come by.
If this is called 'siding with the enemy', I'm your villain.


Bill Heuisler - 3/10/2005

Adam,
You repeat so as not to be accused of misquoting? Okay. You've just completed two posts in two days replete with accusations of: Ideological rant, leveling accusations at you having to do with Chomsky - hating America, attacking you, insulting rant, venting anger devoid of substance, insults leveled, mindless mud slinging and partisan yelling, your insulting rant against the UN (which you compare to butchers). Wrong, Adam. Stop whining.

Read the post again - here's the post you refer to:

Okay, I slogged through all those articles. The UN is bad, but the US is really at fault or the US did it too.

Fine, not that I agree, but there's an obvious question: When you say it's bad, but the US did it too...or the United States was the cause of the problem...or the US really stole the money, then what? Since we could blame the US for nearly everything since 1776, does that mean we do nothing? Ever? Are Americans expected to commit ritual suicide to make the world a better place?

Moshe, Shawcross et al seem to agree with Noam Chomsky, who blames nearly every evil in the world on the United States. Chomsky shrugs off comments about post-war deaths in VN by blaming the US. Chomsky et al shrug off the evil wrought by Saddam Hussein by blaming the US. Chomsky et al shrug off 9/11 by blaming the US.

He ignores manifest good will, good intentions and the newfound freedoms of millions; he ignores the real evil, but blames the US for the death and anguish that results.
Chomsky always blames the cop, ignores the altruism and somehow invariably finds an excuse for the original evil.

Frankly, I'm tired of hearing how Kofi Annan may have been lax, but corporate America is really at fault. How our troops are the real problem in Iraq, how Vietnam would've been hunky dory if we'd simply left Communists alone to enslave more people. How Cambodia was just fine as a NVA arms/troop conduit until we decided to do something about the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Then you talk about the Khmer Rouge vs some government allied to Vietnam as though there was a good guy-bad guy scenario. No, Adam, the Khmer Rouge were Leftist butchers and Vietnam was in the process of resettling, imprisoning and murdering hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese. The UN never could decide which Leftist butcher to back because the UN obviously has no moral template. How could they? The General Assembly includes most of the truly evil regimes in the world. Decide among butchers?
How could they turn on their own?

Assigning responsibility for The Killing Fields? Nah. I can see Noam shrug. Three million skulls wouldn't be there if the US hadn't resisted North Vietnam when it tried to bring peace and social paradise to the South.
Bill Heuisler

Adam, where are you insulted? You consider my beliefs a rant? Now that's an insult, but let it go. After reading more carefully you will note how I was quite careful to couch some terms in generalities. No insults unless you consider my comparing your opinions to Chomsky an insult. Stop whining and engage. All your overreactions simply show inappropriate anger at an admittedly ideological set of opinions. For instance, had you read more carefully, you would've noticed the butchers were Khmer Rouge and VN allies and certain members of the UN. Do you dispute this? Or has criticism of the UN and opinions of Chomsky made you inarticulate?

BTW the point of most of that post you hated so much is when someone attacks a shibboleth of the Left, the Left's reaction is to bring up supposedly similar behavior of the US instead of denying or defending the behavior.

That formula is the heart of Professor Kirstein's article and the heart of your defense of the UN. (Crimes of VN Communism ignored and sidestepped by accusing the US; crimes of the UN minimized by accusing the US. The Senate commission stated that Kofi Annan and members of the UN Security Council - France/Germany - facilitated Saddam Hussein's theft of billions from his own people for their own purposes and then sabotaged our attempts to envoke UN resolutions. The response? US is culpable. US contractors stole money also. This misses the point. This is not a response at all.
Bill Heuisler



Edward Siegler - 3/10/2005

I've never seen anyone make the assumption that the American presence guarantees the success of democracy in Iraq. Where do you get this?


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/10/2005

An amplification: Those numbers of ARVN were actually the air wing component. The actual ground force totals were about 1 million by the end of the war. My amplification I believe adds to the daunting challenge of developing an Iraqi military that could even closely approximate the numbers or much less exceed the limited capability of the ARVN.


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/10/2005

I appreciate the varied and intense reactions to the article and having only commented on Professor Klinghoffer’s post, I wanted to offer a more general statement.

1) While I maintain that the two conflicts are tragically analogous, I agree that Vietnam and Iraq are not identical and I concede there are significant differences. The force in country consists of about 40% Guard and Reserve components. In Vietnam only about 15,000 served during the entire conflict which constituted 1.5% of those in country.

2) Even though the majority of American forces in Vietnam were not conscripts, clearly the absence of a draft is another difference: one of the great legacies of the Vietnam resistance. Yet the Stop-Loss programme is a not so hidden draft in that it compels continued military service and/or tours of duty after contractual obligations have been satisfied. I hope the current litigation against this will be successful.

3) Yet a key difference which I did not mention, due to space limitations requested by HNN, ironically adds credence to the quagmire comparison: the presence in Vietnam of the ARVN, the South Vietnamese military. Prior to escalation in 1965, its force levels were about 8,500. By the end of the war it was close to 50,000 with a $500 million war budget. Even so, it melted away with the great 1975 Spring offensive that led to the liberation of Saigon. In Iraq, the task of developing an indigenous force is even more daunting due to its decimation in both Iraq wars and the cashiering of it by the inept Proconsul Jerry Bremer. It is problematic whether the US, with straining deficits and an effective insurgency, will expend the money and succeed in developing an indigenous Iraqi military. The challenge is much greater in Iraq which adds to my argumentation that the US cannot win in Iraq and will be defeated as in Vietnam.

4) Another difference between the conflicts is striking; the antiwar movement preceded the Iraq war and was quite large and well-organised. It has now dissipated. In Vietnam the antiwar movement did not arise until after the war started and did not manifest itself in any meaningful manner until the Berkeley Free Speech Movement in 1964. The latter was not antiwar but established the mode of protest which would inform the epic 1960s American antiwar movement. My last paragraph was a not too subtle call for a recrudescence of such activity to seek an end to the current criminal war.

5) The 100,000 casualty figure is probably underestimating the deaths of civilians in that ravaged land. I do place that crime at the doorstep of the American government regardless of how many were directly killed by US ordnance. Without the March 19 invasion, this tragedy would not have materialised and is attributable to the decisions of the neoconservative-democratic alliance within the US government. Since General Tommy Franks, US Central Command, said “we don’t do body counts” and the DoD is reluctant to provide estimates of civilian KIA, one has to rely on journals such as Lancet to ascertain the numbers of civilian war dead. Morality insists that means be assessed as well as end results in attempting to restrain the savage impulses of American foreign relations.

6) The last post asked if I were aware of the growing democratisation in the region and suggested that should cause a reconsideration of my antiwar posture. I am old fashioned: governments should tell the truth before going to war and should undergo regime change and war crimes prosecutions should they fail to do so.

A final reflection: I think HNN is somewhat unusual in that it hews to a policy of ideological diversity and nonpartisanship. Most web and hardcopy publications that scrutinize foreign and domestic policy usually operate within a fairly narrow ideological range. While they are more vulnerable to vituperation from the other pole of the ideological spectrum, they can rely upon their base for support. HNN does not pander to a particular ideological audience and is more vulnerable to criticism as it seeks to feature a full range of argumentation. I hope you the reader and those who register their opinions on these postings appreciate the difficulties and the courage in maintaining such editorial objectivity in an increasingly charged and divided body politic.


Michael Sheets - 3/10/2005

Equally moronic is the assumption that American presence and values guarantees the success of democracy in Iraq.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 3/9/2005

1) “You know very well what I'm "trying to say". Either agree or disagree, but after I read your endless references and respond - after we disagree on my response to Kirstein's article - it would be nice for you to answer me.”

In that case Bill, even though I have always answered your posts point by point, which you have never done, I will answer this as clearly as I can: I believe that because you are unable to respond to my points with intelligent rebuttals or even opinions, you decide to level accusations at me having something to do with Chomsky and hating America. I completely and unequivocally disagree with your attack against me. They are driven by anger and ideology and show no hint of genuine dialogue. I hope that my answer was clear enough.

2) “Your web sites blamed the US - some partially and others in large part - for OFF. One site says Cheney corrupted the system, another says the US Treasury dept. gave permission for corruption and another talks about illegal contracts. Now go back and read your own references and answer my questions about the UN OFF and Kofi Annan or don't bother.”

Because you have asked me no questions in your insulting rant against the UN (which you compare to butchers) as well as myself, I chose not to bother. I would be interested however, if you would actually address those points brought up in the article rather than ignore them and then falsely accuse me of ignoring you.

3) “You've apparently forgotten the Kirstein article that compares Iraq to VN. You've also apparently forgotten your own posts on that subject. Do you agree or not? Don't pretend my writing or sentiments are ambiguous.”

And do not pretend that your posts are anything other than venting anger devoid of substance. Your response was to MY post, not the article, and IF you DO have some point to make about the article, why not make it instead of hiding behind insults leveled against anyone and pretending as if it was addressing the article. If it was however, truly intended against the article and not me, I could detect nothing of substance to respond to. I made my positions on the article clear in the following post: http://hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=55543#55543 in which I refuted the article in the same manner that I have refuted the points you have made.

4) “Exactly, Adam, the UN did nothing in Cambodia. After 20 years the situation is similar to what Pol Pot left. The UN never tried and convicted any one for the 3 million murdered and Khmer Rouge leaders have either disappeared or merged with the current leaders who are trying to purge the opposition (as I referred and you ignored).”

I do not know why you hold such irrational disdain for UN peacekeeping missions but while the UN did not bring peace love and harmony to the region, it is responsible for doing a great deal of good. Why you dismiss a peace agreement, a new constitution, and elections as “nothing” is clearly ideological rather than factual, and make a hypocrite of anyone who accuses people of dismissing Iraqi elections as “nothing.”

The 1997 coup, followed by several years of violence is no more a fault of the UN than anyone else and there is no reason to believe that the absence of their assistance would not have led to far worse and long lasting violence as the civil war continued.

5) “Another thing, referring people to opinion pieces doesn't prove anything. It wastes my time. If I wanted to read those people's opinions I could go there nyself. The point of HNN is your opinion, Adam.”

Actually, I find well-written editorials to be extremely interesting, and I would assume based on your reaction to anyone who disagrees with you that you likely read only those things that confirm your beliefs already. If you found them a waste, that is your prerogative. Perhaps you could use your next post to address the points I made that were not editorial pieces?

I certainly hope, for example that you address my article about how you can lament human rights abuses in Cambodia and blame it on the UN but do not have any problems to speak of about the abuses in Iraq under American occupation?

Also, what of the dozens of UN peacekeeping missions aside from the ones mentioned in your post? Why do you believe that they were all a waste, especially when we have had such difficulties in the reconstruction of Iraq?

Also, what of the corruption of American contractors in Iraq? Do you honestly maintain that the billions of taxpayer money lost was simply a mistake “in the paperwork”?

Also, what of the US involvement in the scandal? Although you seen infuriated that anyone bring it up, is it not a fact, and why have you not even attempted to address it at all?

6) “Last, it is not necessary for you to repeat my posts. What I said is in the prior post. It wastes time and makes lengthy posts even longer.”

Bill, I repeat posts for 2 reasons:
- It makes it exactly clear what point I am responding to (and allows me to clearly point out the obvious silliness in trying to accuse me of not addressing your points), and
- It allows you the opportunity to see what it is you have said while you are reading my response so that I cannot be accused of misquoting you

Given the fact that so many of your insults are unsupported and your accusations against my flatly wrong, I consider my posting of points to be quite useful.

Personally, I prefer real debate to mindless mud slinging and partisan yelling, and thus I find the use of point-by-point refutations to be the most balanced way of presenting my arguments. Thus far, no one has complained and since the first complaint is from someone who, among MANY other things, accuses me of blaming “every evil in the world on the United States,” I consider my strategy a wise one.


Bill Heuisler - 3/9/2005

Mr. Shcherban,
My doctor says I'm not marasm-stricken. My opinions are my own and the result of many years of reading, political activism and, yes, I've even witnessed a few things.

What I'm witnessing in the US and on this site is the final death-throes of the Radical Left. They can't help themselves, but even after all their causes are lost, they still bite the system that feeds them. They clothe treason with pacifism and hatred of the US with insipid words and false idealism. Multilateralism and thinking like Eurosocialists has become a joke. Funniest part: the Left still takes itself seriously. Face it, siding with the enemy became passe after 9/11.

Thank you for inquiring about my health, by the way.
Bill Heuisler


Bill Heuisler - 3/9/2005

Mr. Pine,
Thank you for your kind words and compliments. You may use my words, sentences and paragraphs any time you feel the need to be correct, concise and accurate.
Bill Heuisler


Bill Heuisler - 3/9/2005

Adam,
You say you didn't say things, you have no idea what I'm talking about and you don't know what I'm trying to say. You repeat my post and give no responses. You've done this before and you're doing it again. No offense, but I'm getting a little impatient with having to explain the process and genesis of our discussions.

You know very well what I'm "trying to say". Either agree or disagree, but after I read your endless references and respond - after we disagree on my response to Kirstein's article - it would be nice for you to answer me.

1)You referred me to various web sites in furtherance of your argument that OFF wasn't really the greatest scandal and that the US was just as bad. Your web sites blamed the US - some partially and others in large part - for OFF. One site says Cheney corrupted the system, another says the US Treasury dept. gave permission for corruption and another talks about illegal contracts. Now go back and read your own references and answer my questions about the UN OFF and Kofi Annan or don't bother.

2)You've apparently forgotten the Kirstein article that compares Iraq to VN. You've also apparently forgotten your own posts on that subject. Do you agree or not? Don't pretend my writing or sentiments are ambiguous.

3)Exactly, Adam, the UN did nothing in Cambodia. After 20 years the situation is similar to what Pol Pot left. The UN never tried and convicted any one for the 3 million murdered and Khmer Rouge leaders have either disappeared or merged with the current leaders who are trying to purge the opposition (as I referred and you ignored).

Another thing, referring people to opinion pieces doesn't prove anything. It wastes my time. If I wanted to read those people's opinions I could go there nyself. The point of HNN is your opinion, Adam.

Last, it is not necessary for you to repeat my posts. What I said is in the prior post. It wastes time and makes lengthy posts even longer.
Bill


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 3/9/2005

1) “Fine, not that I agree, but there's an obvious question: When you say it's bad, but the US did it too...or the United States was the cause of the problem...or the US really stole the money, then what? Since we could blame the US for nearly everything since 1776, does that mean we do nothing? Ever? Are Americans expected to commit ritual suicide to make the world a better place?”

Bill, with all due respect, I believe you are allowing your own ideological position to generate a backlash against what you perceive to be nothing more than a partisan attack. What I provided was facts, and yet here you accuse me of claiming that the US was the cause of the problem (I did not), the US stole the money (I did not) or that I am “blaming” the US of anything unrelated to this issue (I am not). How could we blame everything on the US since 1776? Also, what are you talking about when you suggest “ritual suicide to make the world a better place”?? I honestly do not know where this is all coming from, but it certainly did not come from anything I said in my post.

2) “Moshe, Shawcross et al seem to agree with Noam Chomsky, who blames nearly every evil in the world on the United States. Chomsky shrugs off comments about post-war deaths in VN by blaming the US. Chomsky et al shrug off the evil wrought by Saddam Hussein by blaming the US. Chomsky et al shrug off 9/11 by blaming the US.”

My God, what in the world are you talking about, I honestly have no idea. What does Chomsky, Vietnam, or 9/11 have to do with the OFF scandal?!? Indeed, what do those things have to do with ANYTHING that I have said?

This ideological rant you proceed with has nothing to do with either me or the points I make in your post.

3) “Then you talk about the Khmer Rouge vs some government allied to Vietnam as though there was a good guy-bad guy scenario. No, Adam, the Khmer Rouge were Leftist butchers and Vietnam was in the process of resettling, imprisoning and murdering hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese. The UN never could decide which Leftist butcher to back because the UN obviously has no moral template.”

Bill, again with due respect, I am not sure you understand what the UN did there based on the above meaningless statement. Are you suggesting now that the UN should not have been involved at all, or that their involvement made matters worse, or that the ceasefire they helped to create was a bad thing, I really don’t know what you are trying to say here.


Arnold Shcherban - 3/9/2005

Bill,

And your sources are original and not borrowed?
Are you an eyewitness of all those events discussed
here?
Sorry to point that out, but the level of your argumentation has really tended to point-zero, lately.
Are you getting marasm-stricken?

Don't leave us, please, we are going to miss your
genuine stubborness and Pan-Amerikana stance.


Jonathan Pine - 3/9/2005


1."Your "thoughts" are exactly what was written about Mr. Valentine's book on his website (douglas valentione .com)Word for word. Coincidence? "

Yes. This line is not mine ("It was a US "state-sponsored" (final solution) that violated the Geneva Conventions and traditional American ideas of human morality.") but it was taken from a New York Times article. So what?

Your fixation on "my thoughts" and the minute detail of a borrowed line is ridiculous. Observe the splinter in your own eye. It’s full of them. Instead of addressing my comments with reason and logic you launched into an insulting and vituperative attack as if that were going to "instruct" me. I don’t mind instruction when it’s from someone who’s shows intelligence in giving it. Meanwhile, the purpose of the argument is lost. Real smart.

2. "I have no trouble with repeating things others have said, (I do it often) but when I asked you to give me your own thoughts you dodged the issue. I'll assume you have no thoughts of your own. "

You said you repeat what others have said often.. So according to your logic anything you repeat are your own thoughts. In other words you have no original thoughts. I thought so. Secondly, you should never assume, you know how it makes an ass out of you and . . .

.3. "Then you made the statement about systematic torture in Iraq. When challenged, you say I should prove it's not true. Wrong. You made a stupid, unsupported claim and got caught"

I suppose you call Abu Ghraib incident not systematic torture, which was probably only representative of that type of activity in Iraq. The torture was widely acknowledged. There are plenty of links on this you can find yourself. What planet are you on?

4. "Great sources, by the way. Counterpunch? I'll bet Teresa Heinz has plenty to say about CIA hackers stealing NVA secrets and causing the massacre of those schoolteachers in Hue the Marines exhumed after taking the city."

Great! I loved the last lines. Your language always shows you’re a real class act.












Arnold Shcherban - 3/9/2005

There are some major analogies between Vietnam and Iraq wars: both were the US agressions against the will of the populace, both were the embodiments of the Pan-Amerikana design initiated on the false pretences. The rest analogies are either minor or non-existant.


Bill Heuisler - 3/9/2005

Mr. Pine,
Since neither citation seems to work, I'll just copy and paste the relevant home page:

The Phoenix Program
From DouglasValentine.com:

Created by the CIA in Saigon in 1967, Phoenix was a computer-driven program aimed at “neutralizing”, through assassination, kidnapping, and systematic torture, the civilian infrastructure that supported the insurgency in South Vietnam. It was a terrifying “final solution” that violated the Geneva Conventions and traditional American ideas of human morality.

You can read an excerpt of The Phoenix Program on this site. It deals with the My Lai massacre and the cruel “Tiger Cages.”

The Phoenix Program is available directly from the author at DouglasValentine.com and also from iUniverse.com and the CounterPunch Bookshelf.

Great sources, by the way. Counterpunch? I'll bet Teresa Heinz has plenty to say about CIA hackers stealing NVA secrets and causing the massacre of those schoolteachers in Hue the Marines exhumed after taking the city.
Bill Heuisler


Bill Heuisler - 3/9/2005

Adam,
Okay, I slogged through all those articles. The UN is bad, but the US is really at fault or the US did it too.

Fine, not that I agree, but there's an obvious question: When you say it's bad, but the US did it too...or the United States was the cause of the problem...or the US really stole the money, then what? Since we could blame the US for nearly everything since 1776, does that mean we do nothing? Ever? Are Americans expected to commit ritual suicide to make the world a better place?

Moshe, Shawcross et al seem to agree with Noam Chomsky, who blames nearly every evil in the world on the United States. Chomsky shrugs off comments about post-war deaths in VN by blaming the US. Chomsky et al shrug off the evil wrought by Saddam Hussein by blaming the US. Chomsky et al shrug off 9/11 by blaming the US.

He ignores manifest good will, good intentions and the newfound freedoms of millions; he ignores the real evil, but blames the US for the death and anguish that results.
Chomsky always blames the cop, ignores the altruism and somehow invariably finds an excuse for the original evil.

Frankly, I'm tired of hearing how Kofi Annan may have been lax, but corporate America is really at fault. How our troops are the real problem in Iraq, how Vietnam would've been hunky dory if we'd simply left Communists alone to enslave more people. How Cambodia was just fine as a NVA arms/troop conduit until we decided to do something about the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Then you talk about the Khmer Rouge vs some government allied to Vietnam as though there was a good guy-bad guy scenario. No, Adam, the Khmer Rouge were Leftist butchers and Vietnam was in the process of resettling, imprisoning and murdering hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese. The UN never could decide which Leftist butcher to back because the UN obviously has no moral template. How could they? The General Assembly includes most of the truly evil regimes in the world. Decide among butchers?
How could they turn on their own?

Assigning responsibility for The Killing Fields? Nah. I can see Noam shrug. Three million skulls wouldn't be there if the US hadn't resisted North Vietnam when it tried to bring peace and social paradise to the South.
Bill Heuisler


Bill Heuisler - 3/9/2005

Mr. Pine,
Your "thoughts" are exactly what was written about Mr. Valentine's book on his website (douglas valentione .com)Word for word. Coincidence?
Also go to: <http://free.freespeech.org/americanstateterrorism/vietnamgenocide/PhoenixProgram.html>;
and read the words you copied word-for-word again.

I have no trouble with repeating things others have said, (I do it often) but when I asked you to give me your own thoughts you dodged the issue. I'll assume you have no thoughts of your own.

Then you made the statement about systematic torture in Iraq. When challenged, you say I should prove it's not true. Wrong. You made a stupid, unsupported claim and got caught. Your Viagra comment caps a brilliant performance.
Bill Heuisler


Jonathan Pine - 3/9/2005

Where did I say in my post that all involved in Operation Phoenix were murderers and criminals? Instead of being insulting why don’t you read instead of skim the post. Your bias is obvious. As usual.

I have not read Valentine's book. My thoughts on Vietnam are my own.

Show me that there has not been systematic torture in Iraq.

Lastly, take Viagra.


Charles Edward Heisler - 3/9/2005

Not to worry about your latest analogy Peter--there is no "New McCarthyism" against Leftist professors--hell, we wouldn't have anyone to teach revisionist Liberal Arts if we did that! My goodness where would higher education be if we didn't have curricula that addresses Woman's history, Black history, Native American history, Transgender history, and have endless babble about the "Advantages of Our Diversity"?


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 3/8/2005

1) “Please reread your #2. You have confused troops and other countries and financial stakes and bidding and being underfunded with the UN mission that asked to be in the Green Zone. This was not about troops and funding. They set up their mission. A bomb went off nearby. They left.”

This is very true, but they left for the same reason many countries have left: security concerns. I bring up the bidding restriction merely as evidence that their presence in Iraq had been given little faith by the administration.

2) “Your protestations notwithstanding, the UN has caused and prolonged more problems than it has solved. The UN has become a delaying mechanism, a cover for tyrants and a huge joke that (for instance) places bloody dictators in charge of UN Human Rights Committees.”

I have seen no evidence for the above statement. I am no huge fan of the UN believe it or not. I believe it does allow tyrants and despots to have too much say, and that its institutional structure makes it inherently unable to confront the very worst problems. Having Libya on its HR committee is as insulting as it is morally bankrupt. I could go on. All of that being said however, the UN does have its uses and those uses ought not to be ignored amongst the litany of problems. The fact of the matter is that in terms of humanitarian work and aid and relief, in terms of legitimizing national decisions (sometimes the WRONG decisions, I concede) and in terms of peacekeeping, the UN has been a remarkably effective and worthwhile institution on the whole.

3) “You mentioned Cyprus. 45 years. And a cease-fire line has divided the island since 1974. Despite constant UN-sponsored negotiations under four UN Secretaries-General, the resolution of the conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots remains undone. The latest failure was the termination of talks with the EU as to accession.”

I believe that your standards for the UN are unfairly high. The mission of peacekeepers is not to resolve conflicts, nor even, paradoxically, to prevent wars. No such small force could prevent determined nations from fighting.

“The key is that peacekeepers are there to keep a peace, that is peacekeepers are deployed on the basis of a peace agreement for which the parties think that the intervention, the presence of a third party will provide a measure of reassurance that will facilitate the implementation of the agreement. If the agreement is not yet there, to insert peacekeepers is a dangerous thing and that's where there is a difference really between peacekeeping and enforcing.”

4) “Cambodia?... "Opposition Politicians Arrested, Forced to Flee… This, Adam, after twenty years of UN dabbling and stalled Khmer Rouge trials and 3 million dead still unavenged and largely forgotten.”

You make it sound as if the role of the UN was to make Cambodia the model of democracy and that it was responsible for holding Nuremberg-style hearings.
When the UN first went into Cambodia, the country was just ending a brutal civil war between forces of the new government under Hun Sen, aided by Vietnam, and the Khmer Rouge, which destroyed the political and civil infrastructure. It took the UN three years and several false starts to persuade Cambodia's warring factions to sign the 1991 Paris peace agreements that paved the way for the transitional government. The UN then rebuilt its political system and set up a supreme national council that encompassed the four main factions and led by Prince Norodom Sihanouk, the only figurehead acceptable to all parties.
I would also be curious to know, since you seem to almost blame the UN for the human rights abuse you mention, who you blame for the following situation in Iraq:
http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/01/26/iraq10053.htm

5) “Then you have the nerve to compare OFF to corruption of American contractors in Iraq and cite "some analysts".

If you wanted some sources, Bill, all you had to do was ask for them and you know I am always happy to oblige:
http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?040216fa_fact
http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1407964,00.html
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,145288,00.html
http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/sanction/iraq1/oilforfood/2005/0217treasury.htm
http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/sanction/iraq1/oilforfood/2004/1009usidentified.htm

If you want more sources, just met me know, but I think you get the idea that I was not simply making things up.

6) “I'll give you analysts: The Senate subcommittee investigating the Oil-For-Food scandal revealed that Saddam Hussein and his cronies skimmed over $21 billion out of the UN program that was intended to provide food and medicine to the Iraqi people.”

As I have in my previous post, the scandal was egregious, and I in no way defend or condone it.

http://slate.msn.com/id/2111195/

7) “The US contractors are accused of charging too much after a bid was let. The evidence against the contractors is in the paperwork. The UN will not allow its paperwork to be examined. There's no comparison. Admit it.”

I am afraid I will admit no such thing, and I certainly cannot agree that your statement was anything other than hyperbole. The scandal, which the United States is partly complicit in, it awful, and perhaps the largest scandal in UN history (to the organizations credit). However, I believe the comparisons are quite valid in their level of cronyism and corruption and entirely invalid in their level of media coverage. The charge against Iraqi contractors was not just that they were charging too much but that it was pure corruption, and the stories of massive mismanagement and fraud abound (one of my favorite examples is how security firm Custer Battles LLC of Fairfax was paid approximately $15 million to provide security for civilian flights at Baghdad International Airport, even though no planes flew during the contract term).

The OFF scandal is awful, but if I’m being honest, I believe that many people who have always been critical of the UN are simply using the episode for ideological purposes, and ignoring both the US’s own role in the scandal as well as our own corruption problems pertaining to Iraq.

PS I am under the understanding that the U.S. General Accounting Office estimated that Saddam Hussein skimmed $10.1 billion under UN noses, not $21 billion. The $21 billion figure the Senate cited included all of Saddam's illegal oil revenues going back to 1991, five years BEFORE the oil-for-food program was ever conceived. Charles Duelfer, the CIA's Iraq weapons inspector, put Saddam's total illicit income related to oil-for-food at only $1.74 billion, last I read.


Bill Heuisler - 3/8/2005

Mr. Pine,
Your sources are lousy, your information borrowed.
Do you really believe all who participated in Operation Phoenix were murderers and criminals? Many of us have read Mr. Valentine's book...and the book-blurbs on his anti-American diatribe on Vietnam, but do you have any of your own thoughts about Vietnam?

As to systematic torture in Iraq, can you quote another Left-wing book blurb to support that ridiculous statement?
Bill Heuisler


Bill Heuisler - 3/8/2005

Adam,
Please reread your #2. You have confused troops and other countries and financial stakes and bidding and being underfunded with the UN mission that asked to be in the Green Zone. This was not about troops and funding. They set up their mission. A bomb went off nearby. They left.

Your protestations notwithstanding, the UN has caused and prolonged more problems than it has solved. The UN has become a delaying mechanism, a cover for tyrants and a huge joke that (for instance) places bloody dictators in charge of UN Human Rights Committees.

You mentioned Cyprus. 45 years. And a cease-fire line has divided the island since 1974. Despite constant UN-sponsored negotiations under four UN Secretaries-General, the resolution of the conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots remains undone. The latest failure was the termination of talks with the EU as to accession.

Cambodia?
February 6, 2005:
"Opposition Politicians Arrested, Forced to Flee
Fate of Political Pluralism in Balance as Sam Rainsy Party under Attack"
(New York, ) -- "The targeting of opposition parliamentarians is a thinly-veiled effort by Cambodia’s ruling parties to eliminate their political opponents, Human Rights Watch said today. This week three leading opposition members of Cambodia’s National Assembly were stripped of their parliamentary immunity and one was subsequently arrested." This, Adam, after twenty years of UN dabbling and stalled Khmer Rouge trials and 3 million dead still unavenged and largely forgotten.

Then you have the nerve to compare OFF to corruption of American contractors in Iraq and cite "some analysts".

I'll give you analysts: The Senate subcommittee investigating the Oil-For-Food scandal revealed that Saddam Hussein and his cronies skimmed over $21 billion out of the UN program that was intended to provide food and medicine to the Iraqi people. Imagine how much food 21 billion would buy! And, contrary to your comparison, the UN has been stonewalling the Senate investigation. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has found himself having to avoid questions about his son and Senator Norm Coleman, who heads the investigation, has publicly called for Annan to resign several times.

Annan and his aides maintain to this day the Oil-For-Food program had nothing to do with Saddam’s pricing scams and smuggling of oil, but the Senate investigation reveals that Saddam and his cronies pocketed at least $21 billion during the years the Oil-For-Food program was running. Those were the very same years in which Annan repeatedly went to bat to enable Saddam, under OFF to import the equipment to rebuild Iraq’s oil infrastructure, thereby creating vastly more oil to game the system.

Yet we are to believe that Kofi Annan knew nothing about kickbacks, pricing scams and smuggling oil even though the Senate investigation has revealed that numerous people in the UN were in on the scam. Did Annan receive any funds from the scandal? We know his son received money. But whether Annan directly benefited from the OFF scandal or not, he allowed it to continue for years... years while Iraqis starved.

The 21 billion is the largest scandal in history. The US contractors are accused of charging too much after a bid was let. The evidence against the contractors is in the paperwork. The UN will not allow its paperwork to be examined. There's no comparison. Admit it.
Bill



Charles Edward Heisler - 3/8/2005

Of course we are in for the long haul and more casualties are to be expected. When Bush prepped the Country for the war on terrorism, he clearly indicated this was going to be a long process. You and I can well remember when the casualty lists from Vietnam were well over 200 a week, a level we aren't likely to match in Iraq. Still, I believe much has been accomplished in two long years of effort and blood in Iraq--it would appear that a new breeze of freedom is blowing across the region.
This "Bush Doctrine" of freeing the people of the Middle East is unprecedented in our history--it assumes that people want to be free and will use that feedom to improve their own lives. It is a smart theory--after all, democracies do not war against each other. I believe the American Civil War is the only historical example when a war between two democratic entities.
I always mistrust analogies to enlighten people that are familiar with history--they can only serve to illuminate concepts for those that lack the basic understanding but because they inherently deal with things that are not alike, they can rarely be considered persuasive.
The above article relies entirely on an extended analogy and no argument should ever be made using these kinds of comparisons.
At the core I believe the Vietnam/Iraq analogy is being attempted to imply that the war on terror is a losing proposition, something that isn't, to date, the case. Any fair analysis has to acknowledge that the American victories have been, so far, substantial.


Charles Edward Heisler - 3/8/2005

Of course we are in for the long haul and more casualties are to be expected. When Bush prepped the Country for the war on terrorism, he clearly indicated this was going to be a long process. You and I can well remember when the casualty lists from Vietnam were well over 200 a week, a level we aren't likely to match in Iraq. Still, I believe much has been accomplished in two long years of effort and blood in Iraq--it would appear that a new breeze of freedom is blowing across the region.
This "Bush Doctrine" of freeing the people of the Middle East is unprecedented in our history--it assumes that people want to be free and will use that feedom to improve their own lives. It is a smart theory--after all, democracies do not war against each other. I believe the American Civil War is the only historical example when a war between two democratic entities.
I always mistrust analogies to enlighten people that are familiar with history--they can only serve to illuminate concepts for those that lack the basic understanding but because they inherently deal with things that are not alike, they can rarely be considered persuasive.
The above article relies entirely


Charles Edward Heisler - 3/8/2005

Of course we are in for the long haul and more casualties are to be expected. When Bush prepped the Country for the war on terrorism, he clearly indicated this was going to be a long process. You and I can well remember when the casualty lists from Vietnam were well over 200 a week, a level we aren't likely to match in Iraq. Still, I believe much has been accomplished in two long years of effort and blood in Iraq--it would appear that a new breeze of freedom is blowing across the region.
This "Bush Doctrine" of freeing the people of the Middle East is unprecedented in our history--it assumes that people want to be free and will use that feedom to improve their own lives. It is a smart theory--after all, democracies do not war against each other. I believe the American Civil War is the only historical example when a war between two democratic entities.
I always mistrust analogies to enlighten people that are familiar with history--they can only serve to illuminate concepts for those that lack the basic understanding but because they inherently deal with things that are not alike, they can rarely be considered persuasive.
The above article relies entirely


Charles Edward Heisler - 3/8/2005

Of course we are in for the long haul and more casualties are to be expected. When Bush prepped the Country for the war on terrorism, he clearly indicated this was going to be a long process. You and I can well remember when the casualty lists from Vietnam were well over 200 a week, a level we aren't likely to match in Iraq. Still, I believe much has been accomplished in two long years of effort and blood in Iraq--it would appear that a new breeze of freedom is blowing across the region.
This "Bush Doctrine" of freeing the people of the Middle East is unprecedented in our history--it assumes that people want to be free and will use that feedom to improve their own lives. It is a smart theory--after all, democracies do not war against each other. I believe the American Civil War is the only historical example when a war between two democratic entities.
I always mistrust analogies to enlighten people that are familiar with history--they can only serve to illuminate concepts for those that lack the basic understanding but because they inherently deal with things that are not alike, they can rarely be considered persuasive.
The above article relies entirely


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 3/8/2005

1) “No term applied to no two different historical events by analogy mirrors what actually happened, however, in general at least, it does not invalidate the term's applicability based on just partial resemblance of those two events.”

We will simply have to agree to disagree on this point. If you believe that calling American tactics “Nazi-like” simply because both Nazis and Americans utilize air raids and that in such air raids, some civilians are killed, than fine. I do not believe however, that it is a legitimate basis for comparison.

2) “Wake up Adam, nobody called (and surely not me) American air raids in Iraq "Nazi-like", the author referred to Vietnam's Phoenix programs as "Nazi-like", and I referred to the so-called US tactics of 'saturated bombing' and 'carpet bombing', used in South-East Asia, as Nazi-like.”

You are quite correct. I would be more than happy to retract the statement and insert the word “Vietnam” rather than Iraq. I still maintain that the comparison to the Nazis rather than some other analogy is more ideological, rather than historically, driven.

3) “And you really insult my intelligence by just entertaining a thought that I'm not aware of any other motives in foreign policy than hegemonic or altruistic.”

Not at all. I am merely responding to your statement that no other theory other than hegemonic “stand[s] the rigor of any serious scrutiny” and offered an alternative explanation that conforms to my own understanding of Cold War history that is neither hegemonic (although it very well may be- see my point #5), nor altruistic, which was the only other theory you mention.

4) “It's not that I'm longing for your respect, but you could have been more respectful to my intellegence and knowledge level, which, I believe, have been demonstrated in numerous exchanges on this board and which I did acknowledge on your side.”

(Actually, in point of fact, you called my reference to historical biographies “childish” and just now argued that I should “wake up”). In any event, Arnold, I respect anyone who is willing engage in open dialogue on any matter. While you may not be longing for it, you, as well as anyone else on this message board, certainly have it. Had you simply suggesting that what I said offended you, I would more than happy to offer my apologies for it, as I offer it now.

5) “Do you realize that provided you meant by that what the US goverments did and still do, it constitutes the crucial part of the US hegemonic policies, that you evidently deny?”

I do not mean to suggest, nor have I, that “all means to accomplish that goal are legitimate.” In order to make that claim, we first have to define what it is to be “legitimate.” As for hegemonic policies, I suppose our difference in opinion may be one of semantics rather than actual substance. I am not an international relations theorist and thus not familiar with some of the finer analytical components of the theory. If what I have described above fits into the hegemony theory, than I am a subscriber to that theory. If not, than I am not.


Jonathan Pine - 3/8/2005

All analogies always break down somewhere. Iraq and Vietnam aren’t any different. But I feel Kirstein is making the point well enough. Emotionally? So what. It just betrays his passion for the subject.

Concerning state-sponsored terrorism, am not saying directly there is such a thing generated by the US, these days, but little of fact has been reported on America's involvement in the promotion of terrorism, for instance the death squads in Central America, US sponsored, and now talk of the same for Iran. Maybe this is not classified as state-sponsored terrorism but national security instead. The parallel Kirstein makes with Vietnam, the Phoenix Program, which took over 20,000 lives between 65-72, and Iraq, was not conventional but neither is the war with politically motivated nationalist and sectarian insurgents, or revolutionaries, depending on the point of view. The Phoenix program "neutralized" people through assassination, kidnapping, and systematic torture—the civilian infrastructure that supported the Viet Cong insurgency in South Vietnam. It was a US "state-sponsored" (final solution) that violated the Geneva Conventions and traditional American ideas of human morality. There was, and still are, various forms of systematic torture (another form of terrorism) going on in Iraq and in prisons holding detainees.


mark safranski - 3/8/2005

Any improvement in the level of freedom is a welcome change but Vietnam has a way to go yet before we can start popping the champagne corks.

"Are we in the land of Rendition, torture, Patriot Act, Supreme Court-named presidents, Ward Churchill, New McCarthyism against left-wing professors??"

No, because if we were in that sort of a caricatured state you would not have an outlet for your views nor would Mr. Churchill have people defending his constitutional right to say foolish things.


Arnold Shcherban - 3/8/2005

Adam,

Your response to my "Nazi-like" comment invokes essentially the same logic and images that I mentioned as tradiditionally coming to many people's mind, warning that
the other images also possible and do appear in the minds of many folks, such e.g. as barbaric air raides targeting civilains. That's why I don't grasp how your argumentation defeats mine. No term applied to no two
different historical events by analogy mirrors what actually happened, however, in general at least, it does not invalidate the term's applicability based on just partial resemblance of those two events.
Wake up Adam, nobody called (and surely not me) American air raids in Iraq "Nazi-like", the author referred to Vietnam's Phoenix programs as "Nazi-like", and I referred
to the so-called US tactics of 'saturated bombing' and 'carpet bombing', used in South-East Asia, as Nazi-like. And I will stick to this judgement in my death bed, because I received that information from the eye witnesses, who had no conceivable reason to lie to me,
which were later matched by many historians around the world.

<If I understand you correctly, you are saying that any evidence of nefarious intent is absolutely true, while any evidence that says the opposite ALSO supports your argument since countries would hide their true intentions in any event.>

No, you didn't understand me correctly.
Not any evidence of nefarious (or any other) intent is
true (no evidence can be "absolutely true", in real life),
but great quantity of different kinds of evidence in support of the intent in question makes it MOST LIKELY to be true.
Any evidence that "says the opposite" (I guess, you meant
can be logically interpreted as the opposite) is to be also taken into consideration.
But, as the good students of life, we know (at least, MUST
know) that in out imperfect world we never have 100% amount of evidence desirable to have to be absolutely, positively shue. (If people have all that, there would be nothing to logically debate on, right?).
Thus we can talk only about the comparable LIKELIHOODS of one or another hypothesis to be true.
So, if that opposite conclusion comes only as exception
from the pattern established, based on the mentioned mass
of the evidence, we, being good researchers, must conclude that the opposite one does not carry enough significance to become serious competitor to the former.
That's how you should understand me here.

And you really insult my intelligence by just entertaining a thought that I'm not aware of any other motives in foreign policy than hegemonic or altruistic.
Beleive me, being through a lot in this life, I know a whole lot more of motives' spectre than you can imagine I do. It's not that I'm longing for your respect, but you could have been more respectful to my intellegence and knowledge level, which, I believe, have been demonstrated in numerous exchanges on this board and which I did acknowledge on your side.
However, what does that actually (practically) mean to
"prevent open markets from closing"?. Should we understand that all means to accomplish that goal are legitimate?
Do you realize that provided you meant by that what the US goverments did and still do, it constitutes the crucial part of the US hegemonic policies, that you evidently deny?


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 3/8/2005

1) “Please describe any situation in the last decade or two where the UN has been anything other than that disaster you mentioned.”

Two most immediately come to mind: (1) Peacekeeping efforts in Cambodia resulted in an election that paved the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees and the end of a destabilizing regional conflict, and (2) UN peacekeepers in Cyprus have prevented the outbreak of war between two NATO allies, Greece and Turkey, over the future of the Mediterranean island nation.

Even aside from those, the vast majority of peacekeeping missions over the past 50 years have made a substantial contribution toward stability in troubled areas. Recent examples of places where UN missions have monitored cease-fires, safeguarded relief supplies, and deterred human rights violations include Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, and Cambodia. Even in Somalia and Bosnia, sometimes labeled as UN peacekeeping "failures," UN peace operations helped save the lives of millions of innocent civilians.

I also want to remind you that UN peacekeeping missions can only do what the Security Council authorizes them to do, and even authorized missions are totally dependent on the willingness of individual nations to contribute troops, equipment, and assessed financial obligations. To the extent that UN peacekeeping has been unsuccessful, analysts often suggest that this has far more to do with lack of equipment, troops, and personnel than any inherent problem with the system.

It is unfortunate that you view the UN and its peacekeeping operations as a partisan issue, one that only “the left” supports. In reality, there is nothing more conservative than scaling back our resources (both in terms of troops and money) and trying to defer the cost of involvement if other, more effective, and cheaper ways of maintaining a presence is available.

Here is a list of some of the areas where UN peacekeepers were deployed. Although you may criticize each and every one of them, I would be curious to see how the US has a better track record.
http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0862135.html

2) “Recall, if you will, the UN had a mission in Baghdad after Saddam's fall, but they scuttled out like rats after a few insurgent bombs went off.”

This accusation is entirely unfair. The administration, as well as people similar to yourself in terms of their opinions about the UN never really supported their presence and did all they could to DIScourage countries from sending additional troops (this was done by excluding them from ANY financial stake in a stable Iraq by prohibiting any external bidding by nations that were not a part of the initial “coalition”). Thus the UN were vastly under funded, and lacked proper security that we were unwilling to provide. Considering the fact that entire countries pulled out of Iraq, the UN can hardly be singled out with any fairness.

3) “The UN hasn't done much recently other than steal food from starving Iraqis”

Again, a totally unfair characterization, and one that no one has used against the United States. The oil-for-food fiasco was scandalous and was rightly investigated and criticized by the United States. However, this scandal is no less egregious, although far more attention has been paid to it, than the massive corruption of AMERICAN contractors in Iraq, which some analysts believe has siphoned almost 20% of taxpayer money!
Cronyism and corruption were rampant in Iraq and to the best of my knowledge, continue to go unchecked and undisciplined.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0423/dailyUpdate.html

If you are critical of the UN for the OFF scandal, you have a right to be. However, if you target them for ideological reasons while holding them to a far higher standard of morality, I believe it is simply unfair.

http://marketplace.publicradio.org/features/iraq/


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 3/8/2005

1) “Cowardly bombing civilain settlements from the air is not Nazi-like only if you picture Nazi-like murder as the smoking crematorium. However, Nazis murdered hundreds of thousands of civilains from the air, and it was "certified" by the international community as "war crime".

Arnold, the allies also “murdered” thousands of civilians from the air, and thus the use of the term “Nazi-like” could not have referred to that. The word “Nazi” carries with it certain connotation and images, of savage brutality, genocide, and deliberate acts of barbarism for its own sake and for the sake of extermination and subjugation. Although the Nazis did other things, like bomb cities, drink coffee, and do paper-work, none of those things immediately come to mind with the term. Thus, to call American actions in Iraq “Nazi-like” has only one implication and it is not “merely” (and I use the work lightly) killing civilians in a bombing aid. Perhaps if Americans were bombing civilian cities for the purpose of wiping out the civilian inhabitants, then it would be a closer analogy but I have seen no evidence of this.

2) “Adam, your reference to-nowhere-in-Truman's-memoirs/ biographies-to-be-found admittance of hegemonic strategy is just childish; I really would never expect it coming from otherwise so logical and shrewd observer as you are.”

I am always at a lose to respond to such circular logic. If I understand you correctly, you are saying that any evidence of nefarious intent is absolutely true, while any evidence that says the opposite ALSO supports your argument since countries would hide their true intentions in any event. I am forced to make judgment calls based on the evidence and, if no evidence exists, assumptions and inference based on evidence. You may disagree with my conclusions, but for you to call them childish suffers from the same emotional knee-jerk reaction as the article I was referring to.

3) “If, however, one analyses major historical patterns of the US foreign policies after WWII up to these days, based on the actions, not words and official statements of the presidents and their advisors, they will find that it is extremely difficult to explain the
logic of pertaining facts and moves based on non-hegemonic premises.”

You seem to believe that the opposite of hegemonic motives is purely humanistic and altruistic motives. It is not. I propose that the real motivation of the United States during the Cold War (particularly the early cold war) was not to spread “peace, democracy, and freedom,” but to ensure regional stability, prevent the Soviet Union from strengthening its strategic and military interests in the world, and prevent open markets from closing. None of those goals are at all altruistic but they are not nefariously imperialistic either.


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/8/2005

Maybe that phrase was a little anticipatory. Yet I consulted the expansive link--or at least the portion that Professor Klinghoffer suggested on religious freedom and came across this Dept. of State summary:

"Despite the restrictions on organized activity, the Government generally allowed persons to practice individual worship in the religion of their choice, and participation in religious activities throughout the country continued to grow significantly."

Perhaps, while recognizing Vietnam is no Sweden, it is nonetheless showing signs, however, episodic of liberalization. Are we in the land of Rendition, torture, Patriot Act, Supreme Court-named presidents, Ward Churchill, New McCarthyism against left-wing professors??


Les Hildering - 3/8/2005

While the article is rather gripping and alluring in style I wonder if the author has any reflections on the apparent burgeoning or at least appearance of democratic processes in the region. While I share his antiwar views generally, should not a scholar move beyond the reasons given for war and at least consider the possibility that this war--whatever its shifting rationale--may--and I emphasize may--lead to a transformation of the Middle East that may benefit its peoples.

HNN says it publishes articles on the left and the right. One cannot say, having read this radical piece, that HNN is not doing that.

The Lancet article did estimate 100,000 civilian casualties. The article rather adroitly does not specify that the 100,000 KIA were US caused but suggests without the war, there would not have been those deaths. However I am sure the professor wanted to pin those on the US but avoids a direct charge.



mark safranski - 3/8/2005

Vietnam is a " proto-democracy" ?

By that standard, I suppose Saudi Arabia, Cuba, North Korea,Pakistan, Syria and Libya are " proto-democratic" states as well.


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/8/2005

It might be an interesting study to compare the interference with religious freedom between the current Vietnamese government with that of South Vietnam under Ngo Dinh Diem and his Himmler-type brother Ngo Dinh Nhu and sister-in-law, "Madame Nhu." They slaughtered Buddhists, leveled their pagodas, prevented the celebration of Buddha's birthday with the display of religious flags, and sneeringly dismissed self-immolations as "barbecues." Like South Africa, minority rule was inherently racist and oppressive with over 80% of the population being Buddhist.

This was the nation that the US proclaimed must be contained from communism and launched as fertile ground for the spread of democracy and freedom. Ahhh, democracy and freedom being spread by American arms! Sound familiar?


Charles Edward Heisler - 3/8/2005

Nice try Patrick but, of course, you fail to acknowledge the huge differences in your casuality figures. From 1961 to 1964 American troops were in Vietnam in an advisory role and were few in number--not even close to the numbers originally sent to Iraq with the invasion. The nature of the insurgency was far different as well.
Once again the trusim holds that analogies are by nature a weak form of inductive proof, whether literal or figurative, the disputant is comparing two very different entities.
For every similarity between Iraq and Vietnam there is a point of difference that invalidates the conclusions attempted. The most glaring of these differences being the motivation--9/11/2001. That makes, as "they" say, a whole different ball game, kettle of fish, horse of a different color (for you analogy lovers) out of Iraq.


Arnold Shcherban - 3/7/2005

Jentlemen,

Cowardly bombing civilain settlements from the air is not Nazi-like only if you picture Nazi-like murder as the smoking crematorium. However, Nazis murdered hundreds of thousands of civilains from the air, and it was "certified" by the international community as "war crime".
Therefore, no exaggeration there.

But... every big country in the world committed deadly sins and every one of them did many good things.
The US is the best country in the world for "internal use", but definitely striving for world hegemony and on the way "naturally" commits a lot crimes itself or by proxy. But of course, it can never and will never admit it.
Adam, your reference to-nowhere-in-Truman's-memoirs/ biographies-to-be-found admittance of hegemonic strategy
is just childish; I really would never expect it coming from otherwise so logical and shrewd observer as you are.
Such general and anti-humankind plans have never been stated, since the Nazi times; they are only implied.
If, however, one analyses major historical patterns of the US foreign policies after WWII up to these days, based on the actions, not words and official statements of the presidents and their advisors, they will find that it is extremely difficult to explain the
logic of pertaining facts and moves based on non-hegemonic premises. On the contrary, the majority of the latter fall well and naturally in place, provided the hegemonic hypothesis is used as the working axiom.
It is exactly this solid analytical conclusion that makes some prominent historians/commentators on the Left insist
on hegemony theory.
Any other general theory, such as e.g. "spreading peace, democracy and freedoms" does not stand the rigor of any serious scrutiny.


Robert F. Koehler - 3/7/2005

We always remember the dead. How about the living who rot away in VA hospitals across the hidden landscapes of America? Who cares or mourns for them? Except their families, and in all too many cases I have seen families abandon them too because they simply couldn't bare it anymore. For almost 20 years now I have volunteered my time in these facilities caring for guys for whom their wars will never end. The dead are the lucky ones who will never one day come to question their sacrifice, brood on it, and far more than anyone here will ever know, some have also learned to hate. Death is easy, paying the price and living on with a wreaked body is another matter.


Oscar Chamberlain - 3/7/2005

Bill,

To be honest, I largly disliked the article and some of the comments precisely because or language like that. I do not see any good reason to compare the United States to Nazi Germany. Our sins are real, but in the last century they are not on that scale. But by the time I had time to reply, other people--including yourself--had commented on that language sufficiently.

If you are charitable you can say that I simply filled a void when I saw your post and no comment attached. If you are less charitable, you can say I was one sided. I certainly cannot disprove it.


Robert F. Koehler - 3/7/2005

Mr. Chamberlain

I have been mostly ambivalent or on some occasions antagonistic to the UN, but during the past several years my attitudes & reservations about the UN have changed to a more positive view. If this world is ever to attain peace & justice among the states and peoples of the world it can only come through the medium of a world body like or similar to the UN. No hyper-power, or unilateral power, or imperial power can bring freedom or a general welfare to all the world, except misery, death and ruin. Not even the US. Matter of fact, least of all the US.


Bill Heuisler - 3/7/2005

Oscar,
The terminology was scuttled out like rats. You may not like the metaphor, but it certainly fits a group who left the people they'd pledged to help before the bomb-dust had settled. The UN hasn't done much recently other than steal food from starving Iraqis (Kofi's son siphoning oil-for-food money) sexually harassing women (Ruud Lubbers, UN refugee commissioner) ignoring genocide (Rwanda) raping children (Bosnia, Kosovo and the Congo) and nobody ever seems to go to jail.

You are a nice guy, Oscar, but your selective outrage is both annoying and comical. I notice you had nary a word for Professor Kirstein's "Nazi-style" depiction of our own American servicemen in Vietnam.
Bill


Oscar Chamberlain - 3/7/2005

Bill

Calling UN representatives and peacekeepers "rats" is taking things too far. No great power, including the United States has wanted the UN to develop even a small disciplined miltary force. Despite that, many of the peacekeepers and UN reps who actually go to troubled places have been the best of people who have taken the ideals of the UN more seriously than many of the nations within it.

Mock the UN if you wish; there are times it deserves it. And there are times that their leadership has been abysmal. But don't call the people who put their lives on the line "rats." They are not.


Dylan Sherlock - 3/7/2005

“Ending the war might diminish American militarism as well.”

This is blithering at its very best.


Dylan Sherlock - 3/7/2005

Ah the beauty that is democracy.


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/7/2005

I would not argue the point with Professor Klinghoffer
that Vietnam has severe limitations on its nascent proto-democracy. However, I think it ironic that the United States would stand in moral judgment of a nation that it destroyed substantially with an aggressive war of near genocidal proportions. Yet the United States of America is a country with 150,000 troops in Iraq that is insistent that Syria end its occupation and remove its 15,000 troops from Lebanon.

Some of the polling data I used for my article might suggest to some that America for many cohorts is a
"Country of Particular Concern." I for one cannot think of any other nation that poses such an egregious threat to international peace and security. This was also true during the Vietnam era which is yet another striking parallel with the current quagmire and aggression in the Middle East.



Bill Heuisler - 3/7/2005

Adam,
Many of us - some deeply involved - turned against the Johnson McNamara micromanagement of the war that resulted in returning Khe San after we endured the siege, the inability of our fighters to pursue theirs into Hanoi/ Haiphong airspace, the sacrosanct HoChiMinh Trail after it crossed into Cambodia, the needlessly bloody infantry-only assault on Hue City and other political decisions that cost American lives. We believed - and still do - that if you must fight a war and lose lives, then fight that war with no false restraints, no political quarter.
Bill


Bill Heuisler - 3/7/2005

Mr. Koehler,
Is it really necessary to mouth the obligatory criticism of the Iraq war ("...the disastrous error it was in invading the country to begin with.") during a post where you say, "I don't see the US leaving Iraq any time soon."
and that the Middle East is, "a vital national security interest". You add later that Israeli Palestinian peace is, "most definitely going to require a strong 3rd party presence in the region to sheppard along too."

Disastrous error? Does the overthrow of a tyrant and do free elections really strike you as disasters? Or are you parroting the politically correct anti-Bush sentiment? Setting aside disagreements on motivations, nearly every knowledgable observer has begun to grudgingly admit the Iraq invasion is a military and political success.

Also, you seem to be saying a UN peace keeping force would, "provide a lot of assistance, mediation and support" to the Iraqi people. You infer they would be like the cavalry. Is this another nod to the Left? Please describe any situation in the last decade or two where the UN has been anything other than that disaster you mentioned. Recall, if you will, the UN had a mission in Baghdad after Saddam's fall, but they scuttled out like rats after a few insurgent bombs went off.
Bill Heuisler


Robert F. Koehler - 3/7/2005

I agree.

I too was a little put off by the emotionalism. Whether its the authors motivation or not, his piece comes across more as an oppositional partisan screed than a reasoned analysis. While reading it I began wincing in anticipation of the counter screeds its likely to draw.

Bailing from Iraq without sufficient reconstruction and stabilization so the Iraqi's can stand on their own would be a far graver mistake than the disastrous error it was in invading the country to begin with. Whatever government the Iraqi's manage to stitch together will constitute so many compromises among the principles, that its going to take an outside party to provide a lot of assistance, mediation and support in the short term to help them succeed. Ideally this party should be a UN peace keeping force, but that won't happen anytime soon. So like it or not, were stuck with the job until the cavalry arrives.

It also seems obvious to me that if an Israeli/Palestinian peace should arise in the near term that's most definitely going to require a strong 3rd party presence in the region to sheppard along too. Toss in the destabilization that is likely to result when the Syrians withdraw from Lebanon and the real need to remind the Turks and Iranians to keep there hands off Iraq, well, I don't see the US leaving Iraq any time soon.

The difference between Vietnam and the Middle East is that the former was never a vital national security interest while the latter is. The only similarity between the two are that they were both screwed up big time. We could dump and run away from the first FUBAR, but we are stuck like a tar baby to this current SNAFU, good and fast.

The American people dumping and running was from the get go my biggest reason for opposing the invasion of Iraq. Zogby's latest poll indicates that 54% of the people now believe the war is not worth the costs. I well remember another time when the people in this country knuckle dragged and got their tail feathers up, but when push came to shove sang another tune. I have learned that when the American people go yella and start running, there's no stopping them. Hopefully they won't this time because running won't save them from the unpleasant consequences of failing to see this screw up through to a successful conclusion, or at least some half assed fasimilie of.


Edward Siegler - 3/7/2005

The Iraq war has been compared to Vietnam with such mind-numbing regularity - when a much better comparison can obviously be found with Afghanistan - that I can't help but suspect a hint of bias here. Say it ain't so...

Iraq could just as easily be compared to World War II. September 11 was an attack on the scale of Pearl Harbor (except 9-11 was aimed at civillians)and January's elections in Iraq were a turning point on par with Stalingrad or Midway. There's also a comparison to Korea. Both Iraq and Korea were unpopular and "unnecessary" wars which aimed at the establishment of democracy for foreign peoples. But both World War II and Korea are seen as legitimate and largely sucessful wars, and so would make unsuitable comparisons for those wishing to make the opposite points about Iraq.

This article is so full of blatant distortions as to be impossible to take seriously. My two favorites are the assumption that ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would somehow solve the regions problems and the charictarization of the Cold War as an American attempt at "global domination." Why not claim that World War II was America's attempt to take over the world and that 9-11 took place because the U.S. is the cause of all the world's poverty? Opinions like these would simply be too unpopular. It's easier to parrot the standard Arab causa belli of Israel's existance and talk about Jim Crow laws as if they only applied during the Vietnam era and not World War II. After all, World War II was the "good war" and attempts to discredit it would be frowned upon even by those on the left.

Iraq's elections have changed the world's perception of what is taking place there and it's become clear that ordinary Iraqis are overwhelmingly disgusted with the insurgency and recognize the need for U.S. assistance until an Iraqi military is built. As a result, polemics like this are looking increasingly out of touch with reality. They express what some apparently want to see happen: A withdrawal from Iraq without regard for the obligations America has taken on and with the moronic assumption that everything there will somehow all work out for the better if this takes place immediately. Even Chirac and Schroeder are changing their positions on this war and are scrambling to be on the right side of history. Historians Against the War should consider doing the same.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 3/7/2005

Edward,
You make a good point here. I tend to believe that Americans turned against Vietnam, not because of some "liberal media," nor because of the anti-war movement, nor even the moral depths to which we had fallen, but because so many Americans were dying and we had a draft.

Because the author takes the Vietnam analogy WAY to far, his failure to mention the vastly different death counts is yet another reason why the anaysis falls apart.


Edward Siegler - 3/7/2005

It is the Iraqis themselves who are most aware of this fact, Mr. Sherlock. That is why the insurgents are usually referred to by Iraqis as terrorists or criminals. This isn't just the case among westerners who wish to "dismiss" the terrorists' "concerns", in the words of the article. Most Sunni clerics and even some insurgent leaders have tried to distance themselves from the bloody attacks. Islamic extremism is being discredited by the actions of the Islamic extremists themselves - witness the neverending parade of Iraqis risking their lives by volunteering for the country's armed forces and police.


Edward Siegler - 3/7/2005

...is blatantly ignored in this article. While bending over backwards to compare Iraq with Vietnam, it never mentions that 57,000 Americans died in Vietnam - only the 1500 that have died in Iraq.


Bill Heuisler - 3/7/2005

Professor Kirstein,
You don't really want people to agree, do you? This article leaves the impression you needed to get things off your chest in order to feel better. Use of terms like messianic, Manichean, peurile, Nazi-like and carnage in place of less judgemental terms is certainly likely to cause the unconvinced to wince.

You also overstate and mislead in order to convince. You quote and refer to Professor Gaddis, but he disagrees with you according to an interview by Bernard Gwertzman, consulting editor of cfr.org, on February 10, 2005:

"John Lewis Gaddis, a Yale University historian who specializes in U.S. foreign policy, says President Bush's second term has opened with a number of successes, notably the elections in Iraq and the Palestinian territories. He also has praise for the president's inaugural address a "remarkable document," he says,
"which bears close reading." He detects signs of improved transatlantic relations. And he applauds the administration's approach to relations with other major powers. The United States stands a better chance of achieving its long-term goals of spreading freedom abroad if it works "in association with great powers, as opposed to confronting great powers," he says."
I got the opposite impression from your article.

You also refer to a tarnished,"...shining city upon a hill”: rejection of the Kyoto Treaty, withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and non-recognition of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court." When I'm sure most readers are aware Kyoto was voted down in the Byrd Hagel Resolution 95 to zero in the US Senate during President Clinton's Presidency.

Most readers are also aware that the ABM Treaty was concluded and signed with a country called the USSR and, since the USSR no longer exists, the treaty has been moot. This fact was acknowledged by Mr. Putin as he asked our President in their 2002 meeting to reinstall the ABM Treaty with the country of Russia.

Most also realize that an International Criminal Court that includes signators who deny their citizens basic human rights and imprison them without due process is not really a Court at all. Imagine an American soldier or businessman being tried in front of a panel of judges, appointed by Castro, Khadaffi and Mugabe.

Adam Moshe voiced many of my other objections far better than I could. Your bringing us to the same conclusions from opposite directions illustrates a bizarre socio-political phenomenon. I guess I should be grateful.
Bill Heuisler


Lynn Bryan Schwartz - 3/7/2005

Dr. Kirstein's analysis of both the Vietnam War and the Itaq War are so incomprehensibly WRONG that it would take pages to respond to all his inaccurrancies. So, I will mention one: "The architects of illusion construed Ho Chi Minh as a cog of monolithic communism, and not as a valiant nationalist seeking independence after a millennium of colonization by China and France." First off, describing Ho Chi Minh as "valiant" is simply irresponsible, but it does demonstrate that Dr. Kirstein subscribes to a particular political ideology long since discredited. Thus, Dr. Kirstein would rather have his argument warped by Marxism than governed by objective reasoning. Second, I would just suggest to Dr. Kirstein to think of the Vietnam conflict from the view of the Hmong, or other minority groups inside Vietnam, the Cambodians, and the people of Laos. Ask them if Ho Chi Minh was a nationalistic force fighting the good fight against Western imperialism. Many thousands of Vietnamese fought against Ho Chi Minh not because they were simply the puppets of the US or the West but because Uncle Ho's program was wrong for them and simply dangerous (as the past 30 years or so have shown). Once you address these peoples' actions and feelings with legitimacy, Dr. Kirstein, you will not consider the Vietnam War the "unnessary and unjust" war you claim it to be.
Finally, I can't help but register my dissapointment at this "Historians Against the War." As a doctoral candidate myself, that organization is an embarrassment.


Arnold Shcherban - 3/7/2005

Nothing is odd about it, Mr Catsam, provided it is close to accurate one.
The number of victims of all wars never consists just of
those killed directly by the agressor/occupier,
but of all the people died during the hostilities, caused
by the war, except of course those who died of natural causes, as being terminally ill or some others, unaffected
by the war conditions and the warfare.
Otherwise, the number of Germans or Russians perished in the flames of World War II would be much less than traditionally recognized by the historians.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 3/7/2005

While interesting, I am not exactly sure what purpose there is of posting it?


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 3/7/2005

I am not one to have a knee-jerk dislike for analogies. They can be a useful analytical tool so long as they are used correctly. Here, however, the author makes it clear in his first paragraph his emotional bias by using controversial terminology like “state-sponsored terrorism” without any further explanation or analysis. Please forgive the rather vague portions of some of this, I write it in a rush, but I would like to add the following along with what has already been said.

1) “The demise of Nazism and Japanese militarism gave rise to a new militaristic hegemon whose objective was global domination under the dissembling guise of containment.”

I have read numerous biographies of Harry Truman, who was the first president to initiate the Cold War and the policy of containing communism, and no where have I seen any evidence that this was all to hide his “real” ambitions of global domination. Ditto for future presidents who seem to have genuinely believed that the ends defeating communism justified the ends of supporting authoritarian regimes justified the means.

As a side, I agree 100% with your overall analysis of the criminality of the conflict itself.

2) “However, instead of victory with Iraqi crowds blowing kisses and draping rose garlands on M1A1 tanks, American forces are mired in a guerrilla war like Vietnam.”

There are several fundamental differences between the Vietnam resistance and the Iraqi resistance that made the analogy difficult to extend this far. For one thing, the Vietnam resistance had massive support from all over South Vietnam, support that was fueled by American bombing of civilian villages. In Iraq, by contrast, the resistance is far more geographically located, and does not seem to have attracted widespread Iraqi support. Fear, yes, but not support, like with the Vietnamese. Also, whereas in the Vietnam resistance was able to cloak itself in the banner of nationalism, the current resistance has thus far been unable to convince the masses that their real aim is not to re-impose some kind of minority dictatorship.

3) “The U.S. pursued nation-building in Vietnam with Strategic Hamlets, pacification and Nazi-style assassination Phoenix programs.”

Is this really necessary for your argument? Does the author not realize that by calling the assassinations “Nazi-style” he turns off a lot of people who cannot look past the obvious emotional bias throughout this piece?

4) “Withdrawing American forces may unleash civil war with possible intervention from Turkey or Iran. A successful exit strategy is elusive because wars solve nothing, but the heavy hand of the American occupation must be lifted.”

For what practical purpose should America leave, the author does not say. I agree that we should have an exit strategy, but I believe this because I think it will help the situation, not harm it. By acknowledging that civil war and anarchy and regional instability is preferable to continued American presence, the article makes it sounds as if this is simply an academic matter, to be discussed and decided by philosophers and not policy makers.

5) “Withdrawal from Iraq would improve U.S. relations with Syria and Iran, and create greater stability for Iraq.”

I am not really sure how this statement does not entirely contradict the one quotes above. So withdraw MAY create a Civil War but WILL create greater stability?

6) “Establishing a Palestinian state would mitigate the consequences of withdrawal. Without dismantling all Israeli settlements and allowing the right of return for some of the Palestinian diaspora, continued instability will dominate the region and threaten U.S. interests.”

I disagree 100% that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has any relevance to the insurgents fighting in Iraq or the Iraqi people themselves. Resolving the conflict is important, without question, and will likely improve America’s image in the long run, but it will NOT mitigate Iran’s desire for nuclear weapons, it will not end Syria’s support for terrorism, and it will most certainly have little to no effect on insurgents blowing up cars in Iraq. I have seen no evidence, nor have I even heard a convincing argument that this would be anything more. The author simply assumes such is the case without elaboration.

7) “Ending the war might diminish American militarism as well.”

This statement assumes that such “militarism” was caused by the Iraq war, it was not. Militarism has been with us at least since WWII, was mitigated after Vietnam, and came back with a vengeance after 9/11. Bush could have chosen any country in the world after Afghanistan and it is likely that most Americans would have been fine with it. Iraq, France, Canada, the target barely matters, which is why the discrediting of almost all of the original justifications for war have barely put a dent in American support.

Regardless of whether this war was right or wrong (I think wrong but for very different reasons than the author) I think it would be naïve to think that ending it would somehow diminish America’s appetite for military solutions.


Derek Charles Catsam - 3/7/2005

That 100,000 stat also used deaths at the hands of insurgents in its sum. This is, to say the least, a rather odd form of accounting.
dc


Judith Apter Klinghoffer - 3/7/2005

Readers may find the following of interest especially when compared to the record on South Korea:
United States Cites Vietnam for Violations of Religious Freedom
Severe restrictions make Vietnam a "Country of Particular Concern"

The International Religious Freedom Act requires that those countries that engage in particularly severe violations of religious freedom receive the CPC designation. In September 2004, the secretary of state designated Vietnam for the first time as a CPC, along with Eritrea and Saudi Arabia.

Vietnam also was cited for serious human rights abuses having to do with freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association.

The full text of the report on Vietnam is available at: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41665.htm


Dylan Sherlock - 3/7/2005

What the author forgets to mention is that the number of Iraqis murdered by "insurgents" far outweighs at this point the number of Iraqis killed as collateral damage by US troops.

That's why we're going to win.


Dylan Sherlock - 3/7/2005

This author is sketchy with the sources they use... "The Iraq war is waged with incompetent tactics and excessive force that guarantees failure and caused needless deaths for more than 1,500 American soldiers and 100,000 Iraqi civilians." The first number is solid, you can find it on the army press releases. The second isn't, as far as I know it's based upon a medical study, some English journal and the margin of error was something in the area of 90% + or -. Hardly the sort of statistic to quote in such an essay.