April 08, 2003

Reversal of Field

An extraordinarily rapid reversal-of-field in his reporting on the Iraq War from Mr. Robert Fisk. As of April 4, U.S. CentCom claims that Saddamist forces defending the approaches to Baghdad were on the point of breaking were dismissed as false propaganda--belied by the evidence of Mr. Fisk's own eyes as he drove the roads south and west of Baghdad. As of April 7, U.S. claims to have conducted a battalion-sized armored raid through the inner suburbs of Baghdad were dismissed as simply lies--proved false by Mr. Fisk's inspection of the battlefield.

As of April 8... as of April 8 the U.S. move into Baghdad has "neither humility nor honour" because General Wallace did not enter Baghdad on foot in respect for the memory of Haroun Al-Rashid.

Surely those who trusted Mr. Fisk, and who relied on his reporting to support their dismissal of the reports from CentCom in Qatar and of the embedded reporters with the 3rd Infantry Division deserve better than this. I mean, "Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia" is a catchy slogan, but is unsatisfactory as a matter of analysis. Surely Mr. Fisk's loyal readers deserve an explanation of why it is that the world we live in is much closer to the world as reported by CentCom than the world as reported yesterday and before by Mr. Fisk...


April 4: Robert Fisk: Iraqi capital's defenders look far from surrender:

...The road to the front in central Iraq is a place of fast-moving vehicles, blazing Iraqi anti-aircraft guns, tanks and trucks hidden in palm groves, a train of armoured vehicles bombed from the air and hundreds of artillery positions dug into revetments.

Anyone who doubts that the Iraqi Army is prepared to defend its capital should take the highway south of Baghdad.

How, I kept asking myself, could the Americans batter their way through these defences? For kilometre after kilometre they go on, slit trenches, ditches, earthen underground bunkers, palm groves of heavy artillery and truckloads of combat troops in battle fatigues and steel helmets.

That a Western journalist could see more of Iraq's military preparedness than many of the reporters supposedly "embedded" with British and American forces says as much for the Iraqi Government's self-confidence as it does for the need of Saddam's Government to make propaganda against its enemies... there are literally hundreds of military vehicles untouched for 100km south of the capital, carefully camouflaged to avoid air attack. Like the Serb Army in Kosovo, the Iraqis have proved masters of concealment. An innocent wheatfield fringed by tall palm trees turned out, on closer scrutiny, to be traversed with bunkers and hidden anti-aircraft guns...

April 7: Robert Fisk: On the streets, grim evidence of a bloody battle:

...Then there was the American tank. It had a neat hole in its armour, almost certainly made by a 106mm gun.... There was just the name on the barrel. "Cojone EH," it said.... But what really happened here? The hole in the tank's armour was clearly caused by a small missile. But the tank's right track had been virtually torn off by a massive explosion below the vehicle that had gouged a 5ft crater in the road.... During the "probing mission" into the Baghdad suburbs, a mission that didn't actually reach the suburbs before it got ambushed by the Iraqis, "Cojone" was hit and its crew was rescued by another vehicle.

Unwilling to leave their crippled but perhaps repairable tank to the Iraqis, the Americans ordered a US air strike to destroy it. This would account for the crater and the massive hunks of asphalt thrown up around the vehicle. Maybe the crew were not saved. Maybe they were captured, though surely the Iraqis would have told us. But there were two tactical lessons to be learnt from all this. First, the American mission, whatever its original intention, was a failure. Their tank column did not "break into" the city as the Anglo-American headquarters originally stated. Iraqi resistance turned it back. The US response -- air assaults on individual Iraqi vehicles -- was presumably committed by Apache helicopters, because each smouldering wreck had been hit by a small rocket at close range.... So in military terms -- and despite all the waffle from the Americans about the "success" of the aborted US incursion -- the Iraqis have so far held their ground in the Battle of Baghdad...

April 8: Robert Fisk: American thrust into Baghdad had neither humility nor honour:

...Amid the crack of gunfire and the tracer streaking across the river and the huge oil fires which the Iraqis lit to give them cover to retreat, one had to look away -- to the great river bridges further north, into the pale green waters of that most ancient of rivers -- to realise that a western army on a moral crusade had broken through to the heart of an Arab city for the first time since General Allenby marched into Jerusalem in 1918. But Allenby walked into Jerusalem on foot, in reverence for Christ's birthplace; yesterday's American thrust into Baghdad had neither humility nor honour about it...

Posted by DeLong at April 8, 2003 10:12 AM | TrackBack

Comments

Do I detect a hint of sarcasm? Fisk gives stream of consciousness reporting and disguised analysis. He reports what the Iraqis are saying and what he sees. That is the mark of a good reporter, one who reports the facts that can be observed and leaves others with access to more of the facts to paint the broader picture.

The reporting of Fisk gives an approximation of the Iraqi view of the war. It certainly is not bad to have another perspective.

However, I don't note much change in Fisk's reporting based on the three articles posted. The April 4 was the war is coming but it is not here yet. April 7 was it has started, both sides have losses but the Iraqis are losing more than the Americans and April 8 is a report of US troops in Baghdad and the discontinuity between the Iraqi official proclamation and observations on the ground.

I see nothing outrageous or crazy about Fisk's reporting. Only that he is giving an account of what he sees from his perspective and limited knowledge. Are our own media and TV reports similarly missing the broader picture?

Posted by: bakho on April 8, 2003 10:42 AM

It's called 'cognitive dissonance'. Going by the classic '50's study When Prophecy Fails, one would expect Fisk to be motivated now to seek social reinforcement to validate the 'truths' he observed.

Posted by: Matt on April 8, 2003 10:53 AM

Regardless of Fisk's inadequacies, I'm always struck by his brilliant writing style. I find it to be incredibly evocative.

Posted by: Rafe on April 8, 2003 10:57 AM

Biz

Why is it always so obvious? What the world needs now are more Republican-Libertarians, tra la.

JD

Posted by: jd on April 8, 2003 11:22 AM

per Fisk,

"Allenby walked into Jerusalem on foot, in reverence for Christ's birthplace"

Either Fisk or Allenby was a touch confused.

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov on April 8, 2003 11:30 AM

Prof. DeLong's entire obsession with Fisk is mystifying. We could play this game with any pundit whose politics are out at either edge of the political spectrum, couldn't we???

Posted by: a different chris on April 8, 2003 11:41 AM

Scrub, scrub, scrub, Professor. Is sarcasm verboten?

Posted by: Dick Durata on April 8, 2003 11:59 AM

Robert Fisk is like so many other British Leftists who perceive the West as nothing more than unabashed imperialism. In other words, Great Britain and the United States can never do anything right. The bar must always be raised rendering any observable successes as actual failures. He is incapable of balancing out both the bad--and the good of colonialism.

I am not exaggerating in the least in claiming that Fisk is so whacked out of shape that he probably is unable to categorically and unhesitatingly declare Saddam Hussein as more flawed than George W. Bush and Tony Blair. He possesses an inferiority complex. Fisk is guilty of being a man of the West and must therefore beg the Third World for forgiveness.


Posted by: David Thomson on April 8, 2003 12:23 PM

Fisk would say that the Middle East countries created by the British after their post-colonial retreat has led to unrest and stagnation within the area. Does anyone disagree with that assessment?

Fisk has said that his greatest fear is that the US and Britain are marching to Baghdad in order to redraw the boundaries.

Is Fisk really a leftist? He is certainly an internationalist. His beat is stories that the British public would prefer to ignore. After all, if we don't know what our government is doing in other countries, the good an the bad, how can we consider ourselves to be informed voters?

Posted by: bakho on April 8, 2003 12:39 PM

bakho, when a reporter writes the following, a mere 48 hours prior to American soldiers using the showers in Saddam's palace in central Baghdad:

"How, I kept asking myself, could the Americans batter their way through these defences? For kilometre after kilometre they go on, slit trenches, ditches, earthen underground bunkers, palm groves of heavy artillery and truckloads of combat troops in battle fatigues and steel helmets."

the reporter has shown himself totally inadequate to the task of observing objecvtive reality, and drawing useful conclusions from it. It isn't that Fisk is wrong; everybody is wrong from time to time. It is that Fisk is nearly schizophrenic in his inability to understand what is happening right in front of him. The United States had just made the most rapid armored advance in military history with historically low casualties, and during one of the most severe sandstorms in decades. The U.S. had lost one, or perhaps two, helicopters, and zero fixed wing aircraft, to enemy fire, and the skies had cleared. Daily, the U.S. was demonstrating the ability to hit ground targets from aircraft with great precision, even to the point of inflicting causalties on their own forces, when misidentified. All these facts were plainly observable, and yet Fisk was capable of writing the paragraph excerpted above. Fisk has talent as a stylist, but in terms of his ability to accurately interpret events on a battlefield, which is what a reporter's job is, as opposed to a fictionalist's, one is reminded of the words of the greatest Marxist of all, Groucho, in his masterpiece, "Duck Soup": "Look at Tricolini. He may look like an idiot, he may sound like an idiot, he may act like an idiot, but don't be fooled. He really is an idiot"

Posted by: Will Allen on April 8, 2003 12:54 PM

fisk is brilliant as ever..
but i guess he brings out the john malkovich in some people....

Posted by: mike stivic on April 8, 2003 01:15 PM

Mr. Stivic, was Paul Ehrlich "brilliant" when he predicted massive, global, starvation by the 1980s, due to exploding populations and depletion of natural resources? Outside of fiction or non-representational art, does "brilliance" require any accuracy as to describing what is happening, and what will likely follow?

Posted by: Will Allen on April 8, 2003 01:21 PM

What is the point? Find a columnist faulty in reporting and interpretation and set the columnist aside. There are fine columnists, are there not?

Posted by: bill on April 8, 2003 01:43 PM

Will, I agree that the US military has made a rapid move to the outskirts of Baghdad. They have done this because they control the air and the Iraqis will not fight in the open where US air superiority would annihilate them quickly. The Iraqi forces are confined to the cities.

That leaves the coalition forces with perhaps the major fight yet left to do. Will defeating or assasinating Saddam end the war? Maybe and maybe not. If it does not end the war, then will the coalition have to fight house to house in every Iraqi city?

This goes back to Brad's post about doing Baghdad in two weeks versus four weeks. If we are still fighting partisans 6 months from now, will we have won? If we still have an occupation force of 300000 in Iraq one year from now, will we have won?

If you read Fisk beyond the exerpts printed here, you will find that he reports that the Iraqis appear ready and willing to fight but also writes that their military is not modern and cannot easily hold out against the US forces.

However, warfare takes many forms. The Palestinians hold out against the Israelis. The Afghans held out against the Russians, The Vietnamese held out against the US as did the North Koreans.

I have always thought that winning the war would be easy although the Iraqis are making it more difficult than I thought they would. I have also thought that winning the peace will be much more difficult.

Posted by: bakho on April 8, 2003 01:47 PM

Brad,

Once again, you're quoting Fisk's (April 7) guess about the probing attack into Baghdad failing. Except that you've stripped out of the quote the bit where he says that this is just his guess about what happened. So you present him as stating as fact something that he said was just his guess.

I am disappointed in you. Such selective quoting is unworthy of you.

Sean

Posted by: sean on April 8, 2003 01:51 PM

“I have also thought that winning the peace will be much more difficult.”

Shucks, the bar is already being raised. Bush and Blair are in a no win situation. They either bring about a perfect world, or are deemed failures for merely improving the lives of the Iraqis. I can see it now: "The war has not been won. A police officer just gave an iraqi pedestrian a jay walking ticket!"

Posted by: David Thomson on April 8, 2003 01:57 PM

David Thomson writes:

"Shucks...Bush and Blair are in a no win situation..."

Shucks, Dave. Whose fault is that?

"...We now glimpse the forbidden truths of the invasion of Iraq. A man cuddles the body of his in-fant daughter; her blood drenches them. A woman in black pursues a tank, her arms outstretched; all seven in her family are dead. An American Marine murders a woman because she happens to be standing next to a man in a uniform. "I'm sorry,'' he says, "but the chick got in the way.''

Covering this in a shroud of respectability has not been easy for George Bush and Tony Blair. Millions now know too much; the crime is all too evident. Tam Dalyell, Father of the House of Commons, a Labour MP for 41 years, says the Prime Minister is a war criminal and should be sent to The Hague. He is serious, because the prima facie case against Blair and Bush is beyond doubt.

In 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal rejected German arguments of the "necessity'' for pre-emptive attacks against its neighbours. "To initiate a war of aggression,'' said the tribunal's judgment, "is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole....''

From: We see too much. We know too much. That's our best defence; by John Pilger, The Independent (April 6 2003) http://argument.independent.co.uk/commentators/story.jsp?story=394406


If you still haven't yet figured out why ol' Brad is wasting so many bytes bashing a guy like Robert Fisk, George Kennan (yes THAT "George Kennan" ;-) MIGHT have part of the answer:


"George F. Kennan, the chief architect of the containment and deterrence policies that shaped America foreign policy during the Cold War, said Sunday that Congress, and not President Bush, must decide whether the United States should take military action against Iraq....

...Kennan was particularly critical of congressional Democrats for failing to oppose Bush’s request for a blank check on Iraq.

“I wonder why the Democrats have not asked the president right out, ‘What are you talking about? Are you talking about one war or two wars? And if it’s two wars, have we really faced up to the competing demands of the two?”

He added, “This is, to me, as a very old, independent citizen, a shabby and shameful reaction. I deplore this timidity out of concern for the elections on the part of the Democrats.”

From: George Kennan Speaks Out About Iraq; by Albert Eisele, The Hill (26 September 2002) http://hnn.us/articles/997.html

See? Now do you get it?

Innocence is not an option for MOST "professional Democrats". And pointing the finger is A LOT easier than looking down the barrel of one.....

Posted by: Mike on April 8, 2003 03:01 PM

bakho, I never said that everything that Fisk writes was idiotic. I said that he writes idiotic things, and lacks the ability to describe what is plainly observable. This is quite a failing for someone who purports to be a journalist. If a reporter were to write that earth is flat, the fact that he describes other things in a better fashion would not render invalid the labeling of such a reporter's overall descriptive abilities as idiotic.

Posted by: Will Allen on April 8, 2003 03:23 PM

"David Thomson writes:

"Shucks...Bush and Blair are in a no win situation..."

Shucks, Dave. Whose fault is that?"

Wow, sometimes one gets a question comparable to a slow pitch thrown over the plate. This is very easy to answer: it is the fault of the Leftist haters of Western Civilization.

The very fact that you equate modern day Great Britain and the United States to the German Nazi regime is a disgrace and morally indefensible. Fortunately, the majority of people disagree with such sentiments---and you are quickly being marginalized to the fringes of political discourse.

Posted by: David Thomson on April 8, 2003 03:29 PM

NOW Dave Thomson writes:

"Wow...[Bush and Blair's 'no-win situation']...is the fault of the Leftist haters...[And]...The very fact that you [meaning ME] equate modern day Great Britain and the United States to the German Nazi regime is a disgrace and morally indefensible...."

First of all, sir, I do not "hate western civilization" NOR am I, in most respects, a "leftist".

NOW--disregarding your ridiculous claim to know ("fortunately" or not) the "sentiments" of "the majority of people", nevermind YOUR conception of what constitutes "the fringes of political discourse"--Assuming the Nuremberg standard...

"To initiate a war of aggression is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

...STILL applies--We and Great Britain DID "sign off" on THAT exercise in international law, did we not?--the FACT that I did NOT (exactly) EQUATE "modern day Great Britain and the United States to the German Nazi regime" is ENTIRELY beside the point.

AND the argument is QUITE graceful (if I do say so myself ;-) and EMINENTLY defensible.

Isn't it?

(Perhaps I should put the argument in such a way even a fellow like yourself MIGHT be able to follow it...

How about this:

Al Capone was no John Dillinger, but BOTH of them WERE outlaws. Weren't they, Clyde ;-)

Posted by: Mike on April 8, 2003 04:25 PM

Perhaps, Brad, this is a perspective we shouldn't be exposed to? Maybe Fisk, who is there, is just making it all up and you, who are not, have some insight that changes the reality on the ground? Perhaps, David, you have done the calculus that will explain it all to the people we have killed and their parents and widows and orphans?

Robert Fisk, April 8

"They lay in lines, the car salesman who'd just lost his eye but whose feet were still dribbling blood, the motorcyclist who was shot by American troops near the Rashid Hotel, the 50-year-old female civil servant, her long dark hair spread over the towel she was lying on, her face, breasts, thighs, arms and feet pock-marked with shrapnel from an American cluster bomb. For the civilians of Baghdad, this is the real, immoral face of war, the direct result of America's clever little "probing missions" into Baghdad.

It looks very neat on television, the American marines on the banks of the Tigris, the oh-so-funny visit to the presidential palace, the videotape of Saddam Hussein's golden loo. But the innocent are bleeding and screaming with pain to bring us our exciting television pictures and to provide Messrs Bush and Blair with their boastful talk of victory. I watched two-and-a-half-year-old Ali Najour lying in agony on the bed, his clothes soaked with blood, a tube through his nose, until a relative walked up to me.

"I want to talk to you," he shouted, his voice rising in fury. "Why do you British want to kill this little boy? Why do you even want to look at him? You did this – you did it!"

The young man seized my arm, shaking it violently. "Are you going to make his mother and father come back? Can you bring them back to life for him? Get out! Get out!" In the yard outside, where the ambulance drivers deposit the dead, a middle-aged Shia woman in black was thumping her fists against her breasts and shrieking at me. "Help me," she cried. "Help me. My son is a martyr and all I want is a banner to cover him. I want a flag, an Iraqi flag, to put over his body. Dear God, help me!"

It's becoming harder to visit these places of pain, grief and anger. The International Committee of the Red Cross yesterday reported civilian victims of America's three-day offensive against Baghdad arriving at the hospitals now by the hundred. Yesterday, the Kindi alone had taken 50 civilian wounded and three dead in the previous 24 hours. Most of the dead – the little boy's family, the family of six torn to pieces by an aerial bomb in front of Ali Abdulrazek, the car salesman, the next-door neighbours of Safa Karim – were simply buried within hours of their being torn to bits.

On television, it looks so clean. On Sunday evening, the BBC showed burning civilian cars, its reporter – "embedded" with US forces – saying that he saw some of their passengers lying dead beside them.

That was all. No pictures of the charred corpses, no close-ups of the shrivelled children. So perhaps I should warn those of what the BBC once called a nervous disposition to go no further. But if they want to know what America and Britain are doing to the innocent of Baghdad, they should read on.

I'll leave out the description of the flies that have been clustering round the wounds in the Kindi emergency rooms, of the blood caked on the sheets, the blood still dripping from the wounds of those I talked to yesterday. All were civilians. All wanted to know why they had to suffer. All – save for the incandescent youth who ordered me to leave the little boy's bed – talked gently and quietly about their pain. No Iraqi government bus took me to the Kindi hospital. No doctor knew I was coming.

Let's start with Mr Abdulrazek. He's the 40-year-old car salesman who was walking yesterday morning through a narrow street in the Shaab district of Baghdad – that's where the two American missiles killed at least 20 civilians more than a week ago – when he heard the jet engines of an aircraft. "I was going to see my family because the phone exchanges have been bombed and I wanted to make sure they were OK," he said. "There was a family, a husband and wife and kids, in front of me.

"Then I heard this terrible noise and there was a light and I knew something had happened to me. I went to try to help the family in front of me but they were all gone, in pieces. Then I realised I couldn't see properly." Over Mr Abdulrazek's left eye is a wad of thick bandages, tied to his face. His doctor, Osama al-Rahimi, tells me that "we did not operate on the eye, we have taken care of his other wounds". Then he leant towards my ear and said softy: "He has lost his eye. There was nothing we could do. It was taken out of his head by the shrapnel." Mr Abdulrazek smiles – of course, he does not know that he will be forever half-blind – and suddenly breaks into near-perfect English, a language he had learnt at high school in Baghdad. "Why did this happen to me?" he asks.

Yes, I know the lines. President Saddam would have killed more Iraqis than us if we hadn't invaded – not a very smart argument in the Kindi hospital – and that we're doing all this for them. Didn't Paul Wolfowitz, the US Deputy Defence Secretary, tell us all a few days ago that he was praying for the American troops and for the Iraqi people? Aren't we coming here to save them – let's not mention their oil – and isn't President Saddam a cruel and brutal man? But amid these people, such words are an obscenity.

Then there was Safa Karim. She is 11 and she is dying. An American bomb fragment struck her in the stomach and she is bleeding internally, writhing on the bed with a massive bandage on her stomach and a tube down her nose and – somehow most terrible of all – a series of four dirty scarves that tie each of her wrists and ankles to the bed. She moans and thrashes on the bed, fighting pain and imprisonment at the same time. A relative said she is too ill to understand her fate. "She has been given 10 bottles of drugs and she has vomited them all up," he said.

The man opens the palms of his hands, the way Arabs do when they want to express impotence. "What can we do?" they always say, but the man was silent. But I'm glad. How, after all, could I ever tell him that Safa Karim must die for 11 September, for George Bush's fantasies and Tony Blair's moral certainty and for Mr Wolfowitz's dreams of "liberation" and for the "democracy", which we are blasting our way through these people's lives to create? "
8 April 2003 19:28







Posted by: Sam Taylor on April 8, 2003 04:52 PM

Sam, if you and Fisk believe that the Iraqi population is better served by remaining under the Hussein family's regime of killing (yes, 100% civilian death rate) entire villages, imprisoning children, rape camps, torture jails, and the like, would one of you explicitly state why that is case? For the Iraqi population there were two alternatives; suffering under the Hussein family regime of mass murder, torture, and rape indefinitely, or suffering the civilian casualties associated with deposing the Hussein family. One or the other. No third way. Of course, you and Fisk wouldn't be nearly as vociferous the next time Chemical Ali killed an entire village (like I said, 100% civilian death rate), beacause it would happen behind the Hussein family's curtain, and your primary goal in approaching these affairs is a childish desire to feel good about yourself, instead of accepting the miserable, shitty, adult reality that the world is often reduced to choosing between awful alternatives.

Posted by: Will Allen on April 8, 2003 05:50 PM

Were there no prior Sec. Council resolutions authorizing force against Iraq, and had Gulf War I ended with a peace treaty and not a cease fire, perhaps those contemplating war crimes charges against Bush and Blair would have somewhere to stand.

There are a number of readings of those resolutions prior to 1441 that do not even require any creative interpretation to give the current actions the color of legitimacy.

Saddam technically broke the terms of the cease fire within less than a month.

And you'll also note that the wording of 1441 is such that Iraq is given a final chance to come into complete compliance with all prior resolutions, or face serious consequences.

And that those opponents of the Anglo nations fighting in Iraq on the UNSC who are now crowing for maximal involvment of the UN in the post-war governance of Iraq, will now kindly take note that they will not win approval of such resolutions over the veto held by the US.

Two can play at that ever fun veto threatening game.

Posted by: David Mercer on April 8, 2003 05:50 PM

"...your ridiculous claim to know ("fortunately" or not) the "sentiments" of "the majority of people""

My allegedly ridiculous claim is based on the findings of legitimate polling organizations. Only the far-right wingers and the ultra-Leftists support your position on the war. Even the folks living in San Francisco mostly agree with me!

Posted by: David Thomson on April 8, 2003 06:20 PM

From yahoo.com today:
Jailed Iraqi children run free as marines roll into Baghdad suburbs

BAGHDAD (AFP) - More than 100 children held in a prison celebrated their freedom as US marines rolled into northeast Baghdad amid chaotic scenes which saw civilians loot weapons from an army compound, a US officer said.

Around 150 children spilled out of the jail after the gates were opened as a US military Humvee vehicle approached, Lieutenant Colonel Fred Padilla told an AFP correspondent travelling with the Marines 5th Regiment.

“Hundreds of kids were swarming us and kissing us,” Padilla said. “There were parents running up, so happy to have their kids back.

“The children had been imprisoned because they had not joined the youth branch of the Baath party,” he alleged. “Some of these kids had been in there for five years.”

The children, who were wearing threadbare clothes and looked under-nourished, walked on the streets crossing their hands as if to mimic handcuffs, before giving the thumbs up sign and shouting their thanks.

It was not clear who had opened the doors of the prison.
. . .

Posted by: Joe Willingham on April 8, 2003 06:45 PM

"But I'm glad. How, after all, could I ever tell him that Safa Karim must die for 11 September, for George Bush's fantasies and Tony Blair's moral certainty and for Mr Wolfowitz's dreams of "liberation" and for the "democracy", which we are blasting our way through these people's lives to create? "

This is an embarrassing example of Robert Fisk's intellectual immaturity. The overwhelming evidence indicates that the good far outweighs the bad concerning our invasion of Iraq. Moreover, if one follows Fisk’s argument to its logical conclusion---there is never a justification to combat tyranny! The Adolph Hitlers and Saddam Husseins can therefore contimue misbehaving due to our unwillingness to ever countenance the lost of innocent life during military operations.

Posted by: David Thomson on April 8, 2003 06:52 PM

As someone who's actually read Pity The Nation, I am willing to give Mr. Fisk the benefit of the doubt on his reporting.

The types of equipment and manuvering that Mr. Fisk attributes to Saddam's soldiers is probably quite accurate. To a civilian like me, the description of RPGs, AK47s and mines sounds impessive and scary. But then I watch CNN show an American tank being hit by those same RPGs and they bounce off like so many mosquitos. It's not that Saddam's soldiers aren't fighting and putting up resistance, it's that the resistance is, well, futile.

Posted by: vachon on April 8, 2003 07:16 PM

Will-

Only at a very late date have we or our elected representatives been presented with the noble rationalle of "liberating the Iraqi people" as the reason for this conflict. To my knowledge, this has never been debated except in forums like this. Assuming your arguments are sound, the alternatives are as simple as you assert, and Iraq was clearly the worst offender, I might well agree with them. At the moment, I don't think its quite that simple, but its a better argument than the others that have been presented.

My point, is that there are tragic human consequences to our actions that tend to be glossed over. I think we should have our noses rubbed into these human consequences so that we will not treat the pre-empetive initiation of military conflict as a parlor game. Fisk does this, and in so doing, I believe does us a service we are not getting from our own media. If nothing else, we might better underestand the challange we face in turning the carnage we initiated into the net gain you seem so confident of and I fervently hope for.

This Iraqi blood is not on Saddam's hands, it is on ours. The Iraqi people are unlikely to forget this. To ignore this reality seems to me to be the height of irresponsibility and to seriously impede our efforts to turn Iraq into a "citadal for democracy".

Sam

Posted by: Sam Taylor on April 8, 2003 07:34 PM

Sam, if somebody wishes to oppose this war, there are intellectually honest, and morally serious, ways in which to do so. However, to oppose this war due to the suffering that would be imposed on the Iraqi people by removing the Hussein clan is mere childish emotional grandstanding, for the very simple reason that the Hussein clan murders and maims in far larger numbers. That's what I mean my no middle ground. If one decides that they can't remove the Hussein clan due to the suffering it would cause, then one must, if one wishes to be a grown-up, positively state that they prefer that the population of Iraq continue to suffer at the hands of the Hussein clan.

I have no objection to Fisk reporting on the suffering of the Iraqi people. I have a problem with him doing so without context, without mention, for instance, of the children's prison that was opened today. Do ya' think ol' Bobby Fisk will mention that charming little aspect of rule by the Hussein clan in his next dispatch? Of course not, because Fisk is a moral charlatan; a perfect, preening, yammering child, masquerading as a serious adult.

If one wishes to doubt the intent behind this war, fine. If one wishes to doubt that consent of the governed can take hold in Iraq, fine. To state, however, the people of Iraq are worse off in the process of removing the Hussein clan, or that the world provides us the opportunity for moral purity, is the drivel peddled by the likes of Fisk. He is beneath contempt.

Posted by: Will Allen on April 8, 2003 08:30 PM

Sam Taylor,

Who cares what rationale was given, and why, if the results are beneficial? Are you telling me that an action is worthwhile only if the motivations behind it are sufficiently "pure"? And how are we to know when motivations are "pure" or not, unless we can read the minds of others? Were we to hew consistently to such reasoning, nothing of any worthwhile consequence would ever happen in this world.

"There are tragic consequences ..." Sure, sure, but you are simply being disingenuous in saying that Fisk is doing some sort of good to the body-politic by "rubbing" our noses in the "human consquences" of our actions. The fact is that the man is a pro-Iraqi propagandist, plain and simple. Some people have defended him here by praising his sense of style, but so what? Goebbels had a majestic oratory style, and Ilya Ehrenburg knew how to write a catchy line or two. Fisk's style of "journalism", by which I mean picking up on some individual case of human suffering and extrapolating from it to make a blanket condemnation of America/The West/Israel, is propaganda, rather than any sort of rationally-founded argument. Any polemicist can argue from an individual case to making blanket accusations about another party - do you think there have never been any bad black, jews, homosexuals or "kulaks" in the history of mankind? Does that make Nazism, gay-bashing, racism or communist-style purges justifiable? A "journalist" who cannot be bothered to maintain a semblance of detachment, scepticism or objectivity towards a party, especially when the party is like Saddam's, simply isn't worthy of the appellation.


The bottom line is that Fisk's sympathies are so clearly on the side of Saddam, a proven butcher of his own subjects, that any pretence at "journalism" is simply untenable in his case. The fact that you say "this Iraqi blood is not on Saddam's hands, it is on ours. The Iraqi people are unlikely to forget this", illustrates just why it is that you and certain others here find this notion painful to accept. Fisk's writing validates your worldview, a worldview that resembles his in as far as it requires you to ignore the nature of Saddam's regime to sustain your sense of righteous indignation. Forget about the racks of corpses found, the torture headquarters discovered in Basra with meticulous records of cruelties inflicted and deaths meted out, the ears chopped off for suspected disloyalty, the shots to the back of the head for "deserters", the children's prison encountered by marines in Najaf - all that matters is that America, and Bush in particular, be seen as a brutal, aggressive imperialist, making an unprovoked attack on a peace-loving middle eastern regime.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on April 8, 2003 08:39 PM

"This Iraqi blood is not on Saddam's hands, it is on ours."

Do I really need to add anything? The moral bankruptcy of such a position should be obvious to any rational thinking person.

"Fisk does this, and in so doing, I believe does us a service we are not getting from our own media."

This is an unjustified and slanderous attack on the American media. I have seen a number of news segments devoted to the plight of innocent people inadvertently harmed and killed by our troops. Nobody is running away from these harsh facts. However, it is important to place them within the proper context. Robert Fisk is unable to do so. His hatred for the West prevents him from logically comprehending the total picture.

Posted by: David Thomson on April 8, 2003 09:10 PM

Robert Fisk is a truly nasty piece of work. He belongs in the rogues gallery along with Tokyo Rose and Lord Hawhaw. He is the enemy of all that is good in man: he is a liar, a coward, and a traitor. There really is such a thing as evil in this world, and Robert Fisk is proof of it.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on April 8, 2003 10:03 PM

I would like to add that Robert Fisk eats little children alive for breakfast.

Fisk also thinks that the life of an Iraqi is worthy the same as the life of an American or, believe me, an Israeli!!! Can you imagine the wickedness of the soul that generated such an evil thought?

Onward Christian Soldiers!

Posted by: economistaBrasileiro on April 8, 2003 10:17 PM

If Fisk gave a good goddamn about Iraqis, as opposed to maintaining his childish sense of moral rectitude, he wouldn't prefer that they remain under the boot of the Hussein clan.

Posted by: Will Allen on April 8, 2003 11:14 PM

Will is right. To put it succinctly, Fisk is a rat eyed sack of fascist garbage. He has earned the hatred and contempt of all freedom loving people.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on April 8, 2003 11:36 PM

Wow, lots of people here who aren't willing to accept responsibility for the actions of the US that they support. The fact is that US forces are killing these people - therefore the US is responsible for their deaths. After all, if the US hadn't attacked they wouldn't have died, hmmm? Not to say that Saddam doesn't bear responsibility as well.

An inability to face up to what you've done doesn't bode well for post war Iraq or the post war US, for that matter. You spent 10 years blockading Iraq, killing hundreds of thousands in the process and disarming them. Once they were disarmed you invaded. Bravo, I'm glad you feel proud of yourselves. You've invaded a country that was no threat to the US, that had no credible WMD (unlike the US) and that had nothing to do with 9/11.

Now go wrap yourselves in the flag and tell yourselves how wonderful you all are. And over the next few years watch the consequences of your actions come home to roost and remember that you supported this path of action - that you thought it was wise and good. That you thought it was worth the price in destroyed diplomatic relations, in extra deficit charges, in dead Iraqis, Americans and British, in shredding the belief that the US would only attack countries that attacked it first. Feel proud of all you've done - tell yourself that overthrowing Saddam was worth all these costs and more and that you'd do the same thing again. (And never, ever, ask yourself about all the horrible regimes that the US supports with money, troops and supplies - never notice that the US motives cannot be what it says they are.) Tell yourself that motive doesn't matter, that all that matters is the end. And watch over the next few years and see if the end is what you thought it was.

So wrap yourself in the flag and swallow that propoganda, and feel proud of your country's actions.

Posted by: Ian Welsh on April 8, 2003 11:46 PM

"Wow, lots of people here who aren't willing to accept responsibility for the actions of the US that they support. The fact is that US forces are killing these people - therefore the US is responsible for their deaths."

I suppose you therefore agree that the US is "responsible" for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Nazi Germany's citizens, as well as those of Imperial Japan and Communist North Korea.

By your logic, all those wars were unjust - as indeed, any war must be, since no war ever happened without the loss of innocent lives - and we should just have left the forementioned countries to their own devices, shouldn't we? Who gives a damn about gas chambers and biological warfare experiments, if doing something about them means you'll be able to "wrap yourself in the flag" someday.

Yours are the arguments of a moral reprobate.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on April 9, 2003 12:27 AM

"So wrap yourself in the flag and swallow that propoganda, and feel proud of your country's actions."

Who is Ian Welsh? He is the Canadian who posted comments on The Atlantic.com community board concerning how many of his friends were thrilled by the attack of 9/11! Fortunately, a large number of Canadians are now willing to tell folks like him to go to hell. We should do likewise. The anti-American candidates will likely be defeated in Canada’s next national election. Many English speaking Canadians are getting fed up with their French speaking counterparts.

America and her coalition partners are liberating the Iraqis. This should make us all proud. Furthermore, the polls indicate that most Democrats disagree with the more radical leftist elements within their party. Both the radical right (represented by Joe Sobran and his ilk) and the goofy left are being marginalized.

Posted by: David Thomson on April 9, 2003 12:44 AM

Ian, you apparently have a reading comprehension problem. I explicitly stated that there were intellectually honest, and morally serious, arguments against this war. Fisk, however, doesn't present them. Furthermore, I also explicitly stated that removing the Hussein clan by force was a miserable choice to make, because it entailed inflicting great suffering on the Iraqi population. Therefore, your assertion regarding failure to accept responsibility is fatuous. What would be amusingly ironic, if not for the subject matter, is that it is you who avoids responsibility. If you prefer that the people of Iraq remain under the boot of the Hussein clan, will you be an adult, and simply come out and say so, without qualification? There is no middle ground. One either favors that the Hussein clan remain in power, or one favors it's removal. One can make a morally serious case for the former, but to say that one does so out of consideration for the condition of the Iraqi population is morally bankrupt.

Posted by: Will Allen on April 9, 2003 12:49 AM

"I also explicitly stated that removing the Hussein clan by force was a miserable choice to make, because it entailed inflicting great suffering on the Iraqi population."

Fair enough, in the short term a large number of Iraqis may lose their lives. But what about the long run? The evidence indicates that far more Iraqis will survive--and thrive--by the elimination of Saddam Hussein. Please take a look at what is occurring in Afghanistan. This country's population is significantly growing since the hostilities of about a year ago.

James Fallows argues that Iraqi may become our “51st state.” I doubt this very much. I instead suspect that the Iraqis will be able to substantially handle their own affairs in less than two years. Also, the price of oil should drop sharply. This alone may economically justify the enormous costs of this invasion.

Posted by: David Thomson on April 9, 2003 01:14 AM

Suppose that Robert Fisk wrong and is also a liar and even that he has even deeper hidden motives, that is still along way from being the embodiment of all evil. I suggest that to make such claims or to compare him to Lord Haw Haw is a violation of Goodwin's law and a manifestation of the kind of moral equivalence that many of his critics here so bemoan.

As far as civilian cars and drivers incinerated by British or American bombs. The blood of hteir drivers is clearly on our hands. Now on balance the effects may be beneficial but that does not mean there aren't trade-offs, that there aren't things on both sides of the scales.

Added to the thousands of civilian deaths that lie on the debit side of the calculation, definitely to be balanced by the thousands of deaths that Saddam may reasonably have been expected to have caused (Digression: While Saddam did terrible things as in Halabja, doing something about them 15 years after the fact having been in cahoots with him at the time and that during the aftermath of a war) is the loss of self determination.

I know exactly what our reaction would have been if Catholic Europe had come to emancipate Britain from its Protestant fundamentalist rulers in the fifteen or sixteen hundreds or if Nigeria had intervened to end segregation or the differences in execution rates between different ethnic groups in the US. There are important differences of degree but it is not negligible.

Attached to such a problem is the risk that we get the weighing up wrong and that is especially so without the imput of those most affected. There were good arguments for going in to Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh was no Jimmy Carter but it turned out wrong.

One of the best defences against such errors of judgement is to bear in mind the debits and Mr. Fisk does a bold job of that however much we bemoan his judgement or his methods.

Posted by: Jack on April 9, 2003 01:55 AM

War is always a miserable choice, the only question is whether in any particular situation if it is the least miserable choice. I think it is in this instance. If I had to play devil's advocate, and argue the other side, I would say that the status quo, or a very slow change in the status quo, as of 3 weeks ago was a manageable state of affairs. In reality, of course, I hold the opposite position, and with each passing day it becomes more difficult to credibly play the devil's advocate. A lot of work remains, especially in the political dimension, and much could go wrong. It's increasingly hard, however, to argue that the attempt should not have been risked.

Posted by: Will Allen on April 9, 2003 02:07 AM

Leaving aside essentially theological questions having to do with whether or not unalloyed "evil" (or "good") actually exists in THIS world. And ignoring (for the sake of argument) sactimonious fools of the sort who would be "morally certain" of the cheesy nature of the lunar surface (and utterly contemptuous of anyone who begged to differ) if ANY of their designated leaders happened to say it was so...

A fair reading of the record does show:

1. There ARE deplorable (for varying reasons)governments scattered here and there around the world, Iraq is one such place.

2. Certain elements (within BOTH major US political parties) have, for various reasons (few of which have ANYTHING to do with morality and MOST of which are frankly contemptuous of international law) LONG been advocating for "regime change" in Iraq.

3. Despite its numerous, pious pronouncements to the contrary, AND for all of its continuously shifting rationales in favor of its policy, the current US administration* has, for more than a year AT LEAST, been DETERMINED to invade Iraq--no matter what.

4. (A) Despite the fact that Iraq WAS cooperating with the UN weapon inspections,

and

(B) despite the fact that a CREDIBLE immediate and/or compelling threat (from Iraq) to the US and/or its allies and/or its interests sufficient to justify resorting war has NEVER been shown to exist,

and

(C) in spite of ALMOST universal opposition--within the UN, on the part of Iraq's neighboring governments (and THEIR populations), on the part of MOST of the govenments AND peoples of MOST of the nations of the world, AND in the face of CONSIDERABLE (and, by some standards, LITERALLY unprecedented) resistance here at home (both inside the government and outside of it),

(D) The current US administration* (together with Britain and a smattering of other countries) invaded Iraq anyway.

5. This act wasn't JUST a short-sighted, ill-considered, expensive, rash AND intemperate thing to do (though it WAS all of those things), it was also a CRIME--a crime against the international order--a war crime:

"...the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole..."


...according to the Jurists of the Nuremberg Tribunal.

Posted by: Mike on April 9, 2003 02:17 AM

Mike, I don't have time to deconstruct your entire post, but if you wish to place a wager on whether the Hussein clan will eventually be shown, to say nothing of already available evidence, to have been in compliance with what they agreed to do, go ahead and name your stakes. Also, if you wish to provide a definition of the words "complete" and "immediate", it may illuminate how you interpret the English language differently than others. I might have time to check in later; I eagerly await learning what my winnings will be.

Posted by: Will Allen on April 9, 2003 02:39 AM

Will,
what they said they would do they said under duress. What they may have done but have not beeh shown not to have done is not something that other countries are asked not to do an not something they were asked not to do when they definitely were doing it.
(Wow, I sound like Donald Rumsfeld.)
$100bn and 6,000 or more Iraqi lives later, to show that they had some by now undoubtedly limited 1950s technology at their disposal that they didn't use in combat would be a small trophy.
Ending the sanctions and giving the Iraqis a boost is a much bigger prize but also one that will require more work and will be more difficult that the military victory as impressive as that might be.
I also wonder what a similar effort would have achieved in the Congo where the war has cost getting on for 5 million lives.

Posted by: Jack on April 9, 2003 03:49 AM

"As far as civilian cars and drivers incinerated by British or American bombs. The blood of hteir drivers is clearly on our hands."

No, Saddam Hussein is responsible for these deaths. It is his criminal behavior that forced the hand of our military. The same holds true, for instance, concerning police officers responding to a bank robbery. Any innocent bystanders inadvertently shot by the officers of the law are the responsibility of the felons.

Posted by: David Thomson on April 9, 2003 04:08 AM

Will:

I "don't have time" to play word games with YOU. AND I'm not inclined (at the moment) to exchange cheap shots. IF you care to TRY to "deconstruct" ANY part of my argument (at your own expense, and for the benefit of anyone who might see it)--PLEASE, feel free to MAKE the time to do so. It's STILL a free country and KEEPING it that way is ONE of the reasons why I did YOU the favor of putting it here.

Posted by: Mike on April 9, 2003 05:32 AM

"the mark of a good reporter" Jesus, Robert Fisk a good reporter? A Saddam apologist yes, but a good reporter? I wonder what he is going to report now that Iraqis are cheering and dancing and giving the Americans a warm welcome in Baghdad. (Some Iraqis even shouted "Thank you, Mr. Bush", where is the time a leftish American said that, if ever?).

Posted by: Ivan Janssens on April 9, 2003 06:06 AM

David,
that won't really wash.
Saddam does not have control over our military. Without some qualification your argument could be used to justify a full nuclear strike on Iraq. Now I don't think you or I or GW thinks that would be a legitimate actionI just want to make the point that Saddam's fault doesn't absolve us of responsibility and two wrongs don't make a right.
I was very careful not to claim that overall our actions might be justified. My point is that there is a balance being struck and it must constantly be monitored. Just as when you buy something you hope it will improve your life but you would still rather have the money. It is simply not true that as long as Saddam is wrong anything we do is his fault. Even if what we do manages more pluses than minuses we cannot forget about the minuses. Also until the dust has settled it will be very hard to know the full list of minuses and of pluses so it is too early to dismiss those negatives as a small price.

Posted by: Jack on April 9, 2003 06:38 AM

For those who'd still like to argue that the US was wrong to wish to topple Saddam, have a look at the following:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2930913.stm

or, if you prefer your news in German,

http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/0,1518,244025,00.html

Go read either of these articles, from vehemently anti-war news organizations, and tell me that the people of Iraq have it all wrong, and only Robert Fisk has the facts straight. If you don't trust these sites, what the heck, go check Al Jazeera (I already did)! Not even they can deny the scenes of jubilation on the streets of Baghdad.

I'm waiting for some of you to say "I was wrong", but I know you never will. No doubt you'll accuse the Iraqis of "false consciousness" or something along those lines.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on April 9, 2003 06:55 AM

FORTY MILLION FRENCHMAN CAN BE WRONG. Not to mention the USUAL SUSPECTS in Semi-Daily Journal's Comments Section. The Returns are starting to come in from Baghdad as I write...and IT'S A LANDSLIDE.

Anybody see the banner reading: "Human Shields Go Home"? The guy waving an American flag with the Harley Davidson imposed on it? Right now the crowd has ropes around a giant statue of Saddam trying to pull it over. It looks like they've convinced a tank driver to help them.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on April 9, 2003 07:12 AM

Mike, your analysis is inaccurate because you are in error in your attribution of pre-emption:

"In 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal rejected German arguments of the "necessity'' for pre-emptive attacks against its neighbours. "To initiate a war of aggression,'' said the tribunal's judgment, "is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole....''"

This Nuremberg Tribunal argument would work against Bush's stated policy of pre-emptive attacks against terror regimes. It inaccurate in this instance because Bush, Blair, et.al. are not engaging in pre-emptive attacks. Saddam failed to live up to the conditions of the Gulf War I cease fire. The coalition partners say they are legally justified to resume the fighting because those conditions for cease fire have not been met. It is therefore not a pre-emptive attack but instead a continuation of a war against Iraqi agression. Check out the US justification to the UN. You have deny the right of the UNSC to enforce its cease fire requirements to argue that the US is acting in pre-emption against Iraq.

The only arguments that would have any weight in opposition to the US's legal justification would be those based upon the lack of explicit UN Security Council authorization to resume the war. Those arguments do not have any legal traction however because the UNSC promised severe consequences in resolution 1441. Under 1441 Saddam had to come into immediate compliance with all previous resolutions. All of the weapons inspection reports stated that Saddam was not in compliance. At the moment the first inspections report found that Saddam was not in compliance, 1441's serious consequences were authorized. UNSC partners have argued that they did not mean to authorize war, but the U.S. has a very strong argument to support its position. Even under that distinct non-war reading, the coalition's actions would still not be pre-emptive. They simply would be unauthorized enforcement. Either way, your pre-emption attribution is off target.

Posted by: Stan on April 9, 2003 08:28 AM

Americans in general have a poor understanding of risk assessment. TV contributes greatly to our misperceptions. Americans are much more likely to die in a car accident than from terrorist actions, but most car accidents never make it on to national TV while terrorist actions such as the destruction of the WTC are shown on national TV and replayed over and over to the point where I brains have seen more acts of terrorist destuction than car accidents.

The same is true of reporting the war on TV. We see images of American military might and bloodless bombing from 50,000 feet. We do not see images on the ground and in the hospitals. TV would convince us that war is like a video game with little pain and suffering, clean kills and destruction of inanimate objects such as buildings and vehicles and little focus on the grizzly details of the pain suffering and death of the occupants.

Fisk is no friend of Saddam Hussein. Fisk was one of the first to report on the use of poison gas by the Iraqis in their war against Iran. Back then, we supported Saddam.

Fisk is a war reporter and he reports war not from the standpoint of strategy, tactics and military glory, but from the POV of the people caught up in its fury. Reporters like Fisk put a lot of pressure on countries engaged in war to respect innocent civilians and resist taking short cuts that would lead to unnecessary civilian casualties. Such reporting goes a long way to protecting innocent civilians caught in the cogs of war.

Whether or not war in Iraq is good in the long run can be debated. Whether or not the policy goals of the US could have been achieved by other means is a pointless discussion of bypassed option that is only second guessing. As Fisk points out, long term goals and policies and even who is at fault are meaningless to the short term victims.

Will the US win the peace as easily as we will win the war? That remains to be seen. Winning the peace requires a greater understanding of the lives and the hopes of the people of Iraq. Understanding the trauma that many of them have experienced is an important part of their lives and perspectives that our policy makers need to understand. In his reporting, Fisk is providing a great service.

Posted by: bakho on April 9, 2003 08:50 AM

What has Robert Fisk done to Brad De Long in a past life? It must have been bad.

Of course journalists get things wrong, particularly the vantage point of a capital city at times of war. But we could go through every jouralists' reprots -- from the BBC who said the US were negotiating with the Iraq generals, to any of Fox News' stories, and see similar innacuracies.

Nothing I have seen here refutes my view that Americans -- as The Economist put it -- 'just do't get it'. The whole world seen through the spectacles of Fox News. Oh well, onto Tehran. Or is it Amman?

Posted by: James on April 9, 2003 09:23 AM


Looking at my television this morning, it seems much more likely the left "just do't get it"

Posted by: brian on April 9, 2003 09:34 AM

Fisk is no less accurate than than the mainstream sources that report one sided hyberbole; like the surrender of entire Iraqi divisions (that somehow were still fightinging days later).

Personnnaly, I take all the reporting of this war with a large proverbial handful of salt.

I also agree with others here; that Fisk provides a perspective on the human costs the war that is invaluable.

It is very disturbing to listen to the rah rah go America! Onto Iran! Onto North Korea! cheering in the office place. Many people seem to be perceiving this war as if it is some amalgamation of reality tv, the superbowl, and video games. Simply great entertainment!

War fever is a potentially dangerous plague threatening our democracy.

Again, Fisk provides at least some counter-balance. Although, being such should not excuse him to operate under any greater creative license than is normally acceptable in the media.

When I view German and Spanish news, the images often suggest a reality closer to that of what Fisk gives. There has been fierce resistance. Civilians are being maimed and killed in large numbers. Many civilians are cursing the US. "Death to Bush!" chanted a young man in civilian garb and with an AK in his hands. Many are taking up arms after loosing family to US fire.........

The fact that US troops are crushing the Iraqi military and that ultimate US victory (whatever that is. Hopefully it will be more well thought out than Afghanistan where the Taliban are reforming and US promises of funding have not materialized in amounts sufficient to purchase enough arms to fight them) cannot be disputed has no bearing whatsoever on the value of Fisk's reporting.

What are you trying to say? That truth belongs to the victors?

Posted by: E. Avedisian on April 9, 2003 10:11 AM

Oh, one more related item. This is the first war that I can think of in which there is no real mention of causalty figures in the traditional sense.

Where are the reports of the number of US WIA? I have reason to believe that there are around a thousand at this time seriously wounded.

I also suspect that the true number of KIA is a bit higher than what we are told. KIA numbers keep shifting. I suspect that the true number will be revealed only after the bulk of the fighting has concluded. This is a political move and it is blatant control of the media by our gov't.

Why no tally on the WIA? Because that would put a human cost perspective on the action. We don't want that. The more sanatized the better.

Fisk challenges this sanatized propaganda.

Posted by: E. Avedisian on April 9, 2003 10:26 AM

bakho, I think you greatly underestimate the general population's understanding of the impact of war. People may not have a clear understanding of why it is needed or not but they are generally aware of the effects.

The $100,000 question is whether you understand that some times there are simply no good choices. Leaving Saddam in power was only a better choice for Saddam. Hopefully you will understand that some day.

Posted by: Stan on April 9, 2003 11:08 AM

From the NYT:

In Firdos Square in central Baghdad, a group of Iraqi men climbed up the pedestal of a 20-foot statue of Mr. Hussein and smacked it with a sledgehammer. Then they put a chain around the neck of the statue and tied it to an armored American military vehicle. The crowd then cheered and clapped as the vehicle pulled away, toppling the statue. Several Iraqis danced and jumped on the fallen statue. Elsewhere in Baghdad, the American military emptied jails overnight, releasing their prisoners. In the neighborhood called Saddam City, a densely populated Shiite area, crowds of men shouted and waved their arms in jubilation. Some carried makeshift flags. One middle-aged man held up a huge portrait of Mr. Hussein, and in the middle of the street used his shoe to beat the face of the Iraqi leader, a particular insult. "This man has killed two million of us," he yelled as bystanders milled around approvingly.

Yeah, whatever.

Posted by: Brian in NYC on April 9, 2003 11:13 AM

This was in my name.

2 million dead are in your name.

Posted by: Brian in NYC on April 9, 2003 11:17 AM

Stan says our unauthorized unprovoked aggression against Iraq was an act of "...unauthorized enforcement..." [of UN resolution(s)].

Which SOUNDS good, as long a you don't bother to face the fact that the "coalition" acted:

(1) WITHOUT the approval of the UN,

(2) Because it couldn't buy, bribe, beg, borrow or steal a majority of votes EVEN among the 15 members of the the UN Security Council,

(3) And because it couldn't avoid what was shaping up to be a 3-2 against vote among the five permanent ("veto" holding) members.

(In other words Stan, the "coalition" acted AGAINST the will of its fellows on the UN Security Council AND IN CONTEMPT of the international order.)

It may please you CALL that "unauthorized enforcement" but its a reach: A reach you have no right to expect a reasonable person to make.

In other words: Sorry, Stan. It WAS an unprovoked unwarranted AND unauthorized act of international aggression.

That's a crime. That's a WAR crime.

That's "the supreme" war crime, according to the Nuremberg Tribunal.

Posted by: Mike on April 9, 2003 11:45 AM

Here's a Fisk piece on the recent "censorship" attempts being applied by the US military in Baghdad.

http://argument.independent.co.uk/commentators/story.jsp?story=395412

He's the only one really reporting this to the US. Hard to see where any of it is "looney". Seems well balanced and far more truthful than what is coming out of Centcom.


Posted by: E. Avedisian on April 9, 2003 11:49 AM

Last post, I promise. I haven't had a news break for a few days so I'm catching up. The more I learn about recent events, the more I find Brad's assualt on Fisk to be...well, looney.

The fact is Baghdad is a chaotic disaster zone. Casualties are everywhere, civilian, Iraqi military, and US. The mainstream media is going all out to sanatize their reporting. Showing US troops merrily at play in Saddam's palace is hardly conveying the true state of affairs.

http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/04/09/sprj.irq.int.redcross.hospitals/index.html

(the Red Cross site has some even more disturbing info.)

If Fisk has made materially false statements, then he should be chastized. Ditto for any other source.

If Fisk is presenting an alternative perspective that generally conforms to what he is observing first hand, then he should be praised.

If nothing else, Fisk at least has the cojones to literally put his life on the line for his profession. What economist does that?

Posted by: E. Avedisian on April 9, 2003 12:35 PM

Last post, I promise. I haven't had a news break for a few days so I'm catching up. The more I learn about recent events, the more I find Brad's assualt on Fisk to be...well, looney.

The fact is Baghdad is a chaotic disaster zone. Casualties are everywhere, civilian, Iraqi military, and US. The mainstream media is going all out to sanatize their reporting. Showing US troops merrily at play in Saddam's palace is hardly conveying the true state of affairs.

http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/04/09/sprj.irq.int.redcross.hospitals/index.html

(the Red Cross site has some even more disturbing info.)

If Fisk has made materially false statements, then he should be chastized. Ditto for any other source.

If Fisk is presenting an alternative perspective that generally conforms to what he is observing first hand, then he should be praised.

If nothing else, Fisk at least has the cojones to literally put his life on the line for his profession. What economist does that?

Posted by: E. Avedisian on April 9, 2003 12:40 PM

Last post, I promise. I haven't had a news break for a few days so I'm catching up. The more I learn about recent events, the more I find Brad's assualt on Fisk to be...well, looney.

The fact is Baghdad is a chaotic disaster zone. Casualties are everywhere, civilian, Iraqi military, and US. The mainstream media is going all out to sanatize their reporting. Showing US troops merrily at play in Saddam's palace is hardly conveying the true state of affairs.

http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/04/09/sprj.irq.int.redcross.hospitals/index.html

(the Red Cross site has some even more disturbing info.)

If Fisk has made materially false statements, then he should be chastized. Ditto for any other source.

If Fisk is presenting an alternative perspective that generally conforms to what he is observing first hand, then he should be praised.

If nothing else, Fisk at least has the cojones to literally put his life on the line for his profession. What economist does that?

Posted by: E. Avedisian on April 9, 2003 12:45 PM

Brian in NYC, Saddam Hussein killed a lot of people with the blessing of the USA, even if not only of the USA.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on April 9, 2003 01:37 PM

Mike, your reading comprehension needs some work. My words:

"Even under that distinct non-war reading, the coalition's actions would still not be pre-emptive. They simply would be unauthorized enforcement. Either way, your pre-emption attribution is off target."

Your misquote:

"Stan says our unauthorized unprovoked aggression against Iraq was an act of "...unauthorized enforcement..." [of UN resolution(s)]."

You will continue to miss the mark if you cannot get the basic facts straight. My sentence included a conditional phrase. You omitted the conditional phrase which alters the sentence's meaning. I do not call US enforcement of UN resolutions unauthorized.

Your point:

"(1) WITHOUT the approval of the UN,"

Suggests that you want to subscribe to the "distinct non-war reading" that I referred to. In reply to your distinct non-war interpretation, I will repeat that your "arguments do not have any legal traction..." The "...UNSC promised severe consequences in resolution 1441. Under 1441 Saddam had to come into immediate compliance with all previous resolutions. All of the weapons inspection reports stated that Saddam was not in compliance. At the moment the first inspections report found that Saddam was not in compliance, 1441's serious consequences were authorized."

Because severe consequences were already authorized the U.S. did not need to "...buy, bribe, beg, borrow or steal a majority of votes EVEN among the 15 members of the the UN Security Council". The US already had authorization. Indeed, the US did not even need 1441 to justify enforcement of the UN's cease fire terms since Saddam was already in violation of those terms. The threat of veto by some of the UNSC members in the face of US efforts to ensure the Council enforced its previous resolutions expressly freed the US to enforce those resolutions in concert with other willing nations.

Severe consequences were expressly authorized by unanimous UN Security Council vote in 1441 AND Saddam had already broken the cease fire terms that ended the first Gulf War putting himself under all previous UN resolutions authorizing military action. I believe coalition action is authorized.

YOU cannot call it pre-emptive action because the US has expressly said in its UN statements that we are enforcing UN resolutions! For security reasons the US may wish to pre-empt future Iraqi agression but our justification is in enforcing UN resolutions imposed due to past Iraqi agression. YOU may attempt to call U.S. action unauthorized enforcement but, if so, your case is weak. YOU cannot call US action pre-emptive since it is in response to Iraqi agression.

Posted by: Stan on April 9, 2003 01:47 PM

//
[...]YOU cannot call US action pre-emptive since it is in response to Iraqi agression.
//

Which agression? The one on Kuwait? Some ten years ago? The UN has lost the right to decide on what is to be done in its name?

I will do whatever is in my hands, the vote in this case, to kick the US military bases out of Europe, it is too dangerous to have them here for our democracy.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on April 9, 2003 02:24 PM

Here, Here, Antoni. I agree. And I think the UN is taking up valuable real estate in NYC. Get that propaganda machine for dictators out of here. I think we should switch. You can have that worthless cabal and we'll take our soldiers back. Much of Europe has proven its irrelevance at this point. No need to have a strategic presence there anymore.

Posted by: Brian in NYC on April 9, 2003 02:52 PM

I see that you have no love for democracy.

I read once that the USA were founded on the principle of evilness of man, it looks it was true. And as it happens the declaration of independence was a lie, because it make a claim to the law of nations as its fundament, and the USA is the principal enemy of the law of nations.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on April 9, 2003 03:12 PM

There seem to be a lot of people who don't get it. On April 4, Fisk is writing that the bloody battle for Baghdad between the Americans and the well-motivated, well-armed Saddam Fedayeen and Republican Guard is about to begin. On April 7, Fisk is writing that Iraqis have turned back a battalion-strength American attack.

On April 8, Fisk is complaining that the American conquest of Baghdad was not a classy entrance into an almost undefended city.

There's no way what Fisk wrote on the 4th and the 7th can be true in the same world we turned out to live in on the 8th.


Brad DeLong

Posted by: Brad DeLong on April 9, 2003 03:14 PM

Antoni, the Iraqi aggression did not end 12 years ago. Until they disarmed according to the terms of their surrender they were still technically at war. They never disarmed. Even after 12 years and multiple additional resolutions. Also, the UN never lost its right to enforce its mandates, only several members seemed inclined to do so.

Posted by: Stan on April 9, 2003 03:21 PM

Stan, the USA are not the UN, and the whole world has motive to distrust them. Now the question is to evict Aznar and the other quislings.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on April 9, 2003 03:31 PM

Stan says:

"...I believe coalition action is authorized.

YOU cannot call it pre-emptive..."

I believe "the coalition" acted in contempt of the will of the majority of the nations (and peoples) of the world, Stan. I believe I offered FAR more than enough evidence to support that interpretation of the facts:

"...as long a you don't bother to face the fact that the "coalition" acted:

(1) WITHOUT the approval of the UN,

(2) Because it couldn't buy, bribe, beg, borrow or steal a majority of votes EVEN among the 15 members of the the UN Security Council,

(3) And because it couldn't avoid what was shaping up to be a 3-2 against vote among the five permanent ("veto" holding) members.

(In other words Stan, the "coalition" acted AGAINST the will of its fellows on the UN Security Council AND IN CONTEMPT of the international order.)

It may please you CALL that "unauthorized enforcement" but its a reach: A reach you have no right to expect a reasonable person to make....
"Posted by Mike at April 9, 2003 11:45 AM "


AND Stan, I believe your legalistic tap-dancing around the facts of THAT matter are unpersuasive.


I (like you) can CALL ANYTHING anything I want to. BUT, in this particular case, I "called" the invasion of Iraq by "the coalition" what it manifestly WAS:


"...a short-sighted, ill-considered, expensive, rash AND intemperate thing to do (though it WAS all of those things), it was also a CRIME--a crime against the international order--a war crime:

"...the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole..."

...according to the Jurists of the Nuremberg Tribunal.
Posted by Mike at April 9, 2003 02:17 AM "


AND Stan, (in a later message) I ALSO 'called' it:


"...an unprovoked unwarranted AND unauthorized act of international aggression.

That's a crime. That's a WAR crime.

That's "the supreme" war crime, according to the Nuremberg Tribunal.
Posted by Mike at April 9, 2003 11:45 AM"

By the way Stan, my "reading comprehension" might or might not "need some work", but I searched my words here, and I didn't find a SINGLE instance where I characterized the WAR CRIME in question as "pre-emptive".

It DOES seem (to me) POSSIBLE, (if slightly ridiculous) that YOU MIGHT be arguing with YOURSELF on THAT point. Because YOU did say:


"This Nuremberg Tribunal argument would work against Bush's stated policy of pre-emptive attacks against terror regimes. It inaccurate in this instance because Bush, Blair, et.al. are not engaging in pre-emptive attacks. Saddam failed to live up to the conditions of the Gulf War I cease fire. The coalition partners say they are legally justified to resume the fighting because those conditions for cease fire have not been met. It is therefore not a pre-emptive attack but instead a continuation of a war against Iraqi agression. Check out the US justification to the UN. You have deny the right of the UNSC to enforce its cease fire requirements to argue that the US is acting in pre-emption against Iraq.

The only arguments that would have any weight in opposition to the US's legal justification would be those based upon the lack of explicit UN Security Council authorization to resume the war. Those arguments do not have any legal traction however because the UNSC promised severe consequences in resolution 1441. Under 1441 Saddam had to come into immediate compliance with all previous resolutions. All of the weapons inspection reports stated that Saddam was not in compliance. At the moment the first inspections report found that Saddam was not in compliance, 1441's serious consequences were authorized. UNSC partners have argued that they did not mean to authorize war, but the U.S. has a very strong argument to support its position. Even under that distinct non-war reading, the coalition's actions would still not be pre-emptive. They simply would be unauthorized enforcement. Either way, your pre-emption attribution is off target.
Posted by Stan at April 9, 2003 08:28 AM"

IF you ARE arguing with yourself here Stan, I suggest you take the matter up with YOURSELF (pre-emptively ;-)


I already explained (see above) why I believe YOUR agruments to the effect that "the coalition" was acting on the behalf of the UNSC are CONSIDERABLY less than persuasive, more than a little problematic, and, to be blunt about it, paradoxical at best.

Posted by: Mike on April 9, 2003 03:49 PM

Antoni,

You must be living in bizzaro world. The US Declaration of Independence has no provision about ceding authority to any other higher state. But rather talks about how we have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.

It also says this:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

And goes on to rail against tyranny. Living in the U.S. of A. I can tell you that in this country the government does not torture and mutilate prisoners with electrical prods, soda bottles, cigarette burns, stabbing, etc. to get confessions, kill millions of our own people with poison gas, have rape squads, use children as human shields, hold babies in front of there mothers to watch them tortured or starve to death unless they give up the location of their husband, torture athletes when they lose, kill people when they disagree with the government or imprison children because they won’t join the junior death squad.

The US gives away more money than the rest of the world combined to charitable causes. Liberating Iraq will cost each American at least $450 and we will get nothing in return except scorn and indignation. Old Europe is morally bankrupt and only uses the UN and its legalize to hide it.

Posted by: Brian in NYC on April 9, 2003 04:27 PM

Brad? Brad! HEEEEY, BRAD ;!)

Did YOU "get" THIS:

bahko writes:

"...The US has been lucky in not having to fight partisans for long periods of our history....."

I take it you mean LATELY. We "fought" NATIVE "partisan(s)" of the North American continent from "day one" right up until the turn of the previous century.

This essentially genocidal, largely unacknowleged, "parallel" history goes hand in hand with other enduring AND disturbing aspects of the American story: Its occasionally irrational, hysterical and paranoid character as well as its penchant for euphemism and other forms of passive and not so passive self-delusion, to name just two...

Which brings me, in a roundabout way to today's subject:

"...weirdness...true loonyness and creepyness...[the] wearing [of]masks, and...those [creepy moments] when the mask seems to slip...."

Remember the "Peace Dividend"?

If you're one of the few people in the world who STILL wonders whatever happened to THAT, you weren't paying attention ten years ago or so, when some key decisions were quietly taken at the highest political levels--and, perhaps more importantly, somewhere within ITS inner sanctum: the "National Secutity Establishment"--by a hand-full of essentially unaccountable, supposedly sober-minded, so-called public servants like, for instance, the Honorable Mr. R. James Woolsey...

The Pentagon's (CIA) Man in Iraq
by David Corn
04/04/2003 @ 2:50pm

"Toward the start of the second Persian Gulf War, I found myself in a room with R. James Woolsey, CIA chief during the first two years of the Clinton administration. A television was turned on, and we both watched a news report on the latest development in the North Korea nuclear drama. How much longer, I asked him, could this administration wait before dealing with North Korea and its efforts to develop nuclear-weapons material? A little while, but not too long, he said. Until after the Iraq war? Yes, Woolsey said, we can take care of things then. (That was when the prevailing assumption was the war in Iraq would take about as long as a Donald Rumsfeld press conference.) And, I wondered, is this a challenge that can be taken care of with, say, a well-planned and contained bombing raid, one that strikes the nuclear facilities in question? "Oh, no, " he said. "This is going to be war." War, full-out war, with a nation that might already have a few nuclear weapons and that does have 600,000 North Korean soldiers stationed 25 miles from Seoul, with 37,000 US troops in between? "Yes, war." He didn't flinch, didn't bat an eye.

Woolsey is something of a prophet of war. And the Pentagon wants him to be part of its team running postwar Iraq.

On April 2, Woolsey made headlines by telling students at UCLA that the Iraq war was part of "World War IV." Speaking at a teach-in sponsored by campus Republicans and Americans for Victory Over Terrorism, a pro-war-in-Iraq group founded by William Bennett, Woolsey remarked, "This fourth world war, I think, will last considerably longer than either World Wars I or II did for us....

http://www.thenation.com/capitalgames/index.mhtml?bid=3&pid=546
Posted by Mike at April 7, 2003 05:31 AM


And what about THIS Brad? Did you "get" it?

Well, let's see...Bringing up R. James Woolsey's "vision" for spreading American Values at gunpoint wasn't sufficient to bring the squid to the surface.

Maybe this will work....

Remember JFK?

A guy who impressed people all over the world with his idealism and his professed committment to economic development and social justice at home and abroad. (He invented the Peace Corps, just for instance. His portrait could be found hanging in "places of honor" in hovels, shanties and shacks on several continents--even years after his death--They say.)

If he even HAD a budget for "public dipolmacy", I'm sure it paled in comparison to whatever they were giving Charolette Beers. Not much of a head for big business, though. A pity. Anyway, he's dead.

Remember Jimmy Carter?

The first AND last guy who actually improved the "facts on the ground" in and around Israel by facilitating "The Camp David Accord" between Israel and Egypt? He incurred the enmity of authoritarians and tyrants around the world too--by resolving to regard "human rights" as an essential element of U.S. foreign policy.

"Real politickers", "corporate titans" and image mongers here at home were NOT impressed. HE was "retired" after one term.

Clinton?

Think "globalization". Think WTO. Think job security. Think Social Security. Think about your (probably "forced", early) retirement...

Now, here's my question for the perfessor (-:


Would you please compare and contrast YOUR opinion of Woolsey's "dream" http://www.thenation.com/capitalgames/index.mhtml?bid=3&pid=546 , with YOUR opinion of Fisk's "journalism"?

And please Brad, color both of them according to their relative homeland security threat level too--while you're at it...
Posted by Mike at April 7, 2003 01:36 PM

Well, then....How about THIS Brad? Did you "get" this one?


David Thomson writes:

"Shucks...Bush and Blair are in a no win situation..."

Shucks, Dave. Whose fault is that?

"...We now glimpse the forbidden truths of the invasion of Iraq. A man cuddles the body of his in-fant daughter; her blood drenches them. A woman in black pursues a tank, her arms outstretched; all seven in her family are dead. An American Marine murders a woman because she happens to be standing next to a man in a uniform. "I'm sorry,'' he says, "but the chick got in the way.''

Covering this in a shroud of respectability has not been easy for George Bush and Tony Blair. Millions now know too much; the crime is all too evident. Tam Dalyell, Father of the House of Commons, a Labour MP for 41 years, says the Prime Minister is a war criminal and should be sent to The Hague. He is serious, because the prima facie case against Blair and Bush is beyond doubt.

In 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal rejected German arguments of the "necessity'' for pre-emptive attacks against its neighbours. "To initiate a war of aggression,'' said the tribunal's judgment, "is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole....''

From: We see too much. We know too much. That's our best defence; by John Pilger, The Independent (April 6 2003) http://argument.independent.co.uk/commentators/story.jsp?story=394406


If you still haven't yet figured out why ol' Brad is wasting so many bytes bashing a guy like Robert Fisk, George Kennan (yes THAT "George Kennan" ;-) MIGHT have part of the answer:


"George F. Kennan, the chief architect of the containment and deterrence policies that shaped America foreign policy during the Cold War, said Sunday that Congress, and not President Bush, must decide whether the United States should take military action against Iraq....

...Kennan was particularly critical of congressional Democrats for failing to oppose Bush’s request for a blank check on Iraq.

“I wonder why the Democrats have not asked the president right out, ‘What are you talking about? Are you talking about one war or two wars? And if it’s two wars, have we really faced up to the competing demands of the two?”

He added, “This is, to me, as a very old, independent citizen, a shabby and shameful reaction. I deplore this timidity out of concern for the elections on the part of the Democrats.”

From: George Kennan Speaks Out About Iraq; by Albert Eisele, The Hill (26 September 2002) http://hnn.us/articles/997.html

See? Now do you get it?

Innocence is not an option for MOST "professional Democrats". And pointing the finger is A LOT easier than looking down the barrel of one.....
Posted by Mike at April 8, 2003 03:01 PM

Posted by: Mike on April 9, 2003 04:45 PM

For those of you that are arguing that the US was wrong to attack the Ba'ath regime because it is against "International Law" does that me you also think that civil disobedience is wrong when it is against the law?

Posted by: Brian in NYC on April 9, 2003 05:08 PM

Sorry typing to fast. Should have been mean, not me.

Posted by: Brian in NYC on April 9, 2003 05:10 PM

Brian:

In its original sense, civil disobedience involves violating a law that is, in itself, unjust, e.g., an integrated group of people entering and refusing to leave a segregated diner. It's entirely possible that BushCo. meant this invasion to be just such an action. However, I think we'll all come to regret the loss of the prohibition against pre-emptive war. Apparently, India already is making a case for a pre-emptive invasion of Pakistan. Both nations, as I'm sure you know, have nuclear weapons. Perhaps some sort of "no-precedent" clause applies, as in Bush v. Gore

Posted by: Jupiter on April 9, 2003 06:15 PM

Surely, Brad, to use the same question you pose re:Fisk, your loyal readers have a right to know why you're a damn genius one day and an an ideological hack the next.

Since it's not deadlines, and ego is too simplistic, why not this esoteric concept: some days one's performance is not good (frequently referred to as "a bad day", "a rough spell", etc.)

Posted by: it's what i typed on April 9, 2003 11:05 PM

Can I ask a question? Do even educated Americans, e.g. the ones who write and (some of the) ones who post on ths site, believe that Saddam Hussein was directly behind the September 11th attacks? 42% of the US public do, I'd assumed the sames ones who can't find the US on a map of the world. But reading this comments board -- I'm not sure...

Posted by: Matthew on April 10, 2003 02:23 AM

Well similarly the world in which US central command said the US was in the 'heart' of Baghdad on April 6th (check) cannot be the same world in which the BBC could report no US tanks were in the heart of Baghdad on April 6th.

But I don't think US central command are insane.

Posted by: Matthew on April 10, 2003 02:27 AM

Mike-

The US genocide against the Native Americans was not a continuous affair, but with a few exceptions was the result of short bursts of intense fighting. Many areas of the US such were settled after disease had killed much of the Native Population. It is estimated that 95% of Native Americans in the area had died of disease just prior to the landing of the Pilgrims in Plymouth. This enabled the Pilgrims to move into abandoned farms and villages without fighting and make arrangements with the greatly weakened natives. The longest of the partisan wars was the Seminole war in Florida in the early 1800s. Another period of continual conflict was from 1860 to 1890 when warfare between European and African immigrants and Native Americans essentially ended. Through most our history back to the 1600s, Native Americans and immigrants lived peacefully. Thus my statement that the US has not had to fight partisans for long periods (or even the majority) of our history does consider the genocide and wars against the American Natives.

Brad suggests that Fisk is dissembling or misinterpreting what he sees. There is another possibility. Perhaps Baghdad was heavily defended by Iraqi standards, but the heavy defenses withered under the American assault. Complete control of the air and superior range of weapons would allow an American force to cut up even a heavily defended Iraqi position. Don't forget that in 1987 that Chad was able to destroy an entire column of Libyan operated Russian tanks with anti-tank weapons mounted on the back of Toyota pickup trucks. So what 20 years ago, would have been a formidable force is now a sitting duck for modern weapons.

Superior weaponry can carry a force through a heavily defended area. In the Battle of the Bulge, the American and Allied tanks were no match for the superior German tanks that were able to advance until they ran out of fuel. Even if heavily armed, the Iraqis would be outgunned. They could become martyrs by staying with their tanks or run away and avoid pointless slaughter. There is no doubt that thousands of Iraqi soldiers have died in this war.

American military capability is such that a large heavily defended position can be obliterated in a day. American aircraft can destroy vehicles on the ground with impunity and American ground forces can destroy enemy vehicles before the Americans are within enemy range. Thus, the switch from a heavily defended Baghdad on April 4 to a lightly defended Baghdad on April 8 could result from American destruction of a significant Iraqi force. The Iraqi armour was either destroyed by the Americans or abandoned as hopeless.

Perhaps there is too much focus on the title of the Fisk article which is usually written by the editor and not the correspondent. Fisk tries to convey the sense of humiliation that many Iraqis feel as a result of the invasion.

It is not that we don't get it. Some of us have a different picture of what went on. We are still in the fog of war. We will no more if the Iraqi body counts are known. The US was careful to hide information on enemy dead after the first Gulf War. I expect they will not publish a number for Gulf War II either. Wholesale slaughter of enemy soldiers does not help win the peace. CNN did not provide the complete picture in Gulf War I. It is unlikely that they have the complete picture now. It is only by combining the pieces of reports from people on the ground like Fisk that the big picture eventually emerges.

Posted by: bakho on April 10, 2003 07:51 AM

Okay, I admit I didn't read all the comments before posting this so maybe it's been covered but... just why does Fisk think Baghdad is holy enough to require a show of piety? Why does it deserve this any more than, say, Berlin or Tokyo or Youngstown, Ohio for that matter? Who precisely lived there that he wants to compare to Jesus?

Posted by: Mike G on April 10, 2003 08:22 AM

Antoni

America kept bases in Europe to keep you all from slaughtering each other which you seemed to do on a regular basis. This peace you have enjoyed your life has been purchased in American Blood and American money. Please spare me the sanctimony regarding international law, UN justification and all the rest of that odious crap that people stand behind when doing nothing is an easy option becuase you are not being murdered, tortured, gassed etc. Europe stood by while Stalin murdered 20+ million people, Europe stood by while Hitler murdered 6 million Jews, Europe stood by while Milosevic killed 250,000 Muslims, hell UN peace keepers evacuated a town, allowing all the young males to be killed. American Cowboy, Bill Clinton finally committed America to stop this w/o a UN resolution. The world, including us, stood by and allowed Rawanda to descend into genocide. Let us weep for the American Indians that we brutally took land from, we can weep for the people in Chile when we overthrew the gov't and installed a brutal dicatorship. We can weep for any countless foriegn policy mistakes. To our shame we allowed a brutal dictator off the hook 12 years ago, under the condition that He disarm so he could never invade another country. He has violated that pact, violated the cease fire and has starved and brutalized his people to feed his ego. Iraq is liberated today, Afghan is liberated today due to American and British and Australian men and women risked thier lives. Were there other motives, sure. Desire to help Israel, sure, as there were when the US and Brits liberated Paris from the boot heel of German agression, as there was when America and its Nato allies liberated Eastern Europe from the boot heel of the Russian communist. Tear down this wall. How quickly your liberty and who gave it to you has been forgotten becuase you desire to prove your moral superiority. America is not perfect, but either is france, Germany or the UN

Posted by: Kevin on April 10, 2003 08:24 AM

You know, the comments on this board remind me of two classic sayings: "Damned if you do, and Damned if you dont" and "No good deed goes unpunished".

If we do not go to war with Iraq, we risk http://www.nationalreview.com/may/may040303.asp further terrorist attacks sponsored by Saddam. If we do go to war with Iraq, we risk http://www.cdi.org/iraq/iraq-alqaeda-pr.cfm further terrorist attacks.

My thoughts are along the same lines as http://whitewolf.newcastle.edu.au/words/authors/K/KiplingRudyard/verse/english_history/danegeld.html Kipling.

If you say you don't get it, you're being deliberately dense.

And as to what I mean by 'no good deed'... How about the U.S.A. stop forking out http://www.cbo.gov/showdoc.cfm?index=8&sequence=6 this? After all, it's become expected of us, but not ever acknowledged. Even countries that hate us get aid from us. Reminds me again of http://whitewolf.newcastle.edu.au/words/authors/K/KiplingRudyard/verse/english_history/danegeld.html Kipling.

And as for people saying we are acting illegally, let me remind you:1) only TWO conflicts since WW2 were UN mandated among UN members. TWO. Wow, considering the amount of wars, and http://www.sabcnews.com/africa/west_africa/0,1009,52338,00.html invasions since WW2, you would think the war crimes court would be extremely busy these days. Not that I have any respect for an organization that has http://www.adl.org/PresRele/UnitedNations_94/4218_94.asp Libya as it's head of the Human Rights committee. And one other thing, in the USA the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, not any foreign institution. The idea of doing so was anathema to our http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/washing.htm Founding Fathers.

"Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests."
-George Washington.

Posted by: Victor on April 10, 2003 08:32 AM

Can anyone tell me why in the fuck we are held responsible for civilian deaths and injuries in a city under siege? Had they any sense they wouldn't be standing around watching bombs fall around them or continue to go about their business like nothing is happening. If my city were being attacked it would take me about an hour to hike to the outskirts and safety. When did people decide that war was so precise and sterile that they could just stand on their balconies and watch like it's some kind of a spectator sport? I'm very sorry for all the non-combatant injuries but the obvious difference is that they are accidents as opposed to the intentional suffering imposed upon them by their own government.

Posted by: AntFreeze on April 10, 2003 09:16 AM

Antfreeze you disgust me. If New York City was under attack I would defend it, not run away. I hope every American would do the same.

Posted by: Robert on April 10, 2003 09:47 AM

Just a few comments, as I am again tuning in late:

"And goes on to rail against tyranny. Living in the U.S. of A. I can tell you that in this country the government does not torture and mutilate prisoners with electrical prods, soda bottles, cigarette burns, stabbing, etc. to get confessions, kill millions of our own people with poison gas, have rape squads, use children as human shields, hold babies in front of there mothers to watch them tortured or starve to death unless they give up the location of their husband, torture athletes when they lose, kill people when they disagree with the government or imprison children because they won’t join the junior death squad."

Brian in NYC: You have a typical level of naivete. The U.S. government doesn't need to do this itself. It just sublets this activity to other governments when it needs to. Ever heard of the School of the Americas (now under a new name)? Torture by electrical prods was for a long time a standard technique taught to the Latin American military students of this school. It might still be taught. My father was tortured using this technique, and while I don't know whether the torturer was trained by Americans, I do know that the US aided and abetted the military coup in which the torturers came to power. Let's hope that they follow a different operating procedure in occupied Iraq than they did in my country.

Since Patrick Sullivan has taken to calling the anti-war commenters "The Usual Suspects" (what does that make his group? "The Usual Suckers"? ;-) ), it's time to make some of the usual remarks: that the Iraqui people may end up being better off thanks to this war (though I am still skeptical, especially after most Iraquis realize that they won't be able to run their own country) is a byproduct of the US invasion, but that does not make the invasion acceptable. For the first time since we decided to grab Cuba away from Spain, we have engaged in an unprovoked invasion of another country, and this time without a declaration of war. That the Spanish were violating the human rights of Cubans still did not make the invasion morally justifiable, any more than it does the invasion of Iraq.

Next on the list, it's time to do my daily flushing down of bigotry, especially the anti-European bigotry which has been rampant in this country lately. I usually don't approve of Antoni Jaume's blanket condemnations of US policy, and on occasion he has gotten perilously close to attacking the US as a whole nation. Nevertheless, he is a paragon of respectability in comparison to Mr. Kevin. Here is the rant:

"This peace you have enjoyed your life has been purchased in American Blood and American money. Please spare me the sanctimony regarding international law, UN justification and all the rest of that odious crap that people stand behind when doing nothing is an easy option becuase you are not being murdered, tortured, gassed etc. Europe stood by while Stalin murdered 20+ million people, Europe stood by while Hitler murdered 6 million Jews, Europe stood by while Milosevic killed 250,000 Muslims, hell UN peace keepers evacuated a town, allowing all the young males to be killed. American Cowboy, Bill Clinton finally committed America to stop this w/o a UN resolution."

It is no no wonder that so many people outside the US accuse Americans of being appallingly ignorant of history. The above is a case in point. A few bits of history for the uninitiated:

(1) Europe (namely Britain, France, and Poland) did try to overthrow the Bolsheviks before Stalin took power. That they did not succeed was due to the exhaustion of their armies after WWI, the utter incompetence of their White Russian allies and to the paltry quantity of troops committed against Russia by the U.S. After Stalin started his genocide, there was no way Europe could possibly have overthrown him without massive help from the US, which was not forthcoming.

(2) As I recall, it was Britain, France, and Poland who declared war on Hitler (and many Germans died opposing Hitler before that) over two years before the US came into the war only because Hitler was stupid enough to declare war against us. If Hitler had not declared war against us, then probably most of Europe would still be speaking German and doing the fascist salute.

(3) Europe did not intervene in Yugoslavia. It would have helped, though, don't you think, if they had had something similar to a central government, an executive branch, and a legislative branch with real power? Don't you detect the illogic of treating Europe as if it were a single country like the US? Even with the US, it took almost four years of continual violence before we intervened in Bosnia, another two years before we intervened in Kosovo.

Anyway, my message to Europeans is this: we may have our differences, but please understand that we in the US are engaged in a deadly serious struggle to defend your countries and other countries against rubbish such as what you read in these blogs. Please understand that not all, or even most, Americans use rants such as this to describe Europe. Time to go.

Posted by: andres on April 10, 2003 09:59 AM

Robert, That would make you a god-damned combatant wouldn't it! I'm speaking of the non-combatant civilians injured and killed in Baghdad who for whatever reason aren't fighting but also aren't trying to escape the city. My comment was intended to point out that within an hour or so most of these people could've walked to the safety of the outlying areas but instead they choose to stay and watch the fighting and then are hurt and held up as examples of American war-mongering. If you went to a Nascar race and stood in the middle of the track to watch, would it be my fault you got run over?

Posted by: AntFreeze on April 10, 2003 10:33 AM

Although the events of yesterday were historic and uplifting, what really gives me joy is watching Fisk and his Fascist friends try and dance around the reality of what’s happening in Iraq. The “bloggosphere” is blossoming with recent quotes from “experts”, some of whom were predicting coalition military disaster only two days ago (see andrewsullivan.com for the “Von Hoffman” awards). If Fisk is a “reporter”, then what the heck is he reporting? Dreams? Wishes? Certainly not reality.

Posted by: Robert Fowler on April 10, 2003 10:36 AM

Andres

My apology re - russia - I had forgotten that. But in WW2 - France and Britain did declare war after spending years turning a blind eye as Hitler ignored the treaty that ended WW1, ignored allies in need etc. Maybe the whole mess of WW2 would have been have averted if France and Britain had stood up earlier. Maybe not. But france and Britain chose a path of least resistance, disarming/putting faith in treaties/pacifism after the horrors of WW1. The German and France underground while helpful was more than overshadowed by the sheer number that actively participated in the Genocide. Many European countries bear this stain as does America as we were turned inward during this time.

For intervening in Yugoslavia, but isn't that what the EU was. And since there was no central gov't to act, why did France do nothing? Why Germany? Why Britain? I have conceded the point that the US waited far to long to intervene. France gets a free ride for what reason. If you complain about American dominance, then you have to offer realistic counters. There were none in Yugoslavia? There were none in Iraq. And quite frankly my larger point was and still is that the US has had bases in Europe for 50 years or so. In that time Western Europe actually managed to not slaughter each other. Western Europe was not plunged into a communist hell. Americans may be ignorant of some of the details, but we also know for the last 90 years it has been our boys and girls putting thier asses on the line protecting Western Europe, allowing them to have such flights of fancy like Bush = Hitler. Americans are simpliste, but we also, eventually know right from wrong. Saddam had to go, he was evil to his people, he was developing WMDs, he had designs on the oil in the region, he had DIRECT ties to Terrorists, so to base your whole case for not going on legalities of the UN and international law is not serious.

Posted by: Kevin on April 10, 2003 10:37 AM

Andres

My apology re - russia - I had forgotten that. But in WW2 - France and Britain did declare war after spending years turning a blind eye as Hitler ignored the treaty that ended WW1, ignored allies in need etc. Maybe the whole mess of WW2 would have been have averted if France and Britain had stood up earlier. Maybe not. But france and Britain chose a path of least resistance, disarming/putting faith in treaties/pacifism after the horrors of WW1. The German and France underground while helpful was more than overshadowed by the sheer number that actively participated in the Genocide. Many European countries bear this stain as does America as we were turned inward during this time.

For intervening in Yugoslavia, but isn't that what the EU was. And since there was no central gov't to act, why did France do nothing? Why Germany? Why Britain? I have conceded the point that the US waited far to long to intervene. France gets a free ride for what reason. If you complain about American dominance, then you have to offer realistic counters. There were none in Yugoslavia? There were none in Iraq. And quite frankly my larger point was and still is that the US has had bases in Europe for 50 years or so. In that time Western Europe actually managed to not slaughter each other. Western Europe was not plunged into a communist hell. Americans may be ignorant of some of the details, but we also know for the last 90 years it has been our boys and girls putting thier asses on the line protecting Western Europe, allowing them to have such flights of fancy like Bush = Hitler. Americans are simpliste, but we also, eventually know right from wrong. Saddam had to go, he was evil to his people, he was developing WMDs, he had designs on the oil in the region, he had DIRECT ties to Terrorists, so to base your whole case for not going on legalities of the UN and international law is not serious.

Posted by: Kevin on April 10, 2003 10:38 AM

Fisk has a way with words....but so do blind people. The whole problem in this part of the world is blind faith....in their religious beliefs, their trust in Allah (how many times do I have to hear "God Willing" as a response to a completely legitimate question) and their trust in poor leadership. As of 4/10 I'm conviced many highly educated Arabs (and French) are completely blind to reality. Do we have to bomb these people with history books before they get it? Fisk should write a novel and leave objective journalism to real journalists. Or he should go live in Jordan, Egypt or Saudi Arabia and see how long his "objective" observations are tolerated. Go Air Force....and my Thanks to the Brits! Your welcome in New Jersey any time! WTC Dave

Posted by: WTC Dave on April 10, 2003 03:51 PM

Fisk has a way with words....but so do blind people. The whole problem in this part of the world is blind faith....in their religious beliefs, their trust in Allah (how many times do I have to hear "God Willing" as a response to a completely legitimate question) and their trust in poor leadership. As of 4/10 I'm conviced many highly educated Arabs (and French) are completely blind to reality. Do we have to bomb these people with history books before they get it? Fisk should write a novel and leave objective journalism to real journalists. Or he should go live in Jordan, Egypt or Saudi Arabia and see how long his "objective" observations are tolerated. Go Air Force....and my Thanks to the Brits! Your welcome in New Jersey any time! WTC Dave

Posted by: WTC Dave on April 10, 2003 03:51 PM

Fisk has a way with words....but so do blind people. The whole problem in this part of the world is blind faith....in their religious beliefs, their trust in Allah (how many times do I have to hear "God Willing" as a response to a completely legitimate question) and their trust in poor leadership. As of 4/10 I'm conviced many highly educated Arabs (and French) are completely blind to reality. Do we have to bomb these people with history books before they get it? Fisk should write a novel and leave objective journalism to real journalists. Or he should go live in Jordan, Egypt or Saudi Arabia and see how long his "objective" observations are tolerated. Go Air Force....and my Thanks to the Brits! Your welcome in New Jersey any time! WTC Dave

Posted by: WTC Dave on April 10, 2003 03:51 PM

Fisk has a way with words....but so do blind people. The whole problem in this part of the world is blind faith....in their religious beliefs, their trust in Allah (how many times do I have to hear "God Willing" as a response to a completely legitimate question) and their trust in poor leadership. As of 4/10 I'm conviced many highly educated Arabs (and French) are completely blind to reality. Do we have to bomb these people with history books before they get it? Fisk should write a novel and leave objective journalism to real journalists. Or he should go live in Jordan, Egypt or Saudi Arabia and see how long his "objective" observations are tolerated. Go Air Force....and my Thanks to the Brits! Your welcome in New Jersey any time! WTC Dave

Posted by: WTC Dave on April 10, 2003 03:52 PM

Fisk has a way with words....but so do blind people. The whole problem in this part of the world is blind faith....in their religious beliefs, their trust in Allah (how many times do I have to hear "God Willing" as a response to a completely legitimate question) and their trust in poor leadership. As of 4/10 I'm conviced many highly educated Arabs (and French) are completely blind to reality. Do we have to bomb these people with history books before they get it? Fisk should write a novel and leave objective journalism to real journalists. Or he should go live in Jordan, Egypt or Saudi Arabia and see how long his "objective" observations are tolerated. Go Air Force....and my Thanks to the Brits! Your welcome in New Jersey any time! WTC Dave

Posted by: WTC Dave on April 10, 2003 03:53 PM

Fisk has a way with words....but so do blind people. The whole problem in this part of the world is blind faith....in their religious beliefs, their trust in Allah (how many times do I have to hear "God Willing" as a response to a completely legitimate question) and their trust in poor leadership. As of 4/10 I'm conviced many highly educated Arabs (and French) are completely blind to reality. Do we have to bomb these people with history books before they get it? Fisk should write a novel and leave objective journalism to real journalists. Or he should go live in Jordan, Egypt or Saudi Arabia and see how long his "objective" observations are tolerated. Go Air Force....and my Thanks to the Brits! Your welcome in New Jersey any time! WTC Dave

Posted by: WTC Dave on April 10, 2003 03:53 PM

Fisk has a way with words....but so do blind people. The whole problem in this part of the world is blind faith....in their religious beliefs, their trust in Allah (how many times do I have to hear "God Willing" as a response to a completely legitimate question) and their trust in poor leadership. As of 4/10 I'm conviced many highly educated Arabs (and French) are completely blind to reality. Do we have to bomb these people with history books before they get it? Fisk should write a novel and leave objective journalism to real journalists. Or he should go live in Jordan, Egypt or Saudi Arabia and see how long his "objective" observations are tolerated. Go Air Force....and my Thanks to the Brits! Your welcome in New Jersey any time! WTC Dave

Posted by: WTC Dave on April 10, 2003 03:53 PM

Mike, you should check your writing a little closer.

"By the way Stan, my "reading comprehension" might or might not "need some work", but I searched my words here, and I didn't find a SINGLE instance where I characterized the WAR CRIME in question as "pre-emptive"."

The legal claim of this quote you used rests entirely on the pre-emptive use of force:

"In 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal rejected German arguments of the "necessity'' for pre-emptive attacks against its neighbours. "To initiate a war of aggression,'' said the tribunal's judgment, "is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole....''"

You do see the words "pre-emptive attacks against its neighbors" do you not?

You "believe "the coalition" acted in contempt of the will of the majority of the nations (and peoples) of the world," and think that you "offered FAR more than enough evidence to support that interpretation of the facts". You then claim that my argument is "legalistic tap-dancing around the facts" and you find my statements paradoxical.

You find my statements paradoxical because you do not understand basic logic. When I say that you cannot argue that the US aggression is pre-emptive. I am making a logical statement. This particular statement is based on the principal of time. US action would have to preceed Saddam's aggression against Kuwait in order for it to be pre-emptive action. Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1991. The current year is 2003. US action cannot be pre-emptive in this instance since Saddam invaded Kuwait prior to US action. Pre-emptive actions happen before other actions. Logically US action in 2003 cannot occur before Saddam's aggression in 1991. My statement that you cannot call US action pre-emptive is based on this logical inconsistancy.

My other statements are based on legal realities. I am basing my arguments on legal realities because you are making legal claims. You claim the US action was unauthorized and illegal. Both of those claims are legal claims. The answer to the veracity of those statements is therefore found in the law.

Saddam violated the terms of the cease fire which followed his loss of the Gulf War. This is a fact. When the cease fire's terms were violated all prior UN authorization for war against him applied. This is a legal claim based on the terms of the cease fire. Because Saddam broke the terms of the cease fire, UN AUTHORIZATION continued applied for the 12 years that followed. Just because nations were in no rush to force him to comply doesn't mean that they weren't authorized to do so. Authorization didn't magically expire at some point.

When Saddam violated his cease-fire agreement. The US or any nation could have forced Saddam to comply at that moment or at any point thereafter with full UN authorization. Therefore, a vote was not needed in 2003 because all of the earlier votes still applied. All of the UN authorization that went with those earlier votes continues to this day. No further authorization was needed. Your evidence does not address this basic reality. It is not "legalistic tap-dancing around the facts" to point out this legal truth. You are making claims about legal issues so the basic answer lies in the law. Your answer to my statement lies in the law. A vote in 2003 would have been good because it would have shown continued resolve by the UNSC and it would have removed any ambiguity but it was not needed for UN authority.

1441 further re-enforced existing UN authorization by setting a final deadline. When that deadline was not met, it specifically authorized severe consequences. These are legal statements. They rely on legal interpretations but so they offer you room to disagree but these statements are not poorly supported. They are very consistant with international law.

Your evidence is not what you think it is. You are holding to a legal position that says that the US might have lost a vote that never occurred. It relies on the positions of parties not included in the UN voting record. The positions of those parties is equally strong on both sides. The French claimed that they were not authorizing military action but the US made no bones about what severe consequences meant.

Therefore, I am basing my opinion on the likely outcome of a court decision. I cannot say that your specific reading of 1441 is wrong because there will be no court decision, but it is certainly a very weak case.

Thus, you can claim that the coalition's actions are unauthorized action, "but the U.S. has a very strong argument to support its position. Even under that distinct non-war reading, the coalition's actions would still not be pre-emptive. They simply would be unauthorized enforcement. Either way, your pre-emption attribution is off target." My statements are not paradoxical nor are they wrong! You need to work on your reading comprehension and you also need a class in logic.

Posted by: Stan on April 10, 2003 04:52 PM

Hmmm. Well, I'm glad that Kevin can respond with a more nuanced analysis if he is subjected to some counter-ranting. Still, I do not agree. Points:

"Maybe not. But france and Britain chose a path of least resistance, disarming/putting faith in treaties/pacifism after the horrors of WW1."

France and Britain, _and the US_, chose the path of least resistance even though a significant portion of their population might have favored going to war against Hitler a lot earlier than they did. I don't know about France, but Britain and the US had a substantial portion of business elites who thought that Hitler was a man they could do business with, and this influenced their policies at least until the time that Hitler violated the Munich treaty by overruning all of Czechoslovakia.

"And since there was no central gov't to act, why did France do nothing? Why Germany? Why Britain? I have conceded the point that the US waited far to long to intervene. France gets a free ride for what reason. If you complain about American dominance, then you have to offer realistic counters. There were none in Yugoslavia?"

Point of comparison: you concede that the US did nothing for so long out of political inertia: namely, the unwillingness of the politicians in power, Clinton and the Senate, to do anything until the proof on the ground was overwhelming enough that no serious political risk was involved in intervention. Now extend Clinton's problems to those of countries in Western Europe which have parliamentary systems where governing coalitions could fall apart at any time and where more than two political parties have to negotiate in holding together such coalitions. Add to that the fact that the situation on the ground was _not_ crystal clear, that Croats and Bosnian muslims were also committing crimes, though in much less quantity than the Bosnian Serbs, and the conclusion is clear: one can criticize France, Germany, et al for not intervening in time, but this is about the result that could have been expected given their political systems, regardless of the wishes of ordinary French and Germans.

Lastly, note that Clinton did _not_ try to go through the UN--he steamrollered intervention by way of NATO, which meant that once again the US and Britain were the main participants. If he had sought UN approval, and like Bush had made it clear that he would go in regardless of whether or not such approval was granted, it is quite possible that France and Germany would have said yes if only in order to avoid being in the minority.

"In that time Western Europe actually managed to not slaughter each other. Western Europe was not plunged into a communist hell. Americans may be ignorant of some of the details, but we also know for the last 90 years it has been our boys and girls putting thier asses on the line protecting Western Europe, allowing them to have such flights of fancy like Bush = Hitler."

No sensible European that I know of makes such an equation. Bush may be a malevolent president (there are no shortage of Americans who think so, myself included), but no sane person on either side of the atlantic would compare Bush to a genocidal maniac.

And sorry to say, but you seriously overestimate the importance of US troops in safeguarding Western Europe from communism. In the first place, no communist party in any of those countries ever had a decent chance at getting a parliamentary majority, and even if they had they were a lot more civilized out of necessity than the CP's behind the iron curtain. As for the Soviets, the only time Europe was seriously in danger of a Soviet invasion was when Stalin was alive (and only because of the morally correct but tactically questionable decision to grant formal independence to West Germany) and there were enough US troops left from the end of WWII to preclude any such notions. After Stalin, no sane Soviet leader would have contemplated an invasion even if US troops had not been stationed there: how on earth would they have justified such an invasion to the Russian people who were already starting to lose faith in communism? The belief that only US troops prevented a Soviet invasion of Western Europe is, IMHO, a Clancyesqe fantasy.

European governments _have_ made a lot of mistakes (some of them motivated by bad intentions), their unwillingness to rapidly intervene in the former Yugoslavia being one of many. Other examples: France's worse-than-useless effort to hold on to Algeria, Britain's attempt to overthrow Nasser in alliance with Israel, etc. But on average I don't think they have done worse than the US on foreign policy matters. In short, nothing that I can see justifies a holyer-than-thou superiority complex on our part towards the European countries, so it's time to toss such a complex into the trash heap. Period.

Posted by: andres on April 10, 2003 10:41 PM

"After Stalin, no sane Soviet leader would have contemplated an invasion even if US troops had not been stationed there: how on earth would they have justified such an invasion to the Russian people who were already starting to lose faith in communism?"

Dictators do not need to worry much about public opinion. The Soviet leaders were never voted into office. Losing intellectual faith in Communism is not the same thing as being able to change the system!

Posted by: David Thomson on April 12, 2003 01:10 PM

Well, David, remember that the Soviet leaders were all too aware of the fate of Czar Nicholas II, who perished after the soldiers that he had sent to invade Germany and Austria-Hungary got fed up with the war and instead started shooting their own officers. It's one thing if your citizens lose faith in your ideology, but if you get into a real shooting war in those conditions, pretty soon your soldiers will lose faith in you.

Posted by: andres on April 12, 2003 01:47 PM

“Well, David, remember that the Soviet leaders were all too aware of the fate of Czar Nicholas II, who perished...”

Lenin and Stalin definitely learned their lesson. Czar Nicholas II was merely a mildly authoritarian leader. The Communists made sure to install a totalitarian regime! They had no patience with half way measures. The Czar was no saint, but he was nowhere near as ruthless as those who took over the reigns of power.

Posted by: David Thomson on April 12, 2003 05:29 PM

"Okay, I admit I didn't read all the comments before posting this so maybe it's been covered but... just why does Fisk think Baghdad is holy enough to require a show of piety? Why does it deserve this any more than, say, Berlin or Tokyo or Youngstown, Ohio for that matter? Who precisely lived there that he wants to compare to Jesus?
As Posted by Mike G at April 10, 2003 08:22 AM"

Have a great time at the Youngstown, Ohio museum, Mike. It's culture to be proud of. I'm sure they have functioning security.

Do you feel just a tad silly yet? If not, don't hold your breath.

Posted by: you should besoluckytoget marchedinon on April 12, 2003 11:33 PM

The pro-war group makes an impassioned arguement that our conquest of Iraq is the best thing for the Iraqi people, because the Hussein regime is a brutal dictatorship that kills its own people and has rape camps.

I wonder how many of them supported President Clintons actions is Kosovo, and how many of them will support a Democratic president who wants to cnquer another country to liberate it from a brutal dictatorship that kills its own people.

WMD has fallen off the radar screen. Guess they don't matter anymore.


Posted by: zak822 on April 13, 2003 11:12 AM
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