Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category
George Bush had not one, but two shoes thrown at him. The journalist even had time to make a speech before hauling them – the first shoe about the invasion of Iraq and the second for the widows and orphans.
Much is being made about Arab culture and showing the soles of your feet as a sign of disrespect.
That though would surely be a double barefooted flying kick?
However, despite having the best security of any leader in the world, a man was able to let fly with a second shoe before being surrounded by security agents. Both shoes narrowly missed the President. Considering the damage a Pretzel did this qualifies as an all out assault.
Just five weeks to go before Obama becomes President. If he can go eight years without such an incident he will have done well. The fear, softly spoken but felt, is that the risk is beyond steel tipped footwear.
Such fears are less compared to everyday life in Iraq. Still, it must be a safer place if you would risk going about barefoot in Iraq.
In the run up to war, much was made over Iraq’s attempt to get yellow cake uranium from Niger. David Corn writes about it being a hoax, and that Christopher Hitchens was wrong. Hitchens responds to that here. The photo of him in the shower I could not resist – which comes from Vanity Fair with Hitchens doing a story on being at a California Spa which separated him from booze and cigarettes.
There’s only one reason to go to Niger.
Posted Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2006, at 5:20 PM ET
Click here to read David Corn’s critique.
Wissam al-Zahawie did indeed have “a simple explanation” for his 1999 trip: low-level sanctions-busting. He had another equally simple (and laughable) disclaimer: He did not even know that Niger produced uranium. But I repeat the question that Corn declines to ask himself: What is an ambassador to the Vatican, with a background in nuclear diplomacy, doing on such an out-of-the-way mission in the first place? It’s hardly my fault if the Senate intelligence committee and the ISG don’t ask themselves this: Ambassador Rolf Ekeus (who does ask it) outranks them in the sort of expertise that Corn selectively affects to value. Of course, one may always prefer to rely on the “excerpts of Zahawie’s travel report,” and the IAEA’s discovery that Saddam’s envoy—a former friend and colleague of theirs—did not choose to claim that he talked about uranium. This might be described as the Joseph Wilson standard of forensic investigation.
The related question—was Niger open for business?—is partly answered by the presence of A.Q. Khan on its territory in 1999 and again in 2000. Corn ignores this completely while making feeble jokes about an Austin Powers alliance between rogue states. Has he cared to look at the list of countries visited and armed by A.Q. Khan, from North Korea to Libya? Has he ever asked himself how our “intelligence” community missed all that, too? The supposed “box” that contained Saddam Hussein contained A.Q. Khan and the nuclear black market as well, not that the CIA had the vaguest idea of that fact or any other.
From the simple-minded presumption of Iraqi innocence to the conspiratorial assumption of American guilt: Corn’s original charge was that the administration broke the law in an attempt to expose Wilson’s wife. Now that we know that this is false he falls back on the discovery that there were people in the administration who didn’t like Wilson and wanted to explode his claims. Well, fine. But how does that become the business of a prosecutor who sends one of our fellow journalists to jail? Meanwhile, for Corn to say that Richard Armitage was “most likely not part of a White House campaign” is to invite and deserve utter ridicule.
This leaves us only with two remaining questions: the forgery, and the rationality of Saddam Hussein as an actor. On the first point, Corn presumably knows that a forgery is not a hoax but an attempted copy of a true bill. The people who attempted to pass off a fake version of Zahawie’s visit may have been interested only in money, or they may have been attempting disinformation. Or both. I have canvassed all three propositions, and am relatively neutral as among them. However, any reader of Slate can look up the two independent British commissions of inquiry, both conducted at a time of hysterical accusations against Prime Minister Blair, both of which found that the original intelligence on Niger was well-founded, and that it predated any funny business with the Zahawie seal, or stamp.
It’s wearisome at this late date to read again the bland assertion that Saddam Hussein did not do things because it would have been unwise or irrational for him to do so. On that very basis, our intelligence establishment concluded that he would not invade Kuwait, would not set fire to the oil fields, and would not perform any number of other insane actions. His megalomania and volatility were consistently underestimated, with real consequences in the real world. No policy based on the assumption of his rational conduct ever worked. Now, the passage of time has allowed some glib people to represent him as the victim of a frame-up. What an offense to the historical record that is.
I have other reasons, which have been well-enough exposed in Slate and elsewhere, to think that Saddam Hussein’s name may indeed be uttered in the same breath as the ambition to recover WMD. Corn seems to believe that the dictator who not only acquired and concealed them, but who actually used them, must be granted the benefit of the doubt. I differ, and yes I do think that post-invasion Iraq was unusually “clean.” Even Hans Blix and Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schröeder thought that some weaponry would be found, and the list of stocks that Iraq last handed to the United Nations has never been accounted for. Other evidence—such as the centrifuge buried by Saddam Hussein’s chief scientist and the Baathist negotiations to buy missiles off the shelf from North Korea—was uncovered only by the invasion itself. So, this is not an induction from no evidence to evidence, but the result of a long experience with a regime highly skilled in concealment and deception. Were it not for his defeat in 1991, and the resulting UNSCOM discoveries, we would not have known the extent of Saddam Hussein’s previous nuclear capacities, either. So, even if it is true that he had been wholly or partially disarmed before 2003, that outcome was only the result of sternly refusing to take his word for it, and of the application of a policy of sanctions-plus-force that was opposed by David Corn’s magazine at every single step.
This difference among others led me to separate myself from The Nation, where neither my prose nor my socializing were as stellar as Corn recalls. Incidentally, I begin to tire of this sickly idea that I used to be a great guy until I became fed up with excuses for dictators and psychopathic murderers (let alone for mediocre CIA fantasists). Alexander Cockburn is surely nearer the mark when he says that I was a complete shit and traitor all along.
Click here to read David Corn’s critique.
Sam Harris (author of End of Faith and Letter to A Christian Nation) has conducted a survey of belief from Atheists and Christians – 36,781 people took part:
The primary purpose of this poll was not opinion research, in fact. Rather, we were designing stimuli for an experiment that we are now running on atheists and Christians using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The goal of survey was to produce stimuli of two categories – factual and religious – which would behave appropriately once we put members of each group inside our MRI scanner. We needed factual statements that both atheists and Christians would accept with the same order of confidence and religious statements that would divide them more or less diametrically.
In addition to vetting our experimental stimuli, however, we took the opportunity to solicit the opinions of believers and nonbelievers on many psychological and social topics that are not strictly relevant to our neuroimaging work. Many of these results are now available for viewing on my website.
The idea of secularism being supported by people of faith and none shows some promise here.
Pluralism as to ideas that lead to a good life seems to be rejected at the faithful end with Christianity as the real thing.
The idea of a Christian God that can be called on to interfere with the problems in the world is strong with 80% of believers agreeing.
If you really believe this about the after life, then a fear of death is a powerful incentive for faith.
90% proclaim the second coming of Jesus. Not sure whether on a horse is optional – but believers profess it as a real future event – to be prepared for.
Majority of believers disregard the poetry notion of Virginity that the Archbishop of Canterbury told Dawkins. 95% of respondents that were Christian think it actually happened.
In many ways the point being drawn out is that there are a lot of believers that literally think Jesus rose from the dead and literally was born of a Virgin, that Armageddon is literally going to happen, that literally Christianity is the only truth that will save you.
Christopher Hitchens and Peter Hitchens debate Iraq, God and morality with each other – 3 April 2008 USA.
I know that quite a few people I get on with do have disagreement with my position on Iraq. Which in a nutshell was a realisation that we were being lied to about going in, but the case should have been made on humanitarian reasons and that the world could not risk allowing tyrants that threatened peace and security to die peacefully in their sleep when they murdered whole families for having satellite television. But in all cases it should be for a society to have the facts, and agree to the aims if their children’s lives are to be sent to die. The cause must be true, and the sacrifice though painfully felt considered to the good of humanity.
The reduction in UK troop numbers from 4,000 to 2,500 have been halted due to conditions on the ground. Violence in Basra has increased between militia and the Iraqi army. Whether we are there as a support or actually prepared to be actively involved in the fighting with full support is unclear depending on what you mean by the term “overwatch”. To get any sense of what is going on is not helped by language that is used to camouflage the facts and to smooth the fragile senses that may react in a way that may displease Her Majesty’s Government.
Yet my acid test for withdrawal remains the consequences of us leaving. Remember in France 270,000 civilians died in WW2 and 600,00 deaths were military – Iraq is far less then that and yet what we are trying to do is have a government that is accountable to the people of Iraq and does not have the fear of terrorists or tyrants nationally or locally dictating the whims by which people may live and die. I do not propose a blank cheque or believe that the blood and treasure already spent stays our hand in remaining. Containing the violence is one thing – and reducing troop numbers if it allows that to return would be real folly.
I wish we could live in a world where the power of the people to overthrow their oppressors could be assured to bring about social change and justice. However that is not always the case. On what terms will I see a French citizen of 1944 less deserving of freedom then an Iraqi of 1999? Is it the foreign imposition of power on a country that allows us to expand much sacrifice to other people’s freedom, or is the tyranny over an other’s freedom that moves us to such action – the conquest of an individuals liberty, where an unjust constitution gives no respite save for a grave that the state will prepare for dissenters.
Or are we to really say that if people are so far away it does not affect us? Such voices were to be heard in the late 1930s in the USA; that to my shame as I walked the World War Two memorial in Washington DC I saw the years 1941-45 chiseled in and thought of how many lives were lost in the preceding years before Congress finally acted. Are we only to feel for the suffering of others if it takes our fancy, and only to sacrifice when it is others on our behalf and not our blood and our treasure at stake?
Such do tyrants and evil warlords hope – that they can make enough trouble that we shall not interfere. That such problems with such obstacles and cost shall put us off even suggesting the fight. That we shall by omission not act, and by such inaction shall we declare ourselves peacemakers and by such tokens as this be glad that we shall live while others shall die and forget that our pasts often relayed on people believing that the fight for our freedoms was worth the price paid.
Some like Bertrand Russell believed that only a world government could end war, and solve the problems that impact us. But it would take something far more then a structure of government, far more then the organised labour of many, far more then the co operation of free people fulfilling an enlightened self – interest.
It will take an idea, that has forever burned in the hearts of people, but is rarely shown for fear that it’s light may be quickly blown out. From it much hope is arisen and many small deeds of compassion, charity and hope is accomplished. It is done not for personal gain, nor done under the lash, to obey a great leader or appease a thuggish god.
It is the noblest of things – that of a common humanity, a recognition that goes beyond kin ship to those close. It may not be a natural instinct. Maybe we do not look to our biology to help reinforce the idea. Yet, it is something that exists, and the more we know of what is happening in the world the more we must be prepared to help those who do not have the means to fight off disease, poverty, war and tyranny.
It comes to an idea – one where the end is the betterment of the condition we find ourselves in, thus shall we choose the means when it comes to the fight. But let us never say we are not prepared for it – for our survival depends on it.
The two times I have been to America people are kind of embarrassed by how Europeans react to President George W Bush. However, to my mind we have put on rose tinted spectacles when it comes to what the United States can achieve for the world – crucially forgetting that at all times the national self interest is, as for all nations, the first priority whoever is in charge and hopefully there is an overlap between that and the world.
On that note this article in this weeks The Economist caught my eye, which also contains a special report on the subject of foreign policy after Bush - enjoy:
American foreign policy
Mar 27th 2008
From The Economist print edition
Whether it is Clinton, McCain or Obama, the world will still quarrel with America’s foreign policy
TO JUDGE by the polls, millions of people in America and around the world are gasping to see the back of George Bush. With his going, America can extract itself from a catastrophic war in the Middle East, stop its preaching and bullying, win back lost friends and rediscover its founders’ advice to show a decent respect for the opinions of mankind. Or so the millions hope. They had better prepare for a disappointment.
There are several ways in which the next president can indeed act fast to restore America’s world standing. But the list is short. The mere fact of not being Bush will bring a dividend of goodwill. On top of this, he or she should send out an early message that on some issues the change of guard will mean a change of heart. An America that closed Guantánamo, imposed a clear ban on any sort of torture (by the CIA as well as the army) and shut the CIA‘s secret prisons could once again claim to lead the free world by example and not just by military power. A new president should also say more forthrightly than Mr Bush ever dared that America means to co-operate in the fight against global warming, and will consider joining the International Criminal Court. Mr Bush’s cavalier rejection of the Kyoto protocol, and his hostility to the ICC, did much to antagonise the world even before the war in Iraq.
After the easy wins
All these would be welcome changes of substance and symbolism. But even this short list will throw up difficulties. Closing Guantánamo may require America to try the suspected terrorists it can build a case against but let the others go free—free, if nobody else takes them, on American soil. And although it is easy for a president to promise international co-operation on climate change, it is hard to make Congress enact laws that trample on vested interests, threaten to hamper growth or price Americans out of their huge cars. The Senate would not have ratified Kyoto even if Mr Bush had asked it to.
Besides, these “easy” early wins do not come close to encompassing the broad sweep of policy that the wider world wants the new broom to change. Millions of Europeans (including the faithful Brits) want America to stop playing world sheriff and submit to the same rules as everyone else under the United Nations. A billion or more Muslims want America to boot Israel out of the West Bank, if not dismantle the Jewish state altogether. Strong constituencies at home and abroad are impatient to see America quit Iraq and Afghanistan. It is not just Russians who find America’s plans for missile defence in Europe provocative, or Iranians who say the sanctions against Iran’s nuclear programme reek of double standards. Most of the world sympathised with America after September 11th, but a large and prickly chunk of it now sees its war against terrorism as a war against Islam.
You have only to inspect this catalogue of things different parts of the world want America to do or to stop doing to see that the new president’s honeymoon will be short. No president can satisfy this great welling up of external demands.
And none, of course, should try. Showing a decent respect for the opinions of mankind does not mean competing in a global popularity contest at the expense of sound policy. Much of the next president’s foreign policy will, rightly, continue the present one. Its central aims will include preserving the NATO alliance, holding the line against nuclear proliferation, and undergirding the security of allies such as Japan, Taiwan and South Korea in Asia and Israel and the Gulf Arabs in the Middle East. America under a new president will need to adapt to the relentless rise of China without seeking refuge in a self-defeating protectionism, keep a weather eye on a newly obstreperous Russia and—yes—continue to seek out and fight al-Qaeda and other terrorists.
America has a tradition of bipartisanship in foreign policy. As our special report this week argues, Iraq makes this election different. For the Republicans, John McCain has said that America must finish the job even if it lasts a hundred years. Both Democrats promise to start withdrawing troops in early 2009. A stark choice, at first blush. But look beyond the hyperbole. Barack Obama promises to have most combat troops out within 16 months, but would leave some behind; and Hillary Clinton will commit herself only to 2013—if possible. Though many Democrats are angered by such wriggles, the candidates are wise not to box themselves into a corner on Iraq (as, alas, they almost have on NAFTA and free trade).
No matter where you stood in 2003, and we argued for the invasion, it is impossible to deny that the war in Iraq turned into a humanitarian calamity. Its fifth anniversary coincided with the loss of the 4,000th American soldier and a new outbreak of fighting. But the overall trend since the start of General David Petraeus’s “surge” last year has been positive. For a future president to decide now what to do in Iraq a year hence would be folly. However flawed the reasons for invading Iraq, the consequences of a premature exit could be worse, not just for America’s own standing in a region vital to its economic and security interests, but for the Iraqis too.
Much will stay the same
It is peculiar how often foreigners are surprised to learn that American presidents serve American interests, not those of the world at large. Often, these interests overlap. America and the rest of mankind will benefit alike from tackling climate change and from spreading democracy, free markets and a liberal trading system—and the peace on which such a system depends. A new president needs to make this case anew. But they do not always overlap. And in a world that is still Hobbesian, the country that is for now still the world’s sole superpower is going to continue to put its own interests first.
That is why Mr Bush’s promise of a “humble” foreign policy could not survive the extraordinary attack that fell on America on September 11th and sucked him into Afghanistan and Iraq. By the second term a chastened administration was once again seeing the value of working with allies when that is possible. But when it is not possible, America relies on itself. The instinct of the next president will be no different.
It seems I am out of step with my party (Liberal Democrats) which have gone from no timetable, to a timetable, to now sending me an e mail asking me to back getting British troops out of Iraq.
For me, the issue of us staying in Iraq has been that our presence will help to bring about a just society in Iraq, and reduce the amount of civilian lives lost compared to troops not being in the country.
I understand from BBC news last night that Iraqi government figures have that death rate at 400 a week.
I do not think that it is clear cut that the situation in Iraq would be better without troops, and I have difficulty saying that to hell with the consequences our boys lives are at stake and they should not be there.
On the other hand I do have difficulty trying to understand what the mission is. From the USA the term “strategic relationship” is mentioned – that there will always be a USA military presence in Iraq, which will no doubt have an impact on the domestic politics in Iraq. The issue is will that be for a politically just Iraq or one that serves the foreign policy of the USA at all costs? For example that seems to the basis of support for the tyrant in Pakistan – which may well actually be counter productive (a free democratic Pakistan has never chosen Islamic parties to rule; under a dictator they just might).
It is a no brainer if a matter of principle means going against my party line – the issue really is why is the USA administration making the whole darn thing a bloody mess? Increasingly it seems people like myself that want us to be involved in creating and supporting a democratic Iraq are being marginalised by those that want us out and those that want us there for our own gains (strategic and resource led).
I think Jarvis Cocker may well have been right when he sung “_ _ _ _ _ are still running the world”.
Saddam had to be dealt with. Mass genocide, flouting of international law, a quest to buy WMD from the Koreans, satellite TV punishable by the death of the whole family. It is pie in the sky to believe that Saddam was a non issue and the Middle East would be fine with him still in power until he died of natural causes. His track record, his conduct suggest otherwise.
After 9/11 one thing did change – that was the risk of doing nothing, but waiting for something to happen. That would be unforgivable for any government that could perceive a threat but did nothing to act until something happened. In the case of WMD used on civilians it needed to be shown that any state proving a threat would be subject not to appeasement, but action.
That is separate from how the case was made. It was made on the basis that Saddam had WMD and was prepared to use it/give it to groups that meant the West ill. That was an overstatement of what intelligence actually revealed – a downright lie at worst.
The law on genocide is clear – the sovereignty of a state is null and void. Saddam should have been brought down after the liberation of Kuwait – but no one seemed to be prepared for the aftermath. It took over ten years for the political will for Saddam’s overthrow to happen and rather than being prepared, there has been error after error, lack of planning, not enough international consensus to put the resources into trying to stabilise Iraq. The aftermath has been made worse than it was going to be due to this.
It is not going to be easy. But a peaceful, stable, secular, democratic state is one that the Iraqi people deserve. It is something that we need to succeed at helping them to achieve – as atheists we should know the risk of allowing a radical Islamist theocracy taking hold of the government on not only the people of Iraq but for the rest of the world. Which is why I find it disheartening when atheists do say that whatever the situation left in Iraq we should pull out right now.
I do not want us to abandon our fellow secularists, trade unionists, workers in Iraq to the fate of murderous madmen poisoned by religious fanaticism. Shame on those that do. Where are their humanist principles that tell them that genocide must be stopped, and that humans that are oppressed must be supported by those fortunate to be free? That liberty is not just to be enjoyed but something that is rarely in the history of our species given without extraordinary effort and the sacrifice of many people who knew that it was not theirs to enjoy but to pass on to others in the hope of a better future for their people. Such people are patriots and they deserve our support.
I feared that voices to the contrary would win. It is always easier to do nothing when people elsewhere are suffering but not yourself – when you are not part of the struggle. There is not the same tangible benefit, but the real cost of service personal killed, loved ones lost, resources that could be used elsewhere. I remain convinced that Afghanistan was enough of an issue to deal with, unless the world community was prepared to be involved with the overthrow of Saddam and a stable secular Iraq afterwards. I was aware that we were being manipulated and lied too about the case for war in Iraq. I wanted the real case – that the rules of the game had changed, the Iraqi people deserved better, that our own future security and that in the Middle East depended on us getting this right. I did not want us to go to war on a false premise.
Saddam did not deserve to die a natural death when millions because of him had not. At least so far we have 100% achieved that. But that is one battle, and there is much much more to be done. But I fear the political will to do the right thing by the Iraqi people will give way to political expediency on Capital Hill.