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Monday, November 9, 2009

Re: paying for the Iraq war

Harland, I've never argued that post-invasion Iraqi approval of deposing
Saddam is what justified the pre-invasion decision to depose Saddam. In
general, I rarely use arguments based on time travel. Instead, I've
cited that April 2004 poll 1) as a disagreement with your "vicious
attack" characterization, and 2) as evidence that the Iraqis themselves
did not foresee the subsequent Sunni-Shia civil war. Bob is the one here
saying wars need to poll a "passing grade" to be justified, not me. The
whole point of my question about confederate slavery was to show that
individual rights trump polling numbers. Indeed, I've even created a
video (starring my daughters) to make this very point:

Speaking of "vicious attacks", Harland, would you say that the U.S. war
against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan was a "vicious attack"? Do you
think that a U.S. war against them was morally justified, and if so,
does that mean you endorse everything ever done in the U.S. conduct of
that war?

My claim is that the UN Security Council itself said in resolution 1441
that "Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations
under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687" -- i.e. the 1991
cease-fire terms. In what resolution did it retract that assessment?

The interrogator who accidentally killed the commander of the Iraqi Air
Force was tried and convicted of negligent homicide. Incidentally, the
Iraqi Air Force was used to attack Iraqi Kurdish children with chemical
weapons, so your Gen. Mowhoush was very likely a war criminal. Do you
think he ordered any trials of Iraqi Air Force personnel for those
chemical weapon attacks?

The uncritical article you cited about "children tortured" at Abu Ghraib
talks only of the conveniently-unnamed "daughter and nephew" of a
54-year-old Iraqi woman -- people who surely would have been in their
twenties if they existed at all. It's fascinating that you don't believe
polling data collected by professional researchers, but you'll
uncritically parrot this unverified and utterly implausible story of two
innocent hostage relatives who "were beaten and tortured naked for six
months until [the 54-year-old woman] admitted that she supported the

If you reject the validity of surveys in Iraq, then you must reject the
household surveys (e.g. by Lancet) that are used to inflate the counts
of Iraq's violent deaths beyond the 100K bodies that have actually been
counted. And I suppose you reject the 2006 survey in which 78% of Iraqis
said U.S. presence is "provoking more conflict than it is preventing."
If ever you start to prefer actual data over unconfirmed emotional
anecdotes, then a good summary of Iraq polling through 2008 is at

I found fascinating your propaganda about the Firdos Square celebration
being "staged with a planeload of exiles". I guess you don't know that
the guy who took the sledgehammer to the statue was not an exile but
rather an ex-weightlifter from Baghdad, who tells of how Uday Hussein
would punish Iraqi sportsmen for losing, and would appropriate
motorcycles from the guy's motorcycle shop. The correct up-to-date
propaganda line here is that this guy, Kadhem Sharif, indeed initially
welcomed the fall of Saddam, but that the subsequent (unpredicted) civil
war later made him wish Saddam was still in power. Of course, that line
still fits my thesis.

Fact-checking your "planeload" claim provided an unexpected dividend:
the earliest warning I've yet found of an Iraqi civil war. In an April
17 2003 interview, Australian clergyman Neville Watson said: "The reign
of Saddam Hussein was a brutal one. It was one in which the community
was polarised into those against Saddam and for Saddam. Now that has
been removed, it's obvious as to what's going to happen. Those who were
subjected to great cruelty are going to take revenge on those who did
the subjecting. I fear for Iraqi society in the next 5 or 10 years".
However, this doesn't quite count as a pre-invasion warning of civil
war, and if anything it suggests that sectarian bloodshed was
unavoidable whenever Saddam's dynasty ended. However, even two years
later, Bush opponents were saying that the prospect of civil war is a
bogeyman being used to justify continued occupation. See e.g. Dahr
Jamail writing in The Nation in March 2005:

Watson also said "neither the Americans nor the Australian authorities
have any idea of the humanitarian crisis which is about to occur", but
the much-feared invasion-sparked "humanitarian crisis" didn't happen. As
the Global Policy Forum admits, "The US-led invasion of Iraq in March
2003 caused many civilian casualties, but it did not immediately create
a major humanitarian crisis or set off mass migration." Instead, the
humanitarian crisis that did emerge by 2006 was largely a result of
sectarian violence -- violence that the above-cited 2005 article in The
Nation predicted would not materialize.

Finally, you ask that if Iraqis welcomed Saddam being forcibly deposed,
why wouldn't they welcome Iraq being annexed to the United States? That
question is just too silly to dignify with a response, but it captures
quite well the pretenses about Iraqi public opinion that you're willing
to adopt to in your desperate efforts not to believe that the fall of
Saddam was widely welcomed in April 2003 among Iraq's Shia majority,
Iraq's Kurds, and the relatives of Saddam's 1.5 million victims.