Creative Destruction

September 25, 2006

Making Things Worse In Iraq

Filed under: Iraq — Ampersand @ 7:26 pm

Tim at Balloon Juice quotes from news stories (one, two):

Torture in Iraq may be worse now than it was under Saddam Hussein, with militias, terrorist groups and government forces disregarding rules on the humane treatment of prisoners, the U.N. anti-torture chief said Thursday. […]

A report by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq’s Human Rights office cited worrying evidence of torture, unlawful detentions, growth of sectarian militias and death squads, and a rise in “honor killings” of women. […]

According to the U.N. report, the number of Iraqi civilians killed in July and August hit 6,599, a record-high that is far greater than initial estimates suggested, the U.N. report said Wednesday. […]

Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat […]

The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,” cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American intelligence official.

And from a report quoted on Liberty & Power:

A confidential Pentagon assessment finds that an overwhelming majority of Iraq’s Sunni Muslims support the insurgency that has been fighting against U.S. troops and the Iraqi government, ABC News has learned.

Officials won’t say how the assessment was made but found that support for the insurgency has never been higher, with approximately 75 percent of the country’s Sunni Muslims in agreement.

When the Pentagon started surveying Iraqi public opinion in 2003, Sunni support for the insurgents stood at approximately 14 percent.

As Daran points out (one two), male Iraqis – mostly non-combatants – are being slaughtered and abused in Iraq, by both insurgents and US forces.

[According to the Lancet study of deaths among Iraqis,] the plurality of the causalties were adult men. The next largest group was boys. There were more boys killed than female adults and children put together. Males accounted for nearly three quarters of the deaths.

As I’ve blogged about before, the decline in women’s freedoms has been enormous. From Iraqi blogger Riverbend:

For me, June marked the first month I don’t dare leave the house without a hijab, or headscarf. I don’t wear a hijab usually, but it’s no longer possible to drive around Baghdad without one. It’s just not a good idea. (Take note that when I say ‘drive’ I actually mean ‘sit in the back seat of the car’- I haven’t driven for the longest time.) Going around bare-headed in a car or in the street also puts the family members with you in danger. You risk hearing something you don’t want to hear and then the father or the brother or cousin or uncle can’t just sit by and let it happen. I haven’t driven for the longest time. If you’re a female, you risk being attacked.

I look at my older clothes- the jeans and t-shirts and colorful skirts- and it’s like I’m studying a wardrobe from another country, another lifetime.

From an op-ed by Bonnie Erbe:

A new poll of leaders of Iraqi women’s-rights groups finds that women were treated better and their civil rights were more secure under deposed President Saddam Hussein than under the faltering and increasingly sectarian U.S.-installed government.

The war advocates will, of course, claim everything is fine. Violence in Iraq is “just a comma” in a future history book, according to President Bush. (As the Carpetbagger says, Bush’s comma is a spectacular achievement in denial of responsibility; there is no presidential failure, however awesome, which can’t be excused as “just a comma” with a long enough historical view. As John Maynard Keynes sarcastically pointed out, in the long run, we’re all dead.) Norman Podhoretz, editor of the conservative magazine Commentary, argues that even the intensity of violence in Iraq proves democratization is going well:

…The terrible violence being perpetrated by the terrorists of the so-called “insurgency”… is in itself a tribute to the enormous strides that have been made in democratizing the country. If this murderous collection of diehard Sunni Baathists and vengeful Shiite militias, together with their allies inside the government, agreed that democratization had already failed, would they be waging so desperate a campaign to defeat it? And if democratization in Iraq posed no threat to the other despotisms in the region, would those regimes be sending jihadists and material support to the “insurgency” there?

At the point when attacks on Iraqis and Americans are seen as proof that things are going well, is there any possible scenario which can be described as going badly? (A reader at Crooked Timber aptly referred to the above as “sane-people-baiting.”)

Tim at Balloon Juice writes:

I could imagine an argument that things are going through a bad spell right now, just like I could imagine arguing that space aliens will have pity on us and relieve the 2nd Marine Regiment in Fallujah. Things can get better and they can get worse. Hypothetical arguments can go both ways. Right now things look pretty bad and no reason in the world exists to think that they cannot get worse.

Tim is right on the mark: Anything short of Heaven could be said to have “prospects to improve”; in fact, the more horrible a situation is, the more evident the potential for improvement.

The question is, given the truly astonishing record of being wrong war advocates have so far compiled, why should we trust their judgment that improvement is just around the corner? These are the people who thought we’d be greeted with cheers and flowers. War advocates have said “improvement is just around the corner” for over three years; when Saddam’s sons were killed, when Saddam was captured, when elections were held, over and over.

You’ve heard of the boy who cried wolf? War advocates are the boy who cried “improvement!” The war hawks have proved beyond any reasonable doubt that they can no more successfully judge what’s around the corner in Iraq than they can flap their arms and fly around the moon. A Iraq war hawk is like a baseball player who has struck out 20 times in a row claiming that if he gets just one more chance, he’ll hit a home run. And when he strikes out for the 21st time, he won’t learn a thing; he’ll just move on to claiming that he’ll surely hit a home run the 22nd time, the 23rd, the 24th, etc etc..

How many pathetic failures, leading to the violent deaths, rapes and maimings of thousands of Iraqis — and of US soldiers — should Bush’s Iraq policy get before it loses all credibility?

Podhoretz points out that three elections have been held. Elections are great. But political freedom – the freedom to vote, which Iraqis allegedly have (never mind the ways in which the elections were less than ideally democratic) – is not the only freedom in the world, nor the only one that matters. If I am free to vote but not to walk the streets, I am not substantively free. If I am free to vote but the political system lacks the will to protect me from being kidnapped, raped and sold into sexual slavery, I am not substantively free. If my odds of being violently killed are high enough so I live in perpetual fear, I am not substantively free.

1 Comment »

  1. The operative question now is how to get out without making things even worse.

    Indeed, politically, the right thing to do (and this has been the case for a long time) would be to fire the entire lot of the Vulcans (Cheney, Condi, Rummy, etc.), say that “yes, the intelligence was wrong”, and then invoke the Pottery Barn rule (“you broke it, you bought it.”) and appoint some up and coming critics of the military operation within the U.S. military to turn a new leaf and publicly provide an exit strategy post-haste (like, by mid-October).

    Comment by ohwilleke — September 26, 2006 @ 4:34 pm | Reply

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