Suspicion and divided loyalties

Perhaps the most damaging effect of 9/11 and all that has followed will be its role in making divided loyalties one of the most dangerous things a person can have. From the beginning, while the ruins of the World Trade Center were still burning, any effort to hold non-trivial positions about terrorism and Islam were attacked. People opposed to the war in Iraq were branded as terrorist supporters, people unimpressed by a programme of reform in the Middle East imposed at the end of a gun were castigated, people who asked questions about whether there was more to things than “they hate us for our freedom” were branded as traitors.

Tariq Ramadan wrote a piece in Wednesday’s New York Times which must be read in this light. The key paragraph – the statement of where he stands – appears at the end:

I believe Western Muslims can make a critical difference in the Muslim majority world. To do this, we must become full, independent Western citizens, working with others to address social, economic and political problems. However, we can succeed only if Westerners do not cast doubt on our loyalty every time we criticize Western governments. Not only do our independent voices enrich Western societies, they are the only way for Western Muslims to be credible in Arab and Islamic countries so that we can help bring about freedom and democracy. That is the message I advocate. I do not understand how it can be judged as a threat to America.

But it is not that hard to see the threat in it. To encourage western Muslims to at once see themselves as having a place in the West and a role in the Islamic world is tantamount to asking them to divide their loyalties. To all too many people right now, divided loyalties are a synonym for treason. The charge of divided loyalties is an old one, and a very damaging one. It was once the most mainstream charge that people made against Jews. To see it revived today – against Muslims in Europe, against Mexicans in the US by the likes of Samuel Huntington, and yes, against Jews in many countries – is very, very troubling.

The power this charge has is one of the reasons why the hijab ban – which came into effect with the reopening of school in France last week – has been greeted with little more than resignation. Everyone who believes that an Islamic organisation is naturally a threat – and yes, I mean Daniel Pipes and those who agree with him – should have to explain the response to the kidnapping of Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot. Virtually every Islamic organisation and public Islamic figure in France has not only condemned the kidnappings but has asked Muslims to respond to the hijab ban in a calm manner, in order not to give any support to the kidnappers. Tariq Ramadan – who opposes the headscarf law – has made a statement that the French government should not give in to this “odious blackmail.” Across France the response to the reopening of school has been compliance with a law that even the many conservative figures of American society considered at best questionable.

This “Islamic Army of Iraq” seem to have scored an “own goal.” Their act has made resistence to the new school code impossible. Were one in the mood foir wacky conspiracy theories, one might wonder if the French government had arranged the kidnappings themselves. If all terrorists were this stupid, they would not represent any real threat.

Within a day of the kidnapping, a representation from the Islamic Council of France, including the heads of the National Federation of French Muslims and the Union of Islamic Organisations of France, as well as a representative of the Paris Mosque, had dispatched a deligation to Baghdad to support efforts to secure their release. Not only did every significant player in French Islam weigh in against the kidnappings, but condemnations came in from across the Islamic world. The quite conservative Sunni Iraqi Council of Ulemas issued a statement demanding their release, the Arab League demanded their release, the Iranian government demanded their release, Muammar Qaddafi, King Abdullah of Jordan, and Muslim clerical organisations from across Africa and Europe have condemned the kidnappings. Even the Iranian Mujahedeen – which is forbidden as a terrorist organisation in France – issued a statement demanding the release of the two French journalists.

In this light, it gets harder and harder to take seriously claims that “moderate” Muslims are really just double agents, preaching peace and integration in one language and some form of holy war in another.

Tobias sent me to an article in this week’s Die Zeit on just this point. I received the article by e-mail and can’t find it on the Zeit’s Website, so I can’t link to it directly.

Der Doppelagent

Der Islamwissenschaftler Tariq Ramadan ist das Idol der Pariser Vorst?dte. Er k?mpft f?r einen modernen Islam und gegen ?j?dische Intellektuelle?. Die USA verweigern ihm nun die Einreise. […]

Es ist nicht der erste Skandal, der sich an Tariq Ramadans ?ffentlichem Wirken entz?ndet: […] In der Debatte um den Irak-Krieg und den neuen islamischen Antisemitismus in Frankreich meldete er sich im Oktober 2003 mit einer ?Kritik der neuen kommunitaristischen Intellektuellen? zu Wort. Prominente Kriegsbef?rworter wie Andr? Glucksman wurden von Ramadan als ?j?dische Intellektuelle? identifiziert, deren Engagement gegen Saddam Hussein einer ?Logik der Gemeinschaft? folge. Diese j?dischen Intellektuellen, suggerierte Ramadan, schieben ihre Menschenrechtsrhetorik vor, doch in Wahrheit vertreten sie die Interessen Israels. […]

Vielleicht ist die tiefe Ambivalenz, mit der Tariq Ramadan dem Westen begegnet, ein Erbe der Familienkonstellation, vielleicht ist sie auch Taktik, um auf beiden Seiten im Gespr?ch zu bleiben: In seinem Werk ringt die Anerkennung von Rechtsstaat, Rationalismus und b?rgerlicher Freiheit mit den alten kulturell-religi?sen ?berlegenheitsgef?hlen. Der Westen ist f?r ihn nicht, wie die Tradition sagte, das feindliche ?Haus des Krieges?. Er ist der ?Raum der Zeugenschaft?, in dem Muslime frei sind, ihren Glauben zu bezeugen. Mit einer trickreichen Unterscheidung isoliert er den ?eigentlichen Islam? von allen historischen Fehlentwicklungen, die er konkreten ?islamischen Kulturen? in die Schuhe schiebt. Unterdr?ckung der Frau, Unfreiheit und R?ckst?ndigkeit der arabischen Welt haben mit der vom Schmutz der Geschichte ges?uberten universalistischen Lehre nichts zu tun. Man f?hlt sich an ein Muster sozialistischer Apologetik erinnert. […]

Tariq Ramadan hat es geschafft, zum inoffiziellen Sprecher eines Euro-Islams aufzusteigen, der das gebrochene Selbstbewusstsein der Diaspora hinter sich l?sst und das Hier und Jetzt der westlichen Moderne als sein Wirkungsfeld akzeptiert. Das allein ist ein Verdienst, auch wenn es keineswegs ausgemacht scheint, ob er das Etikett des liberalen Reformers zu Recht tr?gt. Es w?re falsch, ihn aus dem Gespr?ch ?ber den langen Weg der Muslime nach Westen auszugrenzen. Es gibt nicht viele andere, die wie dieser Doppelagent des modernen Islams auf beiden Seiten Geh?r finden.

The Double Agent

The Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan is the darling of the Paris suburbs. He fights for a modern Islam and against Jewish intellectuals. The USA has just refused him entry. […]

This is not the first scandal to come out of Ramadan’s work: […] In the debate surrounding the Iraq war and Islamic anti-Semitism in France, in October 2003 he put forward a critique of “new communitarian intellectuals.” Prominent war proponents like Andr? Glucksman were identified by Ramadan as “Jewish intellectuals” whose engagement in the anti-Saddam Hussein camp followed from a “communitarian logic.” These Jewish intellectuals, Ramadan suggested, put forward a rhetoric of human rights, but in truth are representing Israel’s interests. […]

Perhaps Ramadan’s ambivalence towards the west is an inheritance of his family’s millieu; perhaps it is also tactical so that he can stay on both sides of the debate: In his work on he acknowleges the struggle between he constitutional state, rationalism and civil liberty on the one side and old issues of cultural and religious superiority on the other. For him, the west is not, contrary to tradition, the “house of war” but rather a “space for witness” in which Muslims are free to testify to their faith. He makes sophisticated distinctions between “really existing Islam” and the mistakes of the past that force concrete “Islamic cultures” into their mold. The repression of women, the lack of freedom and the backwardness of the Arab world have nothing to do with the universal teachings cleansed of the stains of history. One is reminded of many apolgists for socialism.

Tariq Ramadan has established himself as the unofficial voice of a Euro-Islam that has left behind the tattered self-confidence of its diapora and accepts the “here and now” of western modernism as its field of action. By itself, his position is well deserved, even when it isn’t clear whether it can be rightly labelled liberal reformism. It would be wrong to fence him off from dialogue over the long way Muslims have to go towards inclusion in the West. There are not many others who, like this double agent, are able to get a hearing on both sides.

Indeed, the one charge against Ramadan that seems to carry some weight is his accusation in an article written in 2003 that some Jewish intellectuals have divided loyalties – the very same charge that is most frequently levied against him. This same claim, offered in more or less sophisticated forms, is the charge most frequently made against anyone who might be considered an Islamic moderate. No matter how many times one condemns what is wrong, no matter how many times one supports the right causes, there seems to be no way to both defend against a charge of divided loyalties and still retain any sort of nuance in one’s beliefs or proffer any sort of opposition to what one thinks is wrong with one’s own side. A defense against divided loyalties always seems to involve ever more self-defeating proofs of loyalty.

I have the strong suspicion that the Middle East is full of intellectuals sitting in exactly that position – people whose opposition to their local institutions and advocacy of other ones is hampered if not neutralised by that same problem of double loyalities. These are people who find they cannot advocate peace with Israel on any terms without accusations of abandonning the Palestinians to a harsh fate, or cannot propose gender egalitarianism without facing charges that they want to turn women into sex objects and near-prostitutes, or cannot advocate freedom of speech without accusations of being soft on blasphemy.

The author of the article at Die Zeit harkens back to the Cold War, when allowing yourself to be labelled Marxist or in any way socialist – or in some places anywhere left of centre – meant having to first condemn a long laundry list of things that were wrong with the Soviet Union and other “really existing” socialist states before you could express any opposition to policies or governments in the West. Unlike the Soviet Union, Islam is not on the brink of falling, and rather than repeat this inane exercise, let me offer an alternative: Fight for the right to divided loyalties. You have as much right to them as you have to freedom of conscience, freedom of speech and freedom from oppression.

In this, I found very encouraging something from Ramadan’s recent interview in Muslim, Wake Up!, something that is an example of what I find appealling in Ramadan’s work:

MWU!: Some Muslims are very religious, while others are not. How should the community define itself — can religious and cultural identifications of being a Muslim co-exist?

Tariq Ramadan: We have to start with a principle – whoever, woman or man, says, I am a Muslim, and feels that he or she is a Muslim is a Muslim and should be considered as such. We have to stop judging each other.

Now we have different levels of practice. Take someone who says, “Oh, I am not a practicing Muslim.” When someone tries to stop lying, that is an ethical practice. The very moment that you stop lying, then you have an awareness, you are a practicing Muslim. You are already in a process. It is a state of mind.

We have to understand that we are not at the same levels and we are not following the same paths or schools of thought. We have to accept a diversity as to the level of our practice and to the schools of thought. We have to start with this mindset. There are some things that are clear in Islam, like the shahada, or the five pillars. Whether or not somene practices or not—99% of Muslims will acknowledge them.

This is for me the beginning.

Within the Islamic community, there is also a cultural diversity. The language of the Qur’an is Arabic, but the culture of Islam is not Arabic culture. Islam is not a culture; it is a set of principles accepting other cultures as long as it does not contradict the principles. I can remain an indigenous American, be a Muslim, and integrate everything in my culture that does not contradict those principles.

Be who you are! And be confident with your culture. It is important to promote this.

We have to avoid simplistic categories to judge others. We need American Muslims to understand that this common culture should help them to reach out to other people – let us start something new together and accept diversity. For example, I don’t follow literalist interpretations, but I accept that some Muslims don’t listen to music. At the same time, don’t tell me that it is more Islamic not to listen to music than to listen to music. We have different opinions. The idea of accepted diversity – different readings, cultures, and levels of practice – is critical.

Be who you are, even when that divides your loyalties, even when that leaves you confused about who is right, even when that means your loyalties conflict. Rather than defend against divided loyalties, admit to them. They are a part of who you are. I rather wish Ramadan had been more in line with that notion when he wrote his famous complaint about “communitarian” Jewish intellectuals.

Al Qaeda has helped take the prospect of living with divided loyalties away, both here in the West and in the Middle East. I cannot help but think that to likely be their goal. Terrorism does not overthrow governments and it rarely if ever changes policy, as recent events in France show well enough. But terrorism does a wonderful job of polarising, of destroying nuance and moderation, and of making people choose sides they might otherwise hesitate to join. The Middle East is full of contradictory regimes – with oil-rich Saudi Arabia as the archtype – that cannot easily survive a complete polarisation between Islam and the West.

It is this consideration that makes me uncertain we are winning any sort of war on terrorism, and makes me all too afraid we’re losing. If we can establish a right to divided loyalties and enshrine it in public discourse, then maybe this can all still turn out well. But to do so, we have to stop treating divided loyalties as source of suspicion by itself. The frequency with which a vocabulary of suspicion and treason is used to describe Muslims who preach moderation of any kind leads me to think this is not happening in the West. I hope the Islamic world is doing a better job of it, but I suspect it isn’t.

54 thoughts on “Suspicion and divided loyalties

  1. Regarding your only criticism of Ramadan, didn’t he speak of ‘communitarian Jewish intellectuals’ in the context of ‘Jewish intellectuals abadoning their former universalist principles’?

  2. I can’t agree with your unqualified praise for the Muslim leadership of France for condemning the kidnapping of the two French journalists. Surely condemning such a kidnapping is the least anyone should expect of anyone with a common degree of humanity? And the praise for the condemnation of the kidnapping from the wider Muslim world is also severely misplaced. Condemning the kidnapping of Frenchmen while resting silent about the kidnapping of Turks, Nepalis, Indians, Italians, Americans etc merely shows their pretended humanitarianism as a hypocritical sham.

  3. Actually, most of thise condemnations were pretty global and not France-specific. Yes, this kidnapping was higher profile because the French government made a big deal about it and – I assume – asked some of them to make a statement. It’s a mistake to expect Muslim organisations to specifically condemn every bad thing some Muslim, somewhere, does. I mean, would it be fair to condemn Christian organisations for failing to specifically condemn every act of violence committed by some Christian in Jesus’ name? I doubt that you’ve issued a statement to the press saying that you specifically condemn Chechen terrorist attacks on schools, but that doesn’t lead me to conclude that you are being hypocritical in your attitudes towards terrorism.

    I would read something into a refusal to condemn when asked to, but not into a failure to condemn when no one specifically asked.

    DoDo, yes, that was the context. I think it’s a mistake to assume that someone’s politics are the product of their faith, even if a connection seems likely. Ramadan’s charge was about divided loyalties – that universalist loyalties are being compromised by a loyalty to Judaism, and through that to Israel. Now, even thought it is anti-Semitic to suggest that a Jewish person’s politics are a consequence of their being Jewish and as a result of being Jewish support Israel, and as a result of that take some stand on some other issue, that is all still a very, very, very long way away from “Death to Jews and Crusaders.” So, I’m ill-inclided to see it as a show-stopper.

  4. “Actually, most of thise condemnations were pretty global and not France-specific.”

    But not as forthcoming during other recent high-profile kidnappings which were aimed against allies of the US operating in Iraq.

    It is classic diplomacy to use general condemnations at well-calculated times to provide a message of support for some which does not extend as broadly as the rhetoric would indicate. See for example US rhetoric on non-proliferation when talking about North Korea (and until recently Pakistan) but studious quiet on Israel’s nuclear program. See also loud declarations against the ‘cycle of violence’ whenever Israel acts against Hamas or Hezbollah (especially when it acts successfully) but mild diplomatic mutterings when groups tied directly to Arafat’s Palestinian Authority blow up cafes in Israel.

    In other words it seems quite possible that the condemnations are a result of worry about pushing France over to the other side rather than any universal condemnation of terrorism or kidnapping.

    As for your main thesis–I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t care about divided loyalties nearly as much as I care about extremist Muslims in moderates clothing. All of human experience is about divided loyalties: families, jobs, attention to a lover, hobbies, political parties, etc. We manage just fine. The problem is of false loyalties–e.g. British Muslim communities sending people off to fight against the UK in Iraq or Afghanistan while the community enjoys all the protections of living in a Western country. I fear that problem may be deep in some Muslim communities, but I hope it is actually shallow.

    I’m completely for the right to divided loyalties in some instances and not in others. From my perspective you can be a good Muslim, have loyalties in the West, and not like Israel without dividing your loyalties so far as to offer support for Hezbollah. But when you try to divide your loyalties so far as to be in the West and support a terrorist organization, you have gone too far. (And I’ll condemn without reservation those Irish-Americans in New York who in supported the IRA).

    Some choices are too far. Al Qaeda didn’t really narrow those choices, it just made the importance of paying attention to them clearer.

  5. Sebastian, Martin, are you looking for a condemnation supermarket? I get really irritated that I am called to spend my time issuing condemnations right and left. I have dinner to cook and a bathroom to clean, gentlemen, can’t we just leave the condemnations to be implied unless there is some glaring need.

    I would also note that most european countries have not yet condemned the kidnapping of several Pakistani labourers in Iraq. Using Sebastian’s logic, we should suppose that this means that European governments support these kidnappings and, as Martin indicates, it shows their pretended humanitarianism as a hypocritical sham.
    .

  6. “Perhaps the most damaging effect of 9/11 and all that has followed will be its role in making divided loyalties one of the most dangerous things a person can have. From the beginning, while the ruins of the World Trade Center were still burning, any effort to hold non-trivial positions about terrorism and Islam were attacked. People opposed to the war in Iraq were branded as terrorist supporters, people unimpressed by a programme of reform in the Middle East imposed at the end of a gun were castigated, people who asked questions about whether there was more to things than ?they hate us for our freedom? were branded as traitors.”

    Your opening paragraph is offensive. Correct me if I’m wrong but you’re basically accusing supporters of the War on Terror of McCarthyist tactics.

    Not only is that ignorant of the facts(as if I haven’t been deluged by 2 years worth of loud, vocal dissent ranging from well-reasoned arguments to Michael Moore), but it’s hypocritical. You’re using scare tactics yourself in your accusations.

    And I have to ask; who are you talking about when you say “divided loyalties”? Are there people who are torn between their love for the Taliban, Saddam Hussein or Al Qaeda, and their love for Western civilization, the U.S. or the U.K.? Maybe I’m stupid but I doubt that’s what you mean.

    So, what are you talking about?

  7. Well, I’m yet another Yank who unconditionally approves of Mr Marten’s essay. Felix, I humbly submit John Ashcroft, Attorney General. “..To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve” (CNN).

    I would volunteer a few examples: when people suggested that terrorists had sympathy in overseas populations BECAUSE of bad policy decisions of our government, they were accused of hating America. I remember that Felix, and I have no divided loyalties. OTOH, I have some dear friends who were torn; they detested the Taliban and Ba’thism (the ones who were from Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively), and no, they had no loyalty to those people. But they also were mortified to see their own people demonized and bombed. They could only feel anguish when that’s what followed.

    Divided loyalty is a concept different from what you think: there’s probably no one who loves the USA and al-Qaeda, and not many who loved Ba’thism and their American neighbors. But loyalty to another country, or another community, or citizenship in the world (as opposed to citizen set at odds with the rest of the world), tends to make one much more conscious of the costs American security goals nflict on the rest of the world. The determination of our elected leaders to eradicate for all time any possible power that could threaten the USA may seem to a “100% American” like mere prudence, but to someone who identifies with both Americans and non-Americans, this is a strategy of criminalization of the latter.

    Does this make any sense at all? Seriously, if not, please say why not and I’ll give it another go. Or perhaps someone else who agrees with Mr Martens as vehemently as I do can do a better job.

  8. Scott, I think you are over-reaching with the divided loyalties issue here. ‘Universalist’ is an aspect of your (moral) worldview; i.e., you are universalist if your moral considerations treat all humans equal or you are looking for the good of groups of humans involved with equal weight. And in a later Haaretz piece, Ramadan explicitely names universalism a trait of Judaism, so you can’t say his charge is about loyalties divided between Judaism and Enlightement ideals.

    The charge of abadoning it, to me, implies Ramadan is alarmed about the contrary of your point (but underlining your main point about the uneasy position of divided loyalties): that here are the intellectuals Ramadan used to point to when criticising Muslim anti-semites, i.e. “it cannot be true all Jews are agents of Israel, just read what these Jews say”, and now his fundie detractors can quote some of these intellectuals on the Iraq war as beneficiary to Israel (f.e. by advocating a road to I/P ‘settlement’ through Baghdad).

    A minor point: I do think a charge someone that his/her politics are a product of their faith can (can) be correct (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – see Gandhi): faith is (also) about a worldview. What is not right is to level the same charge based on one’s descent.

    Finally, I relativise my previous points: for I didn’t read Ramadan’s original article (I only speak a few words French), nor do I know much about the arguments and composition of pro-Iraq-war people in France, my arguments are based on second-hand info. So f.e. if the pro-war arguments involving Israel were as common from non-Jews as they were in the USA (where, after all, the dominant pro-Likud lobby is not AIPAC but the Christian [Far] Right), I’ll accept your criticism of Ramadan is right, he shouldn’t have inferred (only) communalist thinking behind the pro-war arguments.

  9. “Felix, I humbly submit John Ashcroft, Attorney General. “..To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve” (CNN).”

    The full quote from John Ashcroft is this:

    “To those who pit Americans against immigrants, citizens against non-citizens, to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve,” Ashcroft told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “They give ammunition to America’s enemies and pause to America’s friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil.”

    He has a point, which I wish more people listened to. He’s not having people “branded as terrorist supporters” which I assume is your issue here, he’s pointing out the pitfalls of irresponsible dissent(…”scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty”…).

    There are many legitimate arguments that can be made against U.S. military actions in the war on terror. There are also legitimate arguments that can be made against people dissenting against the war on terror, and Ashcroft pointed out one. That’s all.

    While most of America respects the right of people to dissent, dissenters aren’t given a free pass from criticism when it’s warranted. I think Mr. Ashcrofts remarks were well suited to counter the arguments Mr. Martens made at the beginning of this post. If you feel that Mr. Ashcroft crossed the line, then I’m afraid I don’t agree.

    If I understand your interpretation of divided loyalties correctly you’re saying there may be people who agree generally with U.S. intentions, but not necessarily with our specific actions and that these same people don’t have the same trust in the U.S. government that a natural U.S. citizen does and so are unwilling/unable to accept U.S. policy at face value.

    I can understand, and even agree with that. However, that implies that the differences are just over how the U.S. took action ie; specific U.S. policy.

    Honestly, is that the case you are making? I ask because that’s not the way I read the situation. It seems to me that most people agree with the actions that have occurred, but they are not happy that it was the U.S. that did it. Example that I hear a lot(paraphrasing): “We’re glad Saddam is gone, but we don’t agree with the invasion.” That’s called having your cake and eating it too. If you don’t agree with the invasion, then by extension you believe Saddam should still be in power. On the flip side, how can you be glad Saddam is out of power but not support the only way he was going to be removed from power(he wasn’t going to abdicate)? To me the paradox is resolved if a 3rd alternative is introduced: someone else kicks Saddam out of power. It’s the only possibility that makes sense, but it implies that the differences aren’t over how America acted but that it was America and not someone else who took action.

  10. FelixUSA: “Your opening paragraph is offensive. Correct me if I’m wrong but you’re basically accusing supporters of the War on Terror of McCarthyist tactics.”

    You are employing those tactics yourself in your strawman- and general accusation-filled post above. James dealed with your hyperbole on divided loyalties; as for the ‘deluge’ of dissent you hypocritically claim, a FAIR study of sevel US TV news channels during the war found that

    “of 1,617 on-camera sources … 63% of all sources were current and former government employees … U.S. sources comprised 76% of the total. 64% of all sources, and 71% of U.S. sources, supported the war. 10% of all sources were opposed to the war, but only 3% of U.S. sources did so. The latter finding contrasts with polls that found 27% of U.S. citizens opposed the war.”

    …and notes that anti-war sources

    “were almost universally allowed one-sentence soundbites taken from interviews conducted on the street. Not a single show in the study conducted a sit-down interview with a person identified as being against the war.”

  11. The point about the hostage takers is not that they were committing a banal crime, but that they were doing it in the name of Islam. When they turned the beheading of Nick Berg and the execution of the Nepalis into a religious ritual by chanting religious slogans, then there is indeed a special need for the high and powerful representatives of that religion to express their shock and disgust and to separate themselves from that degradation of their religion. After all, surely every true muslim ought to consider that chanting God’s name during a beheading is the ultimate blasphemy – even more obscene than, say, writing a novel disrespectful of the Prophets? Well, as we have seen lately, apparently not.

  12. If you don’t agree with the invasion, then by extension you believe Saddam should still be in power.

    What an amazing piece of logic. What about if you don’t agree with the cost of the invasion in terms of human life and international stability because it is, as predicted, far greater than leaving Saddam under pressure until a better alternative presented itself. Just like American policy in North Korea, Iran, Sudan and other places, some more of a threat than Iraq some simply more tyranical.

    Scott: Perhaps the most damaging effect of 9/11 and all that has followed will be its role in making divided loyalties one of the most dangerous things a person can have.

    FelixUSA: …but it’s hypocritical. You’re using scare tactics yourself in your accusations.

    Bush said it best: You are either with us or against us. Be careful with the hypocracy charge.

  13. “What an amazing piece of logic. What about if you don’t agree with the cost of the invasion in terms of human life and international stability because it is, as predicted, far greater than leaving Saddam under pressure until a better alternative presented itself.”

    A better alternative as in… what? Considering the lengths Saddam was willing to go to in order to stay in power, I don’t see how you can claim any alternative would have ever existed.

    It’s much easier to argue that if Saddam’s regime ever weakened, he would have just slaughtered his Iraqi opposition until he was comfortable again.

  14. That’s your opinion. Removing Saddam from power and helping Iraqi’s establish a democracy was the best option for the U.S. and for the Iraqi people, and “doing nothing” wasn’t going to accomplish that.

  15. Mr Martens,

    To whom is this article addressed? And watch your damaging stereotypes. You miss the point dramatically… for instance you state…

    From the beginning, while the ruins of the World Trade Center were still burning, any effort to hold non-trivial positions about terrorism and Islam were attacked

    I suppose you mean American’s are incapable of having intelligent discussion on such a sensitive topic? Yet, in the days and weeks after 9/11, it is well recorded that bookstores everywhere, even online, sold out of just about every Islamic text imaginable. Why? Because American’s wanted to have an intelligent discourse, and so sought out what they could. Where you get your ideas, I have no idea…

    People opposed to the war in Iraq were branded as terrorist supporters, people unimpressed by a programme of reform in the Middle East imposed at the end of a gun were castigated, people who asked questions about whether there was more to things than ?they hate us for our freedom? were branded as traitors.

    I have never seen this, and I now live in the states. Don’t drink your own bathwater, most people in the states did not associate Al Queda with Iraq. And I did not believe for one moment the reasons put forth by the Bush administration for the war. Yet no one, not one person, said or implied that I was a “traitor”.

    I suggest, scott, that you come to America and talk to people, rather than just write your bile filled drivel. The people here aren’t as dumb as you’d think. But I know, that image isn’t popular where you come from.

    As far as AFOE, they would do well to find a writer who speaks from experience and intellect, rather than emotion and bigotry.

    Regards.

  16. Felix,

    1) You (or rather, your army – you can talk in first person plural when you join it, until then it is chickenhawk talk) didn’t just ‘remove Saddam’. Your army also removed the lifes of tens of thousands of people in the process, while ruining the remaining basic infrastructure, and polluting the country for generations with DU and poisonous stuff from bombed industries.

    2) Your army didn’t just remove all these things, it replaced it with other things: Saddam with Allawi, a former bomber for the CIA, before that former assassin for Saddam, and a government made up of Islamic fundamentalists, former Baathists and communists. The torturing police with – the torturing police. The Fedayeen with lots of cruel fundy militias (not just the Mahdi and resistance cells, but the Peshmergas and the Badr Corps etc. too). State repression with uncontrolled crime (kidnappings of much more Iraqis than foreigners, vendettas, terrorists). And so on.

    3) No, your government doesn’t bring democracy to Iraq. Paul Bremer stopped the only move toward democracy your government ever started, the project of local elections. Instead, Bremer and his successors selected people into bodies that are bound by American rules and can be dismissed at will by American commanders. Of course it makes sense: after all, if polls conducted by Bremer’s CPA, your own representants in Iraq, show that over 90% of Iraqis don’t want US permanent bases and don’t want foreign ownership of the economy, your government won’t let an Iraqi government happen that represents Iraq’s people’s will.

  17. I have never seen this, and I now live in the states. Don’t drink your own bathwater, most people in the states did not associate Al Queda with Iraq.

    It’s good to know that the opinion polls were lying…

    Seriously, nearly all the Americans I’ve met in recent years have been as you describe. But it’s easy, and foolish, to make the mistake of assuming that Americans in New York and San Francisco are representative of Americans elsewhere. They aren’t.

  18. Felix: “Considering the lengths Saddam was willing to go to in order to stay in power”

    Yeah, let’s consider that!

    When did he start his clandestine nuclear program? According to info now aviable, actually after Israel bombed Iraq’s civilian research reactor, as a deterrent: he was fearing further attacks.

    When did he wager to start his genocidal campaign to re-gain territories ruled by Kurdish militias? After the Iraq-Iran war was over, and when he could be sure the US will be silently supportive – i.e. the US vetoed a UN Security Council vote that would have denounced Iraq for Halabja, ‘leaked’ flunky intel reports that blamed Halabja on Iran, and continued to send credits.

    When did he wager to attack and brazenly conquer (non-democratic) Kuweit on charges of slant-drilling? After asking the US ambassador, who famously answered with words implicating the US would not intervene.

    When did he wager to crush the 1991 Shi’a rebellion (a rebellion led by militias similar to, and including current members of the Mahdi Army)? After he was sure the US will leave and wants him to stay in place, and won’t intervene from the air.

    When did he use his WMD arsenal against the US? Never. In fact, today we know (and those who believed what his defected, later murdered son-in-law told in 1995) fearing the consequences if inspectors find it (and hoping inspectors don’t discover their once existence and the programs), he ordered them destroyed all.

    What happened when he threatened in the early nineties to not let UN inspectors in as long as the US bombs him in the no-fly zones that were NOT UN-approved? He was a coward and let them in, and didn’t throw them out amid continuing bombardements.

    What happened when Saddam discovered the military coup plot the CIA organized with current puppet PM Allawi’s help? He executed the coup participants, but didn’t dare to retaliate on the US or even to send away UNSCOM.

    What happened when the US got the UN to demand the inspectors’ entry into Saddam’s palaces end-of-1997, and Saddam said “never”? He let them in in early 1998, and the CIA moles among the inspectors installed the homing-in devices for the Desert Fox bombs as planned. (This was all across NYT, WaPo et all, Rumsfeld hinted at it as phony excuse when the USA sabotaged an international bioweapons treaty in 2001, the UN had to change its rules of selecting inspectors – funny everyone forgot it by autumn 2002.)

    What happened when in July 1998 Albright uttered the first provocation designed to get them Desert Fox (given that the end of sanctions is named in the UN resolutions as the basis for Iraq’s cooperation with inspections, along with regional disarmament that never happened), saying US sanctions will only end if there regime change? Well, nothing.

    What happened when the US reinforced the previous with a September 1998 UN veto, and Saddam issued a declaration that “Iraq has no more reasons to cooperate with UNSCOM”? Well, again nothing, except for Saddam withdrawing even this declaration; UNSCOM continued its work. Clinton had to switch to ‘Plan B’, using a few rather insignificant problems mentioned in the next UNSCOM report at the UN SC as casus belli, a regime change attempt that was an utter failure. It only brought further carnage, the ‘precison’ of which you can guess from the fact that the US told UN inspectors to leave for their own safety; and gave Saddam the perfect excuse (because true) t not let the inspectos back in. (Another thing reported widely but forgotten by 2002.)

    But what happened to Saddam’s bold declarations to never to let back the “agents-of-the-USA” UN inspectors? He let them back in 2002, when Bliar convinced Bush to demand it before invading.

    What happened to Saddam’s steadfast refusal to ‘reveal military secrets’? He delivered a complete account of his WMD programs, on time. (The US didn’t believe it was, but its claims of missing stuff proved to be typos, misreadings, and fabrications; and nothing was found ever since.)

    What happened to Saddam’s insistence to have a minder with interviewed scientists? He steadily climbed down, with UNMOVIC conducting confidential interviews by March 2003. The same with every other drawing-of-feet a few months before.

    What happened when UNMOVIC demanded the scrapping of one of Iraq’s few defenses, a rocket that urpassed 150 miles in tests only without warhead, and Saddam loudly protested? He complied and destroyed most of it when the invasion started.

    IN fact, Saddam wanted to stay in power so much that he sent an message to the US on his own, offering entry for CIA inspectors with an army to defend it, military cooperation, bases and his oil.

    The conclusion is obvious, and contrary to your and your government’s propaganda: Saddam is a coward. He is a coward, and to keep himself in power, he would protest loudly but then allow himself to be forced into accepting any demands. Had your government really cared for human rights, it could have supported the Franco-German proposal of forcing Iraq to accept human rights inspectors, too. (Yes, “doing nothing” was never what the anti-war side proposed.)

  19. Martin Adamson: “When they turned the beheading of Nick Berg and the execution of the Nepalis into a religious ritual by chanting religious slogans, then there is indeed a special need for the high and powerful representatives of that religion to express their shock and disgust and to separate themselves from that degradation of their religion”

    Which happened, only the Western media ignored most of it or just summarized them all in one general sentence. You should read Juan Cole, who regularly quotes from (or better, translated from) Arabic newspapers, I recall several denouncements from clergy. (You would have a better argument about widespread Islamic hypocrisy with Salman Rushdie – fifteen years ago even most moderates preferred to talk about ‘how he insulted our religion’, which beyond being no excuse for co-religionists’ death threats, makes clear they never read ‘Satanic Verses’ themselves but accepted the fundies’ claims. Then again, you could make analogous arguments in connection with most major religions.)

  20. “When did he start his clandestine nuclear program? According to info now aviable, actually after Israel bombed Iraq’s civilian research reactor, as a deterrent: he was fearing further attacks.”

    Chuckle. That was because before Israel bombed the reactor he had an open nuclear program which could not be used for making electricity.

  21. DoDo,

    “You (or rather, your army – you can talk in first person plural when you join it, until then it is chickenhawk talk)…”

    I’ll try to remember that when I refer to the U.S. military. Since I never referred to that organization until now, your accusation against me is baseless.

    Reading the rest of your rants, baseless accusations appears to be the least of your shortcomings.

    I was going to fisk through your posts, but it’s just too tiring to counter the ever-present litany of false charges against the U.S. that, too often, is the only argument made by opponents of the Iraq invasion. I’m not going to do it anymore.

    Look, if in your part of the world you can solve every problem and remove every wrong by spewing a long tirade of recriminations against the U.S., then great. The U.S. is glad they could be your panacea. Obviously though, the U.S. has a different method for problem-solving.

    The U.S. had already fought one war against Iraqi aggression and spent 12 years haggling with Saddam over whether he would honor the peace agreements resulting from that war, all while his military fired on U.S. forces who were trying to ensure compliance. Any new agreements, like the ones you suggested, would rely SOLELY on the U.S. to FORCE Saddam to comply, and after 9/11 the U.S. was unwilling to accept responsibility for Saddam’s compliance.

    So sure, blame the U.S. for the invasion. We ran out of patience, we’re war-mongerers, we wanted his oil, we hate Islam, we’re cowboys, whatever.

    Don’t, however, blame the outcome on a man who invaded Iran and Kuwait, fired Scuds at Israel, threatened Saudi Arabia, used chemical weapons on enemy troops and his own civilians, harbored terrorists like Abu Nidal and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, paid bounties to the families of homicide bombers in Palestine, tortured, raped and massacred his own citizens and who never, ever complied with his agreements with the U.S.

    After all, we have to remember who the real perpetrators are. Don’t we DoDo?

  22. Removing Saddam from power and helping Iraqi’s establish a democracy was the best option for the U.S. and for the Iraqi people, and “doing nothing” wasn’t going to accomplish that.

    Unfortunately, we’ll never know…

  23. Felix,

    1) I must have mixed up something. I apologise for that part about “you” and the US Army, you indeed didn’t use first person plural.

    2) I don’t apologise for the ‘rest of my rant’, which wasn’t a rant but two separate series of facts about recent Iraq and of historical facts where you had to spot a pattern about Saddam, not about the US. If you think any of those is false, name just one, I have my sources.

    3) I haven’t blamed Saddam’s crimes on the US. I explained Saddam is a coward, and how this points to how he could have been dealt with, if rhetoric had been real intentions. I even wrote it in bold to awoid such a derailment (tough not paying attention to what I wrote is fitting punishment for my own not paying attention re: first person plural). That US complicity in his crimes, OR US policies aimed at his disposal that were hypocritical, and counterproductive because failing, must be revealed to expose these facts, is secondary – but necessary, because the self-justifying rhetoric and distortions of history from the responsible governments is what shrouds the pattern about Saddam before many Americans’ eyes.

    4) Saddam didn’t harbor Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Ansar-e-Islam did, in the Kurdish territories, under the US-imposed no-fly zone. Your government could have bombed them out with the help of allied Peshmergas, had the real War On Terror been of more interest to them than to score a false rhetorical point for the Iraq war (one you bought).

    5) On the other hand, Abu Nidal is another evidence to support my point about Saddam the coward rather than unpredictable danger to the West: for instead of using him, he feared military reprisal enough to force Abu Nidal to stop his terrorist activity two decades ago, and had him killed in 2002.

    6) The US shouldn’t have been ‘haggling’, that was the job of the UN, the US only interfered with negative effect (the sorry story of Operation Desert Fox, detailed in my previous post). No, it wasn’t the US that fought a war against Iraq, it was an international coalition approved by the UN SC. Consequently, it was this coalition that made a peace agreement, not the USA; and it was the UN SC that was named as overseer of Iraq’s compliance, AND as the body entrusted with making decisions, not the USA.

    7) You haven’t named ONE serious violation by Iraq, much less one posing a danger to the USA. (And even if you could, I repeat, it would have been the UN SC’s right to decide what to do, not Bush’s.)

    8) US warplanes bombing Iraq weren’t ‘ensuring compliance’, the UN inspectors were. As I said, the no-fly zones were NOT sanctioned by the UN, and they were not justified with the 1991 peace agreement, but with the security of the Shi’a and Kurdish populations. Trouble was that central Shi’a areas like Najaf, and half of the Kurdish areas were not under the no-fly zones, while Northern Sunni Arab regions were. So it was more of a force projection issue, that could be sold as making up for allowing Saddam to slaughter Shi’a and Kurd earlier.

  24. “After all, we have to remember who the real perpetrators are.”

    And we have to not forget about their enablers, suppliers, creditors, and official apologists too. Don’t we Felix?

  25. “before Israel bombed the reactor he had an open nuclear program which could not be used for making electricity.”

    A research reactor obviously can’t be used for making electricity. A research reactor is for learning to handle fissile materials and the technology, plus production for medical applications. (I know, I was in one. You could bomb most European countries for having research reactors.) As you say, it was open. However, it could be that the above weak logic was really behind the Israeli attack, i.e. after the Mossad failed to predict the Yom Kippur war, there was a thinking of – echoing Felix – “not taking chances”, which as usual resulted in counterproductive preventive action.

    What one can learn from documents and interviews is that while a nuclear arms program was considered at times; the decision to start, and the special attention in making it clandestine, came just after and in response to the Israeli attack. (Sidenote to Felix; Ambassador April Glaspie’s fateful words not only made Saddam think that the USA will tolerate his planned war, but in its consequences also made sure Iraq is no nuclear power today.)

  26. When did I ever say “not taking chances”? That’s the second time you’ve lied about something I said. Seriously, if you can’t argue your position on it’s merits then stop arguing, but stop making up quotes and attributing them to me.

    “2) I don’t apologise for the ‘rest of my rant’, which wasn’t a rant but two separate series of facts about recent Iraq and of historical facts where you had to spot a pattern about Saddam, not about the US. If you think any of those is false, name just one, I have my sources.”

    I think you data-mined the history of a madman for pieces of information that suit your pre-conceived notions regarding either Saddam or the U.S. It’s an especially weak argument style and I’m not going to swap Saddam parsings with you ad nauseum.

    You’re the guy defending Saddam, defend all of him instead of ignoring the information that doesn’t support your contentions.

    “3) I haven’t blamed Saddam’s crimes on the US. I explained Saddam is a coward, and how this points to how he could have been dealt with, if rhetoric had been real intentions. I even wrote it in bold to awoid such a derailment (tough not paying attention to what I wrote is fitting punishment for my own not paying attention re: first person plural).”

    Let’s look at that, since you accuse me of not reading your posts.

    Here’s you:

    “When did he wager to start his genocidal campaign to re-gain territories ruled by Kurdish militias? After the Iraq-Iran war was over, and when he could be sure the US will be silently supportive – i.e. the US vetoed a UN Security Council vote that would have denounced Iraq for Halabja, ‘leaked’ flunky intel reports that blamed Halabja on Iran, and continued to send credits.”

    So Saddam wouldn’t have slaughtered Kurds if it weren’t for U.S. “silent support” according to you. But wait, it get’s better:

    “When did he wager to attack and brazenly conquer (non-democratic) Kuweit on charges of slant-drilling? After asking the US ambassador, who famously answered with words implicating the US would not intervene.”

    “When did he wager to crush the 1991 Shi’a rebellion (a rebellion led by militias similar to, and including current members of the Mahdi Army)? After he was sure the US will leave and wants him to stay in place, and won’t intervene from the air.”

    Yeah, I don’t see how anyone could think you were blaming the U.S. for any of these actions.

    “That US complicity in his crimes, OR US policies aimed at his disposal that were hypocritical, and counterproductive because failing, must be revealed to expose these facts, is secondary – but necessary, because the self-justifying rhetoric and distortions of history from the responsible governments is what shrouds the pattern about Saddam before many Americans’ eyes.”

    The only thing that “shrouds the pattern” is apologists like you, who blame every action Saddam makes on anyone but Saddam. Who cares what the U.S. positions were? Saddam was the guy who did all this, and he did it for his own reasons. He alone bears the responsibility. And if he won’t voluntarily stop, then removing him is the only way to fix it.

    “4) Saddam didn’t harbor Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Ansar-e-Islam did, in the Kurdish territories, under the US-imposed no-fly zone.”

    Wrong. Saddams own doctor worked on al-Zarqawi’s leg in Baghdad. He visited Ansar-al-Islam camps too, but that’s ancillary to the fact that Saddam aided him and provided sanctuary.

    “Your government could have bombed them out with the help of allied Peshmergas, had the real War On Terror been of more interest to them than to score a false rhetorical point for the Iraq war (one you bought).”

    Heh. So the U.S. is to blame for both interfering too much and not interfering enough in Iraq? Also, the invasion of Iraq removed the Ansar-al-Islam camps in Iraq.

    “5) On the other hand, Abu Nidal is another evidence to support my point about Saddam the coward rather than unpredictable danger to the West: for instead of using him, he feared military reprisal enough to force Abu Nidal to stop his terrorist activity two decades ago, and had him killed in 2002.”

    Or another way of putting it is that he provided sanctuary to a wanted terrorist and then killed the terrorist just before he was invaded as either a last ditch attempt to placate the U.S. or to get rid of evidence against himself.

    “6) The US shouldn’t have been ‘haggling’, that was the job of the UN, the US only interfered with negative effect (the sorry story of Operation Desert Fox, detailed in my previous post). No, it wasn’t the US that fought a war against Iraq, it was an international coalition approved by the UN SC.”

    The U.S. brought the matter to the U.N., built and led a multi-national coalition and supplied most of the troops and materiel used in the war. You have to be completely ignorant to claim the U.N., not the U.S., was responsible for the outcome of the first gulf war.

    “Consequently, it was this coalition that made a peace agreement, not the USA; and it was the UN SC that was named as overseer of Iraq’s compliance, AND as the body entrusted with making decisions, not the USA.”

    The U.N. was to oversee some of Iraq’s compliance, but there were other agreements as well like the Safwan Accords. The U.N. failed spectacularly to follow through with seeing that Iraq complied, and was even found to have been involved in corrupt dealings with Iraq.

    “7) You haven’t named ONE serious violation by Iraq, much less one posing a danger to the USA. (And even if you could, I repeat, it would have been the UN SC’s right to decide what to do, not Bush’s.)”

    I didn’t think you were going to be so obtuse as to claim Iraq wasn’t brekaing agreements. U.N. resolution 1441, since you’re so enamored of that body.

    And the U.S. certainly did have the authority to act against Iraq, even more authority than the U.N. under international law. The U.S. is actually an aggrieved nation since Iraq willfully and continually broke cease-fire and peace agreements made with the U.S.

    “8) US warplanes bombing Iraq weren’t ‘ensuring compliance’, the UN inspectors were. As I said, the no-fly zones were NOT sanctioned by the UN, and they were not justified with the 1991 peace agreement, but with the security of the Shi’a and Kurdish populations.”

    Your hang-up with the U.N. is annoying. Surely you understand that not every international agreement involves the U.N.? The no-fly zones were agreed to by Iraq in the Safwan Accords.

    “Trouble was that central Shi’a areas like Najaf, and half of the Kurdish areas were not under the no-fly zones, while Northern Sunni Arab regions were. So it was more of a force projection issue, that could be sold as making up for allowing Saddam to slaughter Shi’a and Kurd earlier.”

    “allowing Saddam to slaughter”? Do you ever hold Saddam himself responsible for his actions? It’s pure hypocrisy to turn a blind eye to Saddam’s atrocities while at the same time holding the U.S. responsible for the actions of other countries(including Saddam).

    “And we have to not forget about their enablers, suppliers, creditors, and official apologists too.”

    How can I forget you, DoDo? Your apologies, arguments and evasions on behalf of Saddam are right in front of my eyes.

    If you meant the U.S., all I can tell you is that the U.S. has dealings with every nation in the world. Russia and France were Saddam’s biggest suppliers, the U.S. only had a few dealings with him when he was at war with Iran.

  27. Felix: “When did I ever say “not taking chances”?”

    I was paraphrasing. I interpreted the following as not taking chances:

    Any new agreements, like the ones you suggested, would rely SOLELY on the U.S. to FORCE Saddam to comply, and after 9/11 the U.S. was unwilling to accept responsibility for Saddam’s compliance.

    I won’t deal with your slur about me being an apologist for Saddam, whereas I repeatedly stated what are Saddam’s crimes and what is my intention in bringing up these historical events – you still attempt to shift focus from the question of how to deal with Saddam to the question of who is to blame. However, I will point out regarding the Soviet and French weapons exports to Saddam, that you forgot about the revelations in Iraqgate.

    On one hand, Iraq bought those weapons from dead credits given by the USA, on the other hand, the Reagan government played the role of organiser for weapons trade. (This beyond giving both tactical and strategical advice.) In effect, the Soviets and the French (and the Germans, the British, the Czech, the Egyptians) acted as subcontractors to the USA.

    You should read this 1995 Iraqgate testimony from Howard Teicher, an 1982-97 staff member of the US National Security Council: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article1413.htm You’ll learn, for example, that the very RPGs (in the text as “anti-armor penetrators”) now used against US troops got their way into Iraq at the initiative of CIA head Casey or someone higher; or that there was a program called “Bear Spares” to delivder Soviet-style weaponry to allies, and the most ironic of them all: Israel’s offer of help to Saddam with weapons, delivered by Donald Rumsfeld, but refused by Tariq Aziz.

    (Of course, this doesn’t excuse the Mitterrand, Thatcher, Kohl etc. governments at the time of joining the effort, on the other hand, you don’t find the actors from that time in the current governments of said countries, as you find them in the Bush government.)

  28. You are a Saddam apologist. You haven’t said once that Saddam is responsible for any crime he committed. Instead you have played up every instance of U.S. involvement as the “real reason” these atrocities were committed, while claiming Saddam was a “coward” who was only free to act when the evil U.S. let him.

    I’m surprised you haven’t thrown out some Zionist conspiracy theories for good measure…

    Saddam, and Saddam only was responsible for his actions. He broke almost every humanitarian convention and international law on the books, usually several times, and was going to do so again if given the chance.

    The second coalition was right to invade, remove him from power and attempt to establish a democracy in Iraq.

  29. mr. FelixUSA, there is no humanitarian convention that the USA is not willing to break. As long as he is hard on the poors and soft on the rich, there is no evil strong man that the USA is not willing to back.

    DSW

  30. Tough Felix keeps shifting the focus from Saddam to the USA, by chosing to read my words to indicate I blame Saddam’s actions on Iraq, even when his reading directly contradicts what he quotes from me; and upped his denial of my line of historical facts on Saddam’s behavior without specific counter-arguments (after I wrote I have my sources) by accusing me of cherry-picking, again not going into specifics on anything I may have left out, his responses to my points 4)-8) merit some discussion.

    Felix, your contention that Saddam’s own doctor treated Zarqawi’s leg amuses me – do you have a source? The only claim by the US government going specific about a hospital treatment was of a leg amputation in Baghdad in 2001, which doesn’t hold water now – given that Zarqawi still has both legs (as evidenced by the Nic Berg beheading video, and acknowledged by US intelligence officials talking to the NYT, see July 13 2004 issue).

    It is also worth to note that to this day no evidence turned up proving that Iraqi intelligence identified or tracked Zarqawi, even tough the USA seized Iraq’s official documents (discrediting far-reaching conclusions by US officials from the fact that Jordan told Iraq Zarqawi is there). That there was no Saddam-Zharkawi connection is also supported by the conclusions of British (an early 2003 report predicting Zarqawi’s group al-Tawhid’s post-invasion bombings) and German (investigation after a dozen members of an al-Tawhid cell were arrested) intelligence. (BTW, on just how baseless some of the US intel on Zarqawi was, it is worth to note that both the Spanish and Italian ‘poison cell’ cited by Powell at the UN as known parts of the Zarqawi network had to be freed, after it became obvious the arrested work in cleaning and their ‘poison’ was cleaning chemicals and spices.)

    You possibly understood very well that the legality of the attack on Ansar was not the issue, but its timing – it was not part of the attack on Saddam, but the timing was chosen to coincide for rhetorical means – allowing free rein for some time to terrorise Kurds under a no-fly zone supposedly established to defend the Kurds, and thus allowing for its members to take heed and foresee when the bombs will come, and flee to Iran, and later to return. (Besides, the attack on Ansar involved no further legal violations beyond those already committed by sustaining the Northern no-fly zone.)

    You don’t contradict me at all on Abu Nidal, but looking for apologetics where there is none, miss the point again.

    Just because the USA was the organiser and largest participant in the 1990/91 Coalition, it does not have authority to decide alone. (Athens as the big boy in the Delosian Alliance thought like you, and as a result ended up losing the Pelloponesian War against Sparta and its allies.)

    Also, the Safwan Accords was not between Iraq and the USA, but between Iraq and the Coalition, acting not on its own but under the authority of UN Resolution 678 – and they were superceded by UN Resolution 687 (which the US voted for, hence agreed to) – see its last two points (33, 34, in the latter: “Decides to remain seized of the matter”).

    “U.N. resolution 1441”

    You don’t name what part of 1441 Iraq is supposed to have broken – any WMDs found?… I also note that 1441 specifically listed earlier resolutions that are kept up, including 1284, which established UNMOVIC – and this one prescribes the three months Blix demanded, three months of inspections from after he presented UNMOVIC’s work plan (something Blix did a few days prior to the war) – hence 1441 was seriously breached by the USA and its three fighting allies (UK, Australia, Poland). As detailed in the post you fail to address with specifics, Saddam feared an invasion enough to comply.

    “the U.S. certainly did have the authority to act against Iraq”

    You forgot to name a legal basis for the above assertion (especially one superceding the argument that it is the UN SC that is entrusted with this authority), or to name a serious, and of course recent and pressing, violation by Iraq. (It doesn’t make sense to invade for violations like not telling UNSCOM about weapons and weapons programs which UNSCOM later found and destroyed.)

    “The no-fly zones were agreed to by Iraq in the Safwan Accords.”

    That is not true, altough the Clinton administration tried to use it as reverse justification. At the negotiations for the Safwan Accords Norman Schwarzkopf declared that the US will shoot down any Iraqi plane taking off, but the agreement permitted helicopters (which were used in the slaughter of the Shi’a rebels). The Safwan Accords and UN SC Res. 678 were superceded by UN SC Res. 687 a month later (April 3). The no-fly zones were established unilaterally by the US, Britain and France only on 10 April 1991 (Northern) and 26 August 1992 (Southern), and Clinton extended the Southern one on his own 3 September 1996 (that was when France withdrew).

    “It’s pure hypocrisy to turn a blind eye to Saddam’s atrocities”

    Exactly. And that’s what the Coalition military was doing. Remember, when this happened, in March 1991, the troops were still deployed and planes patrolled over Iraq – and observed it all from above, holding to the terms of the peace agreement. The US government, along with all others at the UN SC who also let it happen, neither saw it fit to seek authorisation for the use of force from the UN (only a vague denouncement was approved, Resolution 688, too late, on in 5 April) nor did they chose to act on their own in this instance, only after-the-fact (above mentioned no-fly zones).

  31. Felix, your strawmen get tiresome with repetition – as for the latest slur:

    “I’m surprised you haven’t thrown out some Zionist conspiracy theories for good measure…”

    I’m grateful that, at least, you haven’t called I the story about the Israeli help offered to Saddam through Rumsfeld in a sworn Iraqgate testimony by a former US official involved in the matters (held under seal by the US District Court, Southern District of Florida) a ‘Zionist conspiracy’ 🙂

  32. “mr. FelixUSA, there is no humanitarian convention that the USA is not willing to break. As long as he is hard on the poors and soft on the rich, there is no evil strong man that the USA is not willing to back.”

    Musharraf is a military dictator operating a ruthless police state, and he really has nukes and really supported active terrorists operating in other countries.

    Karimow also operates a ruthless police state, whose methods reportedly include boiling people alive, and the situation significantly worsened after he gave military bases to the US, when he clamped down on opposition using the War On Terror as excuse.

    (On the other hand, as I argued elsewhere on AFoE, Schr?der’s and Berlusconi’s approval for what Putin’s troops do under the veil of his war on terror, or Putin’s clampdown on the press, is equally apalling.)

  33. “Tough Felix keeps shifting the focus from Saddam to the USA, by chosing to read my words to indicate I blame Saddam’s actions on Iraq, even when his reading directly contradicts what he quotes from me; and upped his denial of my line of historical facts on Saddam’s behavior without specific counter-arguments…”

    That’s because your historical facts are worthless for debating whether or not Saddam was going to comply with his own peace and cease-fire agreements. He wasn’t, and you’re guilty of the same poor judgement as the some elements in the U.N.

    That judgement allowed Saddam to turn U.N. resolutions against him into a diplomatic shield he could use to fend off attempts to make him reform or even live up to past agreements. In the end, the U.N. was DEFENDING Saddam against his critics over the SAME ARTICLES the U.N. STILL FOUND Saddam GUILTY OF.

    I’m going to say that again because you’re not getting it: The U.N. was now defending Saddam over the same actions the U.N. themselves had been condemning for 11 years AND STILL FOUND SADDAM DOING.

    In resolution 1441(2002) alone, the U.N. found Saddam in breach of several U.N. resolutions including; failing to disclose WMD and ballistic missile programs, failing to cooperate with weapons inspectors, supporting terrorism, repressing his civilian population and not cooperating with human rights organizations, not cooperating in returning Kuwaiti’s and Kuwaiti property seized by Iraq. AND THEN THEY DEFENDED HIM FROM U.S.-SPONSORED RESOLUTIONS THAT WOULD HAVE FORCED SADDAM TO COMPLY.

    The U.N. resolutions were ultimately worthless. They couldn’t be enforced and they ended up giving Saddam diplomatic cover to do as he pleased with whomever he pleased. And you’re still fighting that battle for him.

    Alternatively, the coalition comprised mainly of U.S. and British troops were able to do succeed where U.N. resolutions failed, as well as freeing Iraq and putting Saddam in jail where he belongs. All your second-guessing doesn’t change any of that.

  34. “Musharraf is a military dictator operating a ruthless police state, and he really has nukes and really supported active terrorists operating in other countries.”

    What does that have to do with Saddam’s 12 year record of failure to comply with peace agreements? Oh right, nothing but it does cast doubt on U.S. intentions because the U.S. works with some bad apples when it has to.

    You should look on the bright side of things. At least the U.S. has Pakistan helping fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The U.N. would probably make Musharef chairman-for-life of their Human Rights Commission.

  35. Musharraf is a military dictator operating a ruthless police state, and he really has nukes and really supported active terrorists operating in other countries.

    I think now Musharraf is more of a semi-democratic strongman (not really a bad one, in my estimation), and I wouldn’t call Pakistan a police state, despite a fair amount of political thuggery. It would be really frightening, though, if the radicals came to power there, or if the ISI began working against Musharraf. I think both of these would be plausible if he made a break with the traditional Kashmir policy. And then there’s that sad history of shaky populist democracy. Democratic ideals or not, Pakistan is a difficult case. I mean, just because American rhetoric can be simplistic, doesn’t mean the policy has to be, too.

    Karimow also operates a ruthless police state

    Which is why the Yanks yanked the discretionary aid a couple of months ago, I’m glad to say.

  36. Yes, this kidnapping was higher profile because the French government made a big deal about it and – I assume – asked some of them to make a statement.

    I’m afraid the implication that the selective condemnation had to do with higher profile rather than politics and expediency strikes me as wishful thinking. Especially for the Council of Ulema (here’s a detailed post on that topic from another blog.) There’s an argument here for sticking it to the Americans and Israelis as a means of national security, perhaps.

  37. A lot of smart people have a blind committment, which I am not able to understand, to the Bush program in Iraq. It’s not based on anything intelligible.

    “Building Democracy in Iraq”. No evidence of that except a few press releases. The country is on the verge of total civil war (as opposed to the present constant skirmishing) and the central government has very little reach, and is entirely dependent on US troops.

    I really have the feeling of the Ionesco play, watching one person after another turn into a rhinoceros.

    There’s something unexpressed going on. In some cases, I believe that, rather than hating Osama because of what he did, and hating liberals because they’re thought to be weak in the fight against him, the rhinoceri to whom I refer really hate liberals at a deeper level than they do Osama, and are just using Osama as a stick to beat liberals with.

    Few of those people have ever held Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush, Grover Norquist, or anyone else on the right accountable for their flirtations with the “Islamofascists”. (I have posted a long list at my URL). Neither have they held Bush responsible for his very poor counterterrorism performance before 9/11, which the 9/11 report factually documents — though the report’s conclusions have been stripped of any sentences summarizing his weak performance.

    George Soros says the atmosphere reminds him of pre-fascist and fascist Hungary, something he knows about firsthand. He’s an exemplary guy who spent hundreds of millions undermining Communism, and he’s being smeared now by people who have no problems with the psychotic Republican benefactors, Rev. Moon and Richard Scaife.

    Obviously I am not arguing with certain people here who exemplify what I’m talking about, but just communicating my opinion to the others.

  38. Zizka,

    What is the Bush program in Iraq? If you know of a plan that’s more intelligible than resolution 1546, I personally wouldn’t mind taking a look.

  39. Browsing through the earlier discussion…

    DoDo wrote:
    the US vetoed a UN Security Council vote that would have denounced Iraq for Halabja, ?leaked? flunky intel reports that blamed Halabja on Iran

    I think you mean worked against a resolution to condemn Iraq rather than “both sides.” I wonder if we’ll learn anything new about Halabja from Saddam’s defense. So far, AFAIK, there is the still-classified 1991 US Army report which apparently concludes that the responsibility is unclear, with Iran being the more likely culprit, and the later NGO investigations that categorically blame Iraq. There is also an almost comic split in certain quarters, with some denouncing the US for lying about it now and others for lying about it then. (I suppose the possibility that the official circles changed their minds based on additional evidence is too silly to be considered.)

    Had your government really cared for human rights, it could have supported the Franco-German proposal of forcing Iraq to accept human rights inspectors, too.

    Do you happen to have a source on that? I would be very interested to see a non-military intervention plan. At the time I recall hearing only rumors and denials.

  40. Rumors, denials… I dug up my sources, let’s recount what happened.

    The plan for a Franco-German proposal of robust inspections involving human rights inspectors (effectively transforming Iraq into a UN protectorate) was detailed in the title article of issue 7/2003 of German magazine DER SPIEGEL (appeared 10.02.2003, but details on this article was put up on the web and given to news agencies two days earlier). DER SPIEGEL counts as the magazine of record in Germany [tough it too tarnished recently, like NYT], with good sources deep within the four main parties. What I got from later reports is that the leak was from some diplomatic imbecile in the chanchellor’s office (possibly ‘Medienkanzler’ Schr?der himself:-) ), to the horror of the foreign ministry and the French counterparts.

    This was a stupid move because A) Germany and France can be accused of working behind the backs of fellow UN SC members (even if Britain and the USA were doing the same), and B) the War Party can foil it before it before even the ground is prepared for its official proposal.

    As for A), this happened even as France pre-empted by denying any concrete plans[*], and while German defense minister Struck acknowledged the existence of the plan in interview with German TV channel Phoenix on the 9th, the big public presentation by Schr?der as announced for the 13th never came.

    As for B), that’s what happened, and that was my point: Powell, Rumsfeld and lesser minions angrily rejected/dismissed the option of stronger inspections (Powell: “this proposal that is being developed is a diversion, not a solution”, Perle: “what do we need more time for?”, even McCain: “advertising gimmick” etc. etc.) even before the full article appeared on Monday the 10th.

    So this plan was killed – later a much more restricted plan of only WMD inspectors was presented. However, from the French side, de Villepin was advocating the general idea of human rights inspections as recently as February 2004.

    If you are not just interested in the Franco-German plan, but non-intervention plans in general, several NGOs had proposals, some involving human rights inspectors, for example the Oxford Research Group.

    [*] The next day British defense minister famously told that “the only division in Europe is between Germany and the rest” – possibly the harsh French reaction to the German leak heightened then prevalent US/UK hopes that Chirac is only bargaining high, and will abadon Schr?der just before the war.

  41. Zizka: “George Soros says the atmosphere reminds him of pre-fascist and fascist Hungary, something he knows about firsthand. He’s an exemplary guy who spent hundreds of millions undermining Communism, and he’s being smeared now by people who have no problems with the psychotic Republican benefactors, Rev. Moon and Richard Scaife.”

    Yeah, Soros did more to undermine communism than supposed Victors Over Commmunism Reagan and Papa Bush combined. Worth to note, after 1989, Soros received the same treatment from the nationalists here in Eastern Europe as what he gets now from the Repubs – so, you can hope, he is prepared 🙂

  42. Michael S: “So far, AFAIK, there is the still-classified 1991 US Army report which apparently concludes that the responsibility is unclear, with Iran being the more likely culprit,”

    1991? Hm, do you have a source?

    To my knowledge, the story of such a secret Pentagon report dates from early 1990, and is based on the argument that Iraq didn’t had the type of chemical weapon apparently used (something disproved later by UNSCOM); complemented by another, public report published by the US Army War College the same year, that claims both Iraq and Iran were responsible (the latter is torn to pieces here by Dr. Glen Ranglawa; also note his reference to investigations showing the Iranian CW programme was only in pilot stage).

  43. Michael S: “I think now Musharraf is more of a semi-democratic strongman (not really a bad one, in my estimation), and I wouldn’t call Pakistan a police state”

    Hm. What is “semi-democratic”, and what is a police state? How does the implementation of blasphemy law, the continued nuclear development, and the pardon for chief nuclear propagator Khan fit into your picture?

    “I mean, just because American rhetoric can be simplistic, doesn’t mean the policy has to be, too.”

    Agreed wholeheartedly, but I don’t see any thought-through policy in place. Not forcing a dictator to reconstruct true democracy and cede power to an elected government in fear of a fundy takeover is not a forward-looking policy, it will only make the fundies even stronger and more popular.

    [Karimow also operates a ruthless police state] “Which is why the Yanks yanked the discretionary aid a couple of months ago, I’m glad to say.”

    Thanks for the link and the news, I missed it in the month I neither blogged nor read much.

    However, if concern for human rights in Karimov’s police state had been the reason to remove the discretionary aid, the US govt. wouldn’t have granted it him in the first place, wouldn’t have employed delaying tactics for half a year following the State Department human rights report, and withdraw troops (and thus Karimow’s income in form of the lease for the base). Methinks constant bad PR was the reason. And it looks a lot more like smokescreen PR when you read this (I found it in an article after a little Googling around):

    According to Karimov Japan recently gave around $147 million with no strings attached. That is precisely the type of aid sought by Tashkent, particularly since the U.S. State Department cut aid to Uzbekistan by $18 million for failing to meet criterion including adequate progress in human rights. The Pentagon followed this critical gesture by offering $21 million in further aid, a move that not only comforts Karimov but also serves to confirm in his own mind the validity of his cause.

  44. DoDo,

    Thanks for the timeline on the Franco-German Iraq plan. The English version of the Spiegel article is still available for free. I’m not entirely convinced about this particular angle. There certainly were people in the French and German camp who genuinely worked to avert the war, just as I’m willing to suppose that at least some folks in the Bush administration really felt at one time that a “Drohkulisse” was the only feasible means of getting Saddam to disarm without a full-blown invasion. Nonetheless, the US government followed a “logique de guerre”, while the mighty French diplomacy followed the logic of making sure the war discredits the US and improves France’s own soft power as much as possible. The first news of the plan sounded tantalizing because it promised a mechanism of intervention that could allow both the US and Saddam to step down without falling flat on their respective faces. I thought something of that kind would have merited a pinch of displomatic grit, even if tempers were sour and everyone immediately assumed a red herring. In the formally publicized version it was indeed scarcely distinguishable from a device to stall the motion for the new resolution with a self-advertising bonus. Although I’m sure Joschka Fischer meant well.

  45. DoDo,

    Here’s the first link with some relevant references that I turned up for the Halabja report. I’m not sure if Ranglawa was aware of the existence of classified evidence beyond the public report, but, other than that, I don’t feel I can take a position in this argument. My only point was that I’m not convinced the US acted in bad faith on the UN resolution.

  46. Hm. What is ?semi-democratic?, and what is a police state?

    Here’s what Webster has to say about police state. Semi-democratic meaning working with, ahem, semi-fairly elected bodies, rather than ruling by fiat. Actually, after I posted this Musharraf surprised me by reneging on his pledge to quit his army post. I was under the impression that he already has.

    How does the implementation of blasphemy law, the continued nuclear development, and the pardon for chief nuclear propagator Khan fit into your picture?

    Perfectly. Pakistan makes a very messy picture. I agree that propping up dictators for fear of hostile opposition is lame policy, except that propping up the opposition with cookie-cutter terms like “dictator” and “true democracy” might not fair better. I personally would like the US to be as deft in supporting civil society and the Saudis have been in promoting Wahhabism, and it clearly doesn’t have upper hand in this friendly match. However, if someone told me they know what to do about Pakistan, my first instinct would be to run.

    As for Uzbekistan, I remember reading soundbites from diplomats to the effect that Karimov is very good at auditioning for the role of constructive engagement poster boy. The decision may have had something to do with PR (although most people apparently blinked and missed it), but I suspect it was largely due to Karimov’s promises catching up to him in due time. The quotation above strikes as disingenuous since the author neglects to mention that the additional Pentagon aid is part of the package to prevent the proliferation of biological weapons. I’m not sure what the Japanese had in mind with their road construction loan, but luckily they have their own government, which means for the time being I can leave it to them to worry about, and devote myself to more rewarding pursuits. Like sleep. 🙂

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