The World in 1856

A few months ago I came across an old book that my grandmother had been left by her grandmother. Called ‘Geography for Children On A Perfectly Easy Plan’ it dates from 1856 (first printed 1848) and is a British geography school textbook, educating children on each country in the world, its inhabitants and its economy. What follows is presumably therefore how British schoolchildren viewed Europe and Europeans in the mid-19th century. It bares a remarkable similarity how the British tabloid press views Europe and Europeans today.

Europe, it notes, ‘though the smallest of the four quarters of the earth, is the most distinguished for its power, its wealth and its knowledge’.

First up is Scandinavia and Sweden, with a population of ‘three millions’. Its capital, Stockholm, is ‘a fine city, containing 80,000 inhabitants…the surrounding scenery is beautifully romantic’. Norway, with its ‘million inhabitants’ who live ‘cheaply by fishing and are robust, well made, patient under hardships and distinguished for their hospitality to strangers’. It’s not so keen on the Laplanders, who are ‘low in stature, thick set, habitually filfthy. Not enjoying the blessings of education they are extremely ignorant and superstitious’

Moving eastwards to Russia, where the ‘nobility are in general very wealthy and live in great splendour; but the peasantry are in the most abject state of slavery; they can neither read nor write; they live in houses of the most wretched description; and are bought and sold with estates; yet with all these disadvantages they , they are robust, and patient under hardships’.

France, the most populous country with 33 millions, enjoys a ‘fine situation near the centre of Europe’, and Paris is distinguished ‘by the magnifence of its public buildings but many of its streets are narrow and dirty’. The British love/hate relationship with the French is clear; they are: ‘A gay, active and lively people, graceful in their deportment and very polite; posessing however not an inconsiderable share of vanity’

The Prussians are ‘a brave people; the higher classes are well-informed and courteous, but the peasantry are uncultivated and superstitious’. Sadly the Austrian nobility are ‘haughty and oppressive, but the middle classses are moral and industrious and greatly attached to reading and music’. The Swiss are ‘a robust people, noted for the simplicity of their manners and their love of liberty’, while the Poles are ‘gallant, and those subject to Russia made a brave attempt to assert their independence, but unfortunately without success’.

Moving inwards, Holland is ‘a very flat country’, with Amsterdam, the capital, ‘chiefly built on wooden piles and contains many magnificent buildings. It has broad canals nd good coach roads, with 200,000 inhabitants’. The Dutch are ‘slow and heavy but remarkable for their cleanliness, frugality and industry’. Belgium makes ‘good corn and wine’ and Brussels is ‘one of the most elegant cities in Europe’. Of course they can’t resist mentioning it is just a few miles north of Waterloo, famous for ‘the great battle in whch Bonaparte met with his overthrow’.

Heading south finds more praise and scorn. The ‘fourteen millions’ in Spain are: ‘grave and haughty people, posessing elevated notions of honour; but they are indolent and revengeful’, while pity the Portuguese,. with their: ‘Swarthy complexion with dark hair and eyes’, and where, ‘the peasantry are very poor, living in wretched huts, almost without furniture and their diet consists of mainly bread and garlic’. In Italy there are 17 millions Italians, who are ‘discreet and polite people but extremely effeminate’.

As ever Turkey’s position in Europe is unclear. The Turks ‘appear completely different from other inhabitants of Europe; the men instead of the close dress of Europeans wear loose robes and turbans instead of hats’ and while ‘Turkey abounts with natural advantages, owing to the depotism of its government and the baneful infleuce of its religion, it cannot be considered a great nation’. Greece, which was ‘long in state of bondage to the Turks’ recently due to it’s ‘own bravery and the support of the great Christian powers has established its independence’.

Safely back over the channel to England and its 13 millions, of whom: ‘The intelligence, industry and enterprise of her people have raised her to a pitch of greatness enjoyed by no other power’. London may be ‘considered the first city of the world’. The book is also keen on the Scots: ‘temperate in their diet, of robust and healthy constitutions and by superior management made very productive’, noting that there is ‘less crime’ there too. The rest of the British Isles fares less well, with the Welsh: ‘Brave and hospitable but inclined to be hasty in their temper and priding themselves extravagantly on their pedigrees and families’; the
Irish: ‘Hardy, active and brave; the lower classes however are in general ignorant and superstitious and in a wretched state of poverty’

33 thoughts on “The World in 1856

  1. THE WORLD IN 1861-3

    About a year ago, revisiting my country’s past wars in order to better understand the challenges of the present one, I serendipitously encountered Henry Adams’ account of being in London during the Civil War. It bears a remarkable similarity to the way many Europeans–press and people alike, and certain governments–view the United States and its leadership today, and how such views are experienced by those of us here with eyes to see it.

    “This beginning of a new education tore up by the roots nearly all that was left of Harvard College and Germany. He had to learn,–the sooner the better,–that his ideas were the reverse of truth; that in May, 1861, no one in England,–literally no one,–doubted that Jefferson Davis had made or would make a nation, and nearly all were glad of it, though not often saying so. They mostly imitated Palmerston, who, according to Mr. Gladstone, “desired the severance as a diminution of a dangerous power, but prudently held his tongue.” The sentiment of anti-slavery had disappeared.”

    […]

    “The test was final, for no other shock so violent and sudden could possibly recur. The worst was in full sight.”

    […]

    “For some reason partly connected with American sources, British society had begun with violent social prejudice against Lincoln, Seward, and all the republican leaders except Sumner. Familiar as the whole tribe of Adamses had been for three generations with the impenetrable stupidity of the British mind, and wary of the long struggle to teach it its own interests, the fourth generation could still not quite persuade itself that this new British prejudice was natural. The private secretary suspected that Americans in New York and Boston had something to do with it. The copperhead was at home in Pall Mall. Naturally the Englishman was a course animal and liked coarseness. Had Lincoln and Seward been the ruffians supposed, the average Englishman would have liked them the better.”

    […]

    “Everyone waited to see Lincoln and his hirelings disappear in one vast d?b?cle.”

    […]

    “Of the year 1862 Henry Adams could never think without a shudder. The war alone did not greatly distress him; already in his short life he was used to seeing people wade in blood, and he could plainly discern, in history, that man from the beginning had found his chief amusement in bloodshed; but the ferocious joy of destruction at its best requires that one should kill what one hates, and young Adams neither hated nor wanted to kill his friends the rebels, while he wanted nothing so much as to wipe England off the earth. Never could any good come from that besotted race! He was feebly trying to save his own life. Every day the British government deliberately crowded him one step further into the grave. He could see it; the Legation knew it; no one doubted it; no one thought of questioning it.”

    […]

    “Not the work, but the play exhausted. The effort of facing a hostile society was bad enough, but that of facing friends was worse. After terrific disasters like the seven days before Richmond and the second Bull Run, friends needed support; a tone of bluff would have been fatal, for the average mind sees quickest through a bluff; nothing answers but candor; yet private secretaries never feel candid, however much they feel the reverse, and therefore they must affect candor; not always a simple act when one is exasperated, furious, bitter, and choking with tears over the blunders and incapacities of one?s government. If one shed tears, they must be shed on one?s pillow. Least of all, must one throw extra strain on the Minister, who had all he could carry without being fretted in his family. One must read one?s Times every morning over one?s muffin without reading aloud?”Another disastrous Federal Defeat;” and one might not even indulge in harmless profanity. Self-restraint among friends required much more effort than keeping a quiet face before enemies. Great men were the worst blunderers. One day the private secretary smiled, when standing with the crowd in the throne-room while the endless procession made bows to the royal family, at hearing, behind his shoulder, one cabinet minister remark gaily to another:–“So the federals have got another licking!” The point of the remark was its truth. Even a private secretary had learned to control his tones and guard his features and betray no joy over the “lickings” of an enemy?in the enemy?s presence.

    “London was altogether beside itself on one point, in especial; it created a nightmare of its own, and gave it the shape of Abraham Lincoln. Behind this it placed another demon, if possible more devilish, and called it Mr. Seward. In regard to these two men, English society seemed demented. Defense was useless; explanation was vain; one could only let the passion exhaust itself. One?s best friends were as unreasonable as enemies, for the belief in poor Mr. Lincoln?s brutality and Seward?s ferocity became a dogma of popular faith. The last time Henry Adams saw Thackeray, before his sudden death at Christmas in 1863, was in entering the house of Sir Henry Holland for an evening reception. Thackeray was pulling on his coat downstairs, laughing because, in his usual blind way, he had stumbled into the wrong house and not found it out till he shook hands with old Sir Henry, whom he knew very well, but who was not the host he expected. Then his tone changed as he spoke of his?and Adams?s?friend Mrs. Frank Hampton of South Carolina, whom he had loved as Sally Baxter and painted as Ethel Newcome. Though he had never quite forgiven her marriage, his warmth of feeling revived when he heard that she had died of consumption at Columbia while her parents and sister were refused permission to pass through the lines to see her. In speaking of it, Thackeray?s voice trembled and his eyes filled tears. The coarse cruelty of Lincoln and his hirelings was notorious. He never doubted that the Federals made a business of harrowing the tenderest feelings of women?particularly of women?in order to punish their opponents. On quite insufficient evidence he burst into violent reproach. Had Adams carried in his pocket the proofs that the reproach was unjust, he would have gained nothing by showing them. At that moment, Thackeray and all London society with him, needed the nervous relief of expressing emotion; for if Mr. Lincoln was not what they said he was,–what were they?

    “For like reason, the members of the Legation kept silence, even in private, under the boorish Scotch jibes of Carlyle. If Carlyle was wrong, his diatribes would give his true measure, and this measure would be a low one, for Carlyle was not likely to be more sincere or more sound in one thought than in another. The proof that a philosopher does not know what he is talking about is apt to sadden his followers before it reacts on himself. Demolition of one?s idols is painful, and Carlyle had been an idol. Doubts cast on his stature spread far into general darkness like shadows of a setting sun. Not merely the idols fell, but also the habits of faith. If Carlyle, too, was a fraud, what were his scholars and school?”

    […]

    ”The matter of quarrel was General Butler?s famous woman-order at New Orleans, but the motive was the belief in President Lincoln?s brutality that had taken such deep root in the British mind.”

  2. I seem recall a statue of Abraham Lincoln standing in London, almost in Big Ben’s shadow.

    Proof, I think, that England eventually overcame its misconceptions about Lincoln.

    In terms of this (vile) comparison, the key difference between Bush and Lincoln is that those with misconceptions about the president, this time around, are on the wrong side of the Atlantic.

  3. Depends on the view why the north fought the south. If you believe they fought the civil war to liberate the slaves than they are the good side. If you don’t than the North was the bad side and i don’t think the English believed that the North would fight a war for the liberation of the blacks even if it would be with minimal losses let alone the bloodbath the civil war was.

  4. “In terms of this (vile) comparison, the key difference between Bush and Lincoln is that those with misconceptions about the president, this time around, are on the wrong side of the Atlantic.”

    I am afraid I am inclined to disagree. How is it that current estimates are that there are approximately 300,000 bodies buried in the mass graves discovered thus far in Iraq, and yet all the outrage in Europe is reserved for the man who finally put Saddam’s regime to an end? How can one take seriously people who grieve for the 3,000 lives supposedly lost in the course of the war (according to the notoriously untrustworthy “Iraq Body Count”), but not for the more than 1.5 million lives lost under Saddam’s vainglorious wars and brutal security services? What is one to make of a continent in which Israel is routinely condemned as personifying evil itself, while fatuous distinctions are made between Hamas’ “charitable” and “military” wings by European politicians, and Yasser Arafat is hailed as some sort of Ghandi figure?

    Whoever “tm” may be, I thank him/her for the passage contributed above, and I believe that the comparison between European attitudes then and now still holds. When Europeans can stop whining for a bit about “unilateralism” and “hyperpower”, and come around to recognizing that Iraq is a better place for Saddam’s overthrow – even with all the strife in the Sunni quadrant – I might start to reconsider my opinion on the subject, but not before.

    I don’t much like Bush’s domestic agenda or his economic policies (and while we’re at it, I have a pretty low opinion of Tony Blair as well), but it seems as clear as day to me that the weight of morality is on his side, rather than with the pretentious, prideful posturers in Paris and Berlin.

  5. “Depends on the view why the north fought the south. If you believe they fought the civil war to liberate the slaves than they are the good side.”

    I don’t have my history source materials close at hand, but if my memory serves me correctly, the proximate cause of the Civil War was the election of Lincoln, who, whatever he himself might have said to the contrary, was believed by the secessionist states to be a Republican Party instrument for the dismantling of slavery.

    The notion that “States’ Rights” were the central concern in the Civil War, rather than slavery per se, was a latter-day invention made current by apologists for the confederacy (of whom the self-styled “paleoconservatives”, staunch allies of the “Bush is a warmonger” school of left-wing thought, number a considerable number in their midst). There was no doubt whatsoever in the minds of the leaders of the secessionist movement that slavery was the real issue; read, for instance, the voluminous output of John C. Calhoun, if you want written confirmation of this point.

  6. Abolition was obvious the reason why the South fought. But what was the reason the North fought the Civil War?

  7. “But what was the reason the North fought the Civil War?”

    I don’t think there’s any simple answer to that question. The shallow response would be to say that the confederacy actually started the shooting, by attacking Fort Sumter on April 12, 1961, and things just took off from there.

    The more interesting question is obviously why the North continued to resist confederate demands for independence. Clearly opposition to slavery played a part in this, but I’m not sure it played the major part for most of the Northern side outside of the abolitionist cause. Certainly, I think we ought to take seriously Lincoln’s claim that he saw it as his duty to preserve the union, whether that meant tolerating slavery in just those states that already had it, or in fighting a war to bring them back into the fold.

    At any rate, for a blog about European affairs, this whole question about the causes of the American Civil War is wandering quite a bit from the purported area of main interest, isn’t it?

  8. Abiola:

    I seriously doubt people think Iraq would be better under Saddam.

    What people are criticizing (at least, the people I know who are criticizing Iraq) is

    a) the thinness of the justification for the invasion given the lack of weapons of mass destruction

    b) the probability that the thinness reflects a new mendacity, pace the popularity of Strauss

    c) the lack of realistic planning in how to manage post-invasion Iraq beforehand

    d) the lack of effective action now.

  9. Randy,

    To which I would add:

    “As many as 15,000 Iraqis were killed in the first days of America’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, a study produced by an independent US thinktank said yesterday. Up to 4,300 of the dead were civilian noncombatants. The report, by Project on Defence Alternatives, a research institute from Cambridge, Massachussets, offers the most comprehensive account so far of how many Iraqis died.” – from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1073070,00.html

  10. tm: thank you for that most illuminating of posts.

    Abiola: I am now beginning to understand where you’re coming from. But please don’t hold that against me.

    Bob: Only about 500 civilians died in the initial offensive of the Iraqi war. The leftist body counters routinely ignore the sex of the dead, which are mostly male.

    The organizations that gather the numbers routinely ignore the sex of the victims in order to hide the fact that they are actually counting the numbers of dead male combatants.

    The number of female victims from the war was actually about a hundred – victims of stray bombings, etc. If we assume that the same amount of civilian men were also trying to stay out of harms way (since, as family men, they would be with their families), we perhaps wind up at the correct number, which would be, liberally put, at about 500.

  11. If English Society disapproved of Lincoln and Seward, they must have been aghast at Sherman. His “March to the Sea” resulted in burnin’, lootin’ and shootin’ his way through the South, and incidently winning the war. Was it justified? Well, as he wrote to the Mayor of Atlanta before he burned it to the ground:

    …You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace. But you cannot have peace and a division of our country. If the United States submits to a division now, it will not stop, but will go on until we reap the fate of Mexico, which is eternal war…

    Was he right? I don’t know. People may do Bad Things in a Good Cause – whether winning the Civil War or overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Speaking for myself, I prefer such people to harbour as few delusions as possible. By writing the letter, he attempts to be honest not only with the Mayor, but himself. The same can be said with Lincoln (up to a point). “Honest Abe” wasn’t that honest – he was a lawyer after all. But with even with the handicap of manic-depression, you see a man trying to percieve events clearly.

    Such honesty – even self-honesty – is absent from the Bush administration. Bush in particular is adverse to unpleasant truths; he chickened out of addressing British Parliament for fear of “heckling”. But it’s not just him. It’s not just that they deluded others about Saddam’s WMDs – they deluded themselves. Lincoln may have sacked generals for incompetence in battle; Bush sacked generals for telling the truth. And you see Rumsfeld has done to the armed forces in 8 months what it took McNamara 5 years. Well, they’re caught in a trap. And they can’t walk out…

  12. Here’s how Apu dealt with the question of the causes of the Civil War, on the Simpsons:

    Proctor: All right, here’s your last question. What was the cause of the Civil War?

    Apu: Actually, there were numerous causes. Aside from the obvious schism between the abolitionists and the anti-abolitionists, there were economic factors, both domestic and inter–

    Proctor: Wait, wait… just say slavery.

    Apu: Slavery it is, sir.

  13. Did hte book treat the Blkans as part of Austria or did they the serbs, croats and Bosniaks get their own sections?

  14. Abiola,
    Seeing how your views have been embraced by Markku, you have my condolences.

    The most recent War-Deaths number I’ve seen was a cummulative estimate of between 21,000 and 55,000.

    If we take either your number for the initial deaths (3000) or Markku’s (500 civilians). It’s rather clear that these past six months have been rather bloody.

    Now comparing 1.5 million deaths over 30 years which include three major wars and a bloody civil war, and the million deaths estimate resulting from the US/GB/UN sanctions, is probably not fair to the U.S. Occupation which only has had a 6 month post-Major-Combat-Operations time period to match that kill ratio.

    Not to worry, all that will be rectified by the current Operation Flail-the-War-Hammer.

    After which, I’m sure we will go back to repainting schools for those little Iraqi schoolchildren, because we’re-oh-so-much better than Saddam Hussein, aren’t we ?

  15. Abiola I think you make a lot of points that would be better taken if made with gentler rhetoric. For example:

    Who says that Arafat is a new Ghandi?

    Who exactly grieves for the 3,000 (do you really believe that?) killed by allied forces (Why do soldiers, even when conscripts and old men, never count?) and not those murdered by Saddam?

    Is it worth talking about such a very small group of people?

  16. Patrick, I’m completely sure we are better than Saddam, I’m just not sure how much clear blue water between us and Saddam some people think is necessary. I’m also not sure if anyone has a plan to cope with the potential for a civil war that Iraq possesses in spades.

  17. Jack,
    “Patrick, I’m completely sure we are better than Saddam,”

    Not in Iraq, we’re not.

    “I’m also not sure if anyone has a plan to cope with the potential for a civil war that Iraq possesses in spades.”

    That in itself says much about our inability to do better than Saddam in Iraq. That potential for civil war was obvious even prior to the war. And our contigency planning for it was entirely inadequate.

    The civil war has already started, btw. It started with the first assassination of a Shiite cleric and the systematic gutting of the Ministry buildings back in April, and it’s been intensifying since.

  18. “Patrick, I’m completely sure we are better than Saddam,”

    Not in Iraq, we’re not”

    Patrick, therein lies the fundamental difference between you and I. You see a moral equivalence between the Bush administration and Saddam’s regime that I do not, and frankly, any worldview in which “we” are as bad as Saddam is one so alien to me that I consider it impossible to comprehend how a sane person could hold it.

    No, no decent, sane person can possibly say with a straight face that Iraq was as well off under Saddam’s rule as it is now, and anyone who does say so is living in an entirely different moral universe from the one I recognize.

  19. Well, Abiola,

    The USA, and not only them, had endorsed most of the killings made by Saddam, some 200000 of those mass graves were killed in accordance to standard US foreign policy: killing communists is good. Saddam was only too pleased to oblige since communists were a competition to Baath. He had tolerated them in the first stages of his tyranny since his nationalist policies had alienated the main Western powers, UK to begin, sending him to the SU as provider. With the Irani Chiite revolution the USA reappraised him, and animated him to wage war on Iran. Saddam got a lot of military material from the USA, even if by indirect conduct as it is “officialy illegal” to sell armament to waring parties. Etc.

    And about a third of those dead in the mass graves were killed after GW1 in plain view of the US military that was still in ther region, after they had rised against Saddam in the foolish belief that the USA cared about democracy, no thake that out, what the USA should have cared about was the removal of a psychotical tyrant. And as they died the discovered irrevocably that no, never. Toppling Saddam was easy to the USA, they wanted to do it only if they found a way to use it to forward their own agenda. Had Bush father been reelected, probably he would have done it in his last year of that second mandate, hoping to ensure the election of a Republican president amid war frenzy. However Clinton won…

    DSW

  20. Is it worth talking about such a very small group of people?

    Three thousand people is a large population. It’s larger than all but two communities in my home province. It’s roughly the same size as many of the communities eradicated by Saddam.

    It’s thinking like this which helped kill those people in Iraq in the first place. They all didn’t die at once, you know.

  21. Abiola,
    The difference between you and I is that my base of reference in these matters is not my ‘moral universe’, but the reports I’m reading coming out of Iraq.

    Have you read “River Bend’s” Baghdad Burning blog recently ?

    http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/

    Pray tell how you reconcile the reality that she is living with your ‘moral universe’:

    “How can that ass of a president say things are getting better in Iraq when his troops have stooped to destroying homes?! Is that a sign that things are getting better? When you destroy someone’s home and detain their family, why would they want to go on with life? Why wouldn’t they want to lob a bomb at some 19-year-old soldier from Missouri?!”

  22. “The USA, and not only them, had endorsed most of the killings made by Saddam, some 200000 of those mass graves were killed in accordance to standard US foreign policy: killing communists is good.”

    First of all, I regard this statement as unsubstantiated by any facts whatsoever. The United States played Iran and Iraq off against each other during their decade-long war, but that isn’t the same as saying that the US “endorsed most of the killings made by Saddam”, not by any reasonable interpretation. If you want to claim that America “endorsed” the killings carried out by Saddam, you’re also going to have to say the same about your own country, as well as the other nations of the world that were happy to keep doing business with Saddam even as he kept on killing his countrymen. In fact, France and Russia are particularly guilty in this regard, as these two countries were the most strident advocates of an end to all UN supervision of Iraq after the first Gulf War.

    Second, even if one accepts your interpretation of events after Gulf War I, the conclusion a reasonable person would come to would be that, having forsaken the Iraqis once, the United States had a special duty to rectify its’ former mistakes, which is precisely the opposite of what you seem to be arguing. How exactly would letting Saddam die of a ripe old age, having passed his dictatorship on to his two “cubs”, have been in accord with any reasonable notions of justice or humanity?

    Taken as a whole, you seem to be reaching for whatever is at hand to paint America as the Great Satan, without regard for either the facts of history or logical consistency. I say the truly immoral parties in the course of this whole Iraq business have been
    France, Germany, Belgium and Russia, all of which strove to maintain a vicious status quo even as they mouthed pieties about human rights and concern for the Iraqi people’s suffering, and Those on the left who have gone well beyond merely criticising the quality of the evidence about Saddam’s weapons programs laid out by Bush and Blair, to actually equating these two leaders to Saddam, or, worse still, portraying them as butchers on a par with Hitler (though, oddly enough, they never mention Stalin …); these same individuals are now agitating, in the name of “anti-imperialism”, for a hasty American withdrawal from Iraq that is all but guaranteed to aggravate the very suffering they now act as if they are striving to alleviate.

  23. “Have you read “River Bend’s” Baghdad Burning blog recently?”

    I read several sources in keeping up with events in Iraq, and I don’t ever make the mistake you seem to be making of taking one person’s view of events as representative of the whole.

    Furthermore, I am well aware that the US is making mistakes in Iraq, have made my own calls on various forums for these mistakes to be rectified, and am conscious of the fact that I am not alone amongst supporters of the war in being angered by the heavy-handed approach sometimes taken by American troops (see this post for just one such reaction by another blogger on the right.)

    Mistakes will occur in any undertaking of this nature, and I’m sure if we looked at post-war Japan or Korea or almost anywhere in Europe after World War 2, we’d see plenty of evidence of heavy-handedness and outright misbehavior; and yet we’d have been dead wrong to take all these incidents as somehow indicative of what the future held for any of the places mentioned.

    Positive developments don’t get the sorts of newsratings that negative ones do, so I can’t totally blame anyone for imagining that Iraq is rapidly descending into a maelstrom of chaotic violence, but the mundane reality is that nearly all of the confrontations we’ve been seeing and hearing have been occurring in the Sunni triangle, and most of the rest of the country really is starting to see some positive changes happen. Cherry-picking incidents like the one you mention to make things look worse than they are is not exactly the sort of thing one would expect from an unbiased observer.

  24. “How exactly would letting Saddam die of a ripe old age, having passed his dictatorship on to his two “cubs”, have been in accord with any reasonable notions of justice or humanity?”

    (Never mind that most religious leaders, barring the Southern Baptist Convention, actually condemned this war as unjustified)

    So between war now and a likely civil war later (after Saddam Hussein’s death), you would choose war now ? Very humane of you.

    “France, Germany, Belgium and Russia, all of which strove to maintain a vicious status quo even as they mouthed pieties about human rights and concern for the Iraqi people’s suffering, and”

    Can you be any more revisionist ?
    It was the U.S. and the U.K. that was enforcing that vicious status quo.
    Likewise with the pieties about human rights and concern for the Iraqi people’s suffering.

  25. Abiola,
    “I read several sources in keeping up with events in Iraq, and I don’t ever make the mistake you seem to be making of taking one person’s view of events as representative of the whole.”

    Her version of events is corroborated by many other sources. She just happens to be a whole lot nearer to the epicenter of what’s going on.

  26. “Her version of events is corroborated by many other sources. She just happens to be a whole lot nearer to the epicenter of what’s going on.”

    I’m not saying I doubt her report. What I am saying is that the sort of nastiness she’s reporting is not characteristic of what’s going on in Iraq as a whole.

    “Can you be any more revisionist?”

    That’s just dumb. You think the Iraqis would have been better off if Saddam had been free of all restrictions imposed as part of the Gulf War settlement? That the end of the no-fly-zones, the end of the arms embargo and all the rest would have made life in Iraq oh-so-wonderful? Why don’t you tell that to the Kurds while you’re at it?

    And while we’re at it, please explain to me why the Kurds were able to enjoy so much lower infant mortality than the rest of Iraq if the Oil-for-Food program were really to blame for Iraqi suffering. Please, I beg of you, explain why it is that the invading American troops were able to find several stashes of foreign currency amounting to several billions of dollars, and numerous palaces appointed in the most luxurious style, if it was “AmeriKKKa”, rather than Saddam’s selfishness and profligacy, that was to blame for all the hardship that existed in Iraq?

    I’m not going to expend more energy in vain arguing with you, as it clear to me that you’re far too gone in your “America is the Great Satan” delusions to be reachable by reason. I wonder how it is possible for you to sleep at night, knowing that you’re playing the role of apologist for the mass murderer called Saddam. What next for you, a defense of the much-maligned Kim Jong Il?

    Disgusting!

  27. “(Never mind that most religious leaders, barring the Southern Baptist Convention, actually condemned this war as unjustified)”

    You seem to be suffering from the delusion that I take, or ought to take, my moral bearings from what some “religious leader” has to say. Hasn’t anyone told you that the argument from authority is an invalid form of reasoning? Of course, in the faux-sophisticated “vision” of the world that is so typical of those of you on the anti-American left, you probably believe that all “fascist warmongers” like myself must be bible-thumping idiot cowboys just itching to take directions from the Southern Baptist Convention … Whatever. I’ll leave you to your pretentions of intellectual superiority.

  28. Randy, sorry, that’s not what I meant at all.
    I was referring to the very small group of people whose views are correctly characterised by Abiola in his first post or subsequently I guess.

    I think he has some good points but spoils them by piling straw men upon his opponents.

    I wish he would stop and address some of the issues raised instead of putting words in people’s mouths and raising false oppositions.

    For example does he really believe that Patrick (G) refers to the US as AmeriKKKa? If not it is a spurious irrelevance.

    Does he really think that Patrick is making an argument from authority rather than defending himself against the vague charge of unreasonableness?

    Does he really think that the status quo in Iraq and the US/UK invasion carried out the way it was were the only possibilities? If not his charge against Patrick is his own invention and also represents a failure to address the issue of who was responsible for the previous status quo. Murder or homicide, take your choice.

    I’ve read his posts on linguistics so I know he can be very sharp which makes this aggressive slopiness seem all the more disrespectful.

    On the matter of who is better I do think we are but I think that it is disasterous for that to be the test of our behaviour. You can be very, very bad and still be better than Saddam.

    Also Saddam had one solution to managing the disparate population of Iraq. It wasn’t very nice but it was relatively stable. If we don’t have a plan we could behave much better but still make things worse, just not directly.

  29. “I wish he would stop and address some of the issues raised instead of putting words in people’s mouths and raising false oppositions.”

    And who is seriously raising these issues? Patrick G, who is trying to portray America as uniquely culpable for Saddam’s crimes?

    “For example does he really believe that Patrick (G) refers to the US as AmeriKKKa? If not it is a spurious irrelevance.”

    He hasn’t said it on here, but his arguments are precisely the same ones I see all the time from the sorts of people who do say “AmeriKKKa.” He trouts out precisely the same old falsehoods and misrepresentations that are the bread and butter of the Indymedia crowd, and I don’t think it at all spurious to point out just what sort of ideological company he keeps: “by their fruits shall ye know them.”

    I certainly have no problem with sober criticism of the way in which things have proceeded in Iraq thus far, or even the way in which the case was built for the war, but having to constantly deal with ludicrous arguments of the sort advanced by Patrick G on here gets on one’s nerves after a while. The same old tired falsehoods being advanced again and again, the same old false equivalences being drawn ad nauseum, the same old ridiculous rhetoric that attempts to pass off anti-Americanism as principled “anti-imperialism”; not even Job would have reserves of patience deep enough to deal with the sheer amounts of this sort of nonsense that I’ve encountered on the web over the past few months.

    Some things are simply too outrageous for those who say them to expect polite responses. Telling lies like “America endorsed Saddam’s killings”, or attempting to equate the million and a half deaths under Saddam to the casualties, however many, of the recent war, are two such examples, and I wouldn’t be any more polite if I were dealing with a Holocaust revisionist either.

  30. “”I wish he would stop and address some of the issues raised instead of putting words in people’s mouths and raising false oppositions.”

    And who is seriously raising these issues? Patrick G, who is trying to portray America as uniquely culpable for Saddam’s crimes?”

    Can’t go two sentences without doing it again, I see.

    And no, I do not refer to the U.S. as AmeriKKKa.
    And No, I never said “America endorsed Saddam’s killings”

    But yes, I do consider the U.S. Invasion and Occupation to have been as murderous in the past 8 months as Saddam Hussein’s 30 year reign. if you have another way of normalizing that comparison other than dividing kills by length of time, say so.

  31. Patrick (G), you know who you remind me of? Lee Harvey Oswald. The same phoney leftist thinking, the same anger, the same kooky kind of logic.

  32. Yes, when there’s a reasoned leftist post followed by a scary Nazi post, it makes perfect sense to call the *leftist* poster a would-be murderer.

    Speaking of which – David W – you might want to delete Mark Konrad’s post; I’m not sure what the Swedish laws are on anti-semitism, but I’m pretty sure you’re breaking the law in Germany by having the Vanguard link on your site.

  33. “Yes, when there’s a reasoned leftist post followed by a scary Nazi post, it makes perfect sense to call the *leftist* poster a would-be murderer.

    Speaking of which – David W – you might want to delete Mark Konrad’s post; I’m not sure what the Swedish laws are on anti-semitism, but I’m pretty sure you’re breaking the law in Germany by having the Vanguard link on your site.”

    Our host and their servers are American; that should mean AFOE need not adhere to any other countries laws. Nevertheless I will delete it for being repugnant, and spam to boot.

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