Sunday, November 27, 2005

From TomDispatch

To send this to a friend, or to read more dispatches, go to

Tomgram: Michael Schwartz, Ten Ways to Argue about the War

What a couple of weeks in Iraq (and at home):
Withdrawal was suddenly on everyone's lips, while tragedy and absurdity were piling up like some vast, serial car wreck of event and emotion. Before a massed audience of Midshipmen at the Naval Academy, our President announced a new war goal beyond finding weapons of mass destruction, bringing freedom to Iraqis, or liberating the whole of the Middle East; something more modest this time -- "complete victory" -- over whomever. In the meantime, ten Marines died in a trap near Fallujah. Remember Fallujah? The city we literally destroyed in order to save it and then didn't quite get around to rebuilding as the Sunni Triangle's first safe haven from insurgency a! nd terrorism? Now, it's a danger zone again and still significantly in rubble. In these same weeks, the use of white phosphorus, a fierce burning agent, back in November 2004 to force rebels in Fallujah out of their defenses suddenly became a global news story and a scandal (though its use was actually known at the time); the Europeans began demanding explanations from the Bush administration for the kidnapping, transport, and secret imprisonment of suspected terrorists on their territory; a torture chamber/detention center run by the Interior Ministry but connected to the militia of the leading Shiite religious party in the Iraqi government was uncovered by American troops; it was evidently part of a long known-about "ghost network" of such centers linked to government and party-sponsored (and possibly U.S. backed or trained) death squads intent on intimidating or cleansing the Sunni ! neighborhoods of Iraq's cities. Ever more American war planes were reportedly taking to Iraqi skies and more American bombs falling on Iraq's towns and cities. Saddam reappeared in court, his hair dyed black, complaining and carrying a Koran like the good religious man he surely isn't; and it was revealed that, in the process of bringing freedom to Iraqis, a Pentagon-hired "business intelligence" firm had done its darnedest to turn a burgeoning Iraqi free press into a paid-for press. This was done in the struggle to conquer what is known in the trade as Iraq's "information battlespace." Not only that, but the story took us a full, ridiculous spin of the dial back to the earliest moments of our conquest of Iraq. At that time, administration officials arrived in Baghdad so filled! with hubris that it didn't occur to them to bring along anyone who knew anything about Iraq, no less actual translators. In the case of our newspaper caper, clearly a psyops-for-dummies operation, some of the paid-for stories were written by American servicemen and then translated into Arabic. These must have been truly convincing accounts! (Imagine the opposite: Iraqi soldiers in camps in the U.S. hired to write articles translated into English to help win the war for American "information battlespace.") And believe me, that's only a bit of the week or two that was.
The President spoke of "progress" in Iraq, but who could possibly believe him at this point? A majority of Americans clearly no longer do, but a minority -- about 36% according to the polls -- seem to be hanging in there, though perhaps with difficulty, like worried Republican Congressman from Georgia, Phil Gingrey. While fretting about re-election, he was nonetheless quoted in
the Washington Post, saying, "The light is there at the end of the tunnel. People need to see it." Again, you don't know whether to laugh or cry. In what follows, Michael Schwartz takes the arguments that remain for war supporters and that still can confound antiwar people and answers them one by one. Tom
Arguing about the WarThe Top Ten Reasons for Staying in (Leaving) IraqBy Michael Schwartz
I often receive emails -- pro and con -- about my postings on the war in Iraq, and I try to respond to any substantive questions or critiques offered. But when I received an email recently entitled "10 Questions" in response to a
Tomdispatch commentary detailing the arguments for immediate withdrawal, I must admit my heart sank -- the questions were familiar, but the answers were complex and I was in no mood to spend the time needed to respond properly.
After a couple of days, however, I began to warm to the idea of writing short but pointed responses to these common criticisms of antiwar positions because, I realized, they are the bread and butter of daily Iraq discourse in our country. When the war comes up in the media or in casual conversation, these are the issues that are raised by those who think we have to "stay the course" -- and among those who oppose the war, these are the lurking, unspoken questions that haunt our discussions. So here are my best brief answers to these key issues in the crucial, ongoing debate over Iraq.
"I read your article on withdrawal of American troops," my correspondent began, "and questioned the lack of discussion of the following…" (His comments are in bold.)
1. Nothing was mentioned about improvements in Iraq (elections, water and energy, schools). No Saddam to fear!
Water and energy delivery as well as schools are worse off than before the U.S. invasion. Ditto for the state of hospitals (and medical supplies), highways, and oil production. Elections are a positive change, but the elected government does not have more than a semblance of actual sovereignty, and therefore the Iraqi people have no power to make real choices about their future. One critical example: The Shiite/Kurdish political coalition now in power ran on a platform whose primary promise was that, if elected, they would set and enforce a timetable for American withdrawal. As soon as they took power, they reneged on this promise (apparently under pressure from the US). They have also proved quit! e incapable of fulfilling their other campaign promises about restoring services and rebuilding the country; and for that reason (as well as others), their constituents (primarily the Shia) are becoming ever more disillusioned. In the most recent polls, Shia Iraqis now are about 70% in favor of U.S. withdrawal.
Click here to read more of this dispatch.

No comments: