debating the wars

The next Melbourne  Monthly Argument looks like being a ripper!

Topic: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: Can our participation be justified?

When: Thursday December 9 at 6.30pm for 7.00pm start. Free admission. No need to book. Meals available from 6.00pm.
Where: The Function Room, The Dan O’Connell Hotel, 225 Canning Street (corner of Princes Street) Carlton. ( Melway 2B J4)

Main speakers:


Chaired by Darce Cassidy

17 Responses to “debating the wars”

  1. 1 steve owens

    I know that you guys argue that the US invaded Iraq to bring democracy to Iraq and I know that you guys argue that the WMD rational was just a smoke screen to disquise the real reason but why do the people involved continue to denie what you guys know to be true.

  2. 2 Arthur

    For the same reason that they lied at the time. There was NO WAY opinion leaders could have been persuaded to support such a “crazy” idea as directly reversing previous US support for maintaining stable tyrannies. Even insiders didn’t really get it – even as inside as most of the military commanders. As opponents of the policy kept pointing out, it was being pushed by a VERY narrow circle around Bush.

    Also note that the democratic destabilization of the region war aim that they deny was the one we most supported. Other reasons less important to us may have been as or more important to some US policy makers or at least insiders.

    “This was a security threat of Saddam Hussein, who had started wars before, used weapons of mass destruction, was shooting at aircraft in the no-fly zone, was still threatening his neighbors, had tried to assassinate George H.W. Bush, was a cancer in the Middle East and a great source of that volatility in the Middle East, needed to be dealt with,” she said.

    Condi’s current version is approximately what was being circulated to insiders and opinion leaders at the time (very different from both “disarm Sadaam’s WMDs”) and promoting democratic revolution throughout the region. Unlike the pretence that the war was about actual WMDs I wouldn’t call that version a lie, just somewhat economical with the truth. They really were seriously concerned that the sanctions were bound to collapse before long and Sadaam would then again become a major problem as he had before with Kuwait, and a major problem would resume seeking WMDs.

    There is nothing surprising about them not admitting their earlier deceptions of their own insiders.

    BTW in case you haven’t noticed, support for democratic revolution in the region is now uncontroversially US policy. It didn’t get that way by accident. The same conservatives who complacently supported the old policy now complacently support the new policy and seem fairly oblivious to having reversed themselves. (Those who are aware of it are still complaining – but quite impotently).

    But you know you heard it here first (and you thought we were nuts).

  3. 3 patrickm

    Steve, If you haven’t already then go to the video at the bottom of your link. The quotes that you are so impressed with is the typical grab from a journalist. The real story is what Condoleeza Rice was saying just before the quote, and that’s what any journalist ‘up’ with the drain-the-swamp theory ought to have drawn her out on, but this guy obviously was not. The money quote for this guy was what sucked you in as well.

    Her starting and key point was to emphasise the connection between 9/11 and the entire ME. That was, and is the story. Everyone knows that there was no direct connection with Saddam’s Iraq, and that, as the man said; ‘Al Qaeda were not even in Iraq’. But Rice made the key point that Al Qaeda and 9/11 came out of the ME – that OBL was a Saudi, and his no.2, Zawahiri an Egyptian. That draws the obvious question, ‘Well so what, how does your policy of ridding Iraq of Saddam, deal in any way with that’?

    Rice’s answer was given all those years ago in Cairo, and her clear belief was that this Arab spring would be the direction if they rolled tyranny in Iraq. The video demonstrates that she was talking about changing the region and Iraq was clearly seen by her in a region wide context – even to the point of saying they “did not go to Iraq to bring democracy to Iraq”.

    They did of course bring democracy to Iraq. (And could not do anything else once they had rolled the Iraqi tyranny – because the old world of installing puppets in countries this large are long gone) As we have always asserted the game here is far bigger than that. 2011 comes as no huge surprise to us, or you Steve, nor does the unity we have discovered with former anti-war activists who have this year joined with us and called for war, and are currently thinking about more war to liberate the people of Syria.

    These few years later, Islamists are struggling against Islamo-fascism throughout the region and are preparing for elections all over the place, and Rice is emphasising the policy continuity of Barack Obama’s administration and the George W. Bush administration. Al Qaeda has got a war on its hands that it never bargained for, and that it is losing. The COW is only days from being totally out of Iraq as the U.S. draw down at the rate of about 500 per day. The war was fought and the war was won by the empowered Iraqi peoples’ assisted by the COW, just like Libya only more so. Whatever went right or wrong in the conduct of this war Rice is correct in saying there was no other way to rid Iraq of Saddam and she was correct in being part of the evidently divided team that changed U.S. ME policy, and altered their military consequentially.

    There is still utter confusion over the on-going war in Afghanistan, and Maj. Gen. Jim Molan is still playing a far more progressive role than others who claim the title. A little while back the anti-war groups in the U.K. ran a demo in London where 5,000 marched to show opposition to a 10-yr-old war in Afghanistan and call for an end to ‘it’ with a troops out NOW stance. So, the peace movement in Australia may also stir themselves for a similar effort; but they might be more realistic about how they would appear, and so sensibly decline to appear irrelevant; as, after Rudd and then Obama’s elections they clearly have been. Though I did see some of these die-hards in debates earlier this year doing all manner of contortions over the left issue of liberating the Libyan people with a united front fight and they advocated standing aside while the tyranny slaughtered the people. We also see it often over how they respond to the current reality of Iraq with big lie stories of Iraq being a tyranny rather than a rather bog standard new ME bourgeois democracy at the centre of the swamp! These are not any type of stances that can even pretend to be progressive, so even if the shattered anti-war ‘movement’ do rally they ought not bother to debate the issue because the following is what happens – the short answer is they get done over in a big way.

    The negative side of the debate was Jim Molan, Peter Singer, and a young Afghan woman Sonia Zaiee- who together with the audience – destroyed their opponents; Raoul Heinrichs, Eva Cox, and lawyer Kellie Tranter. The formal part of this debate can be avoided if you cut to the chase and just go to the audience questions, statements, and the rebuttal period that were all very good stuff and had the advantage of a secret vote that was; Before the debate For 43% – Against 26 %– Undecided 31% After the debate For 41% -Against 52 – Undecided 7 And that’s a very solid result from a debate by any measure. Remember ‘there is no justification for risking Australian lives’ was the issue and 43% were so biased as to not be able to even conceive of how to take on a force as rotten as the Taliban. 2% less of these people left the debate and no doubt many more of the remaining 41% will reflect on what happened after the ballot drove the point home.

    The Taliban are the enemy of any progressive culture and leftists who are internationalists can easily frame a ‘just’ fight against them, so the reason some people can’t frame the justifications can be explained by the concept of the pseudo-left. What remains of the anti-war non activists is a left in form, right in essence political reality, and I think the reality dawned on the residual anti-war side (Singer was opposed to the war when it started!) in this very debate. Note their body language at one point near the end it was classic stuff. They knew they were not making sense when they were exposed over advocating the provision of civilian assistance, as if that was not risking Australian lives. In order to even maintain the fiction of holding to a left viewpoint they had to advocate doing something to assist the oppressed in Afghanistan and thus lost the debate as the vote demonstrated.

    Q and A this week showed that the ABC types want the war ended but they are not going to get this result from either Tweedledum or TDee. Progressives ought to have more to say about how to fight to win this war to assist the transition of a culture away from stoning little girls for going to school.

  4. 4 Steve Owens

    Wow how could I miss that. He says why Iraq? and she says AlQaeda comes from the middle east and so does Iraq. Case closed.
    Heres me getting “sucked in” by what she says.
    Let me get the logic straight Marxism, nazism and leather pants all come out of Germany so somehow they are all linked?

  5. 5 Steve Owens

    Patrickm this guy puts it so much better than I can

  6. 6 patrickm

    Steve, I am genuinely puzzled over what seems to me a glaring inconsistency in your current political position. You have supported uniting with the western ruling-classes and advocated for the war in unity with Libyan rebels against their lawful tyranny. So what remains of your former stance over Kuwait? Isn’t the old stance now reduced to absolute mush?

    I really can’t see how you could support one war without supporting (in retrospect as Hitchens has) the other. Why would you respond with advocacy of a united-front war over the local lawful tyrant attacking Benghazi etc., during a clear civil war, and not respond to the annexation attack on Kuwait by an aggressive fascist country that shared a border?

    I also can’t see how you could come up with your last effort not to understand current U.S. policy, or at least our understanding of it that mysteriously turned out to work like we said it would. Chomsky apparently still thinks it’s the same old game book, and his followers were not interested in joining with the NATO war effort. Rice was very explicit at Cairo about the change of policy.

    You really must think the U.S. has changed policies by now. The pseudo-left position is so strange as obviously 9/11 showed the old U.S. policies up as dangerously wrong, and the difference between old style scoundrels like Cheney and Rumsfeld compared to Rice are now quite public. One simply can’t change the foreign policies of a superpower without a lot of people noticing.

    The entire left agrees that it was the former U.S. policies that led to 9/11. Only the loonies think that the old policies and actions justified these attacks, but everyone as far as I am aware agrees that these attacks did not happen because the criminals hated U.S. freedoms or some such nonsense. The ‘same old, same old’ nothing is new stance is not working for you as you have approved the just concluded intervention war in Libya, and are watching events in Syria unfold with concern and flexibility. Even if you refuse to change your position over the war of 1991 at least you can concede that revolutionary leftists think our stance is consistent.

    Reflecting on Iraq you have approved the process of elections and have no concern that the country is just another U.S. puppet or a theocracy. Pseudo-leftists make this type of stupid claim that you reject. I think you are glad that in the Iraqi constitution re Islam ‘a’ won out over ‘the’, as in ‘a source of law’, rather than ‘the source of law’.

    ‘The’ will probably win out in Libya. At any rate I don’t think anyone is predicting that Libya will surpass Iraq in it’s formal democracy. But Iraq is in the past from the POV of left politics.

    We all wish the most progressive elements in both these countries well as they both now have a political process to follow for further struggle and development of their societies, and let’s face it they have much work before them from the standpoint of the more advanced western bourgeois democracies. But nothing is happening in Libya that is of any higher order than Iraq. The bourgeois democratic revolution has been launched in both. Iraq is just a little ahead that’s all.

    The Iraq war is formally ending in the way that revolutionary democrats and leftists had predicted it would and the pseudo-left now believe that this means that the U.S. failed in their war! You do not believe this fairytale do you? They have to say this because the U.S. are leaving while an obviously independent and essentially hostile government is in power. (Just like we said they would end up with and supported and just like the foreign policy establishment predicted and in the tradition of ‘realist’ policies opposed)

    The pseudo-left are avoiding the current reality because they mostly avoid thinking about what a bourgeois democratic revolution (with the human materials right now available) would look like in the ME so they never get ‘it’. But Rice the academic turned diplomat that was a Soviet specialist when that superpower imploded could not help but have her thinking profoundly influenced by these events.

    I saw these events through the lens of a big picture political formulation with quite some track record. Mao had framed our era as one where “nations want liberation, countries want independence and the people want revolution”, and as the various bourgeois democratic revolutions, and or nationalist revolutions broke out across the massive territory of the old USSR and eastern Europe this seemed to me to be a reasonable lens. The Rice interview indicates the way she was driving the policy that had been chosen by George W Bush while more reluctant older ‘revolutionaries’ had greater difficulty in shrugging off their lifetime of reactionary policies.

    Here is my transcript of the start of the interview.

    “GS Condoleeza Rice (CR)has written a hard hitting new book about her 8 years in the Bush administration it’s called ‘No Higher Honor- a memoir of my years in Washington’ and in it the former national security adviser and Sec. of State does not hold back, painting a detailed and often disturbing portrait of policy making during a time of war. But I began by asking a question she doesn’t directly address in her memoir. Was the long and costly war in Iraq worth the sacrifice?
    Rice: ‘Every international relations class starts with the ME is the most volatile region in the world, we also now know that it was the cradle of Al Qaeda and extremism and therefore..’
    GS: But Al Qaeda wasn’t in Iraq you knew about that’
    Rice: No no Qaeda. Well OBL was a Saudi. Zawahiri was an Egyptian
    GS Not Iraqi though.
    Rice: THIS came out of the ME. Now we didn’t go to Iraq to bring democracy to the Iraqis and I try in the book to really explain that that wasn’t the purpose.
    GS Some in the administration thought it was.
    Rice: Well but we were very clear about this. This was a security threat and I as much as anybody understand and really regret the cost particularly in lives. But I also know that nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice.
    GS Couldn’t it have happened at a lower cost
    Rice: I don’t know how. I don’t think that Saddam was removable by any other means.
    GS Rice has been the target of fellow…Rumsfeld blah blah …she’d been an academic and a lot of academics like to have meetings..
    Rice: The defense dept didn’t execute at critical times.
    GS Cheney blah blah over the 16 words (lies over WMD’s)
    Rice: …I did tell him that he was right that the press would react in a particular way to admitting that the 16 words should not have been in the President’s speech.
    Rice: He clearly did not like the turn of policy after I became Sec. of State that’s very clear.

    CUT Dysfunction Blah blah
    Rice: We could have done better. ….. But you also have to remember that this was a big proposition IRAQ!”

    Yes ‘it’ could have been done far simpler according to the realists and Chomsky (they say so all the time) but then it would definitely not have been the region changing revolutionary transformation that it has been. (however flawed)

    Whatever goes on in 2012 in Iraq the revolutionaries are infinitely better off than they were less than ten years ago. The fight against all forms of fascism that still exist there, or much less often than before, who still come across the borders to make war on the Iraqi people is very broadly based and is now fought fromthe front foot. These forces, like Al Qaeda bombers, can’t now pretend that they cross the border to make war against the forces of the Great Satan! They have immediate concerns back in their own countries like Egypt, Syria etc.

    The revolutionary situation continues developing in Syria and this latest ‘Friday’ call from the people that are still in the Syrian streets is clearly a further move towards the developing civil war. Unless a very significant section of the Army mutinies, intervention is probably going to be a dramatic part of the way forward for this large element of the region wide revolution. At any rate the Syrian forces currently copping the casualties on their own streets are calling for assistance and preparing for a bloody struggle.

    They very sensibly do not trust this regime to peacefully bring about its own end and have said so in the face of the Arab League demands that have been formerly accepted by the tyranny. All these current concessions are only occurring because the army is rotting away and the secret police are failing to stop the people organising.

    Steve, I can’t see why the government of Iraq would support the preservation of the Assad tyranny. I realize the religious complexity of Syria and also its ‘cross roads’ central location in this region, and I understand this is the swamp we are talking about – so there is always slime that remains after the first stage of draining – but I still can’t put this together in the interests of the current Iraqi government. So, I would like you to put the argument if you can.
    What is in it for that government?
    Is the current Iraqi government split over the issue?
    What forces in Iraq would come to be or are against this policy?
    What of Turkey, do you think they will continue to ‘meddle’ and probably intervene against Assad if even a small slaughter erupts on or near their border?
    The Saudi regime must be twisted into a pretzel over this as they are conflicted and would have no doubt preferred business as usual, but there is no going back to pre-2003 days. But they will also meddle and arm Sunni types to some extent or other.
    Hamas and Hizbollah have gone reasonably silent at worst and are not going to fall in behind policies of preserving Assad against the will of the vast majority of the Syrian people.

    In many cities and towns throughout Syria I think this is only a question of lack of arms at the moment . In short what do the Syrian masses need to win this? As uncle Joe once said 3 things; 1st’ arms; 2nd, arms; and 3rd more arms.

    ‘Violence has, if anything, intensified since the Arab League agreement was announced, amid reports of sectarian killings.
    Troops fired on protests that erupted after Friday prayers in many towns, killing at least seven people in Kanaker, south of Damascus, nine in the city of Homs, where tanks were again in action, and one in Saqba, near the capital, activists said.
    Another two protesters were killed in the city of Hama, 240 km (155 miles) north of Damascus, when security forces fired at several thousand protesters who tried to march to the main Orontes square, scene of big demonstrations before tanks stormed the city three months ago, they said.
    “Lots of people fell on the ground with bullet wounds and we are afraid some will not make it,” Mohammed, a Kanaker resident, said by telephone.
    Citing activists in Kanaker, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a 20-year-old soldier mutinied while his unit was firing on protesters in the town and killed five members of the security forces, including a colonel, before he was shot dead.’

    and in other news…

    Things are getting very exciting with the end stage of the war for greater Israel. Deals done and then undone etc., re: the release of Marwan Barghouti from 3 years ago are even being discussed in the media.

    The Palestinian people have just won at UNESCO with Israel now almost totally isolated. Only 13 remain backing once thought plucky little Israel. Germany, U.S., Canada, Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Palau, Panama, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, being the ridiculously isolated NO votes.

    What is next on this front? Obama seems caught between the rock and the hard place that Netanyahu has wagged the U.S. dog towards as he now enters his next extended election campaign. Delay followed by delay, and YET the situation continues to get worse for the Zionists. If the Palestinians vote for their President before the U.S. vote for theirs then the Israelis might be holding him in jail. That can’t be a good look given Obama’s Cairo speech. Marwan Barghouti is the best hope the U.S. have of seeing Hamastan ended in Gaza and a reunified Palestine.

    IMV the draining the swamp theory continues to hold up against all alternative explanations of what the very tiny U.S. ruling-elite were thinking when they formulated their strategic response to 9/11 and attacked the fascist tyranny in Iraq.

  7. 7 steve owens

    Just on Kuwait, Iraq, Libya and my supposed inconsistencies.
    I opposed Saddams invasion of Kuwait and supported sanctions against Iraq.
    I opposed liberating Kuwait on 2 grounds, one the cost in lives and two I didnt support people sacrificing their lives so that some prince could be restored to his throne. Legality was never a consideration cost and outcomes were.
    I opposed the invasion of Iraq because I thought that the cost in lives would be great and the outcomes were unclear. I supported elections as soon as Iraqis demanded them. I have no problem with just demands.
    Lybia was a comparitive no brainer. Democratic forces asking for help.
    I see no inconsistency.

  8. 8 steve owens

    Patrickm you say “I can’t see why the government of Iraq would support the Assad tyranny.” Thats the whole point the government of Iraq is clearly supporting the Assad tyranny and you looking through your lens can’t see it or at least cant see why reality is reality.
    Iraq is sanction busting, Iraq wont give even symbolic support to the Syrian opposition, Iraq refuses to take refugees from Syria.

  9. 9 steve owens

    Patrickm are you still arguing that Iraq is insiring if not leading the democratic revolution?
    In the recent vote by the Arab League to impose sanctions against Syria Iraq abstained.

  10. 10 steve owens

    OK 2 corrections its suspension from the Arab League not sanctions and the word is inspiring not insiring. Sorry rushed the previous post as Im baby sitting grandson and not paying enough attention.

  11. 11 patrickm

    The ME is full of double speak and forward and backward moves by almost everyone and if you study the article Steve posted above it reveals more complexity than proof of any one position.

    The peoples’ of Syria are moving inexorably onto a war footing and are doing this because their tyrannous ruling-elite can’t make the changes that they have promised, and their thugs can’t stop being thugs. The vast majority of the people of cities like Homs are not going to tolerate ANY role for outside police thugs who continue to arrest or kill their leaders and young fighting men. There is nothing that the army of occupation can offer past stepping backwards. They come to the city for zero benefit to the local people.

    Syria has the great complexity of dealing with issues of national liberation during a very complex war that also has aspects of an existing country’s independence involved. But the independence of the country is not on the agenda for many of the people on the streets calling for, or hoping for, or unconcerned with foreign intervention. This is only an issue for those in power already as it was in Libya.

    The people there want to make revolution. That is the main game. Syria is thus a dogs breakfast to understand not just for the people that live there but for the countries that share a border. The only clear issue is that the tyranny no longer has any ‘legitimacy’ because it has lost the power to intimidate in large areas. All steps backward increases the problem internally, as do all steps forward increase the external problems. Staying still can’t work for the tyranny either because the regime’s army rots where it stands, as the people continue to organise to win their freedoms.

    The Iraqi government is formally backing the Arab League demands for the regime to end the armed suppression of the demonstrating masses and the regime is all talk about doing just that. The reality is that the Assad regime continues to use terror and the people continue to organise to overthrow them. What is in the Iraqi government’s interests and what are they able to do?

    I am not surprised that ‘U.S. officials have privately expressed disappointment over Baghdad’s reluctance to take a more forceful stance against Syrian brutality, which millions of Iraqis witness daily on Arab-language cable news networks.’ Crucial point is that millions of Iraqi people are witness to what is happening and support the Syrian masses. The other important factor is who exactly are the active Iraqi refugees in Syria and how have they been involved in the Iraq civil war? A million is a lot so it’s no wonder the Iraq government is cautious and nothing is crystal.

    I assumed everyone knew that the Iraq government is in favor of real reforms in Syria and has been ‘politely’ pushing Assad in the direction of making the basic changes to empower the Syrian people. The politicians all ought to have known that changes will be made around Assad if he does not make them quickly enough and he has not done so, so, the situation is worse now than 6 months ago. Iraqi politicians, have exactly as one would expect tried to manage the changes, but they are much like the politicians of Europe and almost everywhere else. They seem to respond with – too little, too late – at every turn of events.

    They are not Iranian puppets and they are obviously worried about Turkey acting prematurely or excessively, but they are not jumping up and down about current meddling. All these countries have interests with what happens to Syria and that is exactly the way wars usually develop when a country is so obviously riven and the old regime has no long term prospect of resisting the uprising of its divided peoples’.

    ‘…Maliki — a Shiite Muslim who lived in exile in Syria for nearly 15 years — has strategic and sectarian reasons for avoiding a direct confrontation with Assad. Members of Iraq’s Shiite majority and Syria’s ruling Alawite Shiite sect share a common worry about Sunni-led insurgencies. Some Iraqis fear that a violent overthrow of Syrian Alawites will trigger unrest across the border in Iraq.’

    The Iraqi government have had plenty of ‘unrest’ and would like a little peaceful development, and yet there is a big fighting underground of Iraqi Sunni’s based in Syria that they do not want to see get back to fighting in Iraq, or even develop strength within Syria, so they are being very cautious for very good reasons.

    Syria has been suspended from the Arab League and Iraq only abstained.

    Just as there is no single unified Iraqi foreign policy, it would be a mistake to ascribe a single Iraqi point of view towards the complex events in Syria. This is especially the case as long as the organizing principle of Iraqi politics is the competition between Maliki’s State of Law and Ayad Allawi’s Iraqiyya coalitions and the strong overlay of regional and sectarian interests which they represent.

    and here is another take worth considering

  12. 12 Arthur

    The USIP brief 108 seems like plausible background info.

    It is a disappointing stance (as is Lebanon’s).

    Looks like a combination of Shia sectarianism and being vulnerable to the consequences of openly backing overthrow of a neighbour. Both factors favoured Iraq taking a stronger stand than the rest of the region over Bahrain and both factors favour most of the Arab League (plus Turkey) taking a better stand than Iraq over Syria.

  13. 13 steve owens
  14. 14 steve owens

    Thats odd. Yesterday I posted a link to a story in the Washington Post where the Iraqi spokesperson “Slams the arab leagues decision to suspend Syria”
    I click that link this morning and a different story comes up about comments made by the Iraqi foriegn minister
    The link was working yesterday but not working properly today

  15. 15 Arthur

    Haven’t been following the details but not clear to me that Assad leaving country would be key. Represents a dominant clan in a 10% or so larger Allawite minority. Earlier reports hoped he would be more willing to “reform” than others. No obvious reason to assume others wouldn’t fight on if he flees. Not same situation as personal/family Gaddafi regime.

  16. 16 steve owens
  17. 17 steve owens

    Time has come, a facts a fact Iraq must invade America to restore democracy!

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