Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bob Kerrey: The Left's Iraq Muddle

I feel strongly enough about this article, from today's Opinion Journal, to print it in its entirety. Excerpting it just doesn't seem enough.

The Left's Iraq Muddle

Yes, it is central to the fight against Islamic radicalism.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

At this year's graduation celebration at The New School in New York, Iranian lawyer, human-rights activist and Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi delivered our commencement address. This brave woman, who has been imprisoned for her criticism of the Iranian government, had many good and wise things to say to our graduates, which earned their applause.

But one applause line troubled me. Ms. Ebadi said: "Democracy cannot be imposed with military force."

What troubled me about this statement--a commonly heard criticism of U.S. involvement in Iraq--is that those who say such things seem to forget the good U.S. arms have done in imposing democracy on countries like Japan and Germany, or Bosnia more recently.

Let me restate the case for this Iraq war from the U.S. point of view. The U.S. led an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein because Iraq was rightly seen as a threat following Sept. 11, 2001. For two decades we had suffered attacks by radical Islamic groups but were lulled into a false sense of complacency because all previous attacks were "over there." It was our nation and our people who had been identified by Osama bin Laden as the "head of the snake." But suddenly Middle Eastern radicals had demonstrated extraordinary capacity to reach our shores.

As for Saddam, he had refused to comply with numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions outlining specific requirements related to disclosure of his weapons programs. He could have complied with the Security Council resolutions with the greatest of ease. He chose not to because he was stealing and extorting billions of dollars from the U.N. Oil for Food program.

No matter how incompetent the Bush administration and no matter how poorly they chose their words to describe themselves and their political opponents, Iraq was a larger national security risk after Sept. 11 than it was before. And no matter how much we might want to turn the clock back and either avoid the invasion itself or the blunders that followed, we cannot. The war to overthrow Saddam Hussein is over. What remains is a war to overthrow the government of Iraq.

Some who have been critical of this effort from the beginning have consistently based their opposition on their preference for a dictator we can control or contain at a much lower cost. From the start they said the price tag for creating an environment where democracy could take root in Iraq would be high. Those critics can go to sleep at night knowing they were right.

The critics who bother me the most are those who ordinarily would not be on the side of supporting dictatorships, who are arguing today that only military intervention can prevent the genocide of Darfur, or who argued yesterday for military intervention in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda to ease the sectarian violence that was tearing those places apart.

Suppose we had not invaded Iraq and Hussein had been overthrown by Shiite and Kurdish insurgents. Suppose al Qaeda then undermined their new democracy and inflamed sectarian tensions to the same level of violence we are seeing today. Wouldn't you expect the same people who are urging a unilateral and immediate withdrawal to be urging military intervention to end this carnage? I would.

American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq's middle class has fled the country in fear.

With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do? If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power. American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible should remember this: Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy.

The key question for Congress is whether or not Iraq has become the primary battleground against the same radical Islamists who declared war on the U.S. in the 1990s and who have carried out a series of terrorist operations including 9/11. The answer is emphatically "yes."
This does not mean that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11; he was not. Nor does it mean that the war to overthrow him was justified--though I believe it was. It only means that a unilateral withdrawal from Iraq would hand Osama bin Laden a substantial psychological victory.

Those who argue that radical Islamic terrorism has arrived in Iraq because of the U.S.-led invasion are right. But they are right because radical Islam opposes democracy in Iraq. If our purpose had been to substitute a dictator who was more cooperative and supportive of the West, these groups wouldn't have lasted a week.

Finally, Jim Webb said something during his campaign for the Senate that should be emblazoned on the desks of all 535 members of Congress: You do not have to occupy a country in order to fight the terrorists who are inside it. Upon that truth I believe it is possible to build what doesn't exist today in Washington: a bipartisan strategy to deal with the long-term threat of terrorism.

The American people will need that consensus regardless of when, and under what circumstances, we withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq. We must not allow terrorist sanctuaries to develop any place on earth. Whether these fighters are finding refuge in Syria, Iran, Pakistan or elsewhere, we cannot afford diplomatic or political excuses to prevent us from using military force to eliminate them.

(Mr. Kerrey, a former Democratic senator from Nebraska and member of the 9/11 Commission, is president of The New School.)

Cheers to Kerrey for doing a few things that his one-time colleagues in the Capitol have utterly failed to do:
  1. Divorce his feelings about President Bush from his assessment of the issue.
  2. Actually pay the tiniest bit of attention to military history.
  3. Take our enemies at their word when they say they plan to destroy us.
  4. Place national security above partisan politics.
  5. Dare to reason independently of his party line.

With wiser heads in Washington backing off from the Iraq Surrender Funding Bill and rising up to reconsider the Bipartisan Back-Room Amnesty Agreement, I'm actually feeling a little bit of hope after several weeks of absolute bleakness.

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  • At 5/23/2007 11:21 PM , Blogger Scott Wichmann said...

    Iraq was not a threat to the United States. They had no weapons of mass destruction and no ties to Al-Quaeda. Nothing to do with 9-11. All the wishing and hoping and "Fixing facts around the
    policy" of preemption and false SOTU Niger Uranium claims in the world cannot change these basic facts. I don't care what Bill or Hillary Clinton said, or what dick Cheney invented, there were no WMD. And by WMD, I don't mean mustard gas found in some rusty drum in Haditha-- Or the leftover chemical weapons we sold Iraq to use against Iran and the Kurds in Halabja in '88-- I mean nukes. The big ICBM kind that could threaten the US Mainland and scare everyone into abandoning their judgement and hiding behind a flag... Or even a briefcase containing fake death star plans or a sketch on notebook paper of a 'spy vs. spy'-type bomb with a fuse on the end and a 'FROM THE DESK OF NORTHRUP GRUMMAN-- I MEAN SADDAM HUSSEIN' embossed on top. Show me the WMD.

    I was so looking forward to the big reveal, the big justification for this whole retarded enterprise, but-- Nada. There were none. None. There never were. Not any. Not one. Despite the fact that rumsfeld said "We know where they are-- they're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad" -- there never were any. There continue to be none.

    How about now? Nope. None.

    That was our justification for going in, and it was and is a false one.


    Any now?

    Nope. Sorry.

    "But I thought--"

    Oooh, yeah. Umm-- sorry-- Those were outright lies foisted by an adminstration looking for any excuse to get in there and get their hands on 115 billion barrels of oil. Yes, I said it. There are human rights abuses in Burma, Tibet, China, Sudan, Darfur, and hundreds of other places with despotic leaders or leadership groups. How is it that the one place we're fixated on cleaning up is the one with the largest amount of the one thing we need most? Hmm.

    Regrettably, US misadventures in Iraq effectively pulled the pin on a grenade in the middle east, and set the stage for a fight which has been brewing for thousands of years in the Muslim world over who the real Caliphate is. We cannot solve or mediate that kind of a conflict, especially when we are seen as hegemonic occupiers hellbent on strategic control of natural resources-- which we are.

    So now, our men and women are dying every day in a bloodbath between these sunni & shia nutjobs who think it is okay to stone young 17-year-old girls to death because they fall in love with a different brand of muslim. Nice. Probably not a lot of diplomatic 'give' with those foamy-mouthed religious fanatics.

    US troops cannot tell the difference between the enemy and the average Iraqi, so how can they be expected to effectively provide cover for an Infantile Iraqi Parliament that wants it's first meaningful act of leadership to be commencement of a two-month summer vacation?? That pisses me off like you wouldn't believe. Meanwhile, Osama Bin Laden keeps putting out more new tracks than Tupac. It's bullshit. What a slap in the face.

    If we want to pursue Al-Quaeda leadership at the root, which I thought was the real threat all along, then why do we ally ourselves so closely economically and militarily with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan (Both Islamic countries and horrific human rights abusers-- you can catch a saudi beheading for apostasy any day of the week at your local soccer match btw) the two places fueling the fires of violent muslim jihad, and then claim Iraq is the 'central front' in the war on terror? It makes no sense to me to stay long-term (14 permanent military bases currently under construction in Iraq!! YAY!!) in a country that wasn't complict in the greatest historical attack on the US mainland when the sponsors and perpetrators of these attacks aren't even squeezed the tiniest bit diplomatically. The saudis get a free pass, but Iraq lies in ruins?? Yes, I guess in fifty years, Mr. bush, with the proper historical perspective, it will look-- well-- okay, it will still look incredibly stupid.

    Moreover, what exactly does total military 'victory' look like anyway? I mean, let's bring back the draft if so much hangs in the balance. Better yet, let's nuke them. Yeah, they don't seem very happy about being set free-- set free from their jobs, their families, their property, education, electricity, and civilization-- they just aren't showing the proper gratitude!! In fact, they're shooting and bombing us every chance we get!!

    It's a mess. there is no such thing as victory here. Only piling human suffering and loss upon more human suffering and loss.

    You got what you wanted, America.

    Mission Accomplished.

  • At 5/23/2007 11:35 PM , Blogger Scott Wichmann said...

    Oh, and by the way, these democrats SUCK. They SUUUUUUUUUUCK. At least the Republicans are decisive, I'll give you that. thanks for the thought-provoking blogs, Sparky. Love to read them. Peace.

  • At 5/24/2007 9:36 AM , Anonymous Roaring Boy said...

    What's worse is, Bush is now right in saying that we can't just leave. We are at risk. Unfortunately, he mobilized these terrorist forces better than Bin Laden ever could. In fact, he completely fulfilled all of Bin Laden's prophecies about the West.
    And now our leader is pumping bi-partisan nonsense by using absolutist, jingoistic rhetoric which has little or nothing to do with accountability or a well-thought approach to the situation. Taking a symptomatic approach to terrorism DOESN'T WORK. I think we've proven this. No offense to our military and political leaders, but have we REALLY exhausted every alternative that allows for us to resort to this 'plan', or have we simply been involved in the middle east so long that attempting actual dialogue would reveal too many dark secrets about our involvement there for the last 60 years? We have now set a new precedent that will prevent the world from ever taking us seriously as a world leader again. Maybe Chomsky is right. Maybe we have more to gain by maintaining this situation than rising above it and actually tackling the root issues that divide us.

  • At 5/24/2007 11:42 AM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    While I take very little joy in doing this, I want to remind you of a couple things I wrote after the election in November:

    "Here's my fear: a lot of people who are very happy today are going to be very angry in a few months when the Democratic majority does nothing whatsoever different in Iraq. Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt have already admitted that they don't plan to move for any change in the waging of the war."

    "...I agree that some things need to change. I just don't think the Democrats have demonstrated that they have any actual plans to change anything. They do, however, have a surfeit of rhetoric."

    Scott's right: these Democrats are a sorry lot. I respect someone who pursues real beliefs and values, even if I oppose them. What I don't respect are poll-chasing and electioneering, which are pretty much the only things the post-Clinton Democratic party is capable of.

  • At 5/24/2007 2:17 PM , Blogger Scott Wichmann said...

    Andrew, your frears have been completely justified. The Dems ignored a mandate by the peopl to get us out of Iraq and continue to hand the keys and checkbook to a delusional incompetent, while trying to look as if they are the big anti-war populists they will never be.

  • At 5/27/2007 8:26 AM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    I don't think they ignored the mandate, I think they have stoked it and manipulated it with no regard for whether or not they actually believe in it.

    This is what terrifies me about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, one of whom is going to be our next president: I have no idea where either one of them actually stands on the issues, Clinton because she believes only in what will get her votes and Obama because heis campaign seems to be going out of its way to conceal many of his core beliefs.

    Bill Clinton once said, "Republicans want to fall in line. Democrats want to fall in love." Both ways are rotten freaking criteria for choosing a president.


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