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Looking for John Wojdylo: one letter to the past

Dear John Wojdylo,

Where are you, John?

I’m sorry, there must be something wrong with my ears. I can’t hear you.

Where are you now, John?

Where are you on this magnificent fifth anniversary of 9/11, this three year, five month and twenty two day celebration of the invasion, liberation and occupation of Iraq? Where is your childish certitude, your personal abuse of my opposition to that folly? Your braying assertions that I ‘give the green light for dictators’, that to me, 'Iraqis seeking liberty have become an abstraction - [I'm] preoccupied with [my] own concerns, in [my] self-centred world, despite the lip-service [I] pay to noble ideals'. That I am 'clearly imprisoned by the rationalisations inside [my] head, by this self-obsession, and have lost the ability to see the world outside, the world of another person - particularly the world of the Iraqi desiring liberty...' ?

John, where are you?

Where are you, now that it is clear that your and others’ over-heated dilettantism on Iraq has led to the predictable disaster some of us argued it would? Have you wandered off, rendered, by time and setback after setback, bored and impatient and dismissive of the whole thing?  Do you have better things to do these days than worry about the ‘Iraqi desiring liberty?

Pity for them, isn’t it. Pity especially for all the dead and maimed soldiers and civilians, of all nationalities, your invasion has produced. A vexing pity for those still alive and stuck there, who have no choice but to salvage something from the disaster-waiting-to-happen that you and your ilk fatuously couldn’t be bothered thinking through carefully enough – even though we tried to make you – to give any chance of success.

Instead, preferring to waste your time and energy…calling people like me childish names.

Well, I hope that unlike everyone in Iraq, you, at least, are enjoying a safe, prosperous and pleasant life untrammeled by wearisome stuff like politics and war, John. Wherever you may be now. (Where are you now, John?)

If you ever do get nostalgic for those heady pre-invasion days, though, and start to miss the fun you had calling us names, why not take the time to re-read everything I wrote in those days, back before the invasion, when there was a good chance we in the West might win your ‘War on Terror’, at least?

You could and should re-read this and this and this and this and this, John. If you are honest, that is.

If not don't bother.

Newer Webdiarists curious about why I rarely post now and can’t much be bothered with rationality and manners when I do might care to browse the past too, to recall how useless serious debate proved then.

Because on this anniversary we need to remember something fundamental: since 9/11, those driving the ‘War on Terror’ – in politics, in media, in business, in what began life as the ‘warblogger-sphere’ especially – have never been interested in rational, polite debate. Those set aquiver with righteous rage by the attacks that day, charged full of John Wojdylo’s brand of blinkered certitude, were not then and are not now remotely interested in having their ‘changed world’ positions tested nor their hardening prejudices challenged nor their fast-closing minds re-opened. If the world was changed by the events of that day, then it was probably changed most of all in this mournful, anti-Enlightened way: it killed rational debate. Read the comments today of the hard-line Webdiary invasion supporters who were commenting back in early 2003. I’ll wager that for most the aggressive tone of their postings has not changed much, no matter how subtly (or otherwise) the arguments in which they apply it may have shifted. Having their certitudes proved utterly unjustified over the Iraq invasion has changed nothing: still those certitudes are unshaken, their tactics unchanged. Still they call us appeasers. Still they accuse of supporting and abetting terrorism, of sticking our heads in the sand, of not caring about the ‘threat’ facing the world. Still they call us anti-American, Israel-hating, objectively pro-terrorist, naive, foolish, off-the-planet...

Where are you, John Wojdylo, by the way? Where are your certitudes now?

If there is one great lie that has characterized these 5th anniversary commemorations, John, it is the way the most aggressive supporters of the invasion have exploited the world's remembrances to try to obfuscate the fact that the act of geo-strategic folly in Iraq was a matter of their deliberate, and loudly opposed, choosing. Today, onto the Conflation Bandwagon they all jump in desperation – pushing the lie that the ‘War on Terror’ was always about Iraq and Iraq was always about the ‘War on Terror’. As it becomes evermore clear that America is being slowly but surely ground to military, economic and diplomatic global irrelevance – not by bin Laden, a flea and a thug and a criminal non-entity (and if not dead then permanently contained), but by Iraq and Iraq alone – on they hop: the Kellys,  BonesGawendas,  Sheridans, et al, blah blah blah. Desperately claiming that the invasion decision which they had to champion long and hard to sell was a logical, justified, wise and in any case unavoidable extension of the ‘War on Terror’. One only the unserious and the ideological, the blinded by hatred of America, of Israel, of Western civilisation itself, could fail to support. 

John, on this anniversary I’m here to remind you that this re-writing of post-9/11 history is pure bullshit. A simple examination of the arguments had in those days reminds us all that we did not have to and indeed should not have invaded Iraq if we really wanted to win the global fight against terrorism; that many of us argued as much with every ounce of passion and clarity we could muster, at the time; that events have, largely, proved our arguments prescient and yours utterly, disastrously wrong.

Mine, many other Webdiarists’, tens of thousands of others all around the world.

Why is it worth nothing, John? Well, while none of us can change history and we all have to muck in and make the best of things in Iraq and the broader 'War on Terror' from here on…perhaps you and your kind of brayer might at least re-think your certitudes at last. Tone down your hurtful tactics, your 'appeaser' sneering, your accusations that we, not you, are the ones not taking the growing danger of terrorism with sufficent seriousness and maturity and...staying power, especially.

Where are you, John?

The truth is that the vast majority of the world’s Iraq invasion opponents argued against it because we considered it geo-strategically a manifestly stupid thing to do, bound to fail, bound to render the US a fatally encumbered and useless superpower, bound – above all else – to contribute to our losing the very ‘War on Terror’ your side claim to want to win (despite, too, your dumb wrong-footed start in insisting on giving it that adolescent label at all). 

So in the face of the usual cliché onslaught and the evermore desperate casual slanders from the white feather chuckers, John – wherever you are - let’s use today’s 5 year anniversary  to reaffirm that those of us who opposed the 3.5 year-old invasion, liberation and occupation of Iraq support the global campaign to minimise Islamist terrorism very strongly; that it was precisely why we opposed the invasion; precisely why - as Paul Sheehan has apparently only now belatedly discovered - all along we've not wished to grant our mediocre criminal enemies the legitimizing dignity and grandiosity of a term like ‘War’.

We hold such positions not because we don’t want to prevail in your silly Catchprase - but precisely because we do. Or…did. It is, as I have written elsewhere more rudely, probably too late to matter now. It’s almost certainly a foregone conclusion that the catastrophe of the Iraq blunder, so dishonestly linked to 9/11 then and now, will eventually prove to have marked the beginning of the slow demise of Western Civilisation, at least as it has evolved and distorted in our decadent era...

But as I have also said elsewhere, to the world’s six billion in toto this eventually may not prove to have been a completely bad thing, anyway. For one thing, John, a slow and so not oppressive or violent decline in America's 'post-historical' lone superpowerhood might make for a sobering exercise in empathetic humility for the kind of self-centred, arrogant bleeding heart Westerner that you once accused me of being. Or, as I suggested right back, the kind of warmongering Westerner who from the safety of their internet armchair loudly supports ill-planned, faraway military misadventures that kill and maim and destroy Third World innocents, at least partly, I suspected then and still do now, to disguise deep masculine anxieties arising from their office-bound Western effeteness…only to wander quietly off when it all gets a bit complex and messy and bogged down, as real man's wars always do.

So...who knows, John: maybe the both of us arrogant Westerners will benefit in the long run from having our sorry asses whumped by the Sand Niggers.

So...where are you, John? Where is all your Western democratic certitude and personal abuse now? Why not let's go down together, eh?

Happy anniversary, pal. Wishing you were (still) here.

Yours cordially,

Jack Robertson

PS: My brother, you may or may not be interested to know, managed to get through his part in your ‘War on Terror’ with only two minor scratches – one a bit of IED shrapnel in the back, the  other a bullet graze under the chin. Recently the Queen of England pinned a DSM on his chest, on the other hand, which is at least some compensation for all the strategically catastrophic chaos and brutality he has helped, at your command, unleash in Iraq. (That’s a paraphrase of his patriotic war on terror-fightin’ description of what we’ve done there, by the way, John, and not my Yank-bashing, Saddam-loving,  ‘pussyfoot’ one.) 

Sleep well, John. Even though arrogant warmongering brats with your short attention span probably don’t deserve to until Iraq is made ordered, safe and peaceful. Which could take your incomptent lot even longer than catching Osama, I'd say. Unless you finally let us grown-ups get a helpful word of advice in for a change.


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Same old answer

Hi Ian Macdougall.  I'll answer your questions in reverse. This will be long. Sorry. I take war debates seriously, or not at all.

"Do you think the fall of Saddam was a good thing?"

No thanks, Ian, I don't care to be herded into 'Have you stopped beating your wife yet?' boxes, and never have. This is a nonsense question. For starters, even if I cared to answer it, which I don't, I couldn't possibly do so with any meaning until and unless you provided me with the full tally of the 'loss' side of the 'regime change' cost-benefit sheet; with a long view of Iraq from ten, twenty, thirty years hence; and with a clear picture of how much al-Qaeda elsewhere has benefitted (or, of course, not) from the enormous diversion that was the fullscale conventional invasion deemed requisite to remove him, especially.   

You want a cold, hard 'war on terror' strategic guess? You want an answer I reckon an Israeli or an American Treasury official might give you in a decade? Or a Chinese Premier? An arms factory shareholder? A Pakistani jihadi? Osama bin Laden? President John McCain? Or President Al Gore? (President Hillar...no, god forbid..)

Well, I think it's likelier that my answer, all ramifications considered, will turn out to be a 'no' than a 'yes'. But I just can't say, Ian. Was Nazism a bad thing for the Jews? Israel probably wouldn't exist today without Hitler once having existed, so what would a 'yes' to that one mean, Ian - that you wish Israel didn't exist? How very Iranian. But would a 'no' answer mean that you were glad the six million were gassed? Goodness, now you're...Iranian again. 

Point-scoring nonsense. Rhetorical game-playing. The stuff of adolescence and Murdoch tabloid columnists. So shove it up your arse, mate.

Ian, you're not stupid, and you know as well as I do that such questions are an insult to both our intelligences. Closer to home I might as easily ask you: 'Do you think it's a good thing that that little boy lost both his arms during the liberation of Iraq?" You would answer 'No', then I would cackle and say: 'So, how can you support the invasion that caused it, then?" We could both do this ad nauseum.

Which is, by the way, largely what has been been occurring in much of the 'debates' over Iraq forever. Infantile crap. I'd rather spend the morning's sunny hours in the bath with a nuddy picture of Mischa Barton or Orlanda Bloom, having a nice long luxurious wank, frankly. It would produce more of lasting substance on matters Iraq. And I'd feel cleaner afterwards, too.

So let's do something different, Ian. Let's neither of us turn ourselves into rhetorical dancing monkies, eh? I said to TK and MC earlier that I haven't the stomach for much in-depth analysis anymore, but if I am to gird my loins and typing fingers again, then I'll only do so on the assumption that you - all Webdiarists, really, barring a few tedious tyre-kickers - are possessed of a fundamental decency and good faith and generosity. Except by carelessness, I will never call you and your fellow pro-invasionaists  'pro'-war, 'anti'-Arab, 'pleased' to see death and destruction and sorrow, 'happy' about the Abu Ghraibs and Fallujahs that inevitably arise in wars, 'unconcerned' about civilian casualities, 'supportive' of HR abuse, and so on, and so on. I don't for a second doubt that your decision to support the invasion, like mine to oppose it, has been the result of much deep thought, considerable anxiety and, not least, plenty of intellectual and moral courage. 

You don't have to 'prove' such basic credentials of humanity to me, as if I'm the Morality Sergeant Major and you're on parade. I take them as read, the start point of any conversation worth having. I would very much appreciate it if you would extend the same courtesies to me, and especially refrain from accusations, direct or implied, that I somehow 'wish Saddam were still in power', or 'supported him' by opposing his removal...as if these were meaningful tropes with any bearing on or place in a civilised disagreement. We both know that such is, at least, the subconscious underbelly point of your question. And we both, I hope, can be jointly mutually dismissive of the few tedious regulars in here who, unlike you, seriously do regard such a pinning-down of rhetorical angels as constituting serious debate over Iraq.

I'm just not going to answer such a stupid question, Ian. It might even be a decent and fruitful gesture of you to withdraw it. Thanks in advance. 

* *

Now. To the interesting question that has a point, and which I can try to answer: 

In fact, and my alternative plan notwithstanding, I was effectively in Category 3 from a fairly early point, Ian. Part of the point of having 'my' ambassador very publicly make that statement was the diplomatic fulcrum for enhanced Australian leverage such a left-field 'non-reversing' reversal would have created. In public Howard was saying, mock-sternly, that while we were deploying, 'nothing' had been decided about actually fighting. Bulldust for public consumption, but the 'official' line never-the-less. Now, no US ambassador/Administration could have possibly publicly objected to 'my' clarifying statement re: UN requirements. (Privately, on the other hand..!) And knowing that America was already committed to invading; and given a rare high profile as an early 'invasion ally'; what I figured the brief international flurry of attention - doubtless tinged with malevolent schadenfreude (and I reckon jealous admiration) from the Frog et al diplomats - arising from our unexpectedly-introduced US-checking codicil might have done, might just have done, maybe...would have been to 'force' the Yanks to stop merely 'pretending' to strive for a UN-based solution...and actually - through gritted teeth, doubtless privately seething at us - really tried for one. Which, in the long run, I figured then would have made the Iraq position...now infinitely better.

Then, and only then, when the Yanks had s/f/bought together a fair dinkum UN effort - complete with truly international resources, money to pay for it all, seriously armed French/Chinese/Russian/Canadian etc bods as well as just Yank and Brit ones on the ground, joint global Int, a serious and well-thought out post-Saddam nation-building plan especially - would I have backed it. All this - my definition of a UN invasion - is contained in detail in that 'pipe dream' of mine, an alternative cunning plan I still reckon is a lovely little piece of 'Australian Grand Game' strategy, and which I still lament - laugh though you all will - John Howard not having had the balls or imagination to give a whirl. (Keating would have, I reckon...Gareth Evans certainly would have been up for it).

So in a sense, to answer your question clearly, I suppose I was 'idealistically' in Category 2, even though realistically, I knew all along I was effectively in Cat 3 - that 'my' UN route was never going to fly, that if any UN stamp was given it would be nominal only. And as I said, a hijacked, half-hearted UN effort would have equalled no such thing, and been just as damaging to the UN imprimatur in the long run. Because what the Yanks had to that point - late January - engineered was a 'with us or against us' absolutist 'non-choice': do what we say, or f**k off.  Hence the Americans had almost certanily already ensured they'd be stuck, effectively, with a go-it-alone invasion either way, whether under a nominal UN flag or not. This was borne out in the 'coalition' it did put together - in hard military (killing and dying) terms it's been little more than America, plus Britain (sort of)..plus a few others in the easy-peasy spots and jobs. The simple CoW taxpayer bill and casualty tolls are proof of this. The Yanks may as well, in hard logistic/strategic and tactical fighting fighting terms, be on their Pat Malone. (Obviously I say this without any ill-will or prejudice re: the bravery and worth of non-US contributions, IM - including, don't forget, my brother's.)  

Now as I knew it would this solo status is proving to be an unsustainable catastrophe for the US in too many ways to count. Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. The longer this goes on, the more America's few remaining CoW siblings will dwindle. Especially as democratic governments change. What price British boots staying on the ground in meaningful numbers/spots for long post-Blair, IM...? 

The first Gulf war was a real Joint Fight success story, for both the UN and American leadership. Remember, I was in the army for that one, and saw from the inside of the military-political nexus how benign superpower brute force and deftly inclusive multilateral diplomacy can combine brilliantly to make the world a better place using controlled violence with minimum collateral damage. Don't for a second think that one single Arab state wanted to join that fight, or did so willingly. But what a difference Bush senior's patience and hubris-free leadership made.

The second war, the smaller Bush? Alas...the fatal flaw in both the natural 'turned ideologue' - Marxist to neo-con, say - and the successful father's son is always a chippy hubris that drives them to revolutionary differentiation purely for differentiation's sakes, to exceed established benchmarks even if wisdom or circumstance recommends otherwise. Call it the 'small swinging dick syndrome', I guess. (The journalist Christopher Hitchens is a classic sufferer: it's not enough for that kind of guy to change his ideological position a little...he's got to swing wildly all the way to the other side. Out-piss the biggest pisser he finds in this here new town, and all that...I digress.)

Now it's fairly clear that Bush's naturally affable inclination to want to do stuff 'a bit different' from his dad was swept along by the more substantial current that was the ideological push to assert a paradoxical 'hegemony' over the UN - paradoxical given that the US itself is the dominant driving power at the UN anyway. So the 'go it alone' invasion was at least what some in Bush's WH (thought they) wanted; a deliberate overarching component of the neo-con/unilateralist diplomatic intent of those days. Still, despite me having a natural aversion to copping without protest such fait accompli 'non-choices' of any kind on principle, at core my objection to both a) a sidelined, or b) a railroaded UN in this case was always specific to Iraq, and practical in basis: I just reckoned that unless most UN members were both diplomatically and practically on-board and enthusiastic about it, any sustained Iraq...well, occupation, really, more than invasion and liberation, was from a practical view, a big ask. And as for the US going it alone without even a nominal UN nod - militarily, financially, and logistically...insane. I mean look at the maps, IM. Look at the geo-strategic supply lines from the US. Look at the costings. Look at the f**king neighborhood...I mean without the Chinese, Russians, and Europeans on board as active fulsome partners in this...jesus. It's one thing for the Yanks to take on Granada, Panama, even Vietnam, really, without an international accord...but Iraq - the ME - was and is an entirely new and scary prospect.    

So it has come to pass.    

So while I can't recall exactly when I decided that damage to the UN accord would be equally great whether it was railroaded into scant nominal support for the invasion, or left behind altogether, unlike Margo Kingston I never really seriously countenanced the idea that I was or would end up arguing in support of a UN invasion - mostly, I stress, Ian, because I just never saw the UN caving in to the escalating neo-con 'blackmail'. Quite the reverse: yes, sure, there really is a strong on-principle 'f**k-you Yank' faction among UN member states at the best of times. Maybe the French never would have gone in...UNLESS, aS did Bush senior, you made them a 'diplomatic offer they couldn't refuse'. But Little Bush's ineptitude made it not just easy, but f**king fun for that lot: all that the inept neo-con chest-thrusting in New York really did was hand the French, Germans, Latins, etc - their endless anti-American carping and bitching temporarily schtummed by US popularity post-9/11 - a new megaphone through which to say 'Bite me, Yank'. Dumb.  Dumb.

Actually, double checking right under my nose, Ian,  it looks like it was late January, in that very same 'Alt Plan' piece: the first time I explicitly articulated my opposition, come what may. Yes: 'I oppose an American-coalition invasion and occupation of Iraq, UN-sanctioned or not.' So as you can see, even though in the 'official' position in that same peice - my alternative plan - I was technically leaving the door open for a UN invasion, effectively, in my commentary to it, I'd already conceded the pie-in-the-sky nature of my definition of a 'UN invasion'. (Obviously that '...UN-sanctioned or not' should, strictly speaking, have continued '...except as outlined above.')

All this is kind of moot, anyway. To me it was pretty obvious from about late 2002, just from the scale and pace of the mobilisation, that an invasion of some kind was going to occur, and that everything else would be political/diplomatic/debating sideshow. (Actually, what the hell - my brother, who was pretty heavily involved in high-ish level planning in Britain, made it pretty clear to me in July 2002 - without breaking any laws - that Saddam was toast.) Anyway, by Jan 30 you didn't need inside info to know that: no-one calls up and transports a quarter of a million troops and millions of tons of gear halfway around the world unless they intend to use them. An American by-force occupation of Iraq territory of some degree and status was, in truth, already underway by the time the public debates got going. This, too, added to making that whole process of 'debate' as I saw it - the resolutions, the diplomacy, the UN issue, the good faith efforts of some of us to assess all the various justification, from WMD to HR to terrorism to standing UN resolutions - not just surreal, but offensively so. On the one hand I remember painstakingly pulling apart WH statements, cross-referencing State Department policy, decoding Howard's stuff, reading reams of Iraqi history, Amnesty International HR reports, etc, etc...on the other, thinking the whole time: 'what a waste of time, they're already rolling.'

All, Ian, while gearing up for another year or so of worrying sick on a personal level about my little brother while trying, as the only other knowledgeable military man in our family, to provide my 'loved ones' with the right contextualising balance of a) optimism, b) realism, c) accurate analysis of unfolding events and d) cheerful preparatory fatalism.

Plus, of course, assurances that contrary to the onslaught of propaganda from the Murdochians and my own government, I wasn't a traitor and I didn't want Saddam to 'win'.  (You do not understand what rage is, mate, until you have simultaneously waved goodbye to a war-bound brother with your mum in tears, holding a newspaper column that calls you a Lefty coward and appeaser, while listening to a prime ministerial radio interview that you know for a fact contains baldfaced lies about WMD and terrorist-nexus threats. But I digress.)     

So, to continue on UN mandate matter: against the 'fair accompli' nature of the decision, I'd argue that only the most committed of pro-invasionists - and the deliberately artful, perhaps, such as the high profile polemicists who'd been 'let in on the project'...the Hitchens, the Stephen Hayeses, other Weekly Standardites, et al) - could fail to have been just a tinsy bit peeved about the Clayton's choice on offer. Ian, you can say with justified contempt that a Galloway would 'never' have supported any invasion, come what may, and I'd happily agree with both the claim and, broadly, the distasteful tone. But I reckon I can say with surity and equal distaste, that a hardline pro-invasionist like Doug Feith, beavering away in the Office of Special Plans, had reached exactly the corresponding 'brook-no-other-answer-but-yes-sir-let's-roll!' position as early as Sept/Oct 2002. 

And if some Lefty Ideologue successor to Tony Blair were one day to plonk a gaggle of 'ismic' warriors like Galloway into a contrived Int Cell inside the Brit Ministry of Defence - as the post-Clinton PNAC revolution plonked Feith et al deep inside the Beltway - with the express aim of bodging together a shonky 'case' for supporting a Syrian-Iranian 'liberation' of the Golan Heights and Gaza two or three years down the track...then when it came time for us all to 'debate' the merits of that 'case' at the UN, you'd probably be haughtily inclined - both on principle and perhaps even on specifics (!) - not to want to automatically give Gorgeous George's strategic conceit the world body's legitimising imprimatur - such as it is! - without a fight, too.


* * *

IM, IMHO the thing to remember about this debate is this: there were honourable arguments 'for' and 'against' invasion. Overwhelmingly, however, the 'for' side - the prosecuting case with the responsibility for winning the world to its cause, your side - chose to take the fast n' slick route: quick fixes, fudges, fibs, distortions, strawman abuse, bullying, fakery, poor logic, arrogance and fear-mongering, and, too often, outright cynical lies.

Not exclusively, not by any means, but overwhelmingly. Not your fault, I know, but it is part of the mournful intellectual legacy you, not me and the antis, must grapple with honestly now.

Because what such short-sighted and disingenuous - and often hateful, hurtful, ugly - intellectual tactics did was this:

a) It made it so much harder for you to get more deperately-needed support for invasion in the first place, since such an approach made UN collectivism impossible, and decent, intelligent people will NOT BE lied to, bullied, patronised, mocked, abused, threatened and emotionally blackmailed...into acquiescent submission. This applies to Muslims no less than me. Keep it in mind if you want to win this 'war on terror'.

b) It increasingly now threatens the entire Iraq project, because too many nations and people whose help you/America desperately needs now, just aren't especially inclined to extend it.

Meaning this:

c) It's WAY past f**king time, Ian, that 'your' lot lost the f**king brittle chips on your shoulders about Iraq; started haul-assing the dickwadded neo-con architects of it - Feith, Wolfowitz and Bolton et al - back from wherever they have scuttled, to publicly 'fess up and admit they f**ked up; that they were petulant children miles out of their league; that they did not have a clue what they were doing, or if they did, it was a f**ked-up clue; that they are real goddamned sorry; and that please, please, please...could the rest of the West give them a hand to sort out the mess?

IM, you don't ask for help to fix a f**k-up by calling the people whose help you now need...yet more nasty names, directly or by implication. If you invasionists care more about winning the Iraq invasion, liberation, occupation...and democratisation - it's only 3/4 done, and it's going backwards fast - then it's up to 'your' side in that debate, not mine, to shift our way for a salving mutual consensus. Start by embracing a bit of post-invasion SNAFU humility here, is my advice. Me, I am happy to 'muck in' and fight the West out of the shit in Iraq if it is still possible whether or not you concede the SNAFU - my bruised ego is just fine. But most bruised egos, epecially at the national level, are still smarting from being treated like shit by Bush's shitheads. And until the arrogant failed and failing jerk-offs who got us into this mess - the aforementioned Hitchens-Weekly Standard-Murdoch-CoW axis, who have f**ked up in Iraq thoroughly - stop braying and braying and braying at the anti-invasion Western world, exactly as they have brayed and brayed at brayed at us from day one, like tantrum-throwing children trying to avoid facing up to their f**-up by bullying everyone even harder to agree with them...then the Western 'divisions' they wail about aren't going to 'heal'. 

Get the chips off your shoulders, invasion supporters. Stop demanding answers to pointless, unanswerable Western Civilisational Loyalty Pledge questions like: 'Do you think the removal of Saddam was a good thing?'

Anyone who thinks that either the 'war on terror' or the Iraq occupation now pivots or has ever pivoted on such infantile reductionism is, simply, not serious about where the post-9/11 world currently stands.

But what if??

I've just read an article that posed what I thought was an interesting question and it made me think about prejudices, as apposed to convictions.

The question posed was this: What if all the events after September 11, 2001 had happened exactly as they have, but the person in charge of the Whitehouse wasn't Bush, but was in actual fact a Democrat. Not only a Democrat, but a woman (cue image of Hilary Clinton)....

Bush has obviously gone to extreme efforts to paint himself as a tough and competent Commander in Chief, despite the current chaos caused by him in two Middle Eastern countries.

I'd be interested to know whether other people (particularly our more right leaning friends) would be capable of seeing a female democrat as a competent chief, if they had had the same results to date.

Plans? Who Needs Plans?

Hey Jack. Since I saw this report, I haven't been able to stop shaking my head.
FORT EUSTIS -- Months before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld forbade military strategists from developing plans for securing a post-war Iraq, the retiring commander of the Army Transportation Corps said Thursday.

In fact, said Brig. Gen. Mark Scheid, Rumsfeld said "he would fire the next person" who talked about the need for a post-war plan.

Rumsfeld did replace Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff in 2003, after Shinseki told Congress that hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed to secure post-war Iraq.

I can't believe Rumsfeld is a moron. So far, I am inclined to think that a permanent state of chaos was the objective. That way, there will never be a right time for the US to hand Iraq back to the Iraqis. Not until the recoverable oil is gone, anyway.

Please define ‘better off’

In the papers on Monday: “Prisoners released from [Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison] last week spoke of routine torture of terrorism suspects. On Wednesday, 27 prisoners were hanged in the first mass execution since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime.”

And last week:

As new figures show the numbers of civilian deaths in Iraq spiralling sharply upwards, the nation's most influential moderate Shiite leader has abandoned attempts to restrain his followers, admitting there is nothing he can do to prevent the country sliding towards civil war. ...

In a dismal assessment, a new Pentagon report has revealed that the numbers of attacks and civilian casualties in Iraq have risen sharply in recent months as sectarian violence has engulfed larger areas of the country. Deaths have risen by 1000 a month.

The quarterly report shows that the number of attacks over the past four months increased by 15 per cent and the number of Iraqi casualties rose by 51 per cent to more than 3000 violent deaths a month.

Over the longer term, the surge is even more grim. Weekly attacks have doubled from about 400 in the northern spring of 2004 to nearly 800 in recent weeks. The number of daily casualties has increased from fewer than 30 a day in 2004 to more than 110 a day in recent weeks.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard on Sunday: “Iraq is a better place for Saddam having been gone.”

Mr Howard’s propensity for viewing the situation in Iraq through rose-tinted glasses has become legendary. But what dark vision assails him as he waddles through the streets of Sydney on his regular morning walks?

After reminding reader’s (once again) that Mr Howard “was in Washington at the time of the [Sept 11] attacks”, the article notes that “he fears a similar attack on towering office blocks in downtown Sydney.”

“An attack on a major sporting event, a plane, a big building. Every time I go for a walk in the morning I see those buildings and thoughts go through my head. I have to be honest and say that,” he said.

The man has been spooked. And he may well be deluded. He should retire.

Bitchslapping administered

Christopher Hitchens was interviewed last night by Tony Jones on ABC-TV’s Lateline program. Hitchens looked ill, but was as arrogant and combative as ever. He chided Jones as a schoolmaster would a dull schoolboy. By some accounts, Hitchens gave Jones a fair old ‘bitchslapping’.

But what exactly was Hitchens’ point again? Well, ostensibly it all went to supporting President George W. Bush’s case for a ‘linkage’ between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks. He referred approvingly to GWB’s own dull-schoolboy assertion featured in the previous segment:

REPORTER: What did Iraq have to do with that?

GEORGE W. BUSH: What did Iraq have to do with what?

REPORTER: The attack on the World Trade Center?

GEORGE W. BUSH: Nothing, except for it’s part of – and nobody’s ever suggested in this Administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack – Iraq was a ... Iraq ... the lesson of September the 11th is take threats before they fully materialise, Ken.

Or, as Hitchens then himself somewhat clumsily paraphrased it: “The removal of Saddam Hussein was for the next attack so that it wouldn’t come.” (Does Hitchens moonlight as GWB’s speechwriter?)

Anyway, Jones put it to Hitchens that...

At least one key witness to the events within the White House immediately after the 9/11 attacks, the former counter-terrorism chief, Richard Clarke, says that advisers in the White House were bent on attacking Iraq in retaliation, whether or not Saddam Hussein had anything to do with al-Qaeda.

Hitchens roundly rejected Clarke’s view that there was no linkage between Saddam and al-Qaeda, pointing out that Clarke had previously said in 1999, in relation to the US attack on a chemical facility in Sudan, that there was indeed a link.

Anyway, said Hitchens, Clarke is now being partisan and is not to be trusted. The bottom line is that even Clarke said there was a linkage, and although he has since repudiated that view, he just can’t be trusted anyway.

So there! That stitches up Clarke – to Hitchens’ satisfaction, anyway.

Jones then cited the recent US Senate committee report that found no linkage between Saddam and al-Qaeda. Hitchens made even shorter work of that – notwithstanding he doesn’t appear to have actually read the report itself, but rather “at least one very trenchant critique of this report”. He nevertheless witheringly dismisses the report as “half-baked and unfinished”, based apparently upon what he has read by an indeterminate number of unnamed critics of an only partially-released report.

Hmm... Perhaps the only ‘bitchslapping’ was of the viewers’ entitlement to honest and objective analysis.

N.B. The preceding remarks were originally posted elsewhere, but may be of interest here. And yes, Hitchens touched upon at least a couple of other points in that interview, which I haven't had time to consider here (others may care to take those up).

With God On Their Side

“And also I would be interested to know: do you think the fall of Saddam was a good thing?”

The consequences of our collective naivety speak for itself. Saddam was a brutal torturer, rapist and murderer; the America CIA and military likewise along with the (American trained) Iraqi army, death squads and assorted sectarian militia (no need to provide links). Iraq is the disaster the more level headed commentators (including George Bush and Dick Cheney after the first Iraq war) warned us of.

As I stated in an earlier post the removal of Saddam is the only thing that supporters of this war can salvage from the embarrassing consequences of choosing to support an (ill planned) adventure that was always bound to fail. An adventure that we now all know was sold to us based on lies and deceit.

Now all that is left to salvage from this debacle, is which bunch of torturers, murderers and rapists do you prefer?

Maybe the ones with god on their side.

Same old question

Jack, in my experience, and at whatever stage we choose to refer to, people fall into 3 categories over the invasion of Iraq. There are (1) those, like me, who support/ed it; (2) those who would support only if it is/was sanctioned by the UN, and (3) there are those who would never support it - like, say, George Galloway.

At the link you provided, you said (on Jan 30, 2003)

"The Australian government should advise the US Ambassador, and then publicly announce, that Australia will continue the deployment of her committed military assets in preparation for American-led military activities, but that Australia will not participate in any invasion of Iraq without a new and rigidly-limiting UNSC resolution authorising this as a collective UN action."

I take it that that put/s you into category 2.

The UN could enter into "collective UN action," hoping perhaps that it would not develop into something like the Korean experience of 1950-53. But, given Saddam's record of respect for the UN and its resolutions, a UN invasion of Iraq would probably have been much the same as the CoW invasion. At least, there are no grounds for assuming otherwise.

You ask John Wojdylo, wherever he is: "Where are you on this magnificent fifth anniversary of 9/11, this three year, five month and twenty two day celebration of the invasion, liberation and occupation of Iraq? Where is your childish certitude, your personal abuse of my opposition to that folly?"

I can't speak for JW, but just out of curiosity, are you still in category 2, or have you quietly shifted to number 3?

And also I would be interested to know: do you think the fall of Saddam was a good thing? 

3 categories???

I would like to suggest another category to Ian. Category 4: Those who would have supported the invasion of Iraq if there was ANY legitimate reason that justified the action. I would suggest that this is where most of the people Ian puts in category 3 truly belong.

Bets Please, Gentlemen

Ian, I'd like to have "2 bob each way" on your last question of Jack. But first, let's frame the field.

"A good thing", hmmm, what exactly do you mean? Was it a good thing for US oil hegemony? Was it a good thing for John Howard's re-election?  Was it a good thing for the Iraqis? Was it a good thing for Muslims? And on-and-on and so forth.

Let's assume that it was a "good thing", guaranteed to get first past the post in the Goodness Stakes. Why have we stopped? The world is replete with other Saddams waiting and deserving to be run over by a Mack truck.

Why do you think, as a supporter of the original proposition, that we have become so miserly in spreading this largesse to other parts of the world? Burma would be a wonderful place to go and spread goodness. I am sure the long suffering Zimbabweans would welcome a sprinkling of it.

Personally, I was always in category 3, not because I am a pacifist or shrink from violence but because I could smell the stupidity of President Buffoon from 9,000 miles away and I already knew enough about the oil "bidness" to work out that Iraq was firstly about oil and was lastly about oil. The US will not leave Iraq as long as a human asshole points at the ground and there is oil to be pumped.

Oh, yes, I almost forgot the terrorists. How do we de-radicalise the Middle East? More guns and troops perhaps? No, we know that does not work. Sooner or later we will sit down with the devil and negotiate because that is the way it is done.

Such a difficult simple question

Roger: With all due respect, was the fall of Hitler a good thing? Well, depends on how you look at it. Was it good for the German arms industry? Was it good for the manufacturers of Zyklon B? Everything is relative, if you think about it. A casual question like "was the fall of Hitler (or Saddam or Idi Amin) a good thing?" requires a fair bit of consideration, refinement and contextual analysis if any meaningful answer is to be generated. I never said it was easy.

Perhaps that explains the present reluctance of participants in this thread to answer the question re Saddam. But then, others don't find it so hard at all, like Iraq's Shiites and Kurds, and the entire population of Iran, minus one or two individuals.

If the Thais, say, decided to step in and remove the Burmese junta the way the Vietnamese disposed of Pol Pot's regime, would that be a good thing? People like myself (and I dare say you and most other webdiarists) can make value judgements about such events, but we are rarely if ever those who the decisions the value judgements are about. When the kite is flown, the water tested or the decision made, it is down to us to respond one way or the other. Sad but true. Bush picked a fight with Saddam. Howard chose to support Bush. I chose to support Howard. So did the leadership of the ALP, whatever they say now.

I don't think I pushed Bush into his fight with Saddam, but once he was in, I did not stay neutral. I won't get a chance to push him into a fight with Mugabe or with the Sudanese government which at present is directing the ethnic cleansing of Darfur, killing thousands every day. I won't even get a chance to decide to support him or no, because intervention there by Bush is not going to happen.

On Cambodia, I supported the Vietnamese, against the Fraser government, which supported Pol Pot's mob.

As historical events go, I think the fall of Saddam was a good thing. Some Iraqis died in his falling, some cheating the hangman, others unfortunately, totally innocent. Some Iraqis on the other hand, are only alive today because of it. We now know the costs and benefits to date of his fall. What we cannot ever know are those of his remaining in power had Bush chosen to leave him there.


A General Or Special Theory of Relativity

Ian, I can agree that getting rid of Saddam was a relatively good thing. I can't say that I would find a compelling moral imperative for not doing it. However, as you point out, these things are never simple or easy except in one very clear sense.

What is done for the sake of a general outcome of good brings with it its own moral justification. We are automatically drawn to embrace that which rises above the meaness of our lives. However, I can not see in any way that the invasion of Iraq brings that sense with it. How could it seeing that it has polarised our society like very little else in our recent history has?

Getting rid of Saddam, as a special case, has been good. The invasion of Iraq, a more generalised case, has been bad. There is no moral high ground available to claim any thing of value from this misadventure. Perhaps in a hundred years time when the wounds of this sorry mess have healed enough for the world to move on we may discern some value. However, this generation will not see it.

For those who have rallied to the nationalist standard, the unfolding events bring no comfort. To those of us who opposed, there can be no closure. What will we agree on while that open sore continues to fester?

Casting around for something relatively worthwhile to pin our positions to falls woefully short.

A penultimate point. As a child born in a slave labour camp, I have always taken a close interest in the causes and events of the last great war. There are not all that many parallels between the ruinous takeover of a substantial European country by the Nazi criminals and the cruel fiefdom that Saddam made. Nazi Germany was bent on taking over the world. Saddam had no such grand ambitions. We could have left him in Iraq with no detriment to us. If it was a moral imperative to get rid of him then that imperative must extend to all the murderous regimes of the world or be seen as a failed and self-serving chimera.

And a final point. I know that you have not consciously made the statement so but it reads as very glib, namely the reference to "some Iraqis". Certainly more Iraqis have died than died at the WTC. Their lives had just as much value and just as many tears have been shed by their family, friends and community. Nothing good has yet come from the senseless "colateral damage", how could it? It is immoral to kill and maim civilians. No memorial has been built and no fine words have been uttered by the leaders of the free world. Once again, we witness moral failure while at the same time trying to find a relative good.

Sad, sad, so sad

Hey MC, hey TK.

Trawling back over the last five draining years for this piece was just the saddest thing. Watching all the bits fall into place, via the recorded arguments. Seems inevitable now. Maybe because it seems increasingly likely that it was, all along, from about 12 Sept.

But you have to ask, don't you: has a man like Howard - men like Beazley, Bush, Blair, Murdoch, all of those 9/11 incumbents still hanging about trying vainly to fight the 'last war', like superannuated Churchills - do they have absolutely no idea about psychology, about asymmetric threats, about terrorism...about the most basic principles of human nature? About what makes people tick? How to wind them best to your own advantage?

I thought they were supposed to be the politicians.

Surely they must recognise that the key to getting moderate Muslims 'on board' as cultural bulwarks against the Islamist nutters is...well, the very opposite of what we're doing: blunt demands for loyalty chants, ideals lists, beachside riots, law and order scares...oh yeah, conventional invasions of anti-Islamist ME secular dictatorships with no post-dictator plan...wedging, dogwhistling...all that sort of dumbly self-defeating stuff? 

Do they seriously think Muslims are stupid Sand Niggers, waiting passively for cultural directives from Whitey? Can our leaders simply not imagine that young Muslim men worldwide have exactly the same emotional ranges as all young men - brittle chippiness, impulsiveness, deep pride, latent potential rage...and arrogance, overcompensated insecurity, love, humility, recklessness, humour, ambition...where is our imagination? Yeah, sure, there are irredeemable recidivist kooks a-foot, too, but that's the point, isn't. Parsing things delicately, not going the whole 1.6 billion or so holus bolus. 

Simple stuff, I would have thought. Sometimes it's hard not to see the widening chasms and hardening positions as having been craved, nurtured, sought...all along, and not only by Osama's grubs.

Me, I have no stomach for much in-depth discussion of all this any more. There's not a lot of point, is there. The cards have been tossed, essentially. We just have to wait and hope we live long enough to see where they stop falling.

It's still immensely sad, though, because I loved the old idea of America, the West...and though I don't know what the world is going to look like in a decade, or two, or five, I suspect it will never again in my lifetime look as sweet and good as rendered by post-WW2 American decency, leadership and aspiration. Why they ever allowed themselves to get sucker-punched so bad, I will never know.  

Osama and his fanatical ilk don't trouble me all that much, even now. Never did. Let's face it, the worst your enemies can do is kill you. Big deal.

But yourself, your friends...well, you can really hurt yourself and your mates bad.

Values test

Right on cue, to assist the Hon Leader of the Opposition, the ABC news feed presents War deprives children of education, study finds

The new research, published by Save The Children, shows schools are being destroyed, teachers killed and children being recruited as soldiers in countries like Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Nigeria.

OK, so far.

Right on its heels, sporting an oversized flyboy suit, something that makes the true-blue heart swell with pride, in Defence dubs 'smart bomb' tests a success:

They use Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and can be deployed day or night, in all weather conditions.

From The Weekend's 9/11 Horror-Fest Will Do Osama bin Laden's Work For Him

What has changed, grotesquely, is the aftershock. Terrorism is 10% bang and 90% an echo effect composed of media hysteria, political overkill and kneejerk executive action, usually retribution against some wider group treated as collectively responsible. This response has become 24-hour, seven-day-a-week amplification by the new politico-media complex, especially shrill where the dead are white people. It is this that puts global terror into the bang. While we take ever more extravagant steps to ward off the bangs, we do the opposite with the terrorist aftershock. We turn up its volume. We seem to wallow in fear.

I guess it all makes sense, if we believe the Indonesian kid who has his hand blown off by one of our cluster bomblets will be grateful it was parked in the rice field with precision. 

Is it...is it...could it possibly be..

If I'm not mistaken t'is the spoor of controversial French naturist Dr 'Jacques'* 'just stun the bugger with a stick to get the close-up in the can, lads' Woodforde.

* Silent P, e, t, e, r

A pleasure as ever, man. Been a loooong five years, non? Any idea when these jokers are gunna trot out the punchline and let us all get back to normality...?


Yo, Jakkkk, RooooBee!!!!!! Where is we do go be from heeer? All deez yeerz. I don keer’boutd’at Yo gootta noo fule – hah! - I larff ’bout da I hevva onneeewunnn itchin deziajayaa Leemmme stanmnnn exxa yoofya!!!!


So that’s like the silent “g” in Stingraglia, M’Sieur Docteur Robertson? By the way, I strongly disagree with your FOI line in www.StephenMayne.com. Putting a strong clear question in the form of a cracking FOI quiz is the cat’s pyjamas*, Jack. We might have to agree to differ.

*see Pavlov’s Cat on the 2006 Census

Xenophobes win, don't explain

John might be keeping his head down. Did the math, as m'Jay says.

That pompous tw*t Christopher Hitchens (Lateline 11/9) was bad enough, rumbling and grumbling and drawling and slurring the Shopping Channels’ Road to 9/11 Republican Congressional campaign propaganda, in his usual bullying style. The whole Hitlerian batch glistened and steamed like a fresh-hatched turd in the Lateline  moonlight. That it carried no weight was mostly because Hitchens, once of some intellectual heft, is now merely a leering vaudeville clown in serious need of a professional claque. A blimp in need of tow cable.

But then next day, along came poor silly old Gerald Henderson, beating the same cheap tin drum and frantic to defend to the last bullet the Howard-Bush Iraq WMD lie, (A lesson the West could not ignore, SMH ,12 September). He doesn’t mention the ultimate “case of double-dip appeasement” – the Australian Wheat Board’s huge $300 million bribe to Saddam.

That most depraved bribe, out of Australian farmers’ pockets, had every appearance of sanction by one of our sillier ministers, Alexander Downer. The same Downer who doesn’t like to read things, and also one of the early tub-thumpers for the US administration’s Iraq invasion. Meanwhile, we took our eyes off Afghanistan, with all that opium and Osama. Now that’s what I’d call a double-dip, if ever there was one.

Who gets the money this time? Are these serious attempts to “commemorate the dead” of the World Trade Centre atrocity? Or of the many thousands killed in Iraq and the billions wasted by a corrupt US administration and its corrupt allies?

Take a look at your nearest state school or public hospital, and decide whether we need to waste lives and money on Howard’s wicked Iraq fiasco.

And don’t forget next month’s anniversary for that unfashionable terrorist incident, when Australian and Indonesian politicians, police and officials connived at the killing of hundreds aboard the SIEV-X. Just to garner the xenophobe vote.

In that act, we were no better then than the teenager who just murdered the Afghan-Australian governor of Paktia province, Hakim Taniwa. You won’t see much mention of either act of terrorism in today’s wallowing orgy of post “9/11” self congratulation.

Commissioner Keelty won’t mention it, for instance. None of the people on boring unfashionable SIEV-X nor Hakim Taniwa were TV or sporting heroes, mate. No true Australian values. Bloody foreigners. Please explain.

Speaking of which…. I bet any latterday New Guard parasites planning a P&O date-rape cruise would gladly sign up for “Australian values,” then whiz back onto Cronulla beach for a drunken pantomime with Union Jacks.

The idea has the jackboot rhythm of the ugly Howard-Hanson lockstep.

Have no part of it.

From Bad To Worse

Having destroyed Fallujah to save it, Washingtonpost.com reports that Anbar Is Lost Politically:
Devlin reports that there are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the province's most significant political force, said the Army officer, who has read the report. Another person familiar with the report said it describes Anbar as beyond repair; a third said it concludes that the United States has lost in Anbar.

Surprise! Surprise! The unjustified, criminal attack on Iraq has created the ideal conditions for al-Qaeda to thrive. Mission accomplished?!

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