Michael Moore – An insult to the Left.


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In the late 1700s the Queen of France, Marie Antionette was quite possibly the most hated woman on the Continent. Monarchical discontent had been building for quite some time, François Fénelon’s “The adventures of Telemachus” provided the lining for the future revolution in the reign of Louis XIV, but by the time Louis XVI was removed, along with his family and the Queen from Versailles, the anti-Monarch sentiment was deep and profound, but ultimately it was whipped up in the first place, by lies. Pamphlets had spread, like tabloids, printing and shaping the public mood, moulding public sentiment, guiding the people like sheep, printing lie after lie about the Queen. Eventually, her reign and her life were taken, and history began to judge her as a monster. History now, is less vicious on her. History actually quite likes her. An awful and ignorant Queen, but a harmless woman who loved her children. The power of the press was born.

Interestingly, in 2004, the press really had taken on an anti-George Bush tone. Tabloids depicted him as a monster who was only interested in oil. The people followed suit. Joke after joke was aimed at his apparent lack of intelligence. The anti-Bush tone was set firmly against a tide of anti-Iraq war sentiment. The common wisdom now, seems to be that Bush was only interested in oil. Now, having recently came out as a left wing supporter of the Iraq war, and being quite the critic of George Bush on many policies, not least his frivolous tax cuts which simply quickened the onslaught of recession; I tend to cringe endlessly when George Bush jokes are made; they seem too simple, and too ‘milked’. The lack of understanding many on the anti-war Left have, when it comes to the horrific nature of the Saddam regime, and their willingness to allow that particular regime to continue and calling it ‘peace’ simply affirms my belief that they are the real war criminals. One of the heroes of the anti-war left is horrendous documentary maker, Michael Moore. To sit and watch Fahrenheit 9/11, is to be shocked at its content when taken at face value. Though, when one sits and questions every point Moore makes, and investigates them for oneself, on even the most basic of levels, one is presented with a whole host of inaccuracies bursting out of that film. I will talk you through a couple.

One of the main claims by Moore in the film, and in fact most on the anti-war Left in the US and Britain, and a key theme of Fahrenheit 9/11 is that Iraq;

“never threatened to attack the United States. A nation that had never threatened to attack the United States. A nation that had never murdered a single American citizen.”

– Leaving aside the fact that Hitler didn’t attack the UK, nor did Milosovich attack the US, the point that Iraq had never killed American citizens or threatened to attack the US, is simply untrue. Whilst it might be true that Iraqi soldiers were not waiting for the command to storm Pennsylvania Avenue, to say that Saddam had never murdered a single American citizen is disingenuous at best and a complete manipulation of the audiences emotions, jumping on the bandwagon of anti-Iraq war sentiment at worst. It is a fact that the Saddam regime had funded suicide bombers against Israel, which killed Americans. It is a fact that the Saddam regime paid the families of Palestinian suicide bombers who targeted Americans and Israelis. It is a fact that the Saddam regime gave refuge to terrorist Abu Nidal, a man who ordered the deaths of 16 people at Leonardo Da Vinci Airport in Rome from gunfire and killing two more when his men threw grenades at people boarding a flight to Israel. A man who said of himself:

“I am the evil spirit which moves around only at night causing … nightmares.”

It is a fact that Nidal’s men hijacked Pan AM flight 73 in 1986, and killed 7 Americans on board. It is a fact that Saddam hatched a plan to assassinate George Bush Sr in 1993 during his visit to Kuwait, with a massive car bomb that would have killed many many more, had the plot not been foiled. It is a fact that the Iraqi newspaper Babel, run by Saddam’s sun Uday, printed an article in 1997 an order to:

“American and British interests, embassies, and naval ships in the Arab region should be the targets of military operations and commando attacks by Arab political forces.”

– That sounds like a threat to me.
Another publication run by Uday, called Al-Iqtisadi, said:

“…The confrontation with the aggressors should transcend the means of condemnation and rejection, particularly in the Arab and Muslim street. They should use all means-and they are numerous-against the aggressors, including boycott, closing air and sea ports to civilian ships and airplanes that belong to the U.S. and its allies, striking their economic interests and establishments, and considering everything American as a military target, including embassies, installations, and American companies, and to create suicide/martyr [fidaiyoon] squads to attack American military and naval bases inside and outside the region, and mine the waterways to prevent the movement of war ships…

– Also sounds like a threat to me. It is bizarre that Iraq would have the nerve to refer to the US as aggressors, given the history of the Saddam regime in relation to the absolute genocide of the Kurds (the only war crime we can accuse the US of, in my opinion, is leaving Saddam in power for far too long)
Michael Moore played on his quote as if Iraq were innocent victims of American Imperialist aggression. He was wrong. Moore should apologise to the families of any American killed by an Iraqi funded Palestinian suicide bomber in Israel, for his crowd pleasing bullshit.

One wonders how the anti-war brigade would have responded during World War II. There is a scene in Fahrenheit 9/11 that show Baghdad before the invasion; a thriving city filled with people sitting at cafes and laughing in a care free manner. A happy child flies a kite. Everything seems lovely and joyful. And then the bombs hit! The insinuation is that media simply ignored the fact that Saddam’s Iraq was actually full of joy and that now you, having watched Moore’s film, know better! You are of course, not invited to investigate for yourself, nor are you given a picture of life elsewhere in Iraq. You are just asked to believe subliminally, that Iraq was a place of wonderment before the evil Americans destroyed it. The problem is quite severe here. Moore is responsible on the Left, for what we on the Left deplore institutions like Fox News for; total and utter misrepresentation:
If Moore had have focused on the Marsh Arabs instead of Baghdad, we would have seen a beautiful garden of Eden in the 1980s, filled with fishing communities and the most stunning natural wonders on the face of the Earth. Tiny islands, with one or two huts on each, like the waterways of Venice, but wider and lit up with the homes of families who had inhabited the marshes for centuries, floating between neighbours on tiny little home made rafts. He could then have contrasted that view of paradise, with now. In 1991 Saddam firstly had the water supply poisoned. This resulted in hundreds of deaths. Then, drained the marsh lands, purely because the Marsh Arabs were Shi’ites. He then rounded up the majority of the inhabitants, and had many tortured and killed. Paradise had suddenly turned into hell. It is now a desert. Since the 2003 invasion, there has been an effort by the Americans to reinvent the marshlands, and it is working. The Hammar and Hawizeh Marshes especially, accoring to USAID is back to 50% of 1970s levels, which is remarkable given the absolute destruction Saddam caused. Moore chose to ignore this.
To show a film reel of people drinking coffee and flying kites in Baghdad in 2002 is irrelevant beyond comprehension. It’s imagery is simply used to convey a prevailing theme, which is misguidance on a grand scale. Similarly, we could show film of happy Germans during the Holocaust, or happy Serbians during Milošević’s reign, it would be meaningless.

One of the bigger manipulations in the film, is the part where Moore says:

“out of the 535 members of Congress, only one had an enlisted son in Iraq.”

– Technically, the statement is true. Though it is true simply because of the emotive language. It is spoken by Moore in a sombre and disappointed tone, designed to provoke outrage. He is then seen stopping members of Congress and asking them if they’d be happy to send their children to Iraq. One of those Congressmen stopped by Moore was Republican Congressman Mark Kennedy (R-MN). Kennedy responds by pointing out that his son was en route to Afghanistan and his nephews had already served in the forces. This response was cut, and instead Kennedy is shown looking bewildered. When asked about this omission, Moore said:

“He mentioned that he had a nephew that was going over to Afghanistan, So then I said ‘No, no, that’s not our job here today. We want you to send your child to Iraq. Not a nephew.’”

– This is wholly disingenuous of Moore who absolutely knew exactly how the interview would come across, and that he was presenting one side of the story; in which Congressmen are selfish and evil, whilst other people’s families die in war. He had no reason to edit out Kennedy’s response, other than to promote his frivolous and sanctimonious crap. Further, Kennedy, whilst looking bemused by Moore in the film, actually offers to help Moore in the actual, unedited version:

Moore: Congressman, I’m trying to get members of Congress to get their kids to enlist in the Army and go over to Iraq.

Moore: Is there any way you could help me with that?

Kennedy: How would I help you?

Moore: Pass it out to other members of Congress.

Kennedy: I’d be happy to — especially those who voted for the war. I have a nephew on his way to Afghanistan.

Similarly in the film, Delaware Republican Michael Castle is seen on his phone waving away Moore’s calls to send his children to Iraq. He seems ignorant and refusing to answer the point Moore is making. The thing that Moore doesn’t tell you, is that Delaware Republican Michael Castle doesn’t have any children.

101 veterans served in the US House of Reps in 2005. 101 put their lives on the line for America. They should now stand outside Moore’s house and ask if the film maker is willing to do the same.

Aside from the glaring omissions and manipulations, the premise that Iraq was no threat and pretty peaceful before the invasion is itself gravely disturbing and bordering on criminal. Iraq under the Ba’athist regime was one of the most vicious and genocidal regimes in history. Perhaps the last great dictatorship of the 20th Century. To have followed the advice of the Michael Moore’s of the World, would have been to ignore the humanitarian disaster that was Iraq, and shout ‘peace’ on the streets, turning our heads to the suffering in the process.

The anti-war stance of Fahrenheit 9/11 was slowly blurred with an anti-Bush stance, as if the two are one in the same. As if being a supporter of the war means we must also support Bush, or vice versa. For example, in yet another sombre tone, Moore, sounding close to tears, says that the Bush regime:

“supported closing veterans hospitals.”

– This is vastly manipulative on so many levels. It is used to perpetuate the nonsensical idea that the Bush regime cared little about the soldiers sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, because their minds were on other things; oil. The problem is, it isn’t true. The Administration’s Department of Veteran Affairs did indeed propose to close certain Veteran hospitals, but only in areas with rapidly declining populations and under utilised equipment, where patients could be served better in hospitals close by. Along with this, the Administration proposed building new Veterans hospitals in areas with growing demand, and building new blind rehabilitation centers and spinal cord injury centers. None of this was mentioned in Fahrenheit 9/11.

I am slowly learning that even those who you believe have the same fundamental values as myself; a sense of social justice, redistributive wealth, freedom of expression, a desire to get to the truth – are often the people one should be most weary about. The black and white premise that the Left seems to attribute to the Bush regime; one of great evil, or to the Iraq war; one based on a lie, for oil, is often so disastrously simple and despairingly unconsidered, that it must not detract you from forming your own conclusions rather than pulling you into its merky waters of over reaction and over simplification, such as those on the Left who call constantly for Blair to be tried as a war criminal. The policy of non-intervention must be followed to its natural conclusion; Hitler would now rule Europe. Milosovich would have succeeded in genocide. Saddam would rule Kuwait. The Taliban would be funding terrorism and suppressing democratic change in Afghanistan viciously. That would all be the legacy of non-interventionism. It is a war crime in itself. I am almost certain that non-interventionism in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Serbia, in Hitler’s Germany, would have led to far more cruelty than interventionism.

Those in 18th Century France who had wholly legitimate complaints about the nature of the Bourbon dynasty, were unfortunately manipulated into a heartless and uncritical acceptance of every lie published by the anti-Antionette pamphleteers. Their simplistic acquiescence of everything they were told, by those whom they believed could never possibly distort the truth, or lie to them, because they seemed to be on their ‘side’, brought upon a decade or more of anti-intellectualism and what would have seemed like the death of the intellectual superiority of the Enlightenment.

We on the Left must learn to form our own opinions as individuals, as well as collectively. We must be able to disagree profoundly on matters that have for so long seemed so central to our uncodified doctrine. That is how we progress. We must engage on issues, and not just resort to blind acceptance of the prevailing wisdom of those on the Left who are most heard. That is how we unify. And unification of the Left, in a World that seems to be ever more dominated by the Right – in the UK, in Europe, slowly advancing in Australia, the Islamofascist regimes throughout the Middle East, and the dehabilitating and vicious nature of the American Republicans – is absolutely essential. We must not cling on to what can only be described as false prophets who perpetuate simplistic, one sided explanations and post them as objective truth. We must ignore the Michael Moores of the World. They absolutely damage and insult the intelligence of the Left.

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10 Responses to Michael Moore – An insult to the Left.

  1. you are wrong on this war issue, the second time already, war is always the continuation of economical war

  2. No it isn’t.
    Chamberlain and Churchill did not go to war, simply for economic reasons.

  3. […] Michael Moore – An insult to the Left. (via Futile Democracy) Posted: September 4, 2011 by TooDamnEZ in Uncategorized 0 In the late 1700s the Queen of France, Marie Antionette was quite possibly the most hated woman on the Continent. Monarchical discontent had been building for quite some time, François Fénelon's "The adventures of Telemachus" provided the lining for the future revolution in the reign of Louis XIV, but by the time Louis XVI was removed, along with his family and the Queen from Versailles, the anti-Monarch sentiment was deep and profound, but ultim … Read More […]

  4. Thomas says:

    why….if I am not mistaken young squire, this is straight from the mouth of señor Christopher Hitchens (I did a bit of research and found that some of it is).

    Moore manipulates and lies, he´s making films for goodness sake, he goes for the soft-myths of American Capitalism, he made a blatantly anti-bush film. He´s making a film! He edits for cinematic effect! He´s not a harbinger of accurate leftist opinion. Never mind the anti-war (a million marched!) movement….read John Rees who was a big player in that, read Juan Cole, US expert on the middle east, read angryarab.com, an arab academic who writes in English.

    Not even counting the stuff your saying about Iraq, which I´ll send a reply to soonish, why go after Moore? Is he really an accurate representation of the left (in Britain)? Go for Tariq Ali, his knowledge of the middle east, it´s religious and contemporary history, the critiques of bush´s war policies far surpass Moores. He also puts the egos like Hitchens in their place.

  5. It’s actually not Hitchens, it was another blogger who lists certain inaccuracies in the film, I don’t remmeber the site, I’ll try and find it though. It then takes about five minutes to find other glaring inaccuracies. If he paraphrased Hitchens or vice versa, I’m not sure, but I took the idea from that particular blog, and then read a few reports (i.e – the Veterans hospital) from certain Yank news sites. I’m not sure Hitchens would go as far as to refer to non-interventionists, as the real war criminals, as I have done.

    You are right, Moore manipulates and lies, but he is still the mouthpiece for a large part of the left. The intellectual left, which gets smaller by the day may not take much notice, but the mainstream left (and especially those that I see at university every day, and Socialist Workers Parties) seem to take him seriously enough to propagate the bullshit through leaflets etc. Regardless of his credibility, he is taken seriously, and his work is far more widespread and listened to, then the likes of Juan Cole. As I pointed out at the end of the post, I wanted to challenge prevailing and popular ‘wisdom’ on the left. You surely cannot deny that the anti-war left is pretty venomous and dogmatic? I certainly put much of the blame for that, on commentators like Michael Moore, who speak to a far more vast audience, than Ali.

    Tariq Ali, I find just as one sided, manipulative, and distorting of fact, as Moore, if I’m honest. For example, he refers to the war as “colonization in the age of neo-liberal economics and war and neo-liberal economics go hand-in-hand.”
    I do not buy that for a second. I think the idea that a sinister Bush administration sat round a table, and decided to take Iraq for commercial reasons, is verging conspiracy theory. Especially given that everything Bush had said, pre-9/11 was traditional conservative, anti-interventionist. Ali follows a very specific script that is echoed by the Chomsky’s of the World, and is very narrow minded; ie- everything America does, it does for the sake of spreading American Capitalism.

  6. Thomas says:

    A few things……….

    Yes, good reply old chap, but it still gets my goat reading that article. I want to deal with what you say on the level of argument rather than fact, because I could post an exhaustive list of factual inaccuracies and misconceptions about the history of saddam and iraq here, but it’s better to go with the nature of the argument. Yeh, serious field of straw men there.

    Perhaps firstly, is the dismissive attitude this article has towards the real people of the region.

    The logic of non-interventionism is often put forward to be a retreat from responsibility. However, the real case is that non-interventionism does not and has never existed. Peoples, groups and states always have and will have relations with each other and will intervene consistently. What the anti-war and the left is opposed to more generally is the consistent intervention by the powerful into the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world. The interventions that are concerning are not the wars and coups, but the economic sanctions lasting for decades, the sponsorship of pliable strongmen, the wholesale destruction and dispossession of peoples.

    However in the numbing barrage of information in which we, the privileged, find ourselves, it is only at the moment of “great events” that these criticisms can be vocalised and the lies and hypocrisy of the established systems of power can be exposed for all to see. Without people like Michael Moore a vast gulf would exist between popular perception and the opinions of the informed, who could sit around comfortably poo-pooing the dastardly deeds of this or that government without ever really engaging with reality, or each other. This latter point is something I feel is important, as I can only sympathise with you when it seems you are clearly frustrated with the underwhelming political nous of university life.

    Your quote from Ali may be so, but I don´t gather much from these sayings, but I do gather a lot from the arguments people like him employ over a book or an essay. I this sense he is firmly behind the first point I mention (i.e. context in the region)

    Second, the critique of the left is a bit of a straw man. I would dare to suggest you are getting your style from people like christopher hitchens, et al (i.e. liberals, who are pro-iraq war), who do this often. Again, Moore´s film is meant to be emotive, of course it´s simplistic and manipulative, and many fall for it. Maybe, your thinking of politicos like Galloway, slightly clownish in their black and white view of the bush regimes, a little like the republican views of the left. But again, I suggest Ali (but there are many others) who would place what your saying (in that you are trying to give Bush´s policies a context contra moore´s) in an even wider context.

    Thirdly, your critique of non-intervention is also a straw man in another way, and in itself, fundamentalist. world war two has its own story and history, to say that economic necesities were (and are today) not important or not the most important factor is to state evolutionary psychology doesn´t really exist because furthering the advance of the human race (or my own genes) isn´t the first thing thought of in the morning, i.e. that just because it wasn´t the dominant idea pushed about on the surface, it doesn´t exist. World war two was a folly played by the rulers and drivers of the economies, and it certainly hit moments where economics just didn´t matter (read Arendt on the Holocaust), where gassing and killing were grotesquely against economic benefits (i.e. slave labour would have been far more “economic”), but the escalation of generations of folly was generated essentially by economic greed…

    So…to conclude………..

    A huge condemnation of Bush and blair´s policies revolve around how they themselves are deeply manipulative, full of emotive rhetoric….maybe they are just superficial….it often seems that the obvious reaction to such crimes (and they are genuine crimes) is to pick up the liberal interventionist humanitarian thread. But…wait a second, the record of Imperialist countries following such reactions belies a stark truth, the interests of the people living there are never counted, the real bread and meat of the humanitarian end game is not to create flourishing democracies, but to overwhelmngly crush them…why cite iraq as an example when it can be seen the people living there have been overwhelmingly ignored……the argument is not, well it´s better than saddam, that´s missing the point entirely…….the “arab spring” has a context beyond just dictators getting too cruel. it´s not a competition between how nasty saddam, the coalition and various militant groups were and are in Iraq, rather, it´s how our government and the American govenment systematically lied repeatedly, with the coalescence of the media when differing reports were abound, it´s the paternal atitude of our rulers towards their own populations, regarding international decisions that is the at heart here.

    To criticise in this way, to cite the spread of the taliban is, for me, a sign you read a lot about muslim religion, but not about muslim contemporary history in the region. The anti war movement contains so many different threads (a million marched!) check out authors like John Rees, dominant players in that, or even better, the likes of angryarab.com, middle easterns who write in english.

    The critique of the anti-war movement has many truths, but surely you can see its limitations are really based in the lack of options any such front has when trying to change policies (very little). As for the bush and his minions sitting round a table laughing demonically…….of course not, the likes or Ali and Chomsky don´t propagate that either….they get their stuff from primary sources normally, i.e. government reports, army strategy/outlook sources, minute from meetings, business contracts, UN, human rights organizations, defense reports, high profile analysis from government persons like Zbigniew Brzezinski , the list is naturally exhaustive ……….Likewise with Pilger, their cynicism can seem incredibly rigid sometimes, but I´ve never interpreted their stuff to be akin to Conspiracy theories like ZEITGEIST.

  7. Is Ali’s “Bush in Babylon: The Recolonisation of Iraq” – even as a title, pretty straw man in essence? In a debate with Hitchens, Ali says that the Iraqi people loathed Saddam – I agree. He says they hated the US occupation because it went on too long – I agree. And says the right conclusion is that the US pull out of Iraq and allow for democratic elections – I agree. So, he seems to be disputing your point, that “the real bread and meat of the humanitarian end game is not to create flourishing democracies, but to overwhelmngly crush them” because Iraq now does have a democratically elected government (albeit, elected whilst still under occupation, though I suspect when the next general election takes place, it’ll have much the same outcome), and the US occupation force is now almost entirely out of Iraq. Surely, though the situation is bound to be volatile, Iraq is on the right path? Ali gets more conspiratorial and anti-American, when he is selling a book. In interviews, he’s far more moderate.

    More Ali quotes:
    “The Republican Administration has utilized the national trauma of 9.11 to pursue an audacious imperial agenda.”
    – An attempt at a conspiracy theory. As if Bush used 9/11 to pursue a new period of Colonialism.

    “If no single reason explains the targeting of Iraq, there is little mystery about the range of calculations behind it. Economically, Iraq possesses the second largest reserves of cheap oil in the world”
    – Same, tired argument we always hear from the anti-war left. Oil, and nothing else. Also, straw man. I do not find this man to be credible in the slightest. He is more eloquent and intelligent than Moore, but essentially, what he is doing is the same; presenting one side of a story, manipulating, and just inventing sinister undertones for the war and promoting it as fact.

    In his debate with Hitchens, Ali compares Paul Wolfowitz to Henry Kissinger. Hitchens brilliantly points out the flawed logic of that interpretation; that in the 80s Kissinger took the side of the Stalinist Chinese with the whole Tiananaman Square thing, and that Wolfowitz opposed using Iraq as a sort of vassal state in the 1980s, contrary to Kissinger. He is absolutely correct. It is ill-informed comparisons like Ali made, and the tendency of the anti-war left to make weak comparisons that bear no relation to each other in reality, that most annoys me. Whether it be Kissinger and Wolfowitz, or American foreign policy toward Iraq in the 1980s compared to now. Or 18th/19th Century colonialism to an apparent American colonialism.

    Saying it isn’t a case of Saddam or American invasion, chooses to completely ignore the country under Saddam. Ramazan Mohammad testimony about the attack on the Kurds:
    “They would first cover their eyes with their hands and then shake uncontrollably. They would scream loudly. Soon afterwards they would drop. All their bodies began to tremble violently and then stop. There was a film over their eyes and horrible slime coming out of their noses. Their skin was peeling and bubbling up.”
    – Talk of American imperialism, in my opinion, seems impossibly out of perspective, and out of context, given just how dangerous this regime was, and the suffering it enforced. The politics of non-interventionism, ignores all of this, and hopes beyond all hope, that he might eventually come to his senses and stop the abuses. Given that he had spent ten years since the first Gulf war, not coming to his senses, one wonders how long non-interventionists were willing to wait and trust diplomacy? There comes a point, were someone like Saddam has to be removed by force. 2003 was way too late.

    I found with many on the anti-war Left, the Pilger’s and the Chomksy’s, that they are only ever interested in what they perceive to be an organic and living entity (the US) and its desire for some sort of global economic colonialism but they seem eerily silent on the atrocities of the Saddam regime; of which there were many. The ‘dismissive attitude’ I find, comes from those who seem to constantly call for Blair to be tried as a war criminal, insist that Iraq “was no threat” and begin sentences with “look, we know Saddam was evil, but….”.

    Where were the marches on London to show solidarity with the Iraqi people when Saddam was gassing the Kurds? What good is a Left if it resigns itself to marching for Nationalistic reasons, rather than international struggles for social justice. Reading left wing philosophers who rant constantly and tirelessly about American imperialism, seems to work only to absolve the evils of people like Saddam, as if whatever action the US/UK take must only be one of subtle colonialism (see the title and contents of Tariq Ali’s book) rather than one of genuine frustration with a regime that had committed pretty much every atrocity one can commit against their own people.

    Who are the ‘real people of the region’? The Kurds? The Najaf citizens? The Marsh Arabs? The Communist party members? The town of Halabja? Should they be ignored? Regardless of the methods of the war, and the awful aftermath and doubtless incompetent management of the rebuilding, the removal of Saddam was absolutely necessary. In the same way as the removal of Milosovich was absolutely necessary. Saddam was a man who referred to Stalin, as his idol. Do we really believe had Saddam developed WMDs and knowing his past liasons with terrorist organisations, he wouldn’t introduce the two? Iraq was visibly crumbling under Saddam. Political institutions were all but gone. Democratising the country, whilst it will inevitably take years, is the right path for Iraq. To be complaining about Blair/Bush intentions, and to be discussing the history of foreign policy in an attempt to explain the implications or even conspiracy theorising, is to ignore the desperate situation the Country was in. To agree that Saddam was evil, but to propose non-interventionism, and maybe more UN resolutions, which were never taken seriously, represents a betrayal of the people who were rounded up and tortured and executed by the Saddam regime. Of course, many in the region loved him, like many in Germany loved Hitler, but that doesn’t excuse the atrocities. I am of the firm belief, that if a national leader is abusing his own people, he loses all right to sovereignty.

    I am also pretty certain that the legality of war cannot be disputed given that this was a regime that sponsored Palestinian terrorists, shot at US planes operating the no-fly zone almost on a daily basis, and had a history of aggression and oppression toward his own people. To ignore it all, and simply say “yeah, but American imperialism, and all that” is simply not good enough.

    I may have told you, but back in 2003 I met an Iraqi guy who was working as a builder, building an extension on a friend’s house in Loughborough, I went to help tidy up a bit. He told us that he’d fled Iraq in 1997 after his brother and wife were suspected of being part of a Shi’ite plot against the Ba’athist Party. He told us his brother was taken, with a bag over his head, his arm was broken by a Guard, and he’d never seen him again. Worst though, was when he told us his wife had been executed at the back of their house, and he had been made to clap it. His kid was spared, and she fled with him, first to Germany and then to France. My support for the Iraq war stems from people like him, because it kind of made me see the human element to the – up until that point – very abstract and philosophical reasoning, from a comfortable position in England. I get the feeling from Chomsky, that he is sitting in his privileged position trying to push this idea of out of control American imperialism, and it seems almost frivolous on some level; I want to stand Chomsky infront of a woman who is about to be executed whilst her husband is made to smile and clap, and say “your philosophising is fine, but how does it stop this?”. No doubt his writings and arguments are worth listening to (I have many of his books, and find him deeply intriguing) but he offers nothing of any practicality, just intense cynicism.

    I find the arguments against intervention, from many on the Left to be horribly simplistic, or very abstract. For example, John Kerry in January 2004 said if he were President, he would now change course in Iraq because Bush’s plan wasn’t working. That there is now “chaos in Iraq”. In January 2004! Less than a year after the start of the war. How simplistic! He is either massively manipulative or just an idiot. Did he expect tranquility and a working, stable democracy complete with strong democratic institutions, in less than a year? How could another course possibly create such a completely perfect democracy, in less than a year, and after decades of an Iraq going from having an economy comparable to Portugal when Saddam came to power, to being one of the poorest nations in the World in 2002. Horribly simplistic and very abstract.

    You mention the support for dictators, and I’d argue that the reversal of that policy is absolutely the right one. Could it not be argued that we owe it to these people to put right the mistakes of the past?

    I absolutely disagree that the invasion was a crime.

    “But…wait a second, the record of Imperialist countries following such reactions belies a stark truth, the interests of the people living there are never counted, the real bread and meat of the humanitarian end game is not to create flourishing democracies, but to overwhelmngly crush them”
    – I think that statement is looking for conspiracy, an attempt to link Presidents/PMs of the past, with what is happening now. Democratising Afghanistan is the only possible way to secure a failed state like that. Every conflict is different. To say the peoples interests are in no way counted is odd. It is of course easy to find instances where the UK/US has acted disgustingly; Fallujah for example, but whilst these tragedy’s will be vehemently amplified by the anti-war Left, the instances where invasion has indeed helped, are almost always overlooked. The USAID work in the Arab Marshes is a good thing. I would go on to say that thousands of people were saved due to the action taken on Kosovo. To say that the people are never counted, can be flipped on the anti-war left, to say that for the people who would have continued to be murdered by the Saddam regime, they were to be ignored by the anti-war left. You seem to present any US/UK action as entirely sinister and at odds with humanity. It is a common theme throughout the writings of people like Chomsky. To some extent it can be absolutely true (the Kurds were used as pawns by the US in the late 80s), but the President of the US in the 80s, is not the same as the President in 2003, the US changes. It isn’t statically sinister. The Chomsky-types seem to present the US as a static entity, like a lion, ripping its way through the World. I don’t accept that characterisation.

    The anti-war Left are as guilty as the media in the UK and US of presenting one side, rather than both. Whilst the Media tended to promote this pro-western take on the Invasion (American networks presented it like a film, with America the heroes), the anti-war left (the stop the war coalition especially) systematically present the UK/US as being a sort of new Roman Empire, out for blood and conquest and nothing else. Is that not equally as shameful? They selectively choose who to read (the Ali’s of the World) but they ignore or reject for no real reason people like Georges Sada (whose book is excellent by the way) and Kanan Makiya and al-Yawer who are no less reputable than the people they quote, but present a side of the story that conflicts with that of the anti-war groups, and so get almost completely ignored. Is that not manipulative too?

    “Without people like Michael Moore a vast gulf would exist between popular perception and the opinions of the informed, who could sit around comfortably poo-pooing the dastardly deeds of this or that government without ever really engaging with reality, or each other. “
    – I agree fully with this. But there seems to come a time, when a new ‘power’ arises, of which is completely anti-government, and suddenly seems to subtly presents this new mode of thinking, that whilst we shouldn’t trust anything government tells us, we can wholeheartedly rely on these people (like Moore/Chomsky on the Left or Fox on the Right) to relay the truth to us. And yet, they seem to distort anything that goes against their very dogmatic stance, just as much as governments seeking to control and manipulate their public perception. It isn’t just government who seek to manipulate, it is those who have an agenda themselves; like Michael Moore.

    ” to say that economic necesities were (and are today) not important or not the most important factor…”
    – I do not believe for a minute, that Bush/Blair’s first consideration, was “hey, let’s invade Iraq, for business purposes”. I genuinely think they thought this man needed to be removed. Do you honestly not think that no one in the Bush/Blair regime genuinely believed Saddam needed removing, for the benefit of the stability of the region, and for the benefit of the World in general? Of course economics will play a role, because it is absolutely rooted in the global social fabric, but I do not accept that it was the prevailing reason for the Iraq war. Nor was oil for that matter. Perhaps in the after math, economics became a greater part in the rebuilding, but the reasons for war in the first place, I believe, were admirable. Similarly, with Kosovo the reasons for war were admirable. In fact, with Kosovo, I firmly believe we did the absolute right thing.

    “world war two has its own story and history”
    – As does every conflict. But it seems apparent to me, that the anti-war Left believe any conflict involving America, at least since the 70s, can be put in the same category; imperialism. I’m certain each conflict should be analysed individually. The shortcomings and down right attrocities of the Reagan administrations sponsorship of Latin American dictators, is an entirely different situation, with a different history, and different rationale, to the 2003 Iraq invasion. To listen to many on the anti-war left, they try to link it.

    I don’t think my representation of the Left is a straw man at all. I presented my reasons in previous blog entries, on why I support the war on Iraq and Afghanistan, and I also addressed one of the issues you brought up in accusing me of presenting a straw man; the lies of Blair. The accusations aimed at Blair as being someone who lied to take us to war, relied primarily on the testamony of one journalist, who had conversations with David Kelly. That one journalist is certainly not reputable, and changed his story several times including in court, and has lied on other occasions about subjects including his libelous remarks about a certain Mosque. The JIC reports on Iraq, though absolutely flawed when it came to WMDs, was pretty conclusive even before it made its way to Downing Street. The 45 minute claim, which is the most contested, was in the JIC report before it got to government hands, and contrary to what some idiot in my Politics class argued recently, Blair never actually brought the claim up in his statement on Iraq in Parliament. There has been a lot of misinformed finger pointing from the anti-war left when it came to Blair, and it all stems from the WMD claim. A claim that was pretty solid in the intelligence reports, long before Blair mentioned it. If I were PM at the time, and I had this intelligence, and I had known that pretty much every UN resolution, Saddam had ignored, I would have gone into Iraq too. Hindsight is a great benefit, but to sit in the seat of power in Downing Street, with this information, I cannot see anyone acting any differently. It is easy to criticise, and present our leaders as liars and great manipulators. We do not see them as people. They are evil, and only we know the truth. I truly believe Blair thought going to Iraq was necessary and right. Bush certainly manipulated the public, by running with the WMDs line (He most certainly believed WMDs would be found. He relied on the faulty intelligence, because if he’d just lied and invented it, surely someone would have said; “What happens when WMDs aren’t found?” At the very least, he’d have planted them, surely?), and then changed to regime change. I wholeheartedly support regime change. A perfectly legitimate reason to go into Iraq, given the constant dismissal by Saddam of nearly all UN directives given to him.

    My questions to you would be;
    . Put aside the philosophy and the analyses; if you were PM, how would you deal with Afghanistan? How would you deal with a Taliban regime that the majority of the Country did not support? A Taliban regime that was (and i’m not sure how this can be denied) a danger?

    . How would you deal with an Iraq that had time and time again flouted international law, broken pretty much every UN resolution, and continued to support fundamentalism? As a leader of a Country, to know this man sponsors terrorism against you, has killed people from your Country before, has committed nothing short of genocide in his own country, ruthlessly destroys any opposition toward him, would you honestly say “hey, we armed him once, we better ignore him now”. I do not think it’s straw man to point out that philosophising against the judged imperialism and sponsorship of deadly dictators of the past, does absolutely no good in making practical decisions in the present, when the situation is pretty dire.

    . Would you have left Milosovich in power?

    . How many times must international law be violated before a stand is taken?

    . Is it a legitimate worry, that fundamentalist groups in Afghanistan, supported by at least certain elements of the Pakistani ISI, could potentially get their hands on WMDs?

    . Do you think (as I do) that the anti-war Left, who didn’t march against Saddam’s brutal repression of the Arab marshes, who didn’t show solidarity toward Iraqi communist party members who were routinely executed under the Saddam regime; and many other social injustices, have abandoned the international left, and become far more national? Do you not think that it is the duty of the Left to show solidarity against all tyranny, rather than just critiquing our own National leaders? Would you agree that confining our outrage at injustice, to arbitrary borders, represents a betrayal of the traditional international cause of the left?

  8. Thomas says:

    Sorry about the late-ish reply, I´ve been a little busy.
    As for your questions, I would only like to focus on a few of them, namely Iraq, and themes concerning your reply. I suppose there´s a few strands going on here that i´ll try to thread together.
    Reet……regardless of Chomsky or Ali, I feel the idea of non-intervention needs to be revisited. Is my view on intervention (military) black and White? No, it isn´t. So far your examples haven´t convinced me that intervention in Iraq was warranted IN AS MUCH AS THE EVIDENCE AND THE CASE FOR INTERVENTION WAS OBVIOUSLY OVERWHELMING—THERE WERE NO OTHER OPTIONS. I am not of this opinion. The problems are myriad, in particular the evidence and examples you´ve given me, of which, on the most part I have been made aware of before.

    1)
    Firstly, “Democratising the country, whilst it will inevitably take years, is the right path for Iraq.” Is really just a glib presumption throughout the reply that the US means to give the Iraqis democracy, you would need to make a case for this, as simply asserting it means nothing…the proof is…..well….Maliki? The 2009 election were characterized by rampant assassinations of candidates. I have never seen public opinion polls from Iraq in support of the occupation, and to imagine that the majority of Iraqis don´t connect their current government with the occupiers is naïve. The entire Iraqi empowerment is a sham, there has been so much to embarrass Iraqis…..elections with occupiers means elections that were decided by occupiers, puppet ministers, constant US supervison, timings of elections dictated by US, the saddam trial was a cartoon, where his crimes were selected as not to implicate other countries, sectarianism has been built into the current government,…..in the eyes of arab PUBLIC opinion ideas of democracy are a joke (or do you think the Iraqis are thankful for this?). The irony of the horrendous accounts you told me about is that this has happened countless times in post saddam Iraq! One objection to war in Iraq was that it is irresponsible to assume this would not continue or inflate without saddam´s influence, but our own influence….the record of britain and the US always suggested this (read a bit later on in my reply)…a military occupation would not cease these atrocities….the wrong people were trying to “take the stand”…folly on epic proportions. To pass over the fact that a far greater murder has been inflicted by the occupiers is not something I agree with.
    2)
    A minor thing perhaps, but something that links to an idea you mentioned regarding that the president of the 80´s isn´t the same as now, that the past shouldn´t necessarily inhibit decisions in the present, but Hitchen´s pointing out Wolfowitz and Kissinger as fundamentally different only adds up on a level that both had different tactics. The mention only has merit if we assume wolfowitz did this on a humanitarian basis. Were you suggesting that Wolfowitz actually cared about Iraq and thus his later involvement could merit humanitarian lauding? Problem….simple flaw, why would he be busily assisting a gentleman (suharto) in Indonesia with an even worse record than Saddam?……if murder and repression were genuine concerns? So I don´t understand your point.
    “but the president of the 80´s is not the same as in 2003” What does this statement mean? Bush is the son of his father, Reagan cabinet, pre-Nixon cabinet even! No continuation? You probably know that Rumsfeld´s pharma firm had a contract with saddam, that chemicals were used against the Iranis from this deal (shock, horror…so he ends up using it on his own people), yes, rumsfeld was very close with saddam. That richard perle (assis sec of def under reagan) offered no rebuke to Saddam´s atrocities during the Iran war (not just to iranis, kurds as well)….the same people in Bush´s government! So the relationship goes sour…the significance is that over the last 40 years the same characters have been involved! …so why say that the past isn´t relevant in this case? Static, NO. But, slow moving, closed and full of old boys network, of course!
    When you talk about “taking a stand”, about the moral obligation and about the conditions of an imaginary future, unavoidable except through war, it´s strange because these conditions exist in the present…thanks to the war.……many years after the wars start. While I agree that Saddam was a deranged, egoist beast, you don´t take into account the limitations and fatal weaknesses of the instrument used to take him out and replace him…the West!
    To say, “You seem to present any action as sinister and at odds with humanity”……is strange, I would prefer you say that I seem to present any action as at odds with genuine democracy in that region because it isn´t in the interests of the policy makers of America, which, as realist scholars, history and US policy makers seem to agree with me on, is the most important thing for America….a capitalist state!….check New American Century project (think tank paper patroned by US politicians). That the main concern of US foreign policy is the welfare of Arab peoples!!!! Is something we´ll have to agree to disagree on.
    Let´s use the example of the marsh Arabs….the shiites in the south. One massive undermining of course to this ´success´ is linked to the history…..You talk about making mistakes from the past “right”, about arming him before and leaving him, therefore it was our duty to take him out…it was the least we could do…..after the folly of leaving him in power….after all he even crushed a rebel uprising in the south after the Gulf war….how we missed our opportunity! A terrible MISTAKE……hmmmm, could it have been that the US prefered an Iraq united under saddam as a counter to Iran (half of Iraq and the Iranian gov was not a pretty picture)…..The US did after all help destroy the uprising itself had triggered, blowing away the no fly zone as meaningful long before saddam took the piss. What i´m refering to is the occasion the US allowed Iraqi helicopters to gun down the uprising!!!! Rebuilding the marsh arab homes is the least they could have done after helping to kill so many! Yes NO FLY ZONES were redundant after incursions by turks and iraqis (after halabja)…forces invited in to the country by Kurdish puppet politicians. The Shiite rebuilding is deceitful because many fought against us, remember the Iraq war only really begun after the fall of Saddam (we need two sides for a war).
    3) Your point about the accusation aimed at Blair and bush would be better if they had asked the relevant questions. But both administrations concocted, manipulated a world laced in deception and exaggeration, bluntly stating what they knew to be fictitious. A point we probably differ on. I think one of the biggest problems for the pro-war lot is that their own prose and narrative is hopelessly sloppy, as explained before about the ´mistake´ narrative of leaving saddam in power…it doesn´t warrant confidence that the appeal to duty is wafer thin.

    This isn´t a rebuke to all your points by any means, many I agree with, and the others are too exhausting to sufficiently answer……….but the premise for the war is deeply contested, that is for sure.

  9. This is going to be a bit of a shorter reply, mainly because I tend to agree with many of your points, though not all of them (as you pointed out, we’re not going to agree on the Bush/Blair deception thing), and I had a couple of further points to make.

    “The 2009 election were characterized by rampant assassinations of candidates. I have never seen public opinion polls from Iraq in support of the occupation, and to imagine that the majority of Iraqis don´t connect their current government with the occupiers is naïve. “
    – I agree that the 2009 election was badly conducted and a bit of a sham. Though my point would be that expecting a legitimate and entirely free, well run election, in a country that has no real democratic infrastructure is madness. I characterise the 2009 election as a symbol more than anything. I say it was a symbol, because for a country whose citizens had been oppressed from a crime family for the past thirty years, to suddenly, at the legislative level, have thousands of women contesting electable seats is a massive achievement in itself. 75% of the parties standing candidates for election, were brand new parties. Also, in 2009, the multinational force in Iraq played no part in the security of the election process, which was presided over for the first time (an achievement, surely?) by the Iraqi security service. In 2005 elections there was no public canvassing for votes. In 2009, there was. Another achievement surely? And another symbol of the way things are, and should be going. The 2009 election, whilst it included violence and corruption unquestionably, it was also an improvement on 2005. 8 candidates were killed in 2009. 200 were killed in 2005. Suddenly displaced people and prisoners were given a vote. It is a big symbol for Iraq, and in fact for that region on the whole, given its centrality. Whilst the election took place under occupation, I cannot see it as anything but a step (albeit a small step) in the right direction. People who had been excluded from the political process for decades, suddenly having a say, is not a bad thing. And if anyone (including those of us on the pro-war side) thought the people of Iraq, after 30 years of Saddam oppression and frankly, a century or more of being played with like pawns, by the West, were suddenly going to march to the polls, in the same spirit as the democratic process in the UK, and expecting no violence or attempts to sieze power during a time when the country is essentially, new, they are delusional. The necessary infrastructure was not destroyed during the invasion itself, it was absolutely dismantled under Saddam. Said Aburish’s book “The politics of revenge” speaks of this.
    Your point on elections being dictated by the US, I will reserve judgment on until the first election in Iraq, when the occupying American force is entirely out. I maintain though, that election fraud is absolutely expected, in a country that has a weak democratic infrastructure, but it doesn’t mean it is always going to be like that. I’d hope as the country’s institutions grow stronger, electoral fraud and the accompanying violence will become less frequent.
    The problem, as I see it, with early elections in deeply unstable countries like Iraq, is whilst continued US presence is not all that helpful, it seems to be true that if there is no real strong UN/US presence, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that the country will fall into the hands of anti-democratic forces again. Shia and Sunni parliamentary groups are slowly figuring out how to work together, which is far more essential than a strong UN/US presence, to prevent the country sliding into civil war, but it isn’t quite there yet. On this point, I am in two minds. I do think a strong UN/US presence is necessary in the early years, to provide support for a fledgling democracy against the plethora of groups that would like to install a new anti-democratic, anti-western, violent regime, which whether we like it or not, will always result in new tensions and aggression from the West again; but at the same time, we see the result of US presence with the democratic process in Afghanistan, and that leaves a lot to be desired, even though to pull Western support entirely from Afghan, would almost certainly lead to a renewed Taliban insurgency and a take over of government again, which is not helpful at all. So I certainly don’t see this as black and white. I simply think it is far too complex a situation, which many on the anti-war left tend to forget.

    “could it have been that the US prefered an Iraq united under saddam as a counter to Iran (half of Iraq and the Iranian gov was not a pretty picture)”
    – Absolutely. Which is the biggest crime I can see, from the US when it comes to Iraq over the past thirty years.

    “but the president of the 80´s is not the same as in 2003” What does this statement mean?”
    – The Presidency of the 1980s didn’t have to contend with the biggest terrorist attack on US soil, knowing that Saddam had indeed sponsored Palestinian terrorists in the past and knowing he doesn’t exactly practice restraint when using terrorism whenever he sees fit, and a Saddam regime that had just committed nothing less than genocide against the Kurdish regime, following that up with disobeying almost every UN resolution aimed at it from around 1990 onwards. The geopolitical events of the Presidencies of the 1980s, were entirely different to the geopolitical events in 2001. Regardless of the players involved, events shape the course of a Presidency more than anything.

    ” I have never seen public opinion polls from Iraq in support of the occupation”
    – It depends where you look for your polls. They seem to vary greatly as far as I can tell. I tend not to trust polls whichever way they point, which is why I haven’t mentioned them. The BBC conducted a poll in 2007 that said that 70% of Iraqis think the surge had failed to produce a more stable Iraq. Understandable. The same poll asked “Compared to the time before the war in spring 2003, are things overall in your life much
    better now, somewhat better, about the same, somewhat worse, or much worse?”
    29% said somewhat better. 14% said much better. So that’s 43% of Iraqi people say their lives are better since the invasion. 28% said somewhat worse. 8% said much worse. So that’s 36% of Iraqi people saying their lives are worse since the invasion. More Iraqi people believe their lives have improved since early Spring 2003. Another interesting thing to note from this poll, is that when asked in 2005: “What is your expectation for how things will be for Iraq as a country overall a year from
    now? Will they be much better, somewhat better, about the same, somewhat worse, or much
    worse?”
    – 70% said better. Contrast that in 2007, when only 40% said better, and If you look at the data from the other questions in that poll, people in Iraq seemed far more optimistic in 2004 and 2005 about their lives post-Saddam (in fact, they seem pretty happy with their being a sort of new Iraq in the making), than when asked again in 2007, which suggests to me that the main issue these people had, was the continued presence of occupation, of which, as pointed out earlier, I myself am in two minds about. I understand the necessity of a strong force to support a weak democratic state, but I also see the resentment people are bound to feel at having a foreign power occupying the country. The problem is, whilst people in Iraq clearly began to really resent the occupying force somewhere between 2005 and 2007, their main concern when polled was “security issues”. Security issues are only likely to get worse, if a weak country, with many antagonistic forces playing for power, is left to fend for itself. It is massively paradoxical.
    Other polls can be found to have almost entirely different results. An ABCnews poll of over 2,000 Iraqis, found that 48% of Iraqis thought the US invasion was right, with 39% saying it was wrong, in 2004.
    Like I said, I don’t tend to listen to polls very much.

    Your anti-iraq war stance is obviously ridiculously well informed. But I can absolutely guarantee, the anti-war left that I have come in contact with – especially at university – are simply just anti-war in general. The arguments are all the same – phrases like “blood for oil” are rampant. Phrases like “war criminal” are banded about easily, the amount of times I hear “well Saddam didn’t even threaten us” is too many to count. People who genuinely can’t place Basra on a map, are anti-war for the sake of being anti-war, they tend to know very little about the politics of the region or the years preceding the invasion. They tend to link the invasion, to one big conspiracy for oil. These are the anti-war left I was originally taking a bit of a pop at, mainly because I am frustrated by their lack of understanding. I am frustrated by their holding up ‘peace’ signs, as if leaving Saddam in power would have resulted in peace for the people who lived under him. My initial frustration was aimed at them. Michael Moore tends to be their spokesperson… as is Galloway.

    I have to ask though, from your more informed position on this, what would you have done differently, had you been in power? How would you have dealt with Saddam?

  10. […] and out right lies. I have already done this once and so wont go into detail, though it can be seen here. I will however reiterate a point I made in that article, that Moore and the Left use to justify […]

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