Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Christopher Hitchens, loud and proud... but wrong.

Check out the above link for a treatise by Christopher Hitchens that attempts to justify the Iraq debacle.

Let me start with the 1st point of his article: He writes:
"LET ME BEGIN WITH A simple sentence that, even as I write it, appears less than Swiftian in the modesty of its proposal: "Prison conditions at Abu Ghraib have improved markedly and dramatically since the arrival of Coalition troops in Baghdad."

I could undertake to defend that statement against any member of Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International, and I know in advance that none of them could challenge it, let alone negate it. Before March 2003, Abu Ghraib was an abattoir, a torture chamber, and a concentration camp. Now, and not without reason, it is an international byword for Yankee imperialism and sadism. Yet the improvement is still, unarguably, the difference between night and day. How is it possible that the advocates of a post-Saddam Iraq have been placed on the defensive in this manner? And where should one begin?"

Of course the conditions in Abu Graib have improved with American control. Thats because we do not follow the same policies practiced by Sadaam or by many of our allies around the globe. The horror of Americans torturing Iraqi prisoners, even if that torture would have been a welcome reprieve had those same prisoners been treated thusly in Saddams prisons is precisely because we (correctly so) hold ourselves to higher standards. Let there be no doubt about it... as I described in a previous post, the revelations of abuse to this point truly are the college hazing prank stuff. The awful truth is being hidden by the Penatgon because the true state of affairs as documented on film, if ever allowed to become public will prove far more damaging than anything revealed to this point. But even so, I have no doubt the situation in Abu Graib under American control is much better than under Sadaams regime... and that is hardly anything to crow about. The debasement of our standards by this administration in regards to prisoner treatment is a stain on our national honor, regardless of the treatment that could be expected at the hands of Sadaam or any other ruthless dictator.

Mr. Hitchens lays out 4 criteria for eligibility for a regime to be labeled "rogue and failed" thereby laying it open for its justified expulsion by force. These criteria are: "It had invaded its neighbors, committed genocide on its own soil, harbored and nurtured international thugs and killers, and flouted every provision of the Non-Proliferation Treaty."

These are very valid reasons and any reasonable person may agree that a state violating those principles may rightly be corrected with military force in order to halt said transgressions. But not when those criteria are features of the nations past behavior. I mean the U.S. many times in our history invaded its neighbors, committed genocide on its own soil, harbored international thugs and killers and is the only country to actually use nuclear weapons against an enemy. This obviously did not violate the non proliferation treaty but said treaty is a relatively new phenomona, and given time I'm sure we'll find some cirmcumstance to break it. Also the historical record shows that the U.S. actually was the supplier of Sadaam in the early stages of his WMD programs. Does that reflect well on our belief in non-proliferation? So does this mean I think the U.S. should be subject to the same measures as Mr. Hitchens feels was justified in ousting Sadaam? Of course not! The question is, does Mr. Hitchens hold these standards regarding the continued existence of America? The real point here is that at the time of the Iraq invasion at least 3 of the 4 criteria applied by Mr. Hitchens no longer applied. Iraq is now shown to have had no weapons of mass destruction program, Iraq had no more quotient of international thugs than any other regime currently in power in that part of the world (partial point to Hitchens), certainly had not invaded any neighbor since it's expulsion from Kuwait, and was not then involved with genocide. Does this mean I think Sadaam was a nice guy? Certainly not, and the world is better off with him out of power. But the means by which this end was attained have proven to be a greater harm to America in our loss of international prestige and lack of focus in the TRUE war on terror than the benefit of having removed the dictator. And the fact remains that at the time of his ouster Sadaam was contained and the list given by Hitchens did not apply to the situation at the time. Can you imagine America marching into Cambodia right now in response to the genocide of the mid 70's? Preposterous...

Mr. Hitchens also has a list of 10 bullet points of positive results from the Iraq calamity. Let me take issue with just the last 2 for now:

9) The violent and ignominious death of thousands of bin Ladenist infiltrators into Iraq and Afghanistan, and the real prospect of greatly enlarging this number.

The sad fact in this regard is that this invasion has swelled the ranks of the Islamo extremist movement. For every terrorist killed, dozens join their ranks. The facts show that far from weakening the movement by the bleeding of their membership, this horrible war is strengthening their ranks by radicalizing the Arab "street" against us.

Besides which, another sad fact is that the tactic of the suicide bomber by definition leads to the death of the perpetrator. And while westerners may ponder the ingnominous nature of the death of said bomber, it is considered a glorious achievement by our enemies. The lexicon used by cheerleaders for this war really has no bearing on the perception of these acts by those who carry them out unfortunately. If only it were so easy...

10) The training and hardening of many thousands of American servicemen and women in a battle against the forces of nihilism and absolutism, which training and hardening will surely be of great use in future combat.

This is actually the opposite of what is really happening. Our forces are being stretched thin. Material and manpower are being bled in a quagmire. The truth of the matter is the training being done here is by the terrorists in a theater they can send their recruits to learn the tactics to further harm our interests. The recent uptick in American casualties in Afghanistan are a direct result of the wrong headed war in Iraq. This war is not making us safer, and most of the citizenry of America know this.

The true state of affairs regarding these 2 points show that rather than America gaining strength in the "war on terror" by training our military and weakening the terrorist movement, the opposite is in fact happening. It is precisely for this reason that history will view the results of this misguided adventure in Iraq as a significant setback in the war on terror. Using 09/11 as a platform to forward the neocon Mid East fantasy has resulted in disaster, and the sooner the Hitchens and Cheneys of the world recognize this fact the sooner we can go about correcting this mistake.

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