Giving Up

So, on Friday, the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) was voted out of existence by the UN Security Council. The vote was 14-0, with Russia abstaining, using the opportunity to snipe at the US, saying it wasn’t up to the UK and US to decide when the job was done.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad was asked whether he would credit the team for its work and for having what turned out to be better intelligence about Hussein’s weapons capabilities than did the U.S. and Britain.

“That is something that historians will have to work with,” Khalilzad said.

How far we’ve come. I wonder how many Americans today, especially the younger adults, recall that the whole invasion of Iraq was originally in order to disarm Saddam of WMD that the US couldn’t convince the UN he had.

The US is Not Leaving Iraq

As The Guardian reports, Bush administration officials have drawn parallels with South Korea and Japan with regards to a permanent military presence in Iraq. Yes, that’s right, no matter how democratic things get there, the US isn’t going anywhere. Why not? They’ve invested far too much in controlling that oil The popular and democratically elected government will humbly request they never leave.

Yet the building of US military bases in Iraq continues apace, at a cost of over $1bn a year. Shortly after the invasion, the US established 110 bases in Iraq. The present plan appears to consolidate these into 14 “enduring bases” in Iraqi Kurdistan, at Baghairport, in Anbar province, and in the southern approaches to Baghdad. This does not point to an early US disengagement. And nor does the construction of a US embassy able to house 1,000 staff on a 100-acre site on the banks of the Tigris – the biggest US embassy in the world.

This is, of course, hardly news. The Nation covered it quite nicely at the end of last year. But if it’s more interesting predictions you’re after, click here.

A Letter From

Dear Ryan Sproull

I am just writing to briefly acknowledge and thank you for your message supporting my recent statement regarding the commitment by United States president George Bush of further troops to Iraq.

That there are parallels between the situation in Iraq and the previous debacle in Vietnam seems to me to be simply common sense, and to suggest otherwise displays a refusal to recognise the lessons of history. I may of course be wrong, but if I am then at least I am in good company; I am sure you will have noted that even prominent members of George Bush’s own Republican party are of the same view.

But I also think that it is important to be mindful of the broader loss which we have experienced as a result of the invasion of Iraq. Although the cynical would no doubt argue otherwise, we have made a great deal of progress since the Second World War in creating a framework of international law which is based on the belief that wars not only ought to be, but can be, avoided, and that there are better ways of resolving conflicts. New Zealand, I am proud to say, stands at the forefront in this, in eschewing the use of armed force other than as a means of peacekeeping. In fact, I think that we do not always give ourselves sufficient credit for taking that position.

The actions of those who took part in the invasion of Iraq (and we should not forget that this was not an action of the United States alone) did the cause of international management of conflict no favours, and set back the progress we have been able to make by quite a measurable distance, which is, at the very least, regrettable.

That notwithstanding, I continue to have faith in the ability of humanity to recover that ground before too long and to make further advances along the same lines. One needs only to look back on human history to see how far we have come since the days when no-one could sleep soundly for fear of attack. Your support for my statement bolsters my faith in the common sense of New Zealanders, and is much appreciated.

With best wishes
Yours sincerely

Jim Anderton
M P for Wigram and Leader of the Progressive Party

Victory for the Left! Apparently.

The Financial Times tells us that Iraq and climate change have thrown the right into disarray. While those of us on the sane side of life would love to believe that, let’s take a good look at the underlying assumptions inherent in every second sentence of this editorial piece.

His description of a monolithic cardigan-clad left can be forgiven, simply because he’s parodying what he considers to be the mind of the average right-winger. Leftists are clearly a bunch of nuts, who were wrong about various things – from privatisation in the ’80s to mad-cow disease. Then, suddenly, this same monolithic group were right about two things: Iraq and climate change.

Damn straight I was right about Iraq. But what exactly does he think that means? He doesn’t give many clues. He refers to it as “the Iraq debacle”, which has cut away at the Reagan-Thatcher belief in military strength and the moral superiority and “exportability” of Western democracy. If the failure in Iraq is the failure to have successfully taken over and occupied a country of 23 million people on the other side of the world, and that Western democracy wasn’t successfully exported to it, then presumably what the left was saying in 2003 was, “It’s too big a job to manage, and you can’t export democracy.”

Obviously, people were saying both of those things. But a bit simpler an objection coming from the left was: “There are no WMDs over there, idiots. And the invasion is illegal.” We didn’t need to wait until 2007 for some insightful editorial piece to tell us, “Hey, you guys were right.” We have never been wrong about the illegality of the invasion, and it didn’t take long to confirm what UNMOVIC were saying pre-invasion: no WMDs.

As for exporting democracy, that’d be great, except that a functioning democratic country wouldn’t illegally invade another sovereign state. Functioning democracies respect the rule of law.

So what lesson has the right supposedly learned from the left regarding Iraq? Apparently, it’s something like, “It’s tough to take over countries and force them into a governmental system of your choosing.” Which simply implies that, hey, if you’d tried a bit harder, it might have turned out okay. The author even suggests that Iraq might “work out in the end”. This implies a fundamental ignorance of the worst effect of the invasion of Iraq.

Big words, really, to talk about worse effects than over 100,000 lives lost, many more ruined, depleted uranium setting up the cancer rates of future generations, etc. These things are terrible. So what’s worse? The undermining of the rule of law. Why is that worse? Because only the rule of law is going to prevent these things from happening again and again in the future. The invasion was illegal. There were no WMDs. Disarmament was the reason Bush and Blair gave for invading. These things have been forgotten, or ignored.

Chomsky on Vietnam:

The Vietnam War is a classic example of America’s propaganda system. In the mainstream media–the New York Times, CBS, and so on– there was a lively debate about the war. It was between people called “doves” and people called “hawks.” The hawks said, “If we keep at it we can win.” The doves said, “Even if we keep at it, it would probably be too costly for use, and besides, maybe we’re killing too many people.” Both sides agreed on one thing. We had a right to carry out aggression against South Vietnam. Doves and hawks alike refused to admit that aggression was taking place. They both called our military presence in Southeast Asia the defense of South Vietnam, substituting “defense” for “aggression” in the standard Orwellian manner. In reality, we were attacking South Vietnam just as surely as the Soviets later attacked Afghanistan.

Similarly for climate change. What have the right learned from the left? Only that concerns about the environment and future generations only become worth considering when enough people believe them that it affects spending and voting. Until “I care about climate change” becomes an effective way to garner votes, politicians will not care about it. But then we’re told of the dual role of conservatives in this new, crazy, left-wing era:

The defensive role is to guard against over-reaction to the emerging consensus on global warming and Iraq. The right was not wrong to spot its old anti-capitalist, anti-western foes in the coalitions that first latched on to these issues. There are radical voices that will try to use global warming to create a world in which nobody takes a cheap flight again – and in which globalisation is put into reverse. It will be up to the right to show that growth and greenery can be reconciled. Similarly, the Iraq catastrophe is great news for anti-Americans in Europe and isolationists in the US. Conservatives need to hold the line against both.

But the right can do a lot more than mere damage control. Many of the most important ideas of the Reagan-Thatcher era – privatisation, trade union reform, the re-thinking of the welfare state – were developed in opposition to the intellectual consensus of the 1960s and 1970s. After a long period of intellectual hegemony, a period in ideological opposition might be just what the Anglo-American right needs.

Ladies and gentlemen, there are radical voices that will try to use global warming to create a world in which nobody takes a cheap flight again! And in which globalisation is put into reverse. Yes, there are anonymously evil people out there who just want nothing better than to ruin your good time. Who the hell are those people? Who exactly is using climate change to further their secret anti-flight agenda? And if there is the odd nut who actually wants this – you can usually find a nut here or there who believes anything – why is the Financial Times giving the impression they’re an influential voice among the “hey, let’s quit fucking the planet in the arse” crowd? And besides, if it turns out that “cheap flights” are directly responsible for consequences that kill people, then yeah, maybe you shouldn’t have them. But if that’s the case, there’s a good reason for it, not just some nutters who lie at the extreme end of the “left” spectrum. Like, “If you go far enough left, you hit guys who just plain don’t want you to be able to fly to Hawaii. So, you know, don’t go too far left.”

“It will be up to the right to show that growth and greenery can be reconciled”! Because apparently the left is out to destroy growth and the mighty right must defend it. And these “anti-Americans in Europe”. People who just plain hate America, for no better reason than that they’re disagreeable people. Never mind that the US keeps fucking with everyone else on the planet. Europeans are racist. And my favourite, “After a long period of intellectual hegemony, a period in ideological opposition might be just what the Anglo-American right needs.”

Why is that my favourite? Because of the feel it gives. It gives you this feel that “the right” have been running the show for a while now, so it might do them some good to have some healthy competition from “the left”. It gives you this feel that “the left” is opposed to “the right”, and that there are no other options or forces at work. And so it helps you forget that “the right” and “the left” fundamentally agree on a bunch of fucked-up things that could do with a little ideological opposition of their own.


Collateral Damage

9-year-old Arkin is fed his democracy through a tube.

34,452 is three Mosgiels of people. I have tended to measure large numbers of people in Mosgiels since an early age. There are 10,000 people in a Mosgiel. Roughly. Give or take. Anyway, that’s an awful lot of civilians to have died last year in Iraq. Who should be surprised by this, I don’t know. Given that the popular justification for invading Iraq has, since the invasion began, focused on how awful Saddam Hussein was and how he was basically just slaughtering Iraqis any chance he got, anyone who thinks the invasion was a good idea now borders on the religiously fanatical.

Interested to see what the zealous spin is on the matter, I tried to check out Little Green Footballs, which seems to be offline. Aww. So I checked out Political Crossfire, and no one was talking about it there. Getting worried, I finally checked Christian Forums. Ahh, here we are. BearerBob says, “Trust the UN? I think not!” But then, he’s always saying that, because the UN is a communist anti-Christian satanist nihilist feminist liberal conspiracy.

That said, Bob was talking about bribery charges in the so-called Oil for Food Scandal. Here’s my favourite part: “[U.S. attorney Michael] Garcia said the United States had issued warrants for the arrest of Nadler and Sevan and will seek their arrest and extradition to New York.” Yeah? Is the US down with extradition now? Excellent. I look forward to a certain CIA terrorist being extradited to Venezuela.

On a bizarre personal note, the unique ID for the javascript in the image above is 1701071 – the only palindromic unique ID until… Oh, wait. There’ll be another one in 10 days. Never mind.

“Inside me I know that what I want is just to be away…”

From IRIN News.

I am 10 years old but I have not been to school for the past three years because I’m scared of the killings taking place in Iraq. Many of my friends have either been kidnapped or killed.

Since I was five I had been attending the Adhamiyah Primary and Secondary School, in Adhamiyah district [one of the most popular Sunni neighbourhoods in Baghdad]. I made many friends there but since last year, many of them have either fled Iraq with their parents or have left school because their parents are afraid for them because of the increase in kidnappings and killing of children and teachers.

I miss my school very much but in the classroom I used to keep looking at the door to see if someone would break in and kidnap me. My family is poor and if they [the kidnappers] take me, I might die because they cannot pay a ransom.

My mother usually forced me go to school, saying that if I believed in God nothing would happen to me but nowadays things are not so easy and even people who pray day and night are being killed.

Two weeks ago, a close friend of mine was killed while she was leaving the school with her father. A car with men wearing black crossed in front of them and the men shot them dead. It was horrible and there were many children at the school’s gate at that time.

I have two brothers, Amir and Younis. Both of them are in school. Amir, who is 13, says he is not afraid of killers or kidnappers and he has become a man and is not afraid. But Younis used to cry every day when he had to go to school with me. He is only seven but was seriously sad and traumatised from the violence but my parents don’t understand this and used to force him to go with me anyway.

I dream of leaving Iraq but this is only a dream because my parents are too poor to do that. Sometimes I think I will go crazy with the tension I have in my head and the pressure from all sides, especially from my mother who insists that I have to go to school to be someone important. Inside me I know that what I want is just to be away from this violence.

Life is very bad and education is going from bad to worse. Teachers are scared all the time and many of them have left school after receiving threats, making us more scared.

I want to stay at home because somehow I will be safer. I prefer to be illiterate than to die or see a friend killed in front of me or maybe kidnapped and have my ears sent to my family as happened to one of my best friends three months ago.