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Yes I Still Support The Iraq War

This last week marked the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War and so it offered many pundits a chance to write anguished pieces of self examination in which they told why they wish they had opposed the Iraq War. (Then there’s the variant in which those who were opposed all along snear at those who are late to the anti-war party.)

My reactionary tendency revolts against the late breaking attempt to jump on the band wagon, but even setting that aside I can’t find it in myself to see toppling Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship as an unworthy endeavour. If anything, the main injustice I see in the Iraq War was in not having gone all the way to Bagdad in 1991. We left the Iraqi people hanging out to dry in 1991, allowing Hussein to crush the uprising which we encouraged but failed to support. Hussein remained a brutal dictator, but one ruling at our sufferance from 1991 to 2003. I think removing him at any point during that time would have been a just and noble action.

Certainly, there is a great deal that could have been done better in the aftermath of the invasion and toppling of the regime. I wish that it had been done better and that suffering and loss of life, both Iraqi and American, had thus been less. It seems odd, however, to argue that ending Hussein’s dictatorship could only be just if we knew for a certainty ahead of time that all of our actions in the region afterwards would be carried out with competence and success.

There’s a lot that the Bush Administration can be blamed for, and in many ways the Iraq War and its aftermath were ill-managed. But even in its current unpopularity, I still support the basic justice of seeking to finish the job that we started in 1991 and end one of the world’s nastier little dictatorships while it was still easy to do so.

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DarwinCatholic

Now an Ohio Catholic!

37 Comments

  1. What bothers me the most is that every news story you will hear on this anniversary always ends with the same comment “and no weapons of mass destruction were found”.

    It is almost a witch hunt by the mainstream liberal press to continue to besmirch George Bush. I won’t defend his actions as I think that should be left up to history, but as to the WMDs, how about 550 metric tons of yellow cake uranium that were quietly shipped to Canada for use as nuclear fuel.

    I know this was not weapons grade uranium, but how would everyone feel if it were dispersed in the air or water of a major city? The press seems to ignore this because we supposedly “knew it was there” before the war – I cannot see the distinction.

  2. Completely agree Darwin. The conduct of the war was probably the most efficiently fought war in our history. The aftermath I think demonstrates the futility of an outside non-Islamic power attempting to do nation building in an Arab country.

  3. I have had occasion to pose the question to Rod Dreher what would be the better alternative: Uday and Qusay, the sanctions regime, or what we face today in Iraq. He deletes my posts.

  4. “The aftermath I think demonstrates the futility of an outside non-Islamic power attempting to do nation building in an Arab country.”

    Was this not the obvious likelihood before the war began?

  5. I suppose it depends on what one is positing to be obvious.

    There have been moderately successful efforts at nation building in the Middle East, however they were carried on according to a colonial model and they were achieved prior the 1950s.

    Between the colonial era and the US effort to rebuild Iraq, Western powers had generally taken the approach of supporting whatever local regimes they found most convenient at the moment, no matter how reprehensible. This had resulted in the Wester powers getting a bad reputation in the neighborhood.

    I don’t think it was obviously crazy ahead of time to think that trying to do a fair and democratic job of setting up a functioning government in the region would be a failure — except for those who (a weird meeting of far right and far left) who held that Arabs as a group were somehow fundamentally incapable of having a civilized government.

    A lot of things went wrong — some of which could have been done better and some of which in retrospect look fairly inevitable. Even as it stands, the end result is that Iraq is one of the more democratic and less repressive regimes in the area. The downside is that this has allowed the population to do things which a carefully chosen and sufficiently powerful dictatorship might not have allowed it to do — such as chase out religious minorities.

  6. II think the whole idea of trying to bring democracy to an Islamic country is a mistake because such means of governance is incompatible with Islam.

    Electoral politics have been practiced in recent years in Albania, Kosovo, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Niger, the Ivory Coast, Morocco, Turkey, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

  7. “Electoral politics have been practiced in recent years in Albania, Kosovo, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Niger, the Ivory Coast, Morocco, Turkey, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Malaysia, and Indonesia.”

    With what results? Democratic elections in Islamic countries tend to serve as an initial vehicle to Islamic tyranny. Eygpt is a clear example of this.

  8. Turkey has had parliamentary government (with some interruptions) for the length of the postwar period; Kuwait has maintained electoral institutions for about 40 of the last 50 years; Malaysia has been run by a semi-pluralist political machine for about 50 – odd years; Senegal and Morocco have had about 35 years experience with electoral institutions; Bangladesh has had elected governments for about 20 years; the west African countries were all part of a wave of experimentation with electoral forms all over Africa; Indonesia instituted electoral government about 15 years ago. The closer you get to the core of the Muslim world, the more resistance to political pluralism, but it is all on a spectrum. No point in saying muslims cannot operate the machinery. Whatever problems there are with the political culture in that part of the world, there are countries passably adapted to electoral competition.

  9. I still support the Iraq war also.

    I’m sick of hearing”……..but there were no WMD s found.”

    Shear stupidity. He used chemical weapons against the Kurds and the Delta marsh tribes.
    A year or two after the invasion, WMD parts were found being sold on the black market in Holland, still with the UN inspector’s sticker on them.
    And he was supporting Al Quaeda training camps in the North East of Iraq.
    And he was paying families to get their sons to be suicide bomber into Israel.

    Go figure.

  10. “The closer you get to the core of the Muslim world, the more resistance to political pluralism,…”

    My point exactly. Islam at its core is antithethical to a free society, at least how the west has traditionally understood it. Turkey has become more radically Islamist in recent years with the election of Islamists like Recyp Erdogan as Prime Minister and his party holding a majority in Parliment.

    Iraq is right in the core of the Muslim World, whose majority Shia popultion wants no part of political pluralism. Or religious pluralism for that matter. Now, I too still support the military toppling of Saddam Hussein. But much of the post invasion policy of the Bush Administration was based on a naive view of how what self-governance means in Islamic terms. The Iraqi constitution has Sharia written right into it and the Bush Administration went along with that. One also has to understand that Islam is as much if not more of a political system than it is a religion. Couple Bush Administration naiveté with Obama not willing to push for a substantive Status of Forces Agreement and what you have now is an Iraq that is basically becoming a satellite of Iran, if it isn’t one already.

    Furthermore, the rise of Islamism with the self-immolation of the West that spectrum is bound to narrow.

    “No point in saying muslims cannot operate the machinery.”

    Just like there is no point in saying that Texas Chainsaw Massacre guy doesn’t know how to operate a chainsaw.

  11. My point exactly. Islam at its core is antithethical to a free society,

    No, your point is not my point. I am making a surface observation about the course of political events in the postwar period. Latin America differs from the Far East differs from South Asia differs from the Arab World. Had you made this observation in 1948, you might have drawn different conclusions. I would refer you to Larry Diamond, who is a serious student of constitutional development in the 3d world, which few critics of the Iraq War are. His point is as follows: the only prerequisite common to all instances of democratic transition has been the will of a political class to alter the system in this way. You have electoral systems all over the world in countries of every level of affluence, in countries with high levels of ethnic and confessional diversity and low, in countries with leveled in social strata and countries with great disjunctions in standards of living between strata. As a general rule, affluence, homogeneity, insularity, and the English language are positively correlated with the appearance of democratic institutions. Poverty, diversity, continentality, hypertrophied extractive industries, and Arabic dialects are inversely correlated. Correlated means correlated, not identified. Senegal (83% Muslim) has for more than fifty years been among the two or three most benignly governed countries in Africa and has had for 35 years competitive electoral politics. Statements like “Islam is antithetical to a free society” are pig-ignorant and you should stop making them.

  12. The Iraqi constitution has Sharia written right into it and the Bush Administration went along with that.

    I will wager they were fairly laconic about estate law, matrimonial law, banking law, and the use of corporal punishment in the Arab world. That is as it should be.

  13. “The experience of the past and of our own time demonstrates that justice alone is not enough, that it can even lead to the negation and destruction of itself, if that deeper power, which is love, is not allowed to shape human life in its various dimensions.”
    — Pope John Paul II (Rich in Mercy)

    The command to love our enemies is, as Pope Benedict XVI put it, the ‘nucleus of the Christian revolution’, and is a command directly applicable to the Iraq War.

    The justness of the Iraq War hinges not only meeting the traditional set of criteria set forth first by Aquinas (criteria I haven’t seen mentioned), but also on the love of Christ, an enemy-love properly known as mercy.

    Christ and his Church commanded us to show mercy to Saddam and to his countrymen. The Pope and almost all of the world’s bishops considered the Iraq War to be not only a violation of the just-war theory, but also a tragic mistake rooted in lack of faith in God and Man — a lack of faith in the power of mercy.

    “Peace is still possible,” Pope JPII preached right to the end. Forgiveness, reconciliation, and mercy were still possible right up to the point that George Bush gave the order to bomb and invade Iraq. There were other options. Options rooted in mercy.

    But to President Bush, and to many throughout this country, “this was the guy who tried to kill my dad” — an irredeemably evil man who the power of God’s love could not touch, surrounded by similarly irredeemably evil seed. To President Bush and those who had already condemned Iraq’s leaders in their hearts, the only solution to Iraq was not mercy, but the merciless ‘justice’ of violence.

    Not in vain did Christ challenge His listeners, faithful to the doctrine of the Old Testament, for their attitude which was manifested in the words: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” This was the form of distortion of justice at that time; and today’s forms continue to be modeled on it.
    — Pope John Paul II (Rich in Mercy)

  14. What about the fact that the Christian (Chaldean Catholic) community in Iraq, which used to have some measure of protection under Saddam, is now a fast shrinking minority suffering relentless persecution? Granted, the current situation of Iraqi Christians does not, in and of itself, prove or disprove that the decision to wage war in Iraq was justified; but it is a consequence of our actions that has to be acknowledged.

  15. Granted, the current situation of Iraqi Christians does not, in and of itself, prove or disprove that the decision to wage war in Iraq was justified; but it is a consequence of our actions that has to be acknowledged.

    No, it is a consequence of someone else’s actions and not all that predictable. What is your cost calculus? That the country has to remain an abattoir because of a possible injury to the interests 2% of the population?

    “Peace is still possible,” Pope JPII preached right to the end. Forgiveness, reconciliation, and mercy were still possible right up to the point that George Bush gave the order to bomb and invade Iraq. There were other options. Options rooted in mercy.

    Fat chance. Take your fantasies somewhere else.

  16. US air power and snake-eaters, and Northern Alliance had deposed Afghan taliban gangsters beginning in November 2001.

    Andrew Sullivan is a near-perfect examplar for the viler fringes of the vile World.

    In 2003, he wrote that Pope John Paul II’s opposition to the Iraq War was based on “traditional Catholic anti-semitism.”: Look it up. And, look up what the lunatic says now.

    PS: I was against the war before I was for it.

    Once the elected representatives authorized the “war”, and the first American blood was spilt, it was a go for all of us: “Honor thy Father.”

    PPS: FDR: “You do not have to wait for a rattlesnake to bite you.”

  17. Don the Kiwi says:
    Friday, March 22, 2013 A.D. at 11:15pm
    I still support the Iraq war also.

    I’m sick of hearing”……..but there were no WMD s found.”

    Shear stupidity. He used chemical weapons against the Kurds and the Delta marsh tribes.
    A year or two after the invasion, WMD parts were found being sold on the black market in Holland, still with the UN inspector’s sticker on them.

    Thank you.

    The more common argument is to use “WMD” to incorrectly mean “nuclear weapon,” but this is bothersome as well.

    Roadside bombs also had WMDs from the “secured” supplies attached to them.

    ************

    What about the fact that the Christian (Chaldean Catholic) community in Iraq, which used to have some measure of protection under Saddam, is now a fast shrinking minority suffering relentless persecution?

    What about the fact that their “measure of protection” was from helping to run the country, feed people into woodchippers feet-first, manage the rape rooms– which were both for interrogation tactics and entertainment of those with power– and similar or more horrific outrages?
    No, not everyone who benefited from the “measure of protection” was involved, or even had family involved. Yes, mobs attacking a group because of their religion is bad. Yes, the imported terrorists attack everyone that isn’t their specific flavor of Islam, or isn’t loud enough in supporting them.

    People being willing to ignore why the group is scapegoated, and what their protection came from, do not do Christianity any favors.

  18. Shorter:
    how many groups wiped out, people horrifically killed and children raped would be acceptable to have a better “protected” Christian group in Iraq?

    How much horrific oppression of other groups is acceptable– or even laudable– so long as the ones more like us are “protected”?

  19. Art Deco, I do see fantasy in this thread and comments, but it isn’t the Church’s teachings on mercy and justice.

  20. On the persecution of Christianity in post-Baathist Iraq:

    I don’t think it was necessarily unrealistic for the Bush Administration to hope that it could put together a successfully pluralistic society in post-invasion Iraq. The Brits and French had managed to do a pretty good job of that for a while in their period of setting up states in the region from 1918 to 1950.

    I do think that the forcing out of the Christian community in Iraq is unquestionably one of the more tragic results of the war. (Though probably a mixed blessing for the Christians themselves, in some ways, in that a lot of them have emigrated to countries where their long term prospects are probably much better than Iraq no matter who is ruling it.) But while I’d see the failure to secure religious tolerance in Iraq as a major failing, I don’t necessarily see it as a good reason for propping up the dictatorship just because it _wasn’t_ persecuting them.

  21. Nate,

    While John Paul II was in many ways a functional pacifist, even he did not teach that mercy and love of enemy were incompatible with war. (He couldn’t teach that, since it would be a reversal of Catholic teaching.) Catholic teaching is not that one must never use military force because one is called to exercise love and mercy instead. If anything, Catholic teaching is more radical than that: We must love our enemies even in the act of fighting and be prepared at the instant which a foes aggression is rendered harmless to respond to him as a brother in need of care rather than as an enemy in need of vengeance.

    Certainly, John Paul II’s position on the Iraq War (and even the Gulf War, which would seem to be an absolutely textbook example of fulfilling the just war criteria) was that we should wait indefinitely before using military means to deal with the situation. John Paul’s bending of the just war criteria to look almost identical to pacifism was inspiring to some Catholics, and perhaps rightly so. Non-violence has never been the only approach of the Church, but there has always been a place for those who commit themselves to non-violence within the Church.

    It’s also probably not surprising that the Church has been going through a functionally pacifist period over the last few decades given the experiences which formed many Catholic thinkers and leaders in the 20th century. John Paul II came out of Poland, the modern nation which was born of World War I yet found itself in one of the worst positions of all in WW2. Poland lost a larger percentage of its population to WW2 than any other country. (A gentile living in Warsaw in 1936 had a lower chance of being alive ten years later than a Jew living in Berlin. And, of course, Polish Jews stood virtually no chance at all.) Poles fought bravely for the Allied cause from 1939 to 1945, and yet Poland was at the end of the war consigned to be crushed under the boot of one of the two totalitarian regimes which had invaded it in 1939. Peaceful resistance may not be the only moral way to respond to aggression, but it was the only one that was left to Poles and they had to live by it for another forty years before they managed to escape the repressive government the war had begot them.

    Come to think about it, if you look at the most Catholic countries in Europe, from which the majority of Church leaders and theologians hailed, you get Italy, France, Poland, Austria, southern Germany, Croatia, etc. The collective experience of those countries in the 20th centuries would arguably go a long way towards pushing one into pacifism.

  22. I agree that our biggest mistake was not going to Baghdad in 1991. My generation would have finished it, and not my son’s generation. I disagree with going in there a second time. It just wasn’t worth it, and this was foreseeable. We had Saddam contained, and that was enough. Yes, he violated the terms of the ceasefire that ended the first war. In that case, we should simply engage in punitive raids rather than get into the quagmire that resulted from trying to hold ground. I think that our second biggest mistake was engaging in “nation building”. Once we had won the ground war, we should have packed up and gone home immediately. It was not worth it to stay. The cost in human and financial terms was just too high. My next door neighbor was a kid who borrowed my video games. He enlisted in the Marines at eighteen, and ended up in Fallujah. He was wounded twice and came back with a traumatic brain injury and PTSD. He’s on full VA disability. The Iraqi’s are responsible for their own loss of life in the aftermath, not the U.S. It’s not worth the sacrifice of young men like him to bring order to people who don’t really want order. They still don’t have it and don’t want it. Not really. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/iraqi-officials-wave-of-attacks-in-shiite-areas-of-baghdad-kills-at-least-21-wounds-dozens/2013/03/19/44ac1948-9061-11e2-9173-7f87cda73b49_story.html

  23. “The collective experience of those countries in the 20th centuries would arguably go a long way towards pushing one into pacifism.”

    Especially since Uncle Sam did the heavy lifting for defense after World War 2 that sheltered most of those nations. But for the US victory in the Cold War, all of those nations would be seeing now how effective pacifism is at liberating nations from totalitarian states when there is no outside military superpower maintaining pressure on the totalitarian states. The US defense umbrella has allowed most of Europe to take an extended holiday from history. All holidays come to an end, and I fear the conclusion of this holiday will come with a bang followed by a lot of whimpers.

  24. It’s not worth the sacrifice of young men like him to bring order to people who don’t really want order. They still don’t have it and don’t want it. Not really.

    The last time I checked, in excess of 95% of instances of violence in Iraq were in six provinces which comprehended about 40% of the population of the country. Someone appears to want order.

    It just wasn’t worth it, and this was foreseeable. We had Saddam contained, and that was enough.

    Well, Big Consciences were assuring us that the sanctions regime was inducing a six figure sum in excess deaths per year. Of course, had the sanctions regime collapsed, we might have had Uday and Qusay gone wild.

  25. John Paul’s bending of the just war criteria to look almost identical to pacifism was inspiring to some Catholics, and perhaps rightly so.

    I am sorry, I just do not find this inspiring:

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/letters/1991/documents/hf_jp-ii_let_19910115_gulf-war-bush_en.html

    At the time it was being uttered, a harmless oil principality was being subjugated, brutalized, and trashed and the Holy Father offered that he favored cheap air fares to be achieved by the suspension of gravity.

  26. John Paul’s bending of the just war criteria to look almost identical to pacifism was inspiring to some Catholics, and perhaps rightly so.

    “I am sorry, I just do not find this inspiring:

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/letters/1991/documents/hf_jp-ii_let_19910115_gulf-war-bush_en.html

    At the time it was being uttered, a harmless oil principality was being subjugated, brutalized, and trashed and the Holy Father offered that he favored cheap air fares to be achieved by the suspension of gravity.”

    I personally don’t expect the pope to take a hawkish stance. I too, would hope these things could have been resolved without recourse to arms. BUt in the brutal world we live, that is often not possible.

    According to Weigel’s biography on JPII, the pope had telephoned President Bush either just before or just after the start of Desert Storm expressing regret that war couldn;t have been prevent and hoping that such action would be brief, casualties be minimized, that our side would victorious.

  27. About all this “There was no WMD” business. Those who use this as a cudgel to beat the Bush Administration’s decision to invade Iraq ought to read both the KAy and Duefler reports. While both admit there is was no clear evidence of WMD stockpiles since 1991, the danger posed by the Iraqi regime was more than what the Administration believed. Hussein was reatining the intellectual capital and, thanks to the corruption of the UN Oil for Weapons, Palaces, and Terrorist (aka Oil for Food) Programs, he was building up serious financial capital to reconstitute his WMD programs after the fast eroding sanctions were lifted.

    Now, I think Duefler made a smalll revision to his report later on when he said that it was possible the stockpiles were moved to Syria. After all, he had all the time in the world to hide them. We had been telegraphing our intention to invade Iraq for over a year before we went in. The stockpiles we knew he once had were never accounted for. And we did find several dual use facilities in Iraq and large amounts of “insecticides” from which chemical weapons can be produced.

    Another thing, intelligence failures are often crowed about by the anit-war crowd. But not a peep is uttered about the biggest intelligence failure and that was the absolute decay of Iraq’s infastructure pre-war.

  28. Now, I think Duefler made a smalll revision to his report later on when he said that it was possible the stockpiles were moved to Syria. After all, he had all the time in the world to hide them. We had been telegraphing our intention to invade Iraq for over a year before we went in.

    Years, heck, we gave a week’s warning and didn’t even seal he borders– I can remember sitting in the galley with my Marines, watching CNN as they showed caravans driving across the Syrian border. (we debated and decided it was more Bush bending over backwards to keep folks from having ammo against it)

    Incidentally, some trucks that looked a lot like those were found– in the desert, buried, with the drivers still in them. Shot.

  29. When you consider that the Iraqis buried fighter jets in the sands you wonder what else was out there. Saddam’s generals were expecting him to order the unleashing of WMDs and were amazed when the order never came.

  30. And for those who find it so hard to believe that Saddam Hussein would truck his WMD’s out of the country (in this case, to Syria) prior to what he knew was an impending American coalition-led invasion in 2003, he did the same thing in 1990/1 with his airforce whereby a lot of his best planes were flown to Iran before the coalition start of hostilities in early 1991. If anything, even if we did not have satellite photos of convoys of trucks crossing the Iraqi-Syrian border in late 2002, the manner whereby Hussein sought to shield his more effective weaponry from the battlefield previously lent credence to the idea that he would similarly hide what he could this time around too.

    For those of us whose justification for utilizing the military option did not even touch on the subject of WMD’s we were never in a position to have to consider revising our original stances unlike many who made the existence of WMD their primary or overriding reason for such support. Ergo, my stance on the war today is no different on the war than ten years ago and just as back then, the finding of WMD or not was always icing on the cake rather than the whole cake itself. But I digress.

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