Thursday, September 21, 2006

Our Final Excuse Gone

Manfred Nowak, whom the BBC describes as “the UN’s chief anti-torture expert,” says that torture in Iraq may be even worse now than it was under Saddam Hussein:
The UN report says detainees' bodies often show signs of beating using electrical cables, wounds in heads and genitals, broken legs and hands, electric and cigarette burns.

Bodies found at the Baghdad mortuary "often bear signs of severe torture including acid-induced injuries and burns caused by chemical substances".

Many bodies have missing skin, broken bones, back, hands and legs, missing eyes, missing teeth and wounds caused by power drills or nails, the UN report says.

Victims come from prisons run by US-led multinational forces as well as by the ministries of interior and defence and private militias, the report said.
We invaded a country run by one of the worst dictators on Earth (according to thousands of sources, none of which I feel like Googling now) and we managed to make things worse. Though I’m sure there are still plenty who’ll argue that the Iraqis are better off for having us there. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to clean up the mess we created? I'm not sure it's possible.


Anonymous Alex said...

And many cops have a military background, you know what this means:

Coming soon to a police station near you!

5:34 AM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

The point of Iraq is eliminating a state friendly to terrorist groups and substituting a one unfriendly to them, in the middle of the Middle East. Iraq is the most advantageous place for us for that battle. In the short term, it doesn't help Iraqis. In the long term, it does.

I suppose they ought not to be torturing terrorists but what can you do. Probably they want information for some reason or other, like getting blown up every day.

Assuming it's even true.

2:24 PM  
Blogger Leonard said...

It is a logical error to deduce that "things" are worse now in Iraq than they were under Saddam because one thing -- torture -- in Iraq is worse now. Unless you think that torture is the only thing.

Presumably, some things are better, and some, worse.

3:01 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Ron, Iraq was already unfriendly to terrorist groups before we got there. Saddam and Bin Laden hated each other. Given our realpolitik penchant for sucking up to evil dictators so long as they hate the same guys we do, we actually should have considered making Saddam an ally.

Leonard, if you're a woman Iraq is far worse than it was before, even without the torture. Secularism has been replaced by Sharia law.

Infrastructure is in worse shape, electric power is far more sporadic, and the economy is a shambles.

6:41 PM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

Getting blown up is no fun either.

But the deal is the future, not now.

11:30 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

But the deal is the future, not now.

The administration has been wrong in every single prediction it made--we weren't greeted as liberators, we weren't out in six months, there were no WMDs, the effort didn't pay for itself via the sale of Iraqi oil--yet you'll still believe its predictions of a rosy future? How many times must a prophet be proven wrong before you'll stop believing his prophecies?

10:02 AM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

We were greeted as liberators, if you remember. With terrorism, though, the minority gets its say until they're hated enough that their lives becomes sufficiently miserable to be pretty hopeless.

A major unexpected feature was the US opposition in the form of encouraging the terrorists - ``Just stay at it a little longer and the US will have to leave.'' That kept them at it, and keeps them at it.

The benefit of Iraqization is that it's obvious they won't be leaving, so the US anti-Bush patriots will no longer encourage the enemy.

Have you reread the '03 speeches about a long struggle and no apparent victories to be forthcoming?

The lesson of 9/11 was a realization, more than anything, of a global reality that had to be addressed.

The whole chess game is the point, not the three squares were all the apparent action is. I think that's a good analogy.

1:03 PM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

I overlooked this at Belmont Club, pointed out by a commenter at Tim Blair.

I've been ranting about it for years, and it's the basis of my feeling that treason is involved in the demorcat election strategy.

Simply put, the primary determinant of an insurgency's failure or success crucially depends on who the population thinks will retain the field. In every successful counterinsurgency it was clear to the population that the counterinsurgents would stay the course. Nothing would help the case of Iraq more than a bipartisan policy to finish the job. But because it seems likely that the Democratic policy will essentially abandon the Iraqi government, the insurgency will always remain strategically viable, no matter how weak it may be tactically. So unless the Iraqi government is set up so solidly that an eventual insurgent victory is out of the question or a bipartisan policy to support some eventual Iraqi successor state is established, the Global Guerilla scenario remains in play.

Free speech and all that, but they're trading for something they want, not saying something they know.

It bears on what still comes out in the news today.

It's not calling for whistling in the dark, but for some agreement to take the foreign policy that the elected President has taken up. Do what you want when it's your turn, but don't actively undermine it.

5:40 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Ron, that guy used a hell of a lot of excess words to say what Britney Spears once said more succinctly: "I think we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes and we should just support that."

Although Ms. Spears at least has enough civic knowledge to not assume that anyone who disagrees with the course our president has taken must be treasonous.

6:21 AM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

Where did Brittany Spears say that it prolongs the terrorism to undermine the chosen foreign policy?

It seems to me that was the point.

There were anti-war people in WWII but they weren't the strategy of either political party to regain or retain power.

Water's edge and all that.

You get to make foreign policy when you're President. We take turns on foreign policy, except for the professional wing of the state department.

7:00 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Yes, Ron, you get to make foreign policy when you're president, but you don't--at least in America--get to say "I am so 100 percent right that disagreement is tantamount to treason." You especially don't get you claim perfect wisdom when so far, every damn prediction you made about said foreign-policy adventure has turned out to be wrong.

And you can't compare this to World War Two. That was not an optional war--after the Japanese bombed us and Germany declared war, we had no choice but to fight. To compare this to World War Two, you'd have to assume that Roosevelt lost interest in the Japanese and the Germans and decided to go after a country like Argentina instead. The Argentines had a nasty government--so what if they're not the ones who actually attacked us?

7:11 AM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

It's not disagreement that's treason, but undermining the chosen policy's effectiveness.

Which is why the opposition party doesn't try to seek power by disagreeing in that way, until recently.

If you as an individual want to disagree with the President, that's fine. I myself think Bush is inarticulate to the point of incompetence. But he is determined to make Iraq work.

That is to say, no question, see it through to a success.

His incompetence isn't in the strategy.

7:37 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Ron, if merely questioning a policy or saying "this isn't working" is all it takes to undermine its effectiveness, then the policy wasn't worth much in the first place. And I doubt the insurgents spend their spare time reading Democratic policy papers, though to hear some critics you'd think that's all they do--check the Internet, see what Americans are saying about the war today, and then plan their bomb schedule accordingly.

As for Bush, merely "being determined to make Iraq work" isn't good enough. The old alchemists were determined to find the philosopher's stone and the secret of eternal life, but they failed. Determination isn't enough if your goal is not reachable.

8:00 AM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

It's all a media effort. Big booms, make the media, check the results, refine the media strategy.

Militarily, the terrorists aren't doing anything significant.

The goal is to get the US to withdraw.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Something else occurs to me, Ron: you guys make Bush's foreign policy sound like the equivalent of faith healing. "It only works if you believe in it! And if it doesn't work it's not because faith healing is bunk--it's because your own faith just wasn't strong enough. You have to believe if you want it to work."

8:08 AM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

Everything is a metaphor for everything else. Bataille wrote that somewhere. It doesn't get you anywhere.

You could learn something from _The Koehler Method of Dog Training_ . It turns out the dog wants to know that you're as serious about what you're requiring him to do as you're asking him to be.

You could say it resembles faith healing, but you wouldn't understand anything about it from that.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

You could learn something from _The Koehler Method of Dog Training_ . It turns out the dog wants to know that you're as serious about what you're requiring him to do as you're asking him to be.

I'd rather not view Iraqis--the citizens of a nation we invaded on false pretenses--as the equivalent of housepets who need to be taught to obey us without question.

10:01 AM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

Strange thing about dogs, that they bring up things about people.

My dog's obedience in matters of messes and furniture earns her the right to freedom of the house.

Rights come from obedience.

My dog's unfailing response to voice commands gets her the right to work at liberty outdoors.

Something of an analogue to the rules of democracy.

Look up Vicki Hearne's _Adam's Task : Calling Animals by Name_, the essays on Washoe and ``How To Say Fetch!''

It's more interesting than you think.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I'm sure it is quite interesting, Ron. I'm just saying it's not analogous to adult human beings.

Besides, it's one thing to say "your dog's obedience gives it the right to run through your house." How does that apply to Iraq--"if they obey us we'll let them have their country back?" You have the right to buy a dog and expect it to obey you. You don't have the right to invade another country on false pretenses and expect the people there to meekly obey you. Especially not when the country's been going to hell ever since we got there. Christ! Are you really saying that the Iraqis are analogous to dogs in need of obedience training from their American masters?

12:22 PM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

Doing what democracy says rather than the local thug. You discover that you have rights you didn't have before. Even the thug does.

What you obey is a rule ; which is also what you teach dogs, with the same result.

You have to elevate dogs a little, from where you're putting them.

One of the reasons that Koehler's book was and is so badly received (banned in Arizona! when it came out) was that it took dogs seriously.

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Robby said...

so, when the remaining GIs pile into the helicopter on the roof of the Embassy, are you still going to be claiming that it's just going to take a few more months before we win?

4:44 PM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

You might look at the attitude of the people who went to Iraq more than the NYT. The reenlistment rate is pretty high. They seem to believe they're doing some good, making progress. But they don't read the NYT so what would they know.

2:49 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Ron, if the re-enlistment rate is so high, why have the Army and marines had to pull guys in from the Reserves, and use stop-loss measures to keep guys in after their enlistments have ended? Why is the Army relaxing its enlistment requirements? (Remember Steven Green, the rapist/murderer of Mahmudiyah? Under the old standards he would not have been allowed in the Army due to his criminal record. But the Army is so desperate it's letting guys like that join the force.)

These don't sound like the actions of an Army with no recruiting troubles.

6:51 AM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

I dunno, they want to increase the presence?

The reenlistment as it stands says something. These guys are professionals, but even professionals don't want to do pointless work, in any field I know.

I did what was for me exciting engineering work, and there were guys around who left for other jobs. The guy that ``gets it'' though is the one you go to to see what's going on.

Or you could, like the NYT, do exit interviews only, and come up with quite a different picture.

Both, curiously, grant the importance of what the people there think, in principle.

8:00 AM  
Anonymous Robby K. said...

You know, even if I believed your thing about GI Job satisfaction, that still wouldn't tell me how happy the Iraqis are now.
By every useful rubric (chances of getting shot by death squads, torture, functioning electricity, government corruption, the list goes on), Iraq seems to be as bad as under Saddam, if not worse. So give me some specific ways that life in Iraq has improved.

6:13 PM  

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