Thursday, April 10, 2003

Arab Press Strikes Again

I try to find Arab perspectives where I can find them. One place I go (because I can read it) is Yesterday's top two headlines:

  • Editorial: Against the Occupation
  • Exclusive: US Occupies Baghdad

The editorial was certainly presumptive and unfair. The article with the more inflammatory headline was actually pretty fair.

But they still chose those words. Why? Arab intellectuals have for years been feeding their populations a line that all their problems are caused by Israel and America. They now believe it to the point that they are unwilling (and practically unable) to entertain the possibility that Bush is telling the truth when he says "Iraq will be governed by the Iraqi people", and "This is a liberation, not an occupation." And there's the other reason the headlines and verbage is slanted that way -- because it sells copy. Because that's what the population wants to believe.

Why do they want so badly to believe that the U.S. is evil and imperialistic? I'll get to that in a minute, but let's talk about how it doesn't help matters. Suppose they are wrong and that America truly intends to help the Iraqis set up a democratic system of self-government, free from puppet strings. Suppose they somehow chose to believe that America really is there to help. It would be much easier, then, for America to actually help if America is not constantly having to fight the perception that they're really there to take over the oil or destroy Islam or kill the Iraqi people.

Let's put it this way. Nobody else has done anything to help the Iraqi people. Certainly no Arab nation. Some have actually sent nationals from their country to go fight to support the regime that was so obviously one of the worst to its own people in the history of civilization. Sad thing that it happens to occupy the territory of is commonly accepted as the birthplace of civilization. I think it can be safely argued that fighting in support of the Hussein regime is not helping the Iraqi people -- although the Arab press has certainly made it look that way by skewing their reporting in that direction. And why would they skew their reporting in that direction? I'll give you three possibilities, some of and probably all of which may be true. 1) they believe the story that America is evil 2) they want to believe it because it deflects responsibility for their own problems away from themselves, and 3) Their governments may actually want them to believe it to deflect criticism away from themselves.

If the Arabs (ok, not all of them, but it's safe to say most of them) have made up their minds that Bush is lying about Iraqi freedom and non-occupation, then nothing can be done to convince them. They scour the facts for anything that can be used as evidence to support that view, and either ignore any evidence to the contrary, or do whatever they can to discredit evidence to the contrary.

Because that is what they want to believe.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Statues falling down

One of the biggest things since the Berlin Wall. Mind you, the Berlin Wall falling was a bigger event than the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein on Baghdad's Firdos Square today... unless perhaps you happen to be an Iraqi. I cringed for us when the Marines put an American Flag over Saddam's face briefly before taking it off.... I knew how that would play in the Arab press. Apparently so did the Pentagon. Not sure if the soldier planned to take it off that fast or if the order came to do so, but an Iraqi flag would have been much better. Fortunately, an Iraqi standing on the tank did have a pre-gulf-war Iraqi flag, although not as big -- which the Marine put up there. Unfortunately he didn't spread it out so you could see it prominently, and it was too small to cover the face and stay there... so it was put on as more of a "scarf". Still, the crowd cheered that. So did I.

I can understand a young marine putting our flag up there. Marines are fiercely proud of their country, and these boys (and gals, too) just went through hell to get to the point this moment symbolized -- the mission of toppling the regime. And this wasn't planned out. Apparently a crowd of Iraqis were trying to topple the statue with a large rope which wasn't getting the job done, and the Marines came in with cables and a tank to help them out. Still, it would have been better to give the moment to the Iraqi crowd. Oh well. They're young, proud Marines, not diplomats, and probably didn't understand what it might look like to have the flag of another country displayed prominently after a successful invasion, no matter what the motives were.

Meantime, only blocks away at Bagdhad University, a firefight was going on with another group of Marines.... the war is not over. But resistance is becoming increasingly irrelavent as the people of Iraq lose their fear of reprisals from the government which obviously no longer has control of the country. Still, after 34 years I can understand that that fact might take a while to sink in.

I hope Saddam is dead, but even if he isn't, it doesn't matter. The game is up as far as he's concerned.

My response to an editorial in yesterday's paper

The author said this war doesn't make him feel safer -- that he was never afraid of Saddam's tin-pot dictatorship, and pointed out that Saddam had no missiles that would go over 200 miles and he couldn't even fly over 2/3 of his country. He was concerned as well that his teenage son may have to go fight someday because of this action.

Perhaps you have zoomed in too close and you're not seeing the bigger picture. You say you've never been afraid of tin-pot Saddam, and cite the fact that he didn't have missiles that could go over 200 miles and he couldn't even fly over 2/3 of his country. Both true, but it is part of the bigger context of why we went to war in the first place. Saddam has proven that he will do what he thinks he can get away with, and he's up to no good. The reason Saddam doesn't have missiles that can go over 200 miles and can't fly over 2/3's of his country is not because the Sacred U.N. passed resolutions drawing magic lines in the sky and forbidding him to have such missiles. Rather it is because the U.S. has been there enforcing those resolutions with real planes and real missiles and real guns. This is the main reason for a fairly permanent and substantial U.S. military presence in the middle east since the Gulf War. It unfortunately gives the appearance to the Arab street that we are occupiers. This was at the core Bin Laden's anger at the U.S. There is something to the saying "fish or cut bait". Before we leave, we have to get rid of the reason we stayed there in the first place; and that is to contain Saddam Hussein's regime. Leaving him there would be a grave mistake. The no-fly zones would be gone, and there'd be no chance for even farcical inspections. Saddam would be once again free to test the waters -- at which point you should definitely be afraid.

I have a step-son in the Marine Reserves who will likely go active when he graduates in a year. I fear for him, too, but I also see what's going on in the world. If the bad guys are the only ones allowed to act with force, the bad guys will soon rule the world. I'm proud he's willing to step up and face them.

Except for ending slavery and stopping Nazism, Communism, and Facism, war has never sovled anything.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Under Three Weeks

So, here we are, just under three weeks into this conflict. We've had lots of shift in press opinion (negative, positive, extremely negative, now positive again) and little shift in public opinion, at least here in the States. We're seeing some bizarre things especially on the Iraqi side of the propaganda war -- except that all along I've said that the Iraqi strategy would have to be all propaganda -- and the longer they can stretch the war out (more deaths, more support from Arab nations viewing them as courageous), the better propaganda they'll have. Clearly their military is rag-tag and disorganized. So they'll say anything to keep the people fighting, knowing full well those fighters are very likely signing their own death warrants by fighting.

One thing I find odd is war critics out of one side of their mouths condemning the fact that we didn't go past the UN objective in 1991 of liberating Kuwait and left Iraq's internal affairs to Iraq once that was accomplished (resulting in the mass slaughter of Shiites and Kurds) and out of the other side of their mouths condemning the fact that this time we're going in despite the U.N.'s ... we should say "non-approval" instead of "dis-approval" and doing what we think is right. Many around the world who mistake resolve for arrogance.

The farther we get into this, it appears more and more that the Bush administration was basically right about this. Of course, the Bush administration isn't the first to talk about the necessity of regime change in Iraq. Bill Clinton addressed the nation saying the same thing in December, 1998.

For those of you who still don't understand why we needed to do this, let's review:

  • In 1991, Iraq invaded Kuwait with the intention of annexing it to Iraq.
  • The UN ordered Iraq out, but of course, Iraq refused.
  • Forces, mostly US forces, went in to expel him and did so.
  • Saddam signed a cease-fire agreement to keep himself in power, agreeing to get rid of long range missiles and Chem/Bio/Nuclear weapons.
  • The US encouraged but did not get involved in an uprising to topple the regime, letting the Iraqi people decide their future for themselves. They failed tragically. The US has been criticized for not assisting, largely by the same folks who don't want us assisting now.
  • Following mass Iraqi extermination in the north and south, the UN imposed (largely by use of US and UK forces) two "no-fly" zones to inhibit the regime from the kind of mass murder it committed.
  • In order to enforce these zones and keep Iraq in check and keep any teeth behind UN Weapons Inspections, US and UK troops remained stationed in the middle east, particularly in Saudi Arabia.
  • The fact that Western Infidels had military bases in the sacred land of Saudi Arabia incensed many Muslim Arabs. One of them was Osama Bin Laden, a Saudi himself.
  • Saddam meanwhile practiced a game of denial and deception, threatening the lives of UN Weapons Inspectors, harassing them, and leading them around by the nose
  • Saddam Hussein continues pushing his limits and only backing down when the threat of military action (again, by way of the US) is eminent.
  • When Saddam felt enough military pressure was off, he kicked the weapons inspectors out altogether.
  • Clinton followed with a limited military response
  • In a few military police actions around the world involving the UN (Somalia), the US pulled out after suffering a few casualties. This further emboldened Osama Bin Laden's Al Quaida
  • Al Quaida continued attacking US interests around the world. It tried bombing the World Trade Center from the parking garage below. That attempt failed. The US tried to treat it as a criminal action rather than an act of war with limited short-term success, but without much of an eye to the long-term Al Quaida strategy.
  • The world does not peruse Bin Laden in any kind of organized, committed fashion. He finds refuge in Afghanistan, sheltered by a brutal fanatical religious regime sympathetic to his cause. Like mold in a dark, warm, wet spot, Al Quaida thrives, permanently entwining itself with the Afghan government.
  • Continued US military presence in Saudi Arabia & Iraq fuels the Arab point of view that the US is an imperialist country bent on taking over the middle east... the abundant conspiracy theorists continue to tie this to the belief that Israel intends to take over the middle east and the US intends to back it. Widespread public hatred for the US continues to build.
  • 9/11 Al Quaida finally succeeds in blowing up the World Trade Center in New York, intentionally targeting and killing over 3,000 civilians -- also kills a couple hundred at the Pentagon with another airplane. But for the heroic struggles of passengers aboard another plane, the White House would likely have been hit as well.
  • Like Dec 8, 1941 -- the Sleeping Giant of the United States awakens. It realizes it can no longer afford to let enemies like Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein fester until they can hatch whatever plans they will. Afghanistan is sanitized. Al Quaida's roots there are obliterated. A largely grateful Afghan population rejoices -- right in the face of Arab opinion that they were in fact not oppressed and the US was simply waging a war on Islam.
  • A main source of Arab anger (besides Israeli support) is the US's strong presence in the region. The main reason for that prolonged presence was to contain Saddam Hussein. Before we pull out of the middle east, it needs to be stabilized so there's no reason for us to be there in the first place. Step number 1, regime change in Iraq.

So those reasons are, in summary

  • Remove the current main regional threat in the Middle East -- Saddam Hussein's regime
  • Remove the means of that threat (WMD) -- mostly to help prove to the world how much of a threat he was
  • This gets rid of the main reason we have so much presence in the region in the first place, and we can pull out, helping calm Arab opinion, and showing them that they were wrong about imperialist motives
  • Help the people of Iraq establish a free, democratic government to help improve their lives, and to show the rest of the middle east what can be when your people are free
  • Show other bad guys in the world that we will come kick their butts -- they can't just kill with impunity.

That's all for now.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

They came here to kill us

They came here to kill us Heard a quote from an Iraqi woman who is obviously against the war. I just have one question for her... If the coalition is there to kill Iraqis, is there really any doubt in your mind that millions of Iraqis would be dead? The U.S. certainly has the means and access.

No, we came to Iraq to separate an evil man who had too much power from that power. He's had it for a long time -- but when it became clear what his motives were and that he had the will to carry out hideous atrocities on people he didn't like, he was diagnosed as a cancer on the world that cannot be allowed to grow in strength and spread. He is as evil a man as you can find. He has built up a power-base and has a will to remain in power that requires force to remove him. Without war, he will remain in power. When he dies, his sons who are just as bad will inherit the power structure.

So why, if all you anti-war people outside of Iraq are willing to ignore the brutality of this man's regime, the death, torture, and suffering it causes, are you not willing to accept, if grudgingly, the unfortunate death and suffering it takes to remove him from power? Why do you gloss over the fact that this man's war plan is designed to require the targeting of military operations in civilian areas in order for the coalition's efforts to remove him from power to be successful? He is using our desire to protect the innocent against us. He makes it so that to protect them from us is to protect him, which in the end doesn't protect them at all. You act as if all would be well if we didn't undertake this effort. At least when it is over, the Iraqi people will no longer have to live in fear of expressing the wrong opinion and watch their family members be raped and tortured and killed before the same happens to them.

Make no mistake, we are there because he represents a threat to our security first, and to benefit the Iraqi people second. That doesn't mean we're not doing it to benefit the Iraqi people.

If we were there to kill them they'd be dying in numbers orders of magnitude larger than they are dying. Right now the best estimates are hundreds of Iraqis (and it is unclear which side killed many of them) -- as opposed to millions.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003


The play-by-play coverage of the war; the instantaneous analysis of every detail -- provides a myopic view of the war. At first, it was "Gee whizz, look how fast we're moving!" Then about a week ago, it was "Oh my God, the resistance is fierce!" when we suffered a few casualties and mishaps. It quickly went from that to "hey, it was a bad plan, we are ill-prepared". Now with a rescue and the destruction of the Baghdad Republican Guard division and a quick stab toward Baghdad, it's all "Gee whizz" again.

Under-Covered We haven't seen what's been going on on the other side except for some pictures of distant explosions and the close-up pictures of death and destruction that the Iraqi regime and Arab press want people to see.

If we heard up front the damage being inflicted on the opposition with half the scrutiny we're seeng on the coalition side, maybe this roller-coaster would be a bit more balanced.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003


A good friend just sent me this link Saudi Foriegn Minister: Saddam should step down

Indeed, as Saddam asks all of his people to die for him, he is hiding far below the earth in bunkers designed to keep him alive. While he waits it out like a coward, he orders the killing of his people, taking their lives for them if they refuse to give them up voluntarily.

Terrorism & Civilian Deaths

I've alluded to my position on terrorism -- I think we should be careful and define it so that everybody agrees on what we're talking about. Here's a dictionary definition:

ter·ror·ism /ter'-or-iz-um/ n : the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion

That's too vague for me. Here's my definition:

ter·ror·ism /ter'-or-iz-um/ n : the systematic practice of intentionally threatening, maiming, or killing civilians as a means of coercion

To wit, I've often heard it stated:

"One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."


It is one thing for military forces to battle other military forces or directly target command and control personnel in a conflict. It is quite another to go out and blow up random civilians to frighten a population into buckling to your demands. It is one of the most callous forms of evil that humans perpetrate on other humans.

Don't get me wrong. Killing people is, in general, bad. It should only be done in the most dire circumstances. But leaving non-combatants out of it is one of the most basic rules of engagement if you want to claim any moral high ground.

In war, civilian casualties are unavoidable. There has never been a war where non-combatants -- civilians, have not died. The fundamental difference is intent. A terrorist directly intends civilians as his primary target. It holds government institutions and police and the general population hostage to the will to protect non-combatants.

That being said, let's take a look at why military uniforms and markings are important to the rules of engagement. Mainly, it is a way of protecting civilians. It makes it easier to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants.

And now let's take a look at what happened in Iraq yesterday where 7 civilians were killed by coalition forces (in this case U.S. forces). Iraqi combatants have made it a practice to blur the lines between them and their civilian counterparts, trying their best to look like people coalition forces do not want to target (civilians... non combatants) to stage attacks on coalition forces. Why? To use the coalition's good will against the coalition itself. It directly takes good intentions and exploits them for evil. This is what the worst villains in the movies do.

At that point, what choice does a group of coalition soldiers have when a car load of people who appear to be civilians approaches, ignoring all signals and even warning shots to stop their vehicle but to fire into the vehicle? These soldiers are not about to harm someone who appears to be a civilian and appears to be cooperating with them.

This blurring of the lines between combatants and civilians has the effect of civilians in danger. It gives our forces the choice between fighting and removing the evil dictator, or killing people who may or may not be combatants. The line has been intentionally blurred by the Iraqi regime to maximize both civilian and coalition casualties. The only sure way to avoid such civilian casualties is not to ever fire on such a vehicle or group of individuals who by any outward appearance might seem to be a civilan. This leaves Saddam Hussein in power, free to continue using rape as a coercion tool, cutting people's tongues out, dropping them in acid and plastic shredders, spraying whole populations with poison gas -- and developing the means to extend this kind of brutality beyond its current borders. Which is the worse evil? One has to choose. Allow a great evil to continue, or cause your own albeit unintentional evil while trying to remove the greater evil. (He may be 67, but remember he has two sons cut from the same cloth and a massive support structure designed to preserve their power. Left alone, this evil will go on indefinitely).

Every decent human being abhors civilian casualties, including decent human beings put in a position of having to inflict them. And this is and always has been Saddam Hussein's entire war strategy. Make sure enough innocent people die (ok, part of it is to kill coalition forces when possible, too but...) to cause a massive world-wide cry for it to stop. If he can cause them himself and blame it on the coalition, he'll do it -- and I believe he already has and intends to keep doing so. I'm not saying the coalition hasn't inflicted civilian casualties, I'm just saying that when they have, it has been devoid of that intent and with remorse. You can't say that about Saddam. And as I've said in a previous article, civilian casualties help the Iraqi regime and immensely harm the coalition effort, so the coalition (besides not wanting to anyway because they're good people with good intentions) has a HUGE disincentive for killing civilians.