October 31, 2004

trick or treat


"Iraq will have elections in January. Think how far that country has come from the days of torture chambers and mass graves. Freedom is on the march. Freedom is taking place around the world, and America is more secure for it. I believe everybody longs to be free. I believe deep in everybody's soul, there's a yearning to live in a free society. I believe all these things because freedom is not America's gift to the world; freedom is the Almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world."

-- George W. Bush speaking in Columbus OH, 10/29/04

Posted by Gene at October 31, 2004 11:23 PM | TrackBack


The complaint against Bushís Iraq intervention is a valid one, as your blog entry makes all too clear. I had wondered where all the visceral hatred for Bush came from, and why there seemed to be less in the way of reasoned criticisms against his candidacy in these regions of the blogosphere. Other than to point out the fact that Bush made the decision to invade Iraq, I find the juxtaposition of the image and quotation little more than inflammatory.

But that complaint provokes other questions in my mind. Would Kerry have invaded Afghanistan if he were in office today? Or do you believe that the invasion of Afghanistan was unjustified as well? If you do, read no further.

After having listened to Kerryís campaign speeches and sound bites on top of twenty years of being one of his Massachusetts constituents, I am absolutely convinced that he has not the slightest idea of how to prosecute the war on terror, let alone the will to see it through. At least his Senate colleague Ted Kennedy has the guts to go to the mat for First Amendment protections-- Iíve never seen Kerry take a stand on anything. Look at how his position on the war has changed over the course of the campaign. Can anyone actually tell me what exactly he would have done differently? Was Bush wrong to take Iraq? Perhaps, but Iíd rather the fight be taken overseas than to sit by and do nothing beyond bolstering the domestic defenses against the next attack. Iím sure that would be our lot in a present day Kerry Administration.

The other thing that really bugs me about Kerry is his constant reference to ďalliesĒ, as if any country doesnít respond unilaterally to their own perception of the threat of terror. Look at Spain and Russia. Does he think that our European friends are going to substantially alter their relationship with us on this issue? Have they done so over less clear cut and more contentious issues such as Israel? I really think this guy doesnít have the necessary understanding of foreign policy, honestly.

Iím not a hawkish guy, but Iím convinced that in the near term war on terror, bodies are going to pile up on one side or the other. But having said all that, back to my usual disclaimer. Both choices suck, and Iím in the process of deciding whether to vote Libertarian or for Nader, because thereís no doubt which way our (Massachusetts) electoral votes are going.

Posted by: Toosh at November 1, 2004 03:35 PM

When I posted this I was thinking not so much about Bush v. Kerry, but rather about the grinding contradiction between our American self-image as the wise and powerful keeper of freedom's flame, and our frequent callous disregard for those we would set free. We've killed 100,000 Iraqis, more than half of them women and children. Who among us weeps for them? Were they simply expendable, part of the cost of freedom?

I was also thinking about how "supporting our troops" has become a litmus test for patriotism, yet some of "our troops" perpetrated the deeds at Abu Ghraib. I don't know if these acts constitute war crimes per se, but to me they certainly feel criminal. In whose name were these men tortured? In yours and mine?

What have we become?

Posted by: gene at November 1, 2004 06:37 PM

Well, you put together that post in a way that seemed designed to invite interpretation, and I frankly viewed it as an anti-Bush, if not partisan, provocation. You did, after all, quote Bush rather than find some other source-- literary or otherwise-- for the traditional American love for democracy and freedom.

I disagree that the US is alone responsible for the deaths of 100,000 Iraqi civilians. It's true that the US set into motion the chain of events that led to this appalling loss of life, but you cannot deny that the vast majority of the deaths have come directly by the hands of terrorist insurgents. Furthermore, I believe that if the terrorists were not doing their killing in Iraq, they would be doing it someplace else.

Though I think I fundamentally agree that the decision to invade was a bad one, the question as to whether or not we should have done it has been rendered academic. Iraq is now an open wound that must be healed, or it will fester and spread. I believe that Kerry will do a much worse job here, and I've explained why: he does not understand that in a war on terror there are no alliances. There are no alliances because a country that is not the object of terrorist attack has no interest in doing anything truly meaningful to fight it. For a man whose powers of articulation far exceed those of our President, I've found Kerry's comments on foreign policy over the course of the campaign to be downright frightening.

These are the cards we've been dealt by the Bush Administration and the Democratic Party. Go out to the voting booth and play them, everyone.

Posted by: Toosh at November 2, 2004 05:47 AM

The source of my assertion about the Iraqi casualties is a study published in the medical journal The Lancet, which concludes:

"Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths. We have shown that collection of public-health information is possible even during periods of extreme violence. Our results need further verification and should lead to changes to reduce non-combatant deaths from air strikes."

The Lancet article (reg reqd): http://www.thelancet.com/journal/vol364/iss9445/full/llan.364.9445.early_online_publication.31137.1

YMMV, of course.

Posted by: gene at November 2, 2004 09:40 AM

That would be an average of 200 civilian deaths a day for the roughly 500 days since the invasion took place. That seems unreasonably high relative to what I've read from daily press coverage of events in Iraq. The Lancet study is also based on "household interviews", which doesn't seem to me to be a sufficiently sound or reliable method given the circumstances. The Iraqi Health Ministry puts the figure at 3487 deaths for a period from April to September of this year, and accounts for deaths both from insurgents and US military forces.


I personally take little comfort in the lower estimate, but I think it's important that the reckoning be made as truthfully and accurately as possible. The accounts of some of the civilian deaths in the article are depressing indeed.

Posted by: Toosh at November 3, 2004 05:22 AM
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