McCain was right. The surge worked. The war in Iraq is over. We won. Now what?

Iraq_map I’m voting for Barack Obama but it’s increasingly clear (U.S. combat deaths in Iraq in July: 5) to me that John McCain was right about the surge and that the war in Iraq is essentially over. 

The war was a huge mistake, but how to get out is the big issue now, as well as the growing threat of the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

How are the McCain and Obama campaigns dealing with these new realities?

337 thoughts on “McCain was right. The surge worked. The war in Iraq is over. We won. Now what?”

  1. Paul,

    I agree with your Smedley Butler qoute “war is a racket”. However, you tend to paint this as strictly a Republican operation. I strongly disagree, it is an American imperial project supported by BOTH parties. If it ain’t Iraq then is Kosavo.

    Both parties are BIG Israel supporters and BOTH parties are gunning for Iran, which I am sure we’ll hear about in the debate tonite by both sides on how a nuclear Iran is bad. Not a word about nuclear N Korea, or Pakistan, but an OIL and natural gas rich country of Iran is a BIG problem, why?

    See my previous post #110 on how it really is in DC.

  2. Mike: I agree about both parties having roots in the empire project. Part of our reasoning for getting into the world wars so late in each case was due in part, I know, to a variety of factors, but I believe also due in part to the advantage of timing: Let Germany take some of our European colonial competitors down a few notches, and then come in as the hero who can take his pick of the spoils. Calvin Coolidge speculated that the future of nations might be decided over petrol, and some speculated before WWI that the US might go to war with Britain, on whose empire (at the time) the sun never set.

    But consider that the cases of Smedley Butler and Jeanette Rankin, both Republicans, might urge us not fall into the black-and-white, “binary” (thanks Carol), with-us-or-against-us conceptualizing that has characterized the current occupant of the White House.

    The Democratic party of LBJ is also the party of Dennis Kucinich and Paul Wellstone. The Republican party of Reagan, Nixon and the Georges was also the party of Smedley Butler and Jeanette Rankin. It’s also the party of John Dean (former White House counsel under Nixon, who has advocated impeaching Bush). It’s the party of Bob Barr (Republican from Georgia who led the impeachment against Clinton, and now is a harch constitutional critic of Bush), and of Ron Paul and John Duncan, Jr. (R-TN), who opposed the Iraq war on traditionally conservative grounds.

    Consider: My Republican mother-in-law is planning to vote for Obama.

    It’s good to leave room for people to surprise you. They don’t always act like lemmings. FDR turned out to be a surprise to many; some thought he’d be a pal of the rich because of his roots, but look what happened (perhaps in part due to influence from his wife, and courage to use his power, and luck not to get taken out in a fascist coup by corporate fans of Benito M.).

  3. Paul,

    Surprise is what I am most worried about with Obama. Most of his supporters are convinced he’s “The Man of Peace” even though he continues to talk about expanding the GWOT! Must be collective delusional ism!

    I have no doubt he will win by a landslide (assuming no Oct surprise), due to the “it’s the economy stupid”

    below is an article about my concerns on Obama:

    http://antiwar.com/justin/?articleid=13564

  4. Mike, I read the article, linked at #253, and agree. The problem with Obama is that he is an unknown. Did he vote against the Iraq War just to set himself apart and set himself up for the youth vote which is traditionally anti war, or did he ever actually mean it truly? Either way, you are right, Obama looks like McCain on paper. Too sad.

    I am an anti war person by action, by word, and by heart . But,I know the reality is that this nation thrives on war. When Clinton was President and not much going on, compared to the last eight years, and many other years, war wise and natural disaster wise, yeah, people were working, but a lot of people had two and three part time jobs to make ends meet. It has been a different time since Bush came in,I feel. I don’t have all the facts at my disposal, but me and all my immediate connections have done much better in this economy until now. So, I guess it was a rolly coaster ride, as opposed to the smooth, but boring nineties.

    What will McCain bring with him? What will Obama bring? We know what McCain has going on, do we know what Obama has going on? Is Obama well liked in Congress? I hope the next debates will reveal more, but I doubt it.

  5. Today’s NY Times: As Fears Ease, Baghdad Sees Walls Tumble; The dismantling of blast walls is the most visible sign of change in Baghdad as the surge strategy draws to a close.

    Iraqis are already taking on many of the tasks the Americans once performed, raising great hopes that the country will progress on its own but also deep fears of failure.

    On Oct. 1, the Sunni-dominated Awakening movement, widely credited with helping restore order to neighborhoods that were among the most deadly, passed from the American to the Iraqi government payroll in Baghdad

  6. I just learned that a veteran from the Iraqi Veterans Against the War or a similar organization will be giving a presentation in the meeting rooms behind Just Food Co-Op, this coming Monday (10/20) at 7:00 p.m. Among other things, he’ll be specifically talking about the “surge”, the sustainability of our occupation, and the rationale behind having our military in foreign nations, such as in Japan and South Korea.

    I hope to see you all on Monday…

  7. The new Bob Woodward book explores the possibility that the reduction in violence was due more to ethnic cleansing and increased refugees to Syria than it was to the surge.

    The following is from an article that mentions the Woodward book, and which makes even firmer claims about the real reason for the reduction in violence than Woodward’s claims:

    “According to Bob Woodward, in his new book The War Within (Simon & Schuster, 2008), the biggest factor behind the reduced violence in Iraq was “very possibly” not the Surge, but a resort to Death Squads. A “Top Secret” memo viewed by Woodward indicates that the Sunnis were systematically targeted and assassinated. ”
    …………….
    Below, the clip above is shown in a larger context of the article (still just a part of the article):
    …………….
    From article:
    “Iraq: Did the Surge Work?”
    by George Hunsinger

    Violence, Alexander Solzenitsyn once observed, finds refuge in falsehood, even as falsehood is supported by violence. “Anyone who has once acclaimed violence as his method must inexorably choose falsehood as his principle.” (Nobel Prize acceptance speech, 1972) A practical rule can be deduced. Where there is violence, look for falsehood; where there is falsehood, look for violence. If Solzenitsyn is correct, they go together.

    According to conventional wisdom, it seems that the “surge” in Iraq was a huge success. For example, a recent CNS News story was headlined: “With Success of Surge, NY Times’ Iraq War Coverage Drops to All-Time Low” (October 21, 2008). The Times’ coverage has dropped 60 per cent since 2004, and this is not terribly different from other news outlets. The media has lost interest in Iraq. Whether the surge really “worked,” however, is another story.

    In September 2007, Juan Cole, the respected Middle East expert, wrote an article called “Big Lies Surround the Iraq ‘Surge.'” At that time he stated: “US troop deaths in Iraq have not fallen and . . . violence in Iraq has not fallen because of the Surge. Violence is way up this year.” But, one might reply, that was then and this is now. How do matters stand more than a year after this gloomy verdict? A widespread consensus exists today throughout the political campaigns and the mainstream media that the great success of the Surge is beyond doubt.

    The so-called Surge — a euphemism for escalation — was designed to increase security in Iraq. U.S. presence in the country was to be increased by 30,000 personnel along with a three-fold contribution in Iraqi forces. Additional troops were to be provided by coalition partners. Baghdad was selected as the center of the campaign. If security could be increased for the country’s largest city, the rest would surely follow. A Shi’ite and Sunni “fault line” ran throughout the city.

    In January 2007, a year after being launched, the Surge was widely acclaimed as a triumph. Contrary to naysayers like Cole, violence across the country was said to be down by 60 percent. Al Qaeda in Iraq, expelled from Baghdad and Anbar Province, was said to be on the run, and the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior reported that it was 75 percent destroyed. Not only was the violence in Iraq reduced, but Al Qaeda was being decimated.

    Again, however, Cole, who relies on independent sources in the original languages, argued otherwise. What actually seems to have happened, he wrote in the summer of 2008, was that, first, the Sunni Arabs in Baghdad were disarmed by the escalation troops. Then, “once these Sunnis were left helpless, the Shiite militias came in at night and ethnically cleansed them.”

    Mixed neighborhoods in Baghdad ended up with almost no Sunnis. In 2007 Baghdad went from being predominantly Sunni to being overwhelmingly Shiite. According to Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress, Baghdad, once having a 65 percent Sunni majority, “is now 75 percent Shia.”

    “My thesis,” wrote Cole, “would be that the U.S. inadvertently allowed the chasing of hundreds of thousands of Sunni Arabs out of Baghdad (and many of them had to go all the way to Syria for refuge). Rates of violence declined once the ethnic cleansing was far advanced, just because there were fewer mixed neighborhoods.”

    Cole’s thesis has received important confirmation. According to Bob Woodward, in his new book The War Within (Simon & Schuster, 2008), the biggest factor behind the reduced violence in Iraq was “very possibly” not the Surge, but a resort to Death Squads. A “Top Secret” memo viewed by Woodward indicates that the Sunnis were systematically targeted and assassinated. What took place was reminiscent of the infamous Phoenix Program instituted by the U.S. in Vietnam. It was a strategy of summary executions.

    Yet another confirmation appeared in a recent study conducted by scientists at the University of California. Based on an examination of satellite photos across Baghdad, the study observed that Sunni neighborhoods, which showed a dramatic decrease of nighttime light in Sunni neighborhoods, had been abandoned by their inhabitants. The surge, the study concluded, “has had no observable effect.” The study attributed the tremendous decline in Baghdad’s Sunni population to relocations and ethnic cleansing.
    [….]
    According to UN reports, the number of Iraqi refugees has spiked during the Surge. Between 2.5 and 4 million are now estimated to exist outside their country, while another 2.5 are internal refugees. At least 2 million Sunni refugees cannot return to their homes without fear of being slaughtered.
    [….]

    Here’s the URL for the article above:
    http://www.commondreams.org/view/2008/10/23-3

  8. When did Bob Woodward become an expert on Iraq’s challenges for national sovereignty and ethnic identity?
    Not to mention military battles and strategy?
    I thought he was a reporter?
    I know he spent a few years in the Navy, five maybe a little longer?
    Maybe someone with a lifetime of actual military experience would be a better source?
    He is an excellent reporter, journalist, Pulitzer Prize winner, and decent man.
    I don’t think his printed materials make him anything more than another armchair observer.
    Maybe not…..
    I guess that’s all I am …

  9. Tom Friedman’s column today:

    In the last year, though, the U.S. troop surge and the backlash from moderate Iraqi Sunnis against Al Qaeda and Iraqi Shiites against pro-Iranian extremists have brought a new measure of stability to Iraq. There is now, for the first time, a chance — still only a chance — that a reasonably stable democratizing government, though no doubt corrupt in places, can take root in the Iraqi political space.

    That is the Iraq that Obama is inheriting.

    1. I thought the “just following orders” defense was thrown out at the Nuremburg Trials. I don’t understand how Americans could cause torture. Our culture has a vested interest and a history of opposing it. Nor do I understand how Americans could commit economic disasters like Enron and Madoff. Perhaps American values are just a veneer, in which case, I am afraid of what else remains hidden.

    2. Jerry- Your comment, “…Perhaps American values are just a veneer, in which case, I am afraid of what else remains hidden…” is, unfortunatley, probably a correct evasluation. When we began teaching that there is no absolute moral foundation, and that morality is something that can be made up from time to time for expediency, then I think this is an example the result. What else is going to be revealed? Hold onto your hats.

    3. In another context, a friend Buddhist recently remarked what harm she thinks atheism has done to the moral actions of Chinese. Without an atheistic religion, the atheist Chinese have no fear of consequences in the afterlife.

      I do want society indoctrinated into a sound, moral system. You and I disagree on the soundness of each other’s systems. I enjoy large chunks of Utilitarianism, and small pieces of other systems, none of which rely on the supernatural.

    4. Jerry- “…I do want society indoctrinated into a sound, moral system…” Yep, same here. Being the pragmatist that I am, it seems expedient to see where agreement can be had on results without having to have agreement on source. If we are really going to be able to affect change in society, we need to work together. I’m all for unity without compromise of principle. Perhaps I am too idealist, but I think that is possible. Just because I vote conservative doesn’t mean I approve of everything conservatives do. I’m sure there are liberal officials that violate your convictions, also.

  10. The links posted here are beyond acceptance without extreme anger, repulsion, sickness… how has this country of ours fallen into such criminal hands as those who sanctioned this behavior?

    Many articles have been written by brave investigative reporters and they were always discredited by the Bush administration,some major news vehicles, and those who had lost the ideals or purpose of a free country with principles and the rule of law.

    Will the ICRC now be discredited by those same Bush administration higher-ups who have thrown the principles of America into the trash bins of the world? The complete hypocrisy and religious righteousness with which the Bush Administration negated human rights as belonging only to like-thinkers is a shame on all of us who read the ongoing reports of torture and only decried it in small groups, or with friends. Is this what it felt like to be a German citizen in the time of the Nazi atrocities?

    Some have asked: What good will it do to prosecute those of the former administration, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and shamefully, on and on, and on through the ranks of the Justice (?) Dept, CIA, etc.

    The good it will do is to say that we, the public, were stupid, scared of our own government and its abuse of power, and yes… afraid in our own country, in our own small towns, in our homes, afraid of our own government which showed such lack of respect for the rule of law that we were afraid it could somehow touch us all… touch us through our telephones, our associations, or even the library books we read.

    Bring on the “war crimes” trials; better yet, just bring on the trials based on the violation of the rule of law in this country. We are all dirtied by what we did not protest against; We all stand in shame. Let them be brought to public account for the violation of the public trust which Americans of any party persuasion should be able to expect of their elected representatives.

    It will only be “a new day” if it starts with a thorough cleansing of the old and darkest night. “Sweeping it under the rug” will not serve to restore the image of our country; we must Prove “a new day”, and we must insist on that being done.

  11. Is this what it felt like to be a
    German citizen in the time of the Nazi
    atrocities?

    Not even close.

    Kiffi, following your logic we should have trialed Truman and Johnson as well????

  12. I would be against torture but I think readers should focus on what the report actually says :

    One of the fourteen detainees, for example, tells the Red Cross investigators

    The detainees may not be entirely reliable.

  13. There was a book written recently, reviewed on NPR, about the first 100 days at Guantanamo. Remarkably, in the absence of specific orders to torture, or to go against the established military rules, the book claims Guantanamo was very legal and above board at first. Which leads to…

    Jerry, you wrote, ‘I thought the “just following orders” defense was thrown out at the Nuremburg Trials. I don’t understand how Americans could cause torture. Our culture has a vested interest and a history of opposing it.’

    What happened at Guantanamo and at Abu Ghraib was that there were orders from the top, memos signed by Rumsfeld, urging more extreme measures for getting information. This has long been documented: the memo with Rumsfeld’s signature and a hand-written “Do This!” on it.

    The other thing that happened was that a great deal of the gathering of information from prisoners was outsourced to private contractors who, somehow, were thought not to be held to the standards of the military, because they were, well, non-military.

    The argument for outsourcing was that it would save us money, but it would seem that healing wounds after Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib would get very expensive, as they became great recruitment tools for terrorists.

    The old fashioned military in which less was outsourced may have been more expensive up front, but it was better in the long run.

    But we’re being told in recent decades that such thinking is either socialist (to have a US military, paid for directly by taxpayers, without more folks making a profit), or impractical (when the economy was better, it was harder to recruit kids; this is changing).

    We need a war crimes investigation, but Obama “doesn’t want to look back, but look ahead,” and the US mainstream media and TV-watching public takes a national emergency, and sexy headlines and scandals, to get them off their butts and demanding something that serious. Wall Street would not like a war crimes investigation of Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush. After all, they are from the party that champions lower taxes and smaller government.

    1. Paul, I agree that US leaders should always be forthrightly against torture, I am against the death penalty and I would release half the people now in US prisons. However, terrorists use Red Cross vehicles to conduct operations in the Middle East so you can be sure they know exactly what to say when being debriefed. The part of the Red Cross report posted was highly misleading because the poster made the quotes seem like they a position of the Red Cross when they were in fact just excerpts from interviews with detainees.

      Truth is the first casualty of war

      sadly, on all sides.

  14. David H: You wrote, “The detainees may not be entirely reliable.”

    The point is that the US was NOT reliable. We rounded up too many innocent people in exchange for bounties, so people turned in the neighbor they didn’t like. This has been extensively documented. Under Bush and Cheney, some were released, but sometimes the ones who should have been kept were let go, and the ones who should have been released remained in custody.

    Not that there were no guilty people in Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo, but there were simply too many who were detained, who were innocent. We cast too wide a net.

    Sure, the testimony of some detainees might not be reliable. But you can’t assume it’s not reliable. I don’t think the terrorists would have a strategy of going to the Red Cross to tell about how they were mistreated. The Red Cross is not staffed by a bunch of wet-behind-the-ears doves who are blinded by their rose colored glasses. We might assume they ask the same kinds of questions you do: Can we trust this testimony? Or this statement? Stressing how unreliable such stuff may be only allows Americans to remain in denial about the effects of their country’s foreign policy, and to persist in the illusion that we’re always the good guys, and everyone else may have it out for us in some way.

  15. Paul:

    What happened at Guantanamo and at Abu Ghraib was that there were orders from the top, memos signed by Rumsfeld, urging more extreme measures for getting information. This has long been documented: the memo with Rumsfeld’s signature and a hand-written “Do This!” on it.

    I understand what happened. What I don’t understand is why Americans wouldn’t tell Rumsfeld to go smoke a joint… or a worse expletive. I don’t understand why McCain, who was tortured, would not be manifest in opposing torture. I don’t understand why the Republican Party, sworn to honor the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law, would treat them as yesterday’s laundry.

    I keep thinking of David Bowie’s song, “This Is Not America.”

  16. Jerry: We have many wonderful ideals enshrined in the constitution and Declaration of Independence, but they’re ideals: US history shows that justice, equality and rights are more things we strive for than achieve. Do you remember those studies in which subjects were asked to give what they believed to be an electrical charge to a person who had given a wrong answer in what seemed to be a behavioral psychology learning situation? Most subjects willingly gave what they thought to be an electrical shock. People were shown to be more willing to conform and obey orders than to resist because of ethical concerns.

    That’s also America, and human nature. It has always been a project that involves seeking to listen to our better angels, among the other various choices.

    1. Paul: That must be why I (mostly) idealize Mohandas Gandhi. His war to remove the most powerful military (Great Britain) from India resulted in a few thousand deaths, most of them being against his wishes. He knew that people would die, but he never took arms to kill his enemy, and he told his followers to do the same. Yet in European nations and former European colonies, people think that it takes murdering millions to win a war.

      I don’t claim all wars are equal, and maybe that’s the point. If our politicians and military leaders would get out of the killing business, if they would aggressively search for how to win wars without a military, we could save untold billions of dollars for more important things and not make enemies out of our neighbors.

      Gandhi’s lessons have mostly been forgotten. India has embraced nuclear weapons, and most Americans believe the way to win wars is to kill.

  17. AQ members are not a regular army. They don’t play by the Geneva convention rules. They have slaughtered thousands of people in a most cowardly way.

    They have not earned the right to be treated as human beings, they are cowards..period.

    Call it torture called it enhanced interrogation techniques. I don’t care. In this case the ends justify the means.
    GWB did what he thought was necessary and while some of you might disagree. The fact is that he has kept us safe since 9-11.

    Now it is Obama’s turn and he has the duty to do what he thinks is necessary to keep us safe. Only history will tell us how he did.
    Judging by his handling of four guys in a life raft I do get a bit worried.

    Seems like lot of people have a romantic Hollywood notion on war. Well, let me describe war in the words of Ulysses Grant ” War is about killing”.

    So, if we are foolish enough to engage in war (which in itself is another question), then by God let’s do everything to win it.

    1. Ulysses Grant did not conceive the nuclear warfare. War is not about killing.

      Even the CIA admitted that GWB’s policies have made more terrorists, have put the U.S. in greater risk.

    1. I am sad that people share your view.

      War is about ending war. Killing the most is not necessarily winning, unless you’re endorsing genocide.

      From the estimates I’ve seen, 6 million Axis soldiers died, 14 million Allied soldiers died. Thankfully, your premise and conclusion are wrong.

  18. Jerry,

    In a political sense you are right, but i am talking about the military side of war.

    The military goal of warfare is to kill your opponent and to kill as many as necessary to make them stop fighting.
    Hiroshima and Nagasaki are a “good” example of this.

    1. Peter: Strange choice for an example. By targeting civilian populations, those responsible for dropping the atom bombs are war criminals.

      Mustard gas was outlawed after WWI because its effect was too horrible.

      The military side of war is morally and legally compelled to follow the rules of war. It’s not about killing as many as you can. Again, I am sad that you and others hold this mass murdering opinion.

  19. Peter: In 276 you say war is about killing, and the side that kills the most wins.

    But this is not what they teach in US military colleges. The goal is to win, not necessarily to kill the most. They do think, in fact, about limiting casualties, and about winning hearts and minds, and about making sure that the military policy does not create more military problems that can’t be solved by exclusively military means. I listened to an interview with an instructor from a military acadamy who explained all this quite clearly. I think you mischaracterize military objectives in war. While some warriors may be mislead, they’re still human beings, and the best thinkers and teachers about warfare see it in a much larger context than you allow.

    Peter, you also write, “AQ members are not a regular army. They don’t play by the Geneva convention rules. They have slaughtered thousands of people in a most cowardly way.”

    One of the main reasons for this has to do with what the CIA calls “blowback.” We wanted Muslim radicals to flock to Afghanistan to help in the war against the USSR. We trained them and created networks of unconventional fighters. Much of this has persisted in what is now called Al Qaeda.

    It’s like the story of the Frankenstein monster: You create a moster for one reason, to serve one purpose, but then eventually the monster turns on you, so you have to kill it or be killed.

    The people of Afghanistan are now living with the wreckage and after-effects, or blowback, of the US cold war (as proxy war) against the USSR. To paraphrase Colin Powell’s words to George W., we broke it, so now we seem to act as if it’s ours, or at least a problem we’re responsible to fix.

    We talk about moral peril related to certain actions with bail-outs and banks, but how have we managed the moral perils of being the Frankenstein creators of what eventually morphed into the Taliban and Al Qaeda?

    The unconventional methods of Al Qaeda do little to justify any US methods, when we were the mother of the blowback.

    A Christian who knew his or her Bible verses might chime in here with a line from the New Testement: Don’t pluck the splinter from the eye of your neighbor when you have a plank in your own. First remove the plank.

    1. Paul- A couple more principles- do not return evil for evil, but instead, a blessing. Also, bless those who despitefully use you. Another- make friends with your enemy on the way to the court. Then, when you come before the judge, you will have an ally. Another- you will reap what you sow. I dare say that Christendom in general has not done well in these respects. And our current cultural focus on “self” satisfaction and accomplishment does not foster these principles, either. Self denial (take up your cross…) flies in the face of current cultural mores.

  20. “When the enemy is relaxed, make them
    toil. When full, starve them. When
    settled, make them move.”

    “In conflict, straightforward actions
    generally lead to engagement,
    surprising actions generally lead to
    victory.”

    “Thus those skilled in war subdue the
    enemy’s army without battle …. They
    conquer by strategy.”

    1. and to that I’ll add…

      War is a cowardly escape from the problems of peace. -Thomas Mann

      and my favorite…

      Food, not Bombs.

      Imagine if we spent half our military budget on feeding the people of Iraq, Iran, and other troubled nations. We would have no enemies.

  21. Imagine if we spent half our military
    budget on feeding the people of Iraq,
    Iran, and other troubled nations. We
    would have no enemies.

    Good luck with that…history is not on your side here.

    I thought I made it clear earlier..please read my first post on this issue.
    I believe that war is not a solution…but if we decide to go to war, we should be in it to win it, and take all steps necessary to do so.

    Our casualty rate in Iraq would be a lot lower if we would have done so. But again the politics of the day trumped military common sense.

    1. Peter- I’m with you on this one. I believe that if we had spent the whole military budget on feeding the extreemists in the middle east, they would still hate us. The reason being, in my opinion, is that they are not a people of reason, as so much western thought embraces. The idea that we can negotiate with everyone in the world presupposes that everyone else thinks like us. They don’t.

      As far as going in to win this war, I’m not sure how that can be accomplished with superior technology. The problem we face there is the same problem we faced in Viet Nam. We are fighting an enemy that does not wear a uniform and cannot be distinguished from the average citizen on the street. In fact, many of the extreemist soldiers are average citizens on the street. it seems that the only way to win in this case is to turn the hearts of the people away from their false tenets. This is a long term, painstaking, inside out endeavor. It is evident that helping them with a common enemy does not gaurentee that they will not turn on us. It is like the proverbial dog that bites the hand that feeds it.

    2. Peter: I don’t follow. Wiki asserts that we spend $515+ billion on U.S. military. When in history have we spent half of that on feeding troubled people of the world? When in history have we comforted our friends and enemies in meaningful magnitude?

      The U.S. is already responsible for more Iraqi deaths than murdered tyrant Saddam Hussein was accused of. How can we be liberators if we are worse than their tyrant? Point being, a military solution is always unpredictable and cannot be controlled. And an all out military solution, as you endorse as a last resort, will hurt everyone. Even if our casualty rate was less, the ‘innocent’ Iraqi casualty rate would be more, and the U.S. economy suffers with huge military spending, meaning Americans suffer generally.

      An annual $250+ billion food program would be a major boon to American farmers and economy, and would lure all but the most anti-American Iraqis to our side… instead, through killing nearly 100,000 Iraqis, through wrecking their infrastructure, through bombing them into puppet democracy, we are creating more anti-Americans. The CIA admits this. The all-out-war solution will drag this conflict out, to our detriment, because it creates more enemies.

      Sun Tzu writes in “The Art of War”, the most efficient way to win a war is to disrupt your enemy’s alliances. Feeding the Iraqi people is just that. The hardest way to win a war, he says, is to attack your enemy’s military. I am informed that all U.S. military are required to read “The Art of War” but it seems that so few people apply its lessons.

      Remember that we had world sympathy on 9/11. A few years later with an illegal war and the world hates us. War is bad, and all out war is worse, unless your agenda is genocide, in which case it’s evil.

    3. John: If you are narrowly referring to Al Qaeda and its sympathists, their reasoning is different than ours. The way to beat them is for the U.S. to be of such impeccable character that their supporters no longer give them shelter. This relates to my recent post to Peter, that the best way to win a war is to disrupt your enemy’s alliances. I accept that some of them surely are hateful and irrational, but that doesn’t mean we should kill them.

      If you are broadly referring to Arabs and Muslims, the idea that they are not people of reason, and that the “white” man should introduce them to reason, is orientalist, colonialist, and poor reasoning.

      Remember that the Arabs have contributed vast intellect to the world culture. Their literature and poetry, fine art and architecture, mathematics and astronomy, medicine, physics and chemistry, and philosophy advanced inferior European science and culture. (Ever wonder why we no longer use Roman numerals?)

      So it’s more true to say that “They don’t reason like us, but we reason like them.”

      As far as the dog who bites his feeder. The history of the West vs. Middle East, Christian vs. Muslim, European vs. Arab, however you compare the two, has been the Europeans (and former European colonies) being orientalists and colonialists. European culture is to regard Arabs (and other Muslims) as irrational. If we treat them as inferiors, no wonder why they bite.

    4. Jerry- I will go back to my original statement, and I don’t mean to say the middle eastern thought process is inferior:

      The idea that we can negotiate with
      everyone in the world presupposes that
      everyone else thinks like us. They
      don’t.

      So much of what I hear from various factions in this country is that if we just negotiated with these people, we wouldn’t have any problems. It is that type of reasoning that I think is unfruitful, and I’m not saying you are one who thinks that way. In fact, I’m not sure we can reverse 5000 years of history in one fell swoop. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work toward understanding, but I at least like to have my expectations realistic.

      Your assertion, “…The way to beat them is for the U.S. to be of such impeccable character that their supporters no longer give them shelter…” is idealistic but unrealistic. Two things we Americans tout as freedoms flies in the face of much of the middle eastern thinking, since it is based in Islamic doctorine rather than humanistic doctorine. One is equal rights for women. The other is equal rights for gays. I know there are some minority voices in middle eastern accademia that are challenging this, but they do so under threat of their lives. I think we need to approach negotiations, if we are to have them, with this in mind. One of the things the last administration mistook in their handling of Iraq was that people would be flocking to the chance for freedom. Some did, but many did not.

    5. Just for reference, here are the two web sites i lifted those quotes off- “WHO-13 News” & “CARE2”. When I did the block quote, I unfortunately forgot to separate them.

  22. People of reason? … people of reason … who gets to define who is a person of reason?
    John, you just cannot help but put your foot in your mouth. (#280.4)
    With the remarks you have made about gays, how can you align ‘western’ thought as being supportive of gays when you ( decidedly a ‘westerner’) have said “not ALL homosexuals are pedophiles” … I believe that is a direct quote from you on the atheist thread. Sounds to me pretty much like what you might think is some prejudicial ‘eastern’ thought.. not something from a ‘person of reason’.

    Right now Iowa has the hate speech, and films, and TV commercials, and advertising, out in full force, trying to overthrow their Supreme Court decision , and that’s IOWA, not BASRA.

    Is there no end to your disdain for other cultures?
    If the ‘westerners’ wouldn’t have burned the ‘easterners’ library at Alexandria, we westerners might not have been stuck in the Dark Ages for several hundred years.

    1. Kiffi: Of course Americans are all reasonable. We reasonably use universal jurisdiction to go after Somali pirates. For this reason, when foreign courts go after us for torture, using universal jurisdiction, naturally our government will hand over the CIA operatives, military personnel, and private contractors who have committed the gravest offenses against humans. There is no law that permits torture, and every law that contemplates the subject prohibits torture.

      Of course Americans are all reasonable. We attacked a foreign sovereign against U.S. law, int’l law, and foreign treaties, killed their leader, and occupied it. More than once.

      Of course Americans are all reasonable. We lead the world in energy consumption and pollution. We spend $500+ billion in our military. We pay women less than men for the same work, colored people less than whites.

      Of course Americans are all reasonable. We have enough nuclear weapons to destroy human life on Earth.

      You are unreasonable to dare think that Americans are unreasonable.

    2. David: Pardon my oversight. Are you comparing WWI and WWII to the Iraq war? And what was the attack that Bush responded to when the U.S. attacked Iraq?

    3. Kiffi- I think it was Jerry who proposed the idea that morality was better based on reason than religion, but I may be wrong on that. I think it was in a different thread. Do you remember, Jerry?

      If you want to take my various comments out of context, re. the homosexual/pedophile comment, then I guess you can, but it doesn’t really accomplish anything. This comment was in response to someone else’s reference to gays being attracted to adolescents. Not my association.

      Your comment, “…Right now Iowa has the hate speech, and films, and TV commercials, and advertising, out in full force, trying to overthrow their Supreme Court decision , and that’s IOWA, not BASRA…” is evidence of what I have posted before regarding my fears of infringement on my freedom of speech. It seems you are saying that anyone who opposes gay rights and has the audacity to express it in public, is guilty of hate speech. I thought this was something I was supposed to be assured of never happening in this country?

      On what are you basing this accusation, “…Is there no end to your disdain for other cultures?…” Is it just my observation that other cultures do not think as we do? And how does this further discussion of whether we “won the war”? Part of being able to discuss opposing views is recognizing one’s own prejudices and being able to understand how these filter one’s perceptions of events. That is something I am trying to do in my involvement here. That is why I feel free to discuss these issues with Patrick and Jerry, because I sense a mutual respect for where each of us is coming from. We are not necessarily looking for agreement, just understanding without condemnation.

    4. John: What I am basing my Comment on (“is there no end to your disdain for other cultures? ) is from your post of April 17th, # 280.1,lines three and four, which says (referring to middle easterners): “they are not a people of reason”.
      Sorry, John , straight from your keyboard.

      And I challenge you to look at some of the advertising, video and otherwise, from the movement to overturn the Iowa Supreme Court decision. The assumptions made are ‘hate speech’ by any definition, Just like your statement that I quoted, in which you said “not ALL homosexuals are pedophiles”. That was not out of context, John, that statement of yours was in the context of your religious belief that you can ‘cure’ a lifestyle choice that you feel is a sort of sickness.

      And furthermore, if you are concerned about “thread drift” …re: your comment to me as to how this relates to how “we won the war” … how do abortion,homosexual life styles, pedophilia, etc., enter into a discussion of “is NF atheist friendly”? You singularly introduced the three aforementioned topics into that thread, and persisted at it; was it “thread drift”? or just plain proselytizing.

    5. Kiffi- I’m still a little perplexed as to why you evaluate my comment about middle eastern thought processes as expressing disdain for other cultures. Are you judging my comments through your own prejudices? This geographic region simply processes things differently than we do. My point being that we need to take this fact into account when we relate to them.

      As far as you assertions about my homosexual/pedophile comment, you are still wrong in your conclusion about it. I was responding to an earlier commenter about homosexuals being only attracted to adolescents. A few years ago, there was an organization called NAMBLA that did promote these types of relationships, but, according to Jerry, they are no longer in existence, thankfully.

      I have ascertained form your comments that you believe same sex attraction is a physical trait like skin pigmentation. I do not believe this, and there is research supporting my position. I also personally know people who have successfuly turned from this lifestyle, so don’t tell me it is not possible. I’m not even going to try the links. There are a number of people of color who do not embrace this belief, either.

      I have not read nor watched any of the Iowa ads or articles you refer to, so I cannot make a blanket determination on them. Your comment comes across as saying that anyone who voices an opposition to the court’s decision is expressing hate speech. Is this really what you mean? Am I just not understanding what you wrote? Do you believe the opposition to this decision has any right to demonstrate against it?

    6. John: anyone in opposition to the Iowa Supreme Court decision has a right to seek to overturn it, but fairly … not with the lies of ‘hate speech’. Saying that allowing marriage for same sex couples will cause all sorts of crimes against vulnerable people, society, humanity etc, etc, etc is not only false, but hateful.

      The courts have defined hate speech; look at the advertising examples; see what you think. You have said you “fear infringements on your freedom of speech” … if your ‘freedom of speech’ qualifies as being against the law, is this ‘western country’ no longer a country of ‘reason’ ?

      Whose freedom is impaired if they are assailed by the “freedom of speech” of others? Do you believe in the freedom to libel others? Obviously you do believe what the United States of America’s courts have defined as “hate speech”, is not that? Or am I mistaken in that assumption? Examples might be helpful.

    7. Kiffi- I can only find one ad on the internet produced by a group NOM. It does not appear to be hate speech. I did find these interesting accounts on a couple web sites:

      One day earlier, the Democratic
      leaders of the Legislature said they
      would not allow legislative action
      this year to pass a constitutional
      amendment that would ban gay
      marriages. “It will not come up,”
      Senate Majority Leader Michael
      Gronstal pledged to reporters in Des
      Moines. In a joint news release
      issued before the decision, Gronstal
      and Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy had
      welcomed homosexual marriage to the
      state. “When all is said and done,
      we believe the only lasting question
      about today’s events will be why it
      took us so long,” the legislative
      leaders said. “It is a tough question
      to answer because treating everyone
      fairly is really a matter of Iowa
      common sense and Iowa common decency.
      Iowa has always been a leader in the
      area of civil rights.”
      Congressman
      King, meanwhile, said the civil rights
      language makes him angry. “I don’t
      think they’ve examined it,” he told
      CNSNews.com. “I think they’ve gotten
      mentally lazy, when they say, ‘It’s a
      civil right to be married. Why are you
      discriminating against gays?’ But it’s
      not a matter of discriminating
      ‘against’ anyone – it’s a matter of
      bullying traditional marriage. The
      state has a vested interest in
      promoting traditional marriage.”
      Over
      recent days, key leaders such as Mike
      Gronstal and House Speaker Pat Murphy
      have been deluged with requests and
      telephone calls by gay-marriage
      opponents calling for a vote on a gay
      marriage ban. So far they have refused
      to budge on the issue, but they face
      vehement email campaigns as well as
      demonstrations outside of the state
      capitol. And now, another onslaught.

      It is unfortunate that the Democrats have dug their heels in on this. To refuse to allow the voting public a chance to weigh in on this is closed minded at best. Being from Iowa and having many relatives there, this will be a hot political potato in the future.

      Back to my original point on the international front, since Islam has passed Christianity in sheer numbers as a worldwide religion, I think it prudent to recognize their position on the matter. It is just this type of idealogical thing that turns them against us and deters meaningful cooperation.

      On a pragmatic vein, you and I believe what we do because we have chosen to believe it, and we have the freedom of that choice in this country. Neither of us has had our ideology forced upon us. This is not the norm in many other countries of the world.

  23. Jerry,

    You assume that the reason why the muslims hate us is because they are hubgry???

    You couldn’t be anymore wrong.

    It is a bunch of religous wackos hellbend to force their religion on us.

    1. Peter: Do you think there are any “religious wackos hellbend (sic) to force their religion on us” in this country?

    2. Food Aid is dumping and wipes out domestic production of crops in Africa (tough to sell produce when others give away) causing famine. How would your buy-local-buddies feel if China just starting give food away here in MN for free. I just cannot fathom how liberals can both preach ‘buy local’ and ‘food aid’ when they contradict each other in such a sickening way.

    3. David: Do you remember Isaiah 2:4?

      “And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.”

      I realize that you’re Mormon but the Hebrew Bible still applies.

      You commit a strawman fallacy, by oversimplifying my argument in order to make it easy to knock it over. John thought that Americans were, on average, more rational than Arabs, but when Americans commit fallacies to win arguments, it shows that we are just as irrational as they are.

      If your stereotype is right, that liberals preach “buy local” and “food aid”, is the other stereotype right, that conservatives want to send young Americans to Iraq to kill or be killed? Peter said the goal should have been to kill as many as possible. Why the bloodlust?

      China is importing food. The Chinese do not make enough to feed its billion citizens. Nonetheless, if a foreign nation bombed the U.S., wiping out our infrastructure, the right thing to do would be for our invaders to feed starving Americans. If you want to make comparisons, you might as well avoid the strawmen and make the comparisons equal.

      There is a core of pro-Americans and anti-Americans in Iraq who are not likely to change their views. There is a huge number of Iraqis in between. Giving the in-between aid will encourage them to view Americans as humanitarians. Granted, that will be more difficult after we’ve smart-bombed their nation, but we might as well start sooner rather than later.

      If the U.S. spent an additional $250+ billion on local agriculture, then American farmers and the economy they support would be doing so much better, and we can still buy local.

    4. Jerry, I am not nor have I ever been a Mormon (where do you get these ideas?)

      The major wars of modern times were conducted by: Wilson, Roosevelt, LBJ (conservatives?). And now on a much smaller scale Bush which even if poorly thought out and conducted was in response to an attack.

    5. David: I thought that you said the Book of Mormon was inspired and genuine. Doesn’t that make you Mormon?

    6. Jerry, I think you asked about a variety of books (not I)and I responded that I thought they were all inspired and genuine.

    7. David: Inspired is the term that theists use to explain that a given text came straight from Biblegod (albeit maybe in a circuitous route). Genuine means that it’s real, so it should prevail over other inspired texts. Sorry if I misunderstood your response, but it looked like you held the Book of Mormon as straight from Biblegod and the preferred text to use.

      If you don’t consider it as inspired and genuine, on what basis do you choose not to?

    8. David: Again a strawman. I ne’er said that the books were Biblegod, nor that we should be preoccupied with them.

      I am trying to understand which book memorializes your beliefs, your faith, and why you chose it, in the furtherance of my understanding where you’re coming from.

    9. Jerry, “trying to understand” is not “an argument” and therefore I cannot be accused of “a straw man.” Unless you really are not trying to understand but rather offering a Trojan horse question with the purpose of flooding my confines with your logic minions upon my acceptance of the gifted premise.

  24. Jerry,

    The reason why we lost Vietnam was politicial. Our apprehension of fighting it full force hurt us. You can’t win a war with one hand tied behind your back.

    The same is true for Iraq. I wonder how many of our soldiers died needlessly because we were concerned about a Mosque?
    Al-Sadr was alowed to go free and kill hundreds of our soldiers because he was hidding in a mosque..this is obsurd.

    1. Peter: Depending on what you mean by “political”, you might be right. The way I see it, when the U.S. was dropping napalm and burning Vietnamese babies, there was quite a political backlash. When we sent mostly minorities to fight in Vietnam, and privileged white men, like Bush Jr., escaped the bloodbath, there was quite a political backlash. When student protesters were murdered by the National Guard in Ohio, there was quite a political backlash.

      If Vietnam was a clean war, we might have been lucky enough to be fighting it today. The military minds screwed up so badly that we lost it decades ago.

    2. Jerry, you are so anti USA but compare one of your critical moments Kent State

      Four students were killed and nine
      others were wounded,

      To a non-USA critical moment : Tiananmen Square

      The official death toll according to
      the Chinese government was 200 to 300,
      but Chinese student associations and
      the Chinese Red Cross reported 2,000
      to 3,000 deaths[3].

      I mean is your criticism of the US in comparison to the rest of the world or to an unachieved ideal?

    3. David: Don’t be silly. Peter and I were talking about the political backlash that made Vietnam impossible to win. Tienanmen Square is irrelevant.

      Once again, you’re bringing red herrings to the discussion, and strawmen. Might you find interest in a logic class, to learn the classic fallacies, and avoid them?

    4. I would need a brain transplant to keep up with your use of logic, mine starts smoking just trying to see the connections within each paragraph.

  25. Boys: Gentlemen: Whatever:.. I am not looking for agreement; I am just looking for discussion without extreme gender … as well as other types… of prejudice.

    John: it would appear that you would look for a game of softball with the boys, while the girls do a little scrap booking! ( see comment #281.3 )

  26. Jerry,

    The war in Vietnam was lost due to lack of polticial will to fight it all the way.
    Political considerations trumped military necessity.

    The same has happened and is happening in Iraq. I submit that the length of the war and the death of soldiers could have been cut in half, if military consideration would have been first, rather then political correctness.

    The fact that we let Al- Sadr escape in to a mosque and didn’t pursue, very early in the conflict, extended the conflict longer then it should have been.

    1. Peter: We agree. Had we nuked Hanoi and other key cities, we would have won the Vietnamese war. Had we kept our soldiers off the ground and burned their jungles to ashes, we would have won.

      Alternatively, had we stayed out of the Vietnamese Civil War, we would have saved even more U.S. lives and resources. The best defense is not to be there.

      And if we decided to be involved in their civil war as diplomats and mediators, we may have saved even more lives.

      Winning is not about killing as many of them as possible. Winning is about forging peace.

  27. Jerry,
    I finished my logic homework,

    Inductive Arguments?

    Premise1: America is considered a Freedom loving county
    Premise2: Middle Eastern Terrorists hate the Freedom of American military intervention in the Middle East and American corporations free exploitation of their natural resources.
    Conclusion: Middle Eastern Terrorists hate American Freedom.

    Premise1: The 911 Terrorists were from countries in the Middle East
    Premise2: Iraq is a Middle Eastern country
    Conclusion: Iraq is a Terrorist country deserving retribution.

    1. Mike: You make me proud.

      Al Franken made a video documentary about his interest in running for Senate. I don’t remember the clip exactly, but he cited a clip from Fox News anchor Brit Hume. Hume said that California and Iraq are equal in size (Calif: 163,707 sq. mi.; Iraq 167,400 sq. mi.), and they had nearly the same total fatalities in whatever year (I think 2005), and since California fatalities can be considered “normal” that the deaths in Iraq should therefore be considered “normal”.

      In other words, don’t worry about the 50,000 or so Iraqi civilians who were killed because of the U.S. invasion.

      Franken showed the live clip on the video. The sleight of logic here is alarming. I am alarmed from the pretzel logic that the right and the left offer to advance their agendae.

      I don’t mind if reasonable people come to reasonable disagreements. I enjoy discussion and debate on most subjects so long as either side conforms to the purpose of the discussion: to discover truth. When false statistics, red herrings, and other fallacies become the center of discussion, my grief waxes and my interest wanes.

  28. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq1, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq2, an ill harvest of conflict(NOT WARS since none were constitutionally declared) that was caused by 100+ years of sowing the ill seed of American empire, hubris and exceptional ism.

    I don’t see how you “win a war” against a failed state, unless its a war of genocide which appears to be our intention for the Middle East.

    If they don’t conform to the “American Freedom” then they must be our enemy and need to be eliminated! Just look to the treatment of the Native American to see how this program works!

    1. Mike, did you read this book? The review is bemoaning and besmirching big government bureaucracies for being devious and unable to bring about their stated goals … what content is it that you think I would take exception to?

      So from the analysis you vote higher taxes and bigger government?????????????????????????????

  29. Jerry,

    You know that is not the political loss I am talking about.
    The reason why the USA lose Vietnam was their inability to take the war serious and the lack of commitment to win it.
    You can’t go seriously in to a war and be half fast about it. You need to commit all the force and all the weapons that are available to you.
    Do whatever it takes to win and sort out the political implications after wards.

    Iraq is a prime example where political correctness has cost us an early victory and prevented more deaths of US soldiers. If we would have taken out AL- Sadr out when we had the chance we would be ahead by two years.

    This has nothing to do about if we should have gone to war or not.
    Personally I think the war in Iraq was needless and unproductive..however once we committed to it we should have used everything available in our power and win it.

  30. Time to update this 2008 blog post. I got this via President Barack Obama’s email list yesterday:

    Good afternoon,

    After nearly nine years, our war in Iraq is ending.

    In recent days, many of our troops have come home and been reunited with their families for the holidays. Over the next few days, a small group of American soldiers will begin the final march out of Iraq.

    This moment of success is because of their sacrifice. More than 1.5 million Americans have served in Iraq. More than 30,000 of these brave men and women were wounded. Nearly 4,500 gave their lives. America’s military families have borne a heavy burden.

    As we mark the end of this war, we need to show our veterans and their families that they have the thanks of a grateful nation.

    Take a minute to look back at the moments that brought us to this point, then share a personal message of gratitude with those who have served.

    Part of ending a war responsibly is standing by those who have fought it. It’s not enough to honor our heroes with words; we must do so with deeds.

    That’s why we’ve worked to send 600,000 veterans and family members back to school on the Post-9/11 GI Bill. That’s why one of Michelle’s top priorities as First Lady has been to support military families and why she’s worked with the private sector to get commitments to create 100,000 jobs for those who’ve served and their spouses. That’s why we worked with Congress to pass a tax credit so that companies have an incentive to hire vets and have taken steps to help veterans translate military experience to the private sector job market.

    In America, our commitment to those who fight for our freedom and our ideals doesn’t end when our troops take off the uniform.

    You can be a part of this effort to honor our heroes.

    Help mark this moment. Write a quick note that troops and veterans all over the world will be able to see:

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/iraq

    Thank you,

    President Barack Obama

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