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"Iraqi Involvement"?!

12/16/2003 3:22 PM
Mark Hammer
"Iraqi Involvement"?!
George just doesn't get it, does he?  
First, he discusses movement into Afghanistan as a "crusade". There were inumerable reasons why the Taliban were bad for the country and bad for the world, and in the wake of 09/11 I can understand emotions running high, but any mention of "crusades" in the direction of the Islamic world is not going to curry their favour or reduce their longstanding sense of resentment at the west. Accordingly, he was reprimanded by advisors.  
Okay, so he changed his phrasing and smartened up for a little while.  
Now he discusses the trial of Saddam Hussein with "Iraqi involvement". Um, Mr. Prez, just exactly whose deposed leader is he? Exactly whose country are you in and exactly who has the biggest and most outstanding grudge against him? If Bush wanted to offer up US operational support for an Iraqi trial process, or provide legal consultative services, or simply hold the sonuvabitch securely while the new Iraqi justice system got their act together, that's one thing. To imply that the trial process is the perogative of the US and Iraq will be "let in the room" as some sort of favour is, well, pretty much what resentful nations around the world tend to be resentful about when it comes to US foreign policy.  
Saddam is first and foremost Iraq's criminal and it should be their trial. If anyone outside Iraq ought to have dibs on trying the guy it would be Iran, and then possibly the Turkish Kurd community and then Kuwait followed by Israel. In terms of who has standing for prosecuting the guy, the US needs to wait in line behind all those folks.  
The cynical paranoid in me would wonder if the Bush administration's drive to have Iraq itself play a benign cheerleader role in any trial process is a way of managing the process to successfully teflon coat the role that several successive republican administrations played in entrenching the guy's power in the first place. Of course there are other European countries that *could* scream about that but would choose not to because it would uncover their own complicity in his cruel hold on power.  
But, I'm a Pollyanna and not a cynical paranoid, so I'll simply suggest that poor George just doesn't get it.  
On a related note, heard an interesting panel discussion of law professors on the way into work on the prospective war crimes trial and the different forms it could take. One of the models that came up was the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission model following the elimination of apartheid. One of the purposes of the commission was to allow people who had had no opportunity to tell their story during more oppressive times do so.  
Given the deep division that still exists in Iraq, my sense is that there is a similarly deep need to have such a process take place rather than nail Saddam for a couple of big ticket items and quickly execute him. The repression that existed during his regime did a few things. First, it did not provide any sort of public opportunity for victims' feelings to be validated (and certainly firing off a few rounds into the air on hearing of his capture does not accomplish that). Often, people have a need to tell their story openly and know that others are listening. There is a huge lineup of such people in Iraq.  
Second it covered up a great deal of the crime that took place (which is what obligates the storytelling) so that it was easier for the Baathists to retain the allegiance of those whose pockets it was not explicitly lining. That is also more or less what happened in Serbia under Milosevic. Milosevic was able to enjoy the enthusiastic support of many Serbian citizens because they were prevented from being disgusted by what he was really doing. Like it or not, there are still plenty of Iraqis who think Saddam is a swell guy, a staunch defender of his country, yadda, yadda, and there will be little peace there until those folks are strongly persuaded that he was bad enough for *everyone* in the country that he was effectively a traitor. They will not be able to move on until they have consensus, and a quick end to the guy will stand in the way of that.
12/16/2003 5:35 PM
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12/16/2003 6:59 PM
Love Hippie
Sounds like a deja-vu flashback to the '60s. Before you know it we'll have people screaming "Far Out" as well. Do we really wanna go back to that?  
-Love Hippie
12/16/2003 7:26 PM
Dave Rich Re: "Iraqi Involvement"?!
<"Um, Mr. Prez, just exactly whose deposed leader is he?">  
Um, Who deposed him?  
<"If anyone outside Iraq ought to have dibs on trying the guy it would be Iran, and then possibly the Turkish Kurd community and then Kuwait followed by Israel. In terms of who has standing for prosecuting the guy, the US needs to wait in line behind all those folks.">  
OK but none of those countries went in and got him did they? And talk about being resentful, after losing several hundred fellow countrymen we're being told to "wait in line" by someone whose country contributed exactly nothing to his capture.  
<"To imply that the trial process is the perogative of the US and Iraq will be "let in the room" as some sort of favour is, well, pretty much what resentful nations around the world tend to be resentful about when it comes to US foreign policy.">  
I don't think anyone has said anything of the sort. I believe Saddam will be turned over to the Iraqi justice system as soon as that system is back on its feet.  
And what about this policy do they resent? That Saddam is being tried for his crimes instead of committing them? Mark, if George had only listened to you all along, Saddam would still be happily murdering people, financing terrorism and threatening his neighbors. Is this what you mean by "not getting it"?
12/16/2003 9:47 PM
Mark Hammer

The view that perogative belongs to those who send in the most troops or spend the most money or have the most power is precisely what I'm talking about. It's more than a bit like a tyrannical father proclaiming "When you pay the bills you can live the way you want, but as long as you're under my roof, it's my rules!". That may have some plausibility in the home environment (though it doesn't work very well), but considerably less on the international stage. And yes it is precisely where the resentment comes from. It doesn't make 19 year-old boys feel any more respected and it certainly isn't much better for sovereign nations. If the Iraqi political opposition had as much money and weaponry as the US (or as the US and other countries sold to Saddam over the years) they would have taken care of things themselves. But they didn't, and the fact that they didn't has little bearing on whose justice ought to be served first and foremost.  
As for my own country (Canada), I think we acted in good conscience and appropriately. If a friend wants to sink all his money into a bad investment, is he correct in blaming you for not jumping in with him and maybe putting him over the top instead of floundering. We knew this was gonna be a mess, we knew it was going to preclude our capacity to intervene in any of the other tragedies around the world that keep cropping up (and to which we are already committed), and in spite of how many jubilant headlines popped up the last two days, its still a mess and will be for a few years at least. I'm quite comfortable that we said "No thank you" and most of my countrymen are too. We lose no moral authority in doing so.  
My comments about Bush's use of the phrase "Iraqi involvement" were about what it implied. Perhaps he means something more substantive, but it is reflective of the guy's tendency to figure out what he should have said or done after the fact. The "crusade" term was egocentric and dismissive and so is the phrase "involvement". For my money, you can bet your bottom dollar that the justice process will be heavily directed by the US. Indeed, as many commentators have noted, referral to any sort of world court or UN court would open up too many possibilities for the defense to raise and identify American culpability. Remaining in an ostensibly Iraqi court will keep it about Saddam's crimes against his people and neighbouring nations. If you think the mandate of the Bush administration is to simply serve as backup until the Iraqis are better organized and then completely step aside during any trial, you're dreaming in technicolor.  
Should George have listened to me? Over the years, the US could have outdone the Iraqi government in directly supplied humanitarian aid three times over for a fraction of the cost of the invasion in lives and money and disruption and earned the loyalty of citizens, but they never did. Instead, they armed him, supported him, turned a blind eye to his crimes, then when he went bad they turned him into a pariah, gave him full leeway to blame the US for everything bad that befell his people (due to his greed and corruption). This is the problem that arises when governments try to curry the favour of each other for political and military leverage rather than because they are truly interested in human welfare and parity among nations. If foreign aid was distributed with the intent of raising the lifestyle of your average Khartoum or Islamabad resident to the level of your average Kansas City or Bangor, Maine resident, rather than for what it accomplished in terms of positioning the US economically and militarily to assure Kansas City and Bangor residents their quality of life in spite of everything, there would not be those hundreds of fellow Americans who have a folded flag as a momento of their kids. Foreign policy and foreign aid has to be about more than what it gets you in return.  
Yeah, George shoulda talked to me first instead of the Pentagon or Wall Street. Saddam might have ended up as some doofus with a beard on a street corner yelling out anti-west epithets to passersby who shake their heads at the poor homeless guy, or maybe just a small-time thug shaking down grannies for lunchmoney, or some jerk peddling make-a-million-bucks-in-real-estate-with-no-money-down scams. But he wouldn't be the despot that he became, aided and abetted by thousands of folks who believed in him because of how he was able to grease their palms. Come to think of it, that pretty much describes the House of Saud, Kuwait, the former Shah of Iran, Juan Battista, Papa Doc Duvalier, Allende, Noriega, and plenty of others whose names escape me. You can't keep setting up despots then claiming the moral high ground when they get out of hand and you spend billions to take them down or buy them out. You CAN claim the moral high ground when you spend and forfeit billions to stop it from ever happening in the first place.
12/17/2003 3:50 AM
Well said, as always.  
I suspect it will fall on deaf ears, however.....
12/17/2003 4:08 AM
Love Hippie
Should George have listened to me?  
In a word, NO. I think you are a liberal.
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