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    i'm going to miss the old peter francis geraci commercials..., 2005-03-13 11:23:18 | Main | Hoax, or Sign of the Second Coming..., 2005-03-13 19:40:44

    100 channels of crap or Comcast Is Paying Me To Watch This Shit:

    so comcast started paying me 5 bucks a month to have cable, meaning I got to watch Real Time for the first time in a year. Still no CNN International, or really any news programming worth snot outside the occasional 15 minutes from the BBC. The transcript for this week isn't up yet, though last week Maher have the decency to put ward churchill on with michael faughan, and the transcript for that is up, in which they discuss whether Fallujans - or 9/11 victims or whoever - got what they deserved. Maher's really a pretty awful moderator, but his guests are interesting.

    This week he had some lacky from the Drudge Report, the "What's the Matter With Islam" chick and a lefty comedian I forget the name of, and they had a long discussion on Iraq, the elections, and whether the invasion was in any way justified by them. The two conservative/centrist/whatever guests repeated, along with Maher, Joe Biden and Thommy Thompsons' performance from two weeks ago, where they had a circle jerk lauding "the perseverance and the leadership of George W. Bush" for obstructing Iraqi elections for over a year, which the comic almost succeeded, I think, in suggesting hasn't in any clear way paved the way for various charades of democratic reform (which have yet to actually pan out) in the Middle East so much as for hypocritical posturing in the Western press.

    The WMWI lady tossed around the idea that there was no refugee problem in Iraq, counter to the predictions previous to the war. Going unmentioned by our illustrious panel were the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced refugees, most of whom are recieving no assistance. The International Organization for Migration estimated last August that there were 1.4 million internally displaced persons country-wide - about a million were displaced in 20 years under the Hussein regime and still remain refugees after two years of liberation, and the US presence has exacerbated the crisis by adding another 400,000 IDPs since. Hence there is no refugee crisis, I guess.

    Maher repeated his position since the election last month that Iraqis should have a civil war. The lefty comic boffed - by which I mean mistated the results of - the Lancet study on Iraqi casualties but it didn't matter because he was pretty much ignored the entire time by the other guests, except when WMWI was shoving shit down his throat and pulling it back out again. Maher did make an aside that 100,000 might not be so bad compared to life under Saddam, except that the statistics measured mortality rates above pre-war levels: meaning that whatever Saddam was doing was included in the baseline, and the higher mortality rate was in addition that.

    Most people don't - Maher certainly didn't - seem to have any idea of the scale of what was going on in Iraq in the years prior to the invasion, despite the fact that the question is always raised as part of the moral equation of the war. If you read the human rights reports for the years previous to the war there were hundreds to a couple thousand state-sanctioned murders and executions every year, the highest range of such estimates is over 4,000 total since 1997. That is in addition to high-profile killings in what would probably be euphimistically referred to as 'low-intesity counter-terrorism efforts' against opposition movements, were Saddam still a US client, a conflict that continues regardless and on a larger scale - though I disagree with Maher's estimation that it already amounts to a civil war. The last case of mass violence comparable to that incurred by the US invasion occurred over a decade ago, in slaughters sanctioned by the US of rebelling Shi'ite forces immediately after the Gulf War.

    The US State Department's Human Rights Iraq country report for 2004 noted that under the US appointed Iraqi government and US trained Iraqi security forces "coerced confessions and interrogation continued to be the favored method of investigation by police", meaning the torture state, often touted as having been ended by the US invasion, continues under the new liberation government. It doesn't, of course, make any mention of the worldwide system of injustice and torture's sizable tentacle wrapped around Iraq.

    If you compare the 2004 report to the country report for 2002 there's not a lot of concrete progress one can identify outside of the boilerplate in the interim constitution - much of which existed in the previous constitution and was adhered to about as thoroughly.

    The 2002 report condemns the vast amount of unexploded ordinance that continues maiming and killing people and failure of the Ba'ath regime to make sufficient efforts to clear the landmines, but the US invasion added to that problem with new landmines and tons of unexploded ordinace - you can at least balance that with the $25 million grant to already operating clearance projects, but that could have been done without invading - and reportedly the occupation isn't doing overmuch to assist efforts beyond that. It's like cutting somebody and then expecting to be lauded for applying the bandaid. In any case that's now a minor issue when compared to suicide bombers, unchecked checkpoints, and IEDs wreaking havok under the occupation's continued utter, almost total, inability to provide any semblance of security.

    That billions in reconstruction funding (rather, $8.8 billion in Iraqi funds - demonstrating that American reconstruction contributions have so much as entered the country is a pretty difficult task) has been 'dissappeared' was mentioned by Maher, but the state of disrepair of Iraq's economy and infrastructure, much of which remains worse under US governance than under the sanctions regime and Saddam, and the near total absence of the resources necessary to doing something about it, were not. The WMWI chick would accuse me - just as she condescended to Our Hero the Comic - of requiring "instant gratification", but the beef is that conditions for Iraqis were improving under oil for food - since it was abandoned by the occupation malnutrition rates have shot back up - and a loosening sanctions regime, and could have improved far faster with a tighter arms embargo, an expanded OFF program, and a severely narrowed sanctions regime that targetted regime assets over Iraqi citizens - essentially the reverse of what was imposed by the US. Even after flawed elections - one of a handful of net positive results of the invasion thus far - I don't understand how people can summarize the present state of chaos and call it progress.

    Beyond restructuring, if not abandoning, the sanctions regime, enforcing restrictions against black market oil sales, and the responsible parties - the partner countries and the US dominated 661 committee - actually persuing investigations into OFF, there's the fact that many NGOs, development and aid agencies, operating in Iraq prior to the war have left or drastically scaled back operations due to security concerns. It was actually easier to persue foreign intervention on behalf of suffering Iraqis prior to the war. It's likely that if Iraq had simply been allowed to re-enter the 'international community' with no restrictions outside an arms embargo and inspections - if the 'coallition' had entirely butted out of Iraqi affairs, for that matter - the situation would be better than what presently exists.

    The balance of the case for the war has to be contrasted between a weak and embattled tyrant holding onto power only by the desperate state of a population - a situation perpetuated by a deeply flawed sanctions regime as much as by state terror - which is now, by most measures, weaker, more divided, and more desperate. The invasion has only barely begun mitigating a few crimes from the past - most of which the invading forces contributed to and for which they should be judged - and created or unleashed many more. It was a bad policy endorsed by both parties, astoundingly botched in implimentation by the Bush administration, to which there were real alternatives. US reactions towards those alternatives revolved primarily around prevention of them, thereby demonstrating awareness of them and making the criminal nature of the war all the more ugly.

    And this is just the humanitarian effects. In terms of national and international security the outcome of the war has been extremely destructive - considering Iraq poised a threat to no country other than itself prior - increasing risks to ourselves and our allies, as today's NYT reminds us on just one of many fronts.


:: posted by buermann @ 2005-03-13 16:13:12 CST | link





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