Friday, May 5, 2006

Mr. Hayden on Iraq

Mr. Hayden

“So there we are, burdened with carrying on a war that was a mistake to begin with.” Such is your belief, and you are entitled to state and promote it. If some find your views and their expression irritating, such is the price of entrance to the marketplace of ideas. The profound chasm that separates opinion in this matter will not be spanned by emotion or cynical rhetoric, and thus I commend the generally reasoned tone of your opinion piece.

But you pose some questions, implying they are unanswerable. “Why,” you ask, “would replacing US troops, clearly the primary cause of Iraqi nationalist attacks, with an international peacekeeping force from neutral countries increase the violence? There is no answer [from George Packer].” There are several errors in your assertion. First, is it proven that the “Iraqi nationalist attacks” are provoked primarily by a US presence? I suggest otherwise. The attacks now are centered primarily against other, and random, Iraqis. This makes the “attackers” not “nationalists,” but terrorists. More to the point, the “attacks” – by which you mean “bombings” – seem to this side of the aisle to be designed to prevent the establishment of a western-style liberal democracy. The fact that the US presence seeks to ensure such an event is incidental. If an “international peacekeeping force” were to take over, with the same aim, they would provide an equal provocation and target. It is not the US alone that is hated, sir. It is the “Crusader” – it is the West.

Another problem with your suggestion is, would an “international peacekeeping force” would be, in any manner at all, effective. You must be aware of how useless and feckless such forces inevitably show themselves to be. UN “peacekeepers” generally have standing orders to never discharge their weapons, or to intervene in any way whatsoever in the presence of even the most egregious of crimes. We do not need empty symbolism, sir. We need a fighting force, not a peacekeeping force. The “peace” that such a “force” would “keep” is called surrender.

You use the analogy of the British in Northern Ireland: “thirty years later they signed the Good Friday Agreement but still haven't permitted free elections.” Your purpose in this reference, I believe, is to associate the futility in Ireland with the current situation. But, sir, you refute yourself. There have been several free elections in Iraq already - enforced (and the word is used advisedly) by an active US presence. If “free elections” are to be desired, sir, what then is your objection in this specific?

You characterize suggestions that Iraq be divided along tribal lines as “another imperial scenario…” “Imperial” is a loaded word, and should have been avoided. An outlaw nation, that flouts whatever it is on this planet that passes for international law, loses its claim to sovereignty, until a respect for the comity of nations is re-established within its borders and its governing body. The stewardship that another nation, or any coalition of nations, must exercise over such a rogue nation cannot with a clear conscience be called “imperial.” One might object to some supposed unilateral hubris in such stewardship, but is it rational to object about the doer of a job that needs doing?

You state that “87 percent of all Iraqis favor the US setting a fixed timetable for withdrawal,” and suggest this should guide our policy. I propose that post-Hitler Germans and post-Tojo Japanese would have generated similar poll numbers. We do not decide policy by polls. By “we,” sir, I mean Mr. Bush and the third of Americans that yet supports him. Mr. Clinton decided policy by polls. You would of course agree with that course of action. There can be no compromise here, in our disagreement.

“But who are we, especially the Iraqis? Apparently only little chips on somebody's bigger chessboard, giving our taxes and blood to prevent the tragedy from becoming more tragic, thankful for those committed to saving us from ourselves.” This is unworthy of you, sir. And your meaning is unclear. If you mean that we, all of us, are thankful for the sacrifice of our soldiers, in spite of the disagreement over their cause, then you should not have prefaced that sentiment with an appeal to cynicism. Any other sense meant here is unworthy of comment.


Jack H

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