dhBlog: archives

A monthly archive: May 2004

# articles in archive: 16

       20 May 2004       

Subject: Iraq war     Pre-emptive Revenge

The Alu Gharib scandals demand explanation. From the left, Sy Hersh has advanced a theory that starts with black-op specialists and their refined use of brink-of-torture techniques on Al Queda partisans. That these techniques were imported into Iraq to deal with day-to-day detainees. And that these were passed on to a collection of "amateurs" -- to people (such as reservists) who just couldn't keep a cool head in the matter. With willing blindness by higher ranks both civilian and military, this resulted in a toxic mix of sadeo homoerotic humiliation, casual placement of detainees in high stress positions, more-then-occasional beatings, and the occassional "accidental death".

This has shocked and angered substantial number of Americans, who would like to think that we are above that. That, especially if our prescence in Iraq is meant to liberate an oppressed people, and lead them to the light of democracy, such treatment is unacceptable.

Yet other Americans are not bothered. In fact, there is a collective wisdom that we are fighting a dirty enemy. One that does not hesitate to humiliate the dead bodies of the 4 American contractors (in April Fallujah), or behead the freelance electrician Berg.

These heinous acts deserve revenge!

Let us set aside the morality of revenge, especially against individuals who probably had nothing to do with these acts. Let us instead focus on a more cogent problem: that the heinous acts occurred well after the Alu Gharib tortures.

Again, let us be generous and set-aside the possiblity that these heinous acts were a result of the tortures. That those eventually released from the gulag would let their treatment be known. That knowledge, or even direct experience, of this treatment would motivate harsh retaliation by Iraqi partisans. Instead, let us cotton to the idea of revenge as a reasonable American behavior. However, in this case it's a special kind of revenge: pre-emptive revenge.

Pre-emptive revenge -- simply put, taking revenge for an act that may happen in the future. Why not? If one can have pre-emptive war to stop what a ne'er do well society might do in the future, why not pre-emptive revenge against what this society actually might succeed at in the future. And why stop with a little bit of minor torture. Why not anticipate some kind of mass death terrorist event in the next 50 years (say, 20k dead from dirty bomb in downtown Chicago), and nuke some representative & recalcitrant Arab city today? view the entire article

Posted by Daniel Hellerstein at 02:00:29 Add comment || View 0 comments

Subject: Iraq war     What lesson should WWII teach us about the post 9/11 world

What lesson should WWII teach us about the post 9/11 world?

On some level, it's not difficult to understand the logic that links Saddam's Iraq to Osama's Al Queda. When you are attacked by one enemy, then why bother with nuances about the other enemies. It's war, and such subtleties are quite unnecessary.

The prime example of this is Pearl Harbor -- Japan sneak attacks us, and within days we are at war with the Japan, Germany, and Italy. Following this powerful example (for what is more poignant then WWII?) when attacked by Al Queda it is sensible to war with today's "axis of evil" (with Iraq as the most visible member).

Yet is this the correct lesson? To answer this, one must remember that WWII involved two dimensions: that the US warred against some nations, and that the US warred in alliance with some nations. And some of these nations the US warred in alliance with were suspect. In particular, Stalin's USSR. Bluntly put, the US made a decision: to defeat the greater enemy (German and Japanese facism), it was worthwhile to ally with a lesser enemy (Russian communism).

Does this powerful fact of WWII introduce a different logic to the post 9/11 world. It does. Precisely, it requires that we identify the greatest enemy, the enemy that has done the most to damage the well-being and safety of the US citizenry. Clearly, that honor belongs to Al Queda.

After identifying this greater enemy, as in WWII it is wise to set aside lesser quarrels. One should look for natural allies against this greater enemy. And here is where the "axis of evil" logic collapses: for two of Al Queda's biggest enemies were the secular/Stalinist Iraq of Hussein, and the Shia theocrats of Iran.

Thus, a realistic foreign policy of the US, one in service of the needs and security of Americans, would have sought a reapproachment with Iraq and Iran. An "alliance" to eradicate a common enemy; the enemy of Wahhabian/Sunni-theocratic Al Quedaism.

That this did not occur suggest that the neo-conservatives are fundamentally unphased by terrorism. Perhaps this is a reasonable position, perhaps 9/11 was a lucky strike that is unlikely to be repeated this generation. Or, to be cynical: that terrorism represents a minor nuisance in the maintenance of empire.

Why do the neo-conservatives neglect to present this position? Would the American public have preferred a play-nice with Iraq and Iran strategy, so as to crush Al Queda. It's kind of a sickening thought, and one could argue that such an alliance would not be necessary. But it is a strategy that must be defeated on solid grounds of costs and benefits, and not simply lost to a false analogy rooted in identifying an "axis of evil" and defeating it. view the entire article

Posted by Daniel Hellerstein at 01:37:31 Add comment || View 0 comments