Saturday, September 03, 2005

Assuming We Did Give Them Their Freedom...

The right recently seems to have backed down to perhaps three things to justify the Iraq war: There was good reason to believe Saddam had WMDs; Saddam gave money to Palestinian suicide bombers' families; we freed the people of Iraq from tyranny. The first two should be easy to defeat, but the latter seems a little more daunting. What would I point out to such individuals?

1) The US helped the Ba'ath Party gain its stranglehold, then supported Saddam for more than a decade, even helping put down what could have been a successful resistance struggle. Its sanctions regime and DU dumping allowed Saddam to strengthen his rule by appealing to nationalist resistance. The war consolidated direct US control, allowing neo-liberal regimes, elections only after being forced by courageous Iraqi resistance (largely fraudulent), and in general was a colonialist action. In essence, the US replaced a client for direct US and corporate control. Doesn't seem so courageous now, does it?

Was Saddam's replacement a courageous act? Yes, more than twenty years too late. Will we be better than Saddam? Considering we didn't care about what Saddam did and the atrocities going on at Abu Ghraib, hardly. We eagerly supported the Turks murdering the Kurds. We were perfectly willing to call the Shah a democrat and support Islam Karimov. And one only need look at what happens to those who begin to run their own country (see Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Indonesia before Suharto, or the US conquest of the Philippines, to give a cross section of history) to see what will happen if Iraq ever departs from its intended place in the US imperial system. Indeed, Saddam's fate proves this beyond a shadow of a doubt as well.

Every empire claims great intentions. Look on the ground and you almost always see a different story.

Though I have my problems with Bill Mahr, I was glad when he pointed out that, in essence, we're Britain in the Revolutionary War: the occupying army instead of the homegrown resistance. And, of course, who's on our side? Britain. The dying empire and the new empire!

2) Putting aside the content of the "freedom" we're offering, who gave us the right to decide who to give freedom to and not? Why don't numerous other countries suffering under dictators and radical Muslim governments deserve freedom? Might it have anything to do with Iraq's oil reserves and a desire to get more military bases in the Middle East? Or the fact that Iraq was defenseless and would build up the Republican security credentials in 2002 and 2004?

3) In line with #2: Those 100,000 extra dead (or 15,000 from direct bombing; hey, Stalin didn't directly kill all that many people either, yet everyone still mentions all those dead from his economic reforms, of course not mentioning those who may have been saved by industrialization and the ability to fend off the Germans) were never consulted if they wanted to sacrifice their lives for freedom. Nor was the rest of the society asked if they wanted Saddam gone. And even if 90% of Iraq did want their freedom, who were they to force those 100,000 to die for it? Please note that I do not know the answers to these questions. What war does is force fewer options and make these sort of questions, vital ones, moot.

4) Though I hate to engage in practical cost-benefit analysis with human lives and freedom, it is nonetheless worth it to ask: Is all that money going to prosecute an illegal war worth it? Couldn't that money have been sent in humanitarian aid or to protect the poor and weak in this society? And what of the terror and WMD proliferation that has accelerated since the war? What of the risks to civilization that hardly left analysts were discussing in the security literature?

5) As I wrote in a Negative for a debate in front of the League of Women's Voters, " It should be noted that the true hope for democracy lies in the hands of the Iraqi people. The failed 1992 rebellion was indicative of the potential for change. As noted by Susquehanna Associate Professor of Philosophy Jeffrey Whitman in the Journal of Social Philosophy, “The problem with interventions in the name of liberty and human rights is that the people have no vested interest in maintaining these newly acquired rights.” If the US intervenes for the Iraqis, they will not have gained democracy and rights for themselves, and thus will not have learned how to exercise freedom and solidarity. Resistance groups against Saddam’s regime should be supported."


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