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Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Set 'Em Up and Knock 'Em Down:

Conventional wisdom has apparently concluded that things are actually much better in Iraq than the media reports seem to indicate; the press, after all, pays attention to the more sensational attacks rather than the far-ranging improvements brought about by coalition forces.If one subscribes to this position, it makes it easier to write off coalition casualties. "We have to look at the big picture" they say. The Bush administration has framed the discussion in such a manner, but is their frame large enough for a picture of 500 soldiers? 1000? How many lives are too many to spend on the sands of Iraq?

What is the big picture, anyway?

We've ridded the world of a cruel tyrant, and the assumption is that the world is much better off as a result. After coaltion forces secure the peace in Iraq, other despots will be persuaded by threat of force to convert their countries into western-style democracies. A victory in Iraq will be the beginning of a Pax Americana, or so the reasoning goes. After the dictatorial states are taken in hand, terrorists will have nowhere to run; nowhere to hide. In a nutshell, this is the neocon vision.

Many Iraqis are quite skeptical that the producers of "Shock and Awe" have devoted themselves to their wellbeing. After all, we were Saddam's patrons until Gulf War I. In the eyes of the rest of the world, the United States is the puppetmaster; we set 'em up and knock 'em down; as long as our chosen despots operate in the best interest of U.S. corporate interests, they're allowed to stay in power, but when they get too big for their britches, it's time to test the bombs (they have an expiration date, you know). Here's what Reuters reports people are saying on the streets of Iraq:

"In street interviews, Iraqis said Saddam must be tried by an Iraqi court prepared to hand down the death penalty and examine his ties to past U.S. governments.
The United States backed Saddam in his war with Iran in the 1980s. During that time, he also gassed an estimated 5,000 Kurds to death in the village of Halabja.
A few years later Washington began branding Saddam a tyrant and an enemy after his troops invaded oil-rich Kuwait in 1990.

"Saddam was a top graduate of the American school of politics," said Assad al-Saadi, standing with friends in the slum of Sadr city, formerly called Saddam City, a Shi'ite Muslim area oppressed by Saddam's security agents. "My brother was an army officer who was executed. Saddam is a criminal and the Americans were his friends. We need justice so that we can forget the past.""

Source: Iraqis Want Saddam's U.S. Friends On Trial

We're not the first nation to rid the world of a dictator; Stalin, for example, helped to rid the world of Hitler, and then proceeded to subject his own people to brutality that dwarfs that of Hussein. The end of the cold war brought an end to Tito's Yugoslavian dictatorship, but the euphoria collapsed rather quickly as the Balkans descended into chaos and ethnic cleansing.

The newly annointed Democratic frontrunner, John Kerry, is quick to point out the obvious; that Bush has incompetently prosecuted the war effort, that his promise to seek all diplomatic means to avoid war was a hollow sham, and that his proof of weapons of mass destruction was a foregone conclusion. He stops short of reframing the big picture, however.

The big picture, Mr. President, is that all attempts in the history of humanity to bring about peace via the barrel of a gun have met with unforseen disaster. The end doesn't justify the means, no matter how you frame the argument.

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