Here's an interesting op-ed from Nicholas Kristof in Iraq, which is a lot more nuanced than most of the reflexive pro- or antiwar editorializing. I thought folks should have a look:
Thank you for posting this. You and Rov
have really brought a lot of great stuff to light recently, and it's fascinating to read about the different perspectives.
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF wrote:
I really tried to help the White House find those missing weapons of mass destruction. I searched last week around Iraqi factories and found looters; I patrolled highways and found bandits; I visited the ziggurat at Ur, which was already built many years before Abraham was born there, but found only sweaty U.S. troops.
No luck. And Iraq is an oven now, so I've given up my hunt for W.M.D. The White House is on its own.
But let me tell you about another missing thing ?an ear.
That's a great hook. Just from a technical perspective, I love how he sets the scene - in six sentences, we get a quick picture of what Iraq is like now - a hot, sweaty, anarchic contrast between the ancient and the new, Saddam and post-Saddam.
Since I've been accusing the Bush administration of cooking the intelligence on Iraq, I should confess my intentions. Countless Iraqis warned me that they would turn to guerrilla warfare if U.S. troops overstay their welcome, so I thought I'd find an Iraqi who had had his tongue or ear amputated by Saddam's thugs and still raged about the U.S. That would powerfully convey what a snake pit we're in.
Notice how he gets his point of view across and still manages to sound neutral. It's excellent writing.
Then I heard about Mathem Abid Ali and tracked him down in the southern city of Nasiriya. I've posted a photo of him on nytimes.com.kristofresponds (parental guidance is suggested). Mr. Abid Ali deserted the Iraqi Army, was caught, taken to a hospital and given general anesthesia ?and woke up with no right ear.
"Children looked at me, and turned away in horror," Mr. Abid Ali said bitterly.
So I asked Mr. Abid Ali what he thought of the Americans.
He thought for a moment and said: "I'd like to make a statue in gold of President Bush."
Saddam's regime was certainly terrible. When cruelty is insitutionalized like this, it rots away the soul of the whole nation, eventually. I wonder why they bothered giving him anesthesia.
Mr. Ali's punishment is awful, but what makes it even worse is the lack of a trial or any chance to defend himself. What if they caught the wrong guy? Not a problem the authorities worried about much, obviously.
So, facts got in the way of my plans for this column. But sometimes that's a good thing. I do think it's important for doves like myself to encounter Saddam's victims like Mr. Abid Ali and their joy at being freed. Iraq today is a mess, but it's a complex, deeply nuanced mess, etched in shades of gray.
Hawks need to wrestle with the reckless exaggerations of intelligence that were used to mislead the American public. Instead, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared Tuesday, "I don't know anybody in any government or any intelligence agency who suggested that the Iraqis had nuclear weapons."
Let me help. Mr. Rumsfeld, meet George Tenet, director of central intelligence, who immediately before the Congressional vote on Iraq last October issued a report asserting: "Most analysts assess Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program." Meet Vice President Dick Cheney, who said about Saddam on March 16: "We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."
Yet at the same time that we doves hold Mr. Rumsfeld's talons to the fire, we need to grapple with the giddy new freedom that ?in spite of us ?pullulates from Baghdad to Basra. I got a warm and fuzzy feeling each time I saw an Iraqi newsstand, overflowing with vibrant newspapers and magazines that did not exist six months ago.
Yes, that's a good point. The war is done with now and the better side won. We (as in the public at large, not we at ExIsle) should be more concerned with the attempt to rebuild Iraq. Now that Bush and co. have embarked on this huge experiment, they better see it through.
One of the central moral questions for our time is when to intervene militarily on humanitarian grounds.
Yes, very much so. That's the best point in the whole article. And how
should we intervene - as a united front, or as individual nations? Squabbling among ourselves and begrudging the effort, or with clear objectives and a moral (as opposed to politicial) purpose? Pre-emptively, or reactively?
My judgment about the invasion of Iraq remains unchanged ?I don't think that it was worth it ?but I'm still hoping that democracy will flower in Iraq and prove me wrong.
And in any case, I accept what apparently is Mr. Bush's broader principle, that some countries are so drenched in blood that we should invade to save their peoples.
If we were willing to rescue Iraqis, should we intervene (multilaterally) to stop the far worse bloodshed in Congo ?where 3.3 million people have died since 1998? Or in Liberia, to try to shore up West Africa before it crumbles as well?
That's a pretty tall order, even for the US. If this is the new reality of International Affairs, then it should be done as a multinational effort, under the UN.
I'm suspicious of any answer that is too quick and too glib. But my fear is that the mistakes and poor planning that are now miring us in Iraq will unfairly discredit humanitarian intervention more broadly, even when saving people pleading to be liberated. That would be another terrible cost of Iraq.
I hope not.
Edited by Javert Rovinski, 29 June 2003 - 07:16 AM.