Towards A Good Samaritan World

Monday, December 13, 2004


Matt Yglesias remarks:

If you'd said before the war that over a year (and 1,000 U.S. fatalities) after the fall of Baghdad, U.S. forces would still be taking large numbers of casualties in an effort to create a government dominated by Shiite fundamentalists that has little capacity to exercise control over broad swathes of Iraqi territory you would have been labled a major-league pessimist about the venture.

So Sistani is a "fundamentalist?" Interesting.

Let me add that "major-league pessimists about the venture" predicted Saddam using his WMDs on US troops and on Israel; predicted that the conflict would turn into a regional war; predicted hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed and refugees; mocked not only the democratic transition but even that they would greet the coalition forces as liberators. Instead, most Iraqis did greet the coalition of liberators. The vast majority were glad to see the end of Saddam. The highest estimate of Iraqi dead is 100,000 (most estimates are much lower) and that includes all "excess deaths," including those caused by the insurgents, killed in battle, etc. Power has been transferred to a pro-American government that enjoys widespread of legitimacy. There may be large swaths of the country it does not control, but there are much larger swaths that it does control. Most Iraqis support elections. The Shiites are cooperating with the Americans. Elections are likely to happen in January. Iraqis are already much freer than under Saddam or in other Arab countries, and they like it that way. They are hopeful about the future.

And yet the "anti-war" camp (the conventional label, although it's unduly flattering for people who supported a regime that consisted of war against its own people) hasn't made many apologies yet. Because they're not in power. They're not accountable for getting it wrong. Well, unless you count losing elections as a form of accountability.

Justin Logan ("Proud Member of the Reality-[De]Based Coalition") performs his usual trick of taking negative spin over the line into self-parody:

I'm hearing whispers that the evildoers from the State Department on the ground in Iraq are working to prop up a less-tyrannous-than-Saddam strongman, much to the chagrin of their boss, Ambassador Negroponte, and the neocon ideologues. The strongman idea, of course, serves U.S. interests, if they are defined as "something other than total anarchy in a country of 25 million Muslims who now really hate America" or the alternative, "indefinite occupation."

You might think, from this post, that Iraqis have a more negative attitude towards America as a result of our liberating them. Does Justin have any evidence for this? Some Iraqis, after all, are enthusiastically and eloquently grateful for our liberating them. To give one of what are probably thousands available on the web by now, here's a comment an Iraqi posted on the BBC Arabic website (via Iraq the Model):

“America offers freedom for free. It’s true that I’ve never been there and I don’t have friends living there either but I keep America in my mind and sole. Hatred was brought to us by the extremists; the enemies of mankind.

I and every true Iraqi love America because to us she represents freedom and liberation. America untied us from Saddam’s chains and also liberated Yugoslavia from her dictator and liberated Germany before that. History is full of events that support my feelings”

Hazim Al Shammari-Bafgdad/Iraq.

Justin's views are based on obeisance to his ideology; reality can do its thing somewhere else. It will be a great day when these people take their cynical glasses off and wake up to a better world.

[UPDATE: TheJew provides links to two anti-American Iraqi bloggers. One link I couldn't open but I suspect it's Riverbend; the other, Dear Raed, I didn't know about, because when I started exploring Iraqi bloggers he wasn't posting much. Meanwhile, Iraq the Model (three brothers) and The Mesopotamian. Zeyad is somewhere in the middle: he is often critical of American abuses but ardently supported the war. (Zeyad seems to be an atheist, and as a result is sometimes, I think, the best journalist of them all; atheists can sometimes have a certain intensity of interest in the actual world, I've noticed, that people who believe in transcendental things like God lack; as a result they write about it better.) I'm not saying that no Iraqis are angry at the US. Opinion is obviously polarized. I'm saying that if some are angry, some are very grateful, and the evidence suggests to me that the balance is towards support for American operations, plans and ideals. Before the war, I wouldn't have ventured to predict democracy in Iraq. It seemed too ambitious, even if the only past American ventures comparable to this one-- the reconstructions of post-war Germany and Japan-- were brilliant successful in transforming those societies. I would have thought that the US would be unpopular at first but that in long historical hindsight the venture would seems like a big success. What took me by surprise is that there was a lot of very ardent support for the US immediately. From the beginning and throughout the US has excelled Saddam's regime in terms of consent of the governed. Sometimes Iraqis have expressed little confidence in us, but there has never been hatred against the US on anything like the scale there was against Saddam. People who cite polls saying that a lot of Iraqis would like US troops to leave miss the point. We want US troops to leave too, it's just a question of when. The bottom line is that Iraqis want elections and democracy, not Saddam Hussein and not Hosni Mubarak. And that's where we're headed. Fareed Zakaria agrees.]


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