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Symposium: Iraq: Fight or Flight? (Continued I) By: Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, October 29, 2004


Babbin: My further participation in this conversation violates Bill Buckley's admonition that one shouldn't argue with the invincibly ignorant of the world.  Neither Bates nor Lindorff can be taken seriously on these subjects.  Were it not for my promise to Jamie to participate, I wouldn't dignify their sheer looniness with a response. 

Bates and Lindorff almost remind me of Noam Chomsky.  On 15 October 2001, about ten days after we began the military action to topple the Taliban and destroy al-Queda's sanctuary in Afghanistan, Chomsky gave a speech. In it, he said that America always spread its influence through killing, that we were engaged in a secret genocide of Afghans by starvation, and that the best way to reduce terrorism in the world was for America to stop participating in it.  Chomsky at least has style.  Bates and Lindorff are Chomsky-lite.

 

They should read more. If they did, they'd know that their hero, Kofi Annan, is wrong both legally and historically when he says the Iraq war is illegal.  First, there is no legal control over the use of military force by the United States other than the US Constitution.  Article 1, Section 8 gives Congress the power to declare war, and Article 2, Section 2, makes the president the commander in chief, responsible for prosecuting wars.  There is nothing in the UN charter that can or does limit that in any way, nor in the treaty by which we joined the UN. You can look it up.

 

The UN's predecessor, the League of Nations, was the brainchild of US president Woodrow Wilson.  But -- as Bates is apparently ignorant of -- the US refused to join the League of Nations precisely because its charter claimed the power to declare war, and the US Senate rejected that infringement on US sovereignty and the Constitution.  The UN charter makes no such claim, and the reference to "self defense" in the UN charter has never -- until now -- been interpreted or claimed to have precluded pre-emptive action.  Kofi Annan is wrong, and so -- to put it more kindly than he deserves -- is Bates.

 

Lindorff's rant about Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan is of a piece with his new screed, "This Can't be Happening."  The promotional materials for it on his website, proclaim it, "A raucus, biting, irreverent look at three years of outrages and scandal. "This Can't Be Happening" exposes the mendacity, the venality, the cruelty, the danger and the sheer looniness of the Bush Presidency, the Iraq War, the so-called "War" on Terror, and the assault on the American Constitution. Read about how the Bush team lifted a page from the Hitler/Goebbels playbook before the smoke had even cleared from Ground Zero, how Attorney General John Ashcroft and Fox TV tried to recreate in America the East German Stasi's nation of citizen spies..."  Anyone who can make these statements is not someone I will soil my keyboard by engaging.  This man needs therapy, and only after that can his political and historical tutoring commence.

 

The issue in Iraq is not how we can withdraw, but how we can win and then use what has been won as a lever against the remaining terrorist states in the region.  Yes, many Iraqis may object to our building military bases there, but unless their government decides we cannot, we must press on.  Our job is not to please 100% of the Iraqi population.  It is to end the threats to American interests coming from Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia.  It is to end the financial support of terrorism flowing through the UAE. Our policy must be regime change in at least the first three, and probably others.  Those who don't have the stomach for it can carp and whine.  But -- whether they like it or not -- we are at war and we have to win it.  As Coach Lombardi said, winning isn't everything: it's the only thing.

 

Bates, Lindorff, Kerry -- and their ilk -- don't trust America to act on its own. They think we need some multinational chaperone to accompany us on carefully-controlled outings in the world. Their distrust of America, were it mirrored in distrust for America's enemies -- would be of greater value than what they say and believe now.  Then again, almost anything would be.  

 

FP: Gentlemen, while Mr. Lindorff has ordered me to keep silent in my own symposium, I think I will risk the unknown and dare to make a comment anyway.

 

Mr Lindorff, you state thatwhen the U.S. lost and left Vietnam, it effectively put an end to the slaughter that took the lives of several million innocent Vietnamese.” With transparent disdain and indifference, you remark “there may well have been retributional killings in Vietnam and Laos, which would be no surprise.”

 

These “retributional killings” seem to be an irrelevancy to you and, moreover, an understandable, excusable and perhaps even admirable development.

 

This is no surprise of course. Lenin’s, Stalin’s and Mao’s terror, as well as every communist terror, have all been either discounted or promoted by the Left, to one degree or another, as being part of some justified “retributional killings”. But they were obviously far more than that.

 

A Stalinist regime took over South Vietnam after the fall of Saigon and it began to perpetrate what all of its predecessors and successors perpetrated: mass liquidation of human life and freedom.

 

I am well aware, of course, that the Left doesn’t care about the human beings for whom it purports to speak (Joan Baez was a notable exception in the Vietnam context). So, as I expected, Mr. Lindorff, you couldn’t really care less about the terrible fate that will befall Iraqis if we withdraw, just as befell the South Vietnamese people when we left them to be conquered by the brutal and totalitarian North.

 

You are clearly not interested in the summary executions of the tens of thousands of innocent South Vietnamese that the North Vietnamese perpetrated after their victory.

 

These victims had done nothing to deserve “vengeance” -- unless being human represented a crime. And you are not interested in the hundreds of thousands of political prisoners who were thrown into prisons and forced labor camps without any formal charges of any kind.

 

It was this reign of terror that caused two million refugees and hundreds of thousands of boat people to plunge into the Gulf of Thailand and into the South China Sea. And it was this reign of terror that witnessed Hanoi initiate a vicious and sadistic pogrom against its ethnic Chinese citizens in 1978.

 

But I you know you couldn’t care less about all this. All that you really care about is that the U.S. lost in Vietnam and the communists won -- an end result that you discuss in this symposium with an evident glee that you can’t even conceal.

 

I know, I know, the viciousness with which the communists treated their new victims was all America’s fault. Just like Pol Pot’s genocide was -- as you allege -- America’s fault. This is typical leftist pedagogy: no matter what crime against humanity a totalitarian adversary of the U.S. ever commits, it is the devil that made them do it. And we obviously know who you think the devil is.

 

But the reality is that the communist tyrants who captured South Vietnam brutalized their new victims for the same reason the Khmer Rouge brutalized theirs: faithfulness to the Marxist-Leninist creed in general and to the Maoist creed in particular.

 

Mr. Lindorff, your position that the fall of Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge was unconnected to whether or not the U.S. had succeeded in its objectives is startling. It is simply a historical fact that the Khmer Rouge would not have achieved significant gains in Cambodia had it not been for the help of their North Vietnamese mentors (against whom they would turn only later). If you really believe Pol Pot would have come to power if the U.S. had succeeded in its military objectives throughout the region, then we are simply living on two different planets.

 

The Left flies into ecstasy at the idea that the Khmer Rouge’s genocide was somehow the result of the U.S. bombing of Cambodia in 1973. The only problem here, of course, is that the Khmer Rouge psychopaths were not Jeffersonians before 1973. They were the fanatic Stalinists they always were and always would be. Their intellectual leaders, who had all been radicalized in France’s universities (they called themselves Angka Loeu – “the Higher Organization”), had meticulously planned their leftist social engineering experiment far before their sensitivities were hurt by American bombing. 

 

The Khmer Rouge killed millions of human beings because, like Lenin, Stalin and Mao before them, they were motivated by the yearning for mass death and suicide, which all movements that worship totality yearn for. Pol Pot’s impulse to “wipe the slate clean,” impose violent collectivization, and to build a new man, all instincts based on leftist values, existed independently of what the Americans were doing.

 

And so that is what this symposium is about: the bloodbath that the communists perpetrated against the Indochinese people after America’s withdrawal from South East Asia will be repeated by the communists’ ideological totalitarian cousins -- the Islamists – in Iraq if we leave.

 

In any case, we have one more round to go gentlemen, Go ahead Mr. Lindorff, it’s your turn.

 

Lindorff: I’m forced into a three-way debate because the inaccurate and insufferable sponsor of this symposium can’t refrain from inserting himself, against the rules of engagement, into the discussion. That wouldn’t be so bad if he had anything intelligent to say. Instead, as before, he once again completely misstates what I had said, in order to return to his own ill-informed and disingenuous ranting.  To repeat: I do not disparage or approve of the killings that followed the end of the Vietnam War—I only point out that the number (and the moderator’s claim of 10s of thousands is grossly exaggerated and undocumented by him) of those who were killed when the Communists took over in South Vietnam was 1) far less than the number who were dying every year that the U.S. Continued the conflict and 2) was what one would expect at the end of any generation-long civil conflict (the same thing happened in the U.S. in the cases of the Revolution and Civil War).

By the way, I spent 5 years reporting from Hong Kong for Businessweek, and I did some reporting on, and met with, Vietnamese boat people who were confined there. Most were not, as the moderator claims, fleeing execution. While there are legitimate political refugees among them, they were mostly fleeing the bad economy in Vietnam, and the prejudicial policies that have been applied to former South Vietnamese officials and particularly to ethnic Chinese. The moderator doesn’t know what he’s talking about here.

Indeed, as we know from El Salvador and Guatemala—two places where U.S. client governments took power after defeating leftist insurgencies—the same kind of slaughter would have occurred had the U.S. puppet regime in South Vietnam won and defeated the Viet Cong (Indeed, that very type of slaughter was conducted by the U.S. With the blessing of its puppet regime in Saigon in the early days of the war under the name Phoenix Program, which our own former CIA director Colby has admitted).

This is simply a stupid argument the moderator is making. Both sides in that war were vicious killers. Our side just killed more methodically and in bigger numbers, by a factor of 10. Likewise his know-nothing rant about Pol Pot. It’s not a question of whether Pol Pot would not have come to power had the U.S. “succeeded” in Vietnam. The point is that the U.S. couldn’t succeed in Vietnam because it was defeated. I guess the moderator  buys into the revisionist claim that the U.S. could have won if only the peaceniks like me had not sapped America’s will. The moderator should have stayed in his chair where he belonged. His only form of argument is ad hominem and distortion, and he adds nothing to this discussion except comic relief.

Babbin doesn’t deserve a response because he takes the same approach—name calling (ignorant and loony) and guilt by association (like Chomsky, your friend Kofi Annan).

I’m not “like Chomsky” or “Chomsky-lite” and I’m not particularly enamored of Annan, who has largely been a front-man for American interests at the U.N., which was why the U.S. Helped put him in his position, though even he ultimately realized the disaster that the U.S. Invasion of Iraq has been and has dared to speak his mind.

By the way, Bubie, I read plenty—just not the Heritage Foundation and Hudson Foundation types of screeds that you apparently favor.

I will thank Babbin for his reference to my new book “This Can’t Be Happening!” however (available from Amazon, B&N or direct from Common Courage at their website (www.commoncouragepress.com). He says that anyone who speaks of
“the mendacity, the venality, the cruelty, the danger and the sheer looniness of the Bush Presidency, the Iraq War, the so-called "War" on Terror, and the assault on the American Constitution,” or who says “...the Bush team lifted a page from the Hitler/Goebbels playbook before the smoke had even cleared from Ground Zero,” or who exposes  “how Attorney General John Ashcroft and Fox TV tried to recreate in America the East German Stasi's nation of citizen spies..." is in need of “therapy.”

Well, which of these parts of my book are delusional, dude?

You don’t think there was mendacity and venality on the part of the Bush administration when it went ahead and claimed to the American public that it had solid evidence that Iraq was seeking to import yellow cake from Niger or centrifuge tubes from Europe? You don’t think it was cruel to send American troops into battle without providing them with body armor? Don’t think it was cruel to use depleted uranium munitions and anti-personnel weapons in urban settings? Don’t think it was cruel to tell the military it could ignore the Geneva Conventions and that it would be okay to inflict pain on captured Iraqi and Afghani fighters?  Don’t think the Bush administration has evidenced looniness in running up multi-trillion-dollar deficits during wartime, installing up an anti-ballistic-missile system that has never worked, or denying that the globe is warming?  

You may think Bush reveres the Constitution, but surely you aren’t saying that those who disagree with you and think he has assaulted it by holding U.S. citizens indefinitely without charge or access to a lawyer are delusional do you? I guess you think former Congressman Barr is delusional too, eh?  As for the point about lifting a page from Goebbels’ playbook, I stand by that very rational observation.  I sincerely doubt that FDR or Churchill would have reacted to the 9/11 attacks by telling Americans that our way of life, our survival as a nation, were at threat, and that we should be hiding in “safe” rooms of plastic sheeting and duct tape while surrendering our rights to the Patriot Act. I think both would have said America is stronger than a gang of theocratic nuts, and that our freedoms and our society would triumph by staying the course.  Bush and his gang chose fear over courage and continue to do so.

It’s classic Goebbels. Fear, the big lie, and a nice patriotic war.   Finally, about that Stasi reference. I guess Babbin forgot about Ashcroft’s mad scheme, Operation TIPS, which had the stated goal of enrolling as many as 20 million Americans to spy on their neighbors. Look it up Babbin. He really planned to do it, until conservative Congressman Dick Armey flat out refused to let Congress pass any bill that would “pay to have Americans spying on other Americans.”  You want loony? Ashcroft had his department refer early TIPS volunteers to Fox-TV’s “America’s Most Wanted” TV program with their tips about suspicious neighbors.

At least Babbin is honest and accurate about one thing (though only one). He makes it clear that liberation is not what the U.S. is about in Iraq. It is about conquest.  As he puts it: “ The issue in Iraq is not how we can withdraw, but how we can win and then use what has been won as a lever against the remaining terrorist states in the region.”   I’d love to hear how Iraqis feel about suffering all this death and destruction not so that they can become a free and democratic state, standing proud in the community of nations, but so that they can be a “lever” for American policy.

Babbin goes on, in his moment of honest debate:   “Yes, many Iraqis may object to our building military bases there, but unless their government decides we cannot, we must press on.  Our job is not to please 100% of the Iraqi population.  It is to end the threats to American interests coming from Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia.  It is to end the financial support of terrorism flowing through the UAE. Our policy must be regime change in at least the first three, and probably others.  Those who don't have the stomach for it can carp and whine.  But -- whether they like it or not -- we are at war and we have to win it.”  Notice here that we don’t have to ask permission to establish permanent military bases in supposedly sovereign Iraq (remember that? We already handed over sovereignty in June). We can just do it, unless their government decides we cannot (imagine the puppet government of Iraq, installed by America, telling a country with 140,000 armed soldiers in your country, that they can’t do anything!).  And why? Not to protect Iraq from domestic chaos, which might make at least some sense, but so we can threaten three of Iraq’s neighbors, with which one would assume its fledgling government might more profitably attempt to develop friendly relations.

What imperialist audacity!  I bet you this guy wouldn’t stand on a street, or even a government office, in Baghdad and utter this crap.
    
And so to my friend Clifford, the only one of this trio who knows how to argue on the merits.

No Cliff, I don’t think an American defeat in Iraq is “necessary” or “desirable.” I think that the war itself was not necessary or desirable.  It was a diversion from the fight against terror, from the pursuit of Bin Laden, and from political difficulties here at home. And it’s a disaster of epic proportions. Don’t ask me. Ask the generals who have had the guts to say so. Ask the CIA or the Israeli think tank that have come to the same general conclusion. Ask the British think tank that says we’ll be there for five more years just waiting for the Iraqi’s to develop their own domestic security force.

What I think is that Iraqis, tortured as it has been for decades and most recently by this totally unnecessary conflict, will ultimately have to make their own future.

You take the pessimistic view that if the U.S. Leaves, a few thousand militants will be able to dictate that future by being more violent than the 24 million ordinary Iraqis. Or that the Stalinists of the Baathist past will make a brutal return to power.  I concede that may happen, but it may happen five years from now just as easily as it could happen next month were the U.S. to leave. Indeed, if we keep on fighting and killing Iraqis, as we are likely to be doing in greater and greater numbers as the insurgency grows, such an outcome becomes more probably as the years drag on.  We have installed a leader who himself is a former Baathist, and who seems to have retained those proclivities, so I don’t see where we’re really avoiding the issue. All we’re doing is growing an insurgency by our continued occupation of Iraq.

I think the real problem is that the Bush administration and the Pentagon have continued to pretend, or imagine perhaps, that they are “liberating” Iraq, when they are really clearly “occupying” Iraq.  The model is not Holland or Denmark, which were genuinely liberated from Nazi rule, and immediately were left to their own devices to reestablish their own national governments and societies. It is Germany or Japan, where the U.S. had to go through a whole de-Nazification or de-militarization process, run the countries for a time, and gradually hand over power.  If we admitted this at the start, there might have been less confusion. We still don’t admit it though. We pretend there is a sovereign government in Iraq, while we are really running the show. We insult the Iraqi people by doing what we want, when we want to do it. We kill civilians every day with bombs, rockets and gunships (including hundreds of children), but insist that our “army of liberation” is exempt from punishment. And we expect things to improve.

I believe, more optimistically, that if the U.S. were to simply leave over a matter of several months, that the Iraqi people would rise to the occasion. We might not like the result, but I think that the Shiite population, in particular, has found its voice and its power, and will no longer be subjected to Sunni/Baathist domination.  Out of the mess that British colonial mapmakers have made of Mesopotamia, there would arise some kind of a viable system—perhaps separate countries, perhaps a tenuous federation, perhaps a unified Iraq. It might be a type of government most Americans would reject as undemocratic or theocratic. But as long as it was not threatening its neighbors, or the U.S., that would really not be our business.

I see no point in continuing the slaughter and brutality in Iraq.

The statistics are undeniable—the major contributor to death and injury of civilians in Iraq is the U.S. Military. Worse yet, the U.S, according to our friendly sovereign regime in Baghdad, has been killing civilians at twice the rate it is killing enemy fighters.  

With figures like that, the best thing we can do is leave.

The sooner the better.

Though I do think we’d better plan on providing a huge amount of foreign assistance to the country we wrecked. As Secretary of State Colin Powell so aptly put it in a cautionary observation to Bush on the eve of the invasion, “You break it, you’ve bought it.” (Note that he didn’t say, “You break it, you better keep on breaking it.”)

Bates: I''m not sure what all the vitriol is about. We have differences. I'm not going to start accusing my opponents of bad intentions; I'm puzzled as to why they imply that of me. I don't think you are ignorant; I'd appreciate the same respect from you. You claim I don't care. I take your concerns as genuine; I'd like the same.

1. We signed onto UN charter article 51. We should abide by it.

2. What does "winning" mean in this context? As I said, we already achieved the stated objectives--ousting Saddam and eliminating WMDs (or in this case discovering that there weren't any). Why not declare victory and leave? Our goal was not to gain acceptance of U.S. troops in Iraq, so if they don't accept us, that is hardly a defeat. Does winning mean staying in Iraq when most Iraqis want you to leave? I note you don't rebut the poll I cited... Our record at "winning" isn't very pretty. We've helped install a fair number of dictators around the world (Shah of Iran comes to mind). As far as fostering democracy, I think the record shows we aren't qualified as a nation to succeed.

3. Note that concern for those we occupy has been used by every occupying power as an excuse to continue an occupation. Suppose the Soviets had said, "we want to stay in Afghanistan because the Taliban would be worse." We would have laughed at that, rightly. Even if true it wouldn't excuse their occupation. They had no right to be there. My point is that this concept, occupations are illegal, applies to all occupying powers, not just to those we don't like.

4. Am I concerned about a bloodbath if we leave? Sure. But we are in the middle of a bloodbath now, with some 200 Iraqis killed in one week, according to the NYT.

5. Lastly, you are concerned about terrorism if we pull out. A valid concern. So is the concern about fomenting it if we keep up the current bloodbath... We are generating more recruits for their madness than they could ever hope to on their own. We killed 3000 civilians in Afghanistan, bombed the Red Cross (twice). How do you think THEY see it? Here's a taste from Scott Baldauf, “Culture of Revenge Stalks U.S. in Afghanistan,” Christian Science Monitor, January 14, 2003:

“Haji Din Mohammad’s family has been marked by two tragic acts. The first was an American bombing raid in December 2001 that killed his nephew Zeni Khel in a local mosque. The second was the urder of an American CIA agent a month later by another nephew in an act of revenge. It’s this eye-for-an-eye code of Mr. Mohammad’s Pashtun ethnic group that Al Qaeda and its allies are exploiting to create new suicide squads in Afghanistan, say Afghan intelligence officials. They are drawing new recruits from families who have suffered in the past year of war. With motives and methods copies from Palestinian suicide bombers, the young men pose the newest, and perhaps gravest, threat to the young government, to American aid workers, and to U.S. troops. ‘I am too old to feel revenge,’ says Mohammad, the family elder. ‘But for our youths, revenge is like an ember that burns in your heart.’”

Unless we start listening to those we are killing, they will find some way to exact revenge. That is what I lose sleep over.

*

To finish reading this symposium, click here.


Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at jglazov@rogers.com.


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