The Inner Morality Of Iraqi Freedom

Michael J. Totten has an absolutely brilliant piece on the immorality of the anti-war position where he intellectually skewer’s The Nation’s Paul Savoy. His arguments are quite clear and show exactly why taking the anti-war position is not taking the moral high ground. A sample:

He fails, at this point in the piece anyway, to take into account that Saddam Hussein killed more Iraqis by orders of magnitude than the U.S. has or ever will. I know he knows this. He comes right out and acknowledges as much later on in the same article. He apparently thinks – he must think on some level – that it’s morally better if a lot of people die by someone else’s hand than if a few die by ours. This is nothing if not an abrogation of responsibility and a total lack of regard for the well-being of the people in question. The same rationale would tell us to let Slobodan Milosovic put the Muslim population of Europe to the sword. The same rationale excuses our (and everyone else’s) refusal to stop the past genocide in Rwanda and the current one in Sudan. It’s a great and terrible shrug. The post-Holocaust notion of “Never Again” doesn’t even enter in the equation. Did anyone who said “never again” mean a tyrant has to be exactly as bad as Hitler to be worth stopping? No. Even if that’s what was meant, Mr. Savoy still never takes that into account. In his view, genocide can only be resisted by the victims. Never by a well-armed third party.

It’s true that many people are dead in Iraq because of what we did. It’s equally true that a larger number are alive because of what we did. The well-being of Iraqis isn’t even remotely what’s at issue to Mr. Savoy. He only cares that we are morally pure. Tyranny, barbarism, and genocide are fine with him in a lesser-evil sort of way as long as we can sit safe and sound on our side of the ocean and not have to dirty ourselves by messing with it.

Not only is this morally reprehensible, it isn’t even logical. We do not sit safe and sound on this side of the ocean as the terrorism on September 11, preceded by Al Qaeda’s genocidal death warrant, has already shown. The political culture of the Middle East absolutely is our business. Middle Eastern political science topples buildings and kills thousands in our own cities.

Paul Savoy is a September 10th person. He doesn’t understand that we’re at war whether we’re happy about it or not.

At the end of the day, the anti-war position would have left Saddam Hussein in power. That isn’t an idea that is even remotely debatable. There is some question as to how long his regime could have lasted, but without any major domestic opposition the most likely answer is decades – and then Iraq would be ruled by the sadism of Uday and Qusay.

In order to justify the anti-war position, one has to prove that either Saddam Hussein wasn’t a tyrant, which is prima facie unsupportable, or that the greater interest of the world wasn’t served by removing him. The second is an argument that can be made on reasonable grounds, but it still doesn’t hold water.

The most common argument from the anti-war crowd in response to the humanitarian argument is that "there are many other dictators in the world, so why focus on only Saddam?" This argument seems reasonable on a prima facie basis, but it doesn’t withstand any rhetorical scrutiny. We cannot realistically overthrow every dictatorship on the planet. It simply isn’t possible. So, if we accept the argument that no dictator can be overthrown by the US without dealing with all dictators, then no dictator can ever be overthrown. By that logic, attacking Hitler was wrong, because leaving Stalin in power would invalidate everything done to overthrow Hitler.

Obviously this isn’t an ethically acceptable position to take. The logic behind this statement is fallacious and the moral repercussions of a philosophy of absolute consistency on human rights would forever tie the hands of any state that wished to overthrow a dictatorial regime. It’s a false dichotomy – saying that we can either expel no dictator or expel them all, while conveniently ignoring the fact that removing one tyrannical regime creates a net benefit to the world.

The next argument is that the United Nations is the only arbiter of a just war. Again, this idea has no basis in ethics or law. Ethically the United Nations is very likely to have been involved in illegally funding Saddam Hussein’s war machine through the widespread corruption of the UN’s Oil-for-Food program. It is not ethically acceptable for any group that has ties to the Hussein regime and has a strong economic interest in the continuation of that regime to be allowed to decide the future of the Iraqi people. Yet in order to argue that the UN should have been allowed to decide the fate of the Iraqi people one must make exactly that argument.

Furthermore, by that very same logic, Bill Clinton’s war in Kosovo against Slobodon Milosevic was immoral and illegal, and Clinton should have been impeached for those actions. There was no UN resolution authorizing force against Milosevic. Milosevic posed absolutely no threat to the US or its interests. Attacking Milosevic was not in any way shape or form an act of self-defense.

Yet George Soros didn’t spend $15 million on getting rid of Clinton, and doesn’t compare Clinton’s foreign policy to Hitler’s war crimes. However, if one wishes to remain even remotely consistent and make the argument that Bush’s war in Iraq is immoral, they must apply the same criteria to Clinton. If Bush is a war criminal, then Clinton must be too. I wouldn’t be holding my breath for that.

The next argument is that the Abu Ghraib prison scandal means that the US doesn’t have any real interest in Iraqi democracy. This is a classic example of the fallacy of composition. One dozen soldiers doing something horrible does not mean that the other 135,000 are bad. The events of Abu Ghraib prison under the US involved inappropriate and disgusting abuse of prisoners. The abuses of Abu Ghraib prison under Saddam Hussein involved the wholesale slaughter and mutilation of thousands of people. One cannot dismiss the latter while hyping the former and argue that they’re taking the moral high ground. The abuses at Abu Ghraib under the US, while horrible, do not morally compare to the abuses under Saddam. Again, if one were to apply this principle as a constant, then those involved in fraternity hazings should be treated equally with murderers. Both are inappropriate practices, but the severity is manifestly different. Yet the left commonly attributes the actions of the few to the whole without any consideration of the ramifications of the argument.

By comparison, thousands of US troops are rebuilding Iraqi infrastructure, helping the Iraqis get food and medicine, and assisting in other forms of humanitarian aid. Arguing that the conduct of the guards at Abu Ghraib invalidates all of these efforts is not logically or ethically sustainable.

These are but a few of the handful of anti-war arguments that are frequently abused at the hands of the anti-war left. They are all exceptionally poor arguments and are treated as axioms rather than as assertions subject to debate. Attempts to do so are usually met with the typical ad hominem accusations of being a "fascist neocon" or the like. The efforts by the anti-war left to seek the moral high ground simply don’t match the reality of the situation. As I’ve written before, we can say with absolute certainty that the people of Iraq are better off without Saddam Hussein. By all objective measures, while Iraq remains unsettled, the rate of innocents being killed was orders of magnitude higher than they were under Saddam Hussein. This war has saved countless lives. It has not increased terrorism, as the number of terrorist acts has fallen in the last year. Every single poll of the Iraqi people find overwhelming support for the removal of Saddam. The humanitarian justification of the war should be a prima facie argument on the side of the war. Arguing that Saddam Hussein is better than George W. Bush is not only wrong, it’s morally and ethically repugnant, and it demeans the very real suffering of the Iraqis maimed and killed under Saddam Hussein’s bloodthirsty and tyrannical rule.

Yet none of these facts seems to have made sunk in among the members of the anti-war left. The same arguments are repeatedly trotted out ad infinitum, regardless of the facts at hand. One cannot reasonably argue that living under the bootheel of Saddam Hussein is an acceptable way to live. Given that premise, it can therefore be said that removing the Hussein regime is a good thing. Most sensible critics of the war have no trouble accepting these premises. However, the logical conclusion of that given that we accept freedom as a value worth fighting for and defending, is that fighting for and defending the freedom of the Iraqi people must therefore be weighed into consideration. Was this goal worth the loss of life in Iraq, both coalition and Iraqi?

The results of the war are that 25 million people have a chance to be free. Far many lives have been lost in far less noble pursuits. One can only argue that Iraq is not ready for democracy via the racist implication that the Iraqi people are not developed enough to support democracy – ignoring that democracy must start somewhere, and even if Iraq doesn’t become a fully-democratic state overnight anything would be better than the status quo. Our troops didn’t die for Bush, or for oil, or for any of the other distractions that are thrown in the way of discussing the real reasoning behind the war. Those who were killed died to make our country safer from terrorism by changing the Middle East from a place where terrorism, autocracy, and poverty are the rule to a place where individual rights, democracy, and tolerance have a chance to flourish. We owe it to them to ensure that such a great sacrifice was not made in vain.

7 thoughts on “The Inner Morality Of Iraqi Freedom

  1. At the end of the day, the rational person would have fixed Afghanistan before biting off another war that we couldn’t chew.

    At the end of the day, the rational person would have invaded Saudi Arabia, not Iraq – that’s the nest of terrorism, the seat of Wahhabi, and the money that backed Osama.

    Instead, we’ve got a president bought and paid for by the Saudis.

  2. 1-“If you ask someone to tell you what a word mean each time you don’t know a word, you will never learn any of these words.” This is a famous sentence for french teachers, requiring students to look for themselves in the dictionary when needed. The best way would have been for iraqis to free themselves, which would have happen eventually. Who could have foreseen the french revolution when looking at the power of the king before that? But it did happen!

    2-“Why focus on Saddam” issue: Saddam was rather quiet since the last kick he received from the international community in 91. Observers were touring the countries looking for stuff, while french and american satellites were scanning the desert, and that not a silverspoon of iron could enter the country…on the other hand, an old leader with real nuclear capacity was starting to make some noise…granted you cannot remove all dictators at the same time, but why go for saddam and not for Kim? On another level, removing dictators is a nice goal. Who decide who is a dictator and who is not? The US alone? Now that you have answered “yes the US alone, who else? why not?”, may I remind you that you have created the UN, because the world is safer when everyone know it has a grip on it…got it?

    3-Of course the UN are so corrupt…and the USare so weak…and the US have no responsibility in the fact that such a program had to be put in place…

    4-Bill Clinton in Kosovo didn’t had the UN on his side because of Russia’s veto, but all other 14 members of the Security council were ok, which created the concept of moral majority…in no way the Irak war II had it! the opposite is true. Moreover, there was nothing to gain for the US in going in this war, except prevent a genocide. In Irak, even if it wasn’t “all for oil”, oil was definitely a reason (unless Bush, Cheney and Rice were not involved at all in the business…)

    5-No the torture in Abou Graid wasn’t just a dozen soldiers misbehavior: It was US army policy to overrule the Geneva Convention. It was a high level decision. Bush and Rumsfeld knew about it for month, and did nothing to stop it untill the public heard about it.

    6-In the end, are you familiar at all with the theories of the neocons? Knowing the precepts of Leo Strauss, I can certified it is pure fascim in the nazi sens of it: only the US is powerful and educated, our interests are the only to be supported, why should we care about what other think or say…maybe you could make a small presentation of this theory, and tell us what do you find so attractive in it. Maybe we could then understand why you like unilateral measures so much. Please, since you support these views, make us understand why it is so great.

    7-“the number of terrorist acts has fallen in the last year”…the people in Madrid are listenning. And for the countless lives saved, please keep in mind that this is not over…people are still dying today. If you want to compare how many lives you’ve saved, and how many people you’ve killed, you would need figures, evidences, something! You have nothin untill now. The only figure that is for sure is that the american suppotr for Bush and his war are at their lowest ever. That is true and telling.

  3. 1 – The Iraqi people could not have freed themselves, and even if they could it would have meant hundreds of thousands dead civilians and potentially years of bloody civil war.

    Oh, I get it, Iraqi lives only matter when they can be used as an anti-American propaganda point.

    2 – Satellites can’t loiter over a target, and the Iraqis slipped thousands of oil tankers across the Turkish, Iranian and Syrian border over the years – tankers that could have been filled with anything.

    3 – The old “when in doubt, blame the US” trick is getting old. The US wasn’t stealing humanitarian aid, Benon Savon and Kojo Annan were.

    4 – This point is irrelevant. France and Russia both had strong reasons to keep Hussein’s bloody regime alive because they were getting illegal kickbacks from the oil-for-food program. They should not have been allowed to have a say in the future of the Iraqi people when they were profiting from their deaths at the hands of Saddam.

    5 – No, the incidents at Abu Ghraib were not officially sanctioned. The interrogation methods used on al-Qaeda prisoners didn’t include the sort of things that went on at Abu Ghraib, and unlike the UN’s complicity in the torture of thousands of innocent Iraqis, those responsible for these acts will end up spending most of their lives in jail while Benon Savon retires to his Cyprus villa and spends his Ba’athist blood money.

    6 – Bullshit. I’ve read Strauss, and there’s nothing even remotely like that in any of his works. Furthermore, Strauss was forced to flee Germany in 1938 because of Hitler and was a life-long anti-fascist. His arguments about the extremes of moral nihilism and decadence are being proven true right now via Europe’s inability to recognize the threat of Islamofacism, its moral nihilism, and it’s radical increase in anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism.

    7 – The facts don’t lie. Madrid is one incident, and the overall number of terrorist incidents is down.

    According to Amnesty International, 400,000 Iraqi children were killed between 1997-2003 – meaning that 80,000 children were being killed by Hussein’s regime every year. Those are just the number of children killed by Hussein (with the help of the war criminals in charge of the UN’s Oil for Food program).

    250,000 Marsh Arabs were wiped out in one year when Saddam Hussein cleared the marshes of Southern Iraq.

    The estimated deaths in Baghdad alone from Saddam’s secret police in the last few years are around 60,000.

    The human costs of war are always terrible. The human costs of leaving a vicious and bloodthirsty tyrant like Saddam Hussein in power for as much as one more year are beyond comprehension. 15,000 dead is bad. 150,000 dead and 25 million enslaved is worse.

  4. I agree with the principle of eliminating terror at its source, and I support the use of military force to do just that. And Jay is right that we need to concentrate our efforts on the worst of the worst.

    Bit Iraq fit absolutely none of those descriptions. At most it’s an ancillary node in the web of terror. There are plenty of worse places than Iraq was.

    If Bush and you neocons had wanted to really stike the heart of terror, you would have invaded Saudi Arabia:

    1) Saudi Arabia is the source of Wahhabi Islam, the fundamentalist sect most associated with terror.

    2) It’s the clearinghouse for the supplies of money that bankroll Islamic terror organizations.

    3) Most of the 9/11 highjackers were Saudi, as is OBL.

    If the president wanted to be tough on terror, he would have taken strong action against Saudi Arabia. But instead we have a president who’s so deep in Saudi pockets that he’s willing to act as their own personal airline.

    Bush is weak on terror because the Iraq debacle is at best a distraction from the war on terror and at worst, a criminal misappropriation of funds and troops that weakens us here and abroad. It’s just that simple.

    Oh, and I love the shifting neocon goalposts when pressed on the Iraq justifications:

    “But Iraq wasn’t necessary to the war on terror!”

    Neocon: “You barbarian! You don’t care about the Iraqi people we’re helping! That was the point of the war!”

    “But we’re making things worse, not better, for Iraqis.”

    Neocon: “You barbarian! We didn’t invade Iraq for the Iraqis, we invaded to fight the war on terror!”

    Rinse and repeat. Doesn’t your neck get sore, Jay, the way you’re talking out of both sides of your face?

  5. Jay- a very well written analysis, one of the best defenses of our cause in Iraq I have seen. If only more dems took courses in argumentation or parliamentary debate, imagine how much more challenging it would be for people like us to refute them.

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