Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Quotes du Jour on the War

"History is an idea to you; to us it is our life. I’m a typical Iraqi. I love my country. I love my food, my way of life, I love the carpets, the mud of the Euphrates, Iraqi poetry, everything: this is my culture. If I feel proud, I recite my poets, and the rhythm comes back, and no other rhythm can supersede or remove it.

"What made Saddam Hussein powerful? Information. Whenever a person checked into a hotel, a paper with his full name and a copy of his passport was given to the security quarters. Iraq was a castle; a bird could not go in without being checked. If you caused offense, you could be put in prison for good. If you were lucky you would be tried one day; if not, then we have a word in Arabic that means you rot, as food rots.

"America did well to liberate Iraq. But Iraqis were used to tyranny and afraid of freedom. The Americans entered Iraq without a psychological program for dealing with this fact. Iraqis had been programmed according to another system of thought and feeling. America should have considered that."

-- WADDAH ALI

"If we don't begin a planned exit, there's a good chance we'll find ourselves in an unplanned one.

"It's surprising that by now we haven't experienced the Iraqi equivalent of the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut or the dragging of a corps of an American soldier through the streets of Mogadishu a decade later. But it seems likely that that day will come.

"So what do we do next:

"In short, develop a withdrawal scenario that includes whatever steps can reasonably be taken to minimize the chaos in our wake. A regional conference, talks with Syria and Iran, improved training and reconstruction efforts, political mediation and efforts to bolster the security of less violent regions should all be part of the package. To the extent we can engage Iraq's neighbors as well as any other global powers who are willing to step up to the plate and help us and Iraq, we should. We should be honest with ourselves and with the Iraqis about what we are doing and why, acknowledging all of the above rather than pretending that we're handing off a country that's in better shape than it is. But we should commit to getting out of there regardless of how the diplomacy and mediation progress.

"Our exit should be as responsible and forthright as our entrance was wanton and misleading. The best thing we can promise troops who are now being asked to put their lives at risk for an all-but-declared failure is that they are taking risks to enable the US to make the best out of a terrible situation, preserving what can be saved of both Iraqi stability (in geographic pockets) and of American credibility. Its by no means the mission they signed up for, but its an important one nonetheless."

-- SUZANNE NOSSEL

"In 1991, for those who keep insisting on the importance of sending enough troops, there were half a million already-triumphant Allied soldiers on the scene. Iraq was stuffed with weapons of mass destruction, just waiting to be discovered by the inspectors of UNSCOM. The mass graves were fresh. The strength of sectarian militias was slight. The influence of Iran, still recovering from the devastating aggression of Saddam Hussein, was limited. Syria was—let's give [then Secretary of State] Baker his due—'on side.' The Iraqi Baathists were demoralized by the sheer speed and ignominy of their eviction from Kuwait and completely isolated even from their usual protectors in Moscow, Paris, and Beijing. There would never have been a better opportunity to 'address the root cause' and to remove a dictator who was a permanent menace to his subjects, his neighbors, and the world beyond. Instead, he was shamefully confirmed in power and a miserable 12-year period of sanctions helped him to enrich himself and to create the immiserated, uneducated, unemployed underclass that is now one of the 'root causes' of a new social breakdown in Iraq. It seems a bit much that [Baker], principally responsible for all this should be so pleased with himself and that he should be hailed on all sides as the very model of the statesmanship we now need."
-- CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS
(Hat tip to Kevin Drum at Political Animal for Nossel quote)

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