Most mornings, I have to turn off Radio 4′s Today programme from time to time, out of annoyance at some particularly distorted or agenda-laden piece. This morning, I just can’t face it at all. So I’m starting the day with the Iraqi blogosphere.
There’s a controversy raging over an angry post from one of the most pro-American blogs, Iraq The Model, that responded to the recent study of Iraqi mortality rates that was published in the Lancet. Here is a taste of their anger:
Among the things I cannot accept is exploiting the suffering of people to make gains that are not the least related to easing the suffering of those people. I’m talking here about those researchers who used the transparency and open doors of the new Iraq to come and count the drops of blood we shed.
Human flesh is abundant and all they have to do is call this hospital or that office to get the count of casualties, even more they can knock on doors and ask us one by one and we would answer because we’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.
We believe in what we’re struggling for and we are proud of our sacrifices.
Iraqi Konfused Kid took exception to this post and an e-mail and blog post debate then followed, which included some of the most prominent citizen commentators in Iraq. Konfused Kid summarises the debate here.
Salam Adil (not his real name), a London-based Iraqi provides another interesting commentary on this controversy while Treasure of Baghdad surveys the opinions of some Iraqi bloggers, many of them involved in the Iraq The Model debate.
As a pro-war, pro-intervention, pro-regime change advocate, I have a duty to read and understand these conflicting opinions from Iraq, and to use them to question my own opinions. So I did.
Treasure of Baghdad’s questions included:
Compared to the current situation in Iraq, how different was it before the war?
Do you think the war was worth it or not? Why?
Answers to the latter question ranged from:
Yes. The war was totally worth it.
Not worth it. All the deaths, the injured & handicapped people & all those who had forced to leave their homes are big price for what we got today.
Most of the replies were more nuanced, with one (from a blogger called Zeyyad) being:
I’m afraid to answer that question.
It’s clear from the replies that while that particular jury is out right now, a year ago they would have been overwhelmingly of the opinion that the invasion had been worth it. The problem has not so much been the war, as the “peace” that has followed. And with peace like this, who needs wars?
So what’s happening in the West right now? The British army is openly, on websites and in newspapers, arguing for withdrawal. Public opinion follows. The U.S. seems to be on the brink of an anti-war swing. Australia stands firm, naturally.
I still stand by my support for the invasion, though my reasons were not those given by the UK and US governments. I have been, therefore, a fellow traveller rather than a supporter of Bush and Blair. There’s no doubt that the aftermath has been an almighty cock-up, though. But we are where we are.
So what would happen if there was an abrupt withdrawal of western armies from Iraq? The least plausible answer is the most commonly given, that a new strongman would emerge and unify the country. Sunni, Shia and Kurd elements are too strong for any to be overcome completely in their areas of control.
Most likely, there’d be a Balkans style break up complete with ethnic cleansing, something that is happening already. If anything, there is good evidence that the presence of western troops is acting as a brake on the rate of murder, unlike the failure of UN missions in the former Yugoslavia, but that’s too complicated to get sidetracked into here so I’ll post about it later.
If true, this means that the people urging a withdrawal of troops now because there has been a high level of mortality so far are in fact urging that the mortality rate should be left to climb, unencumbered, to even higher levels.
And what of the Lancet survey? It’s hard to say. Stop-the-War folk have embraced it and pro-war types argued against it. That’s predictable enough. There are clearly problems with these sorts of statistical approaches, and the same team had to discard some of their own data during the 2004 study, that showed a population of Fallujah of perhaps 60,000 people (the rest had fled the “Second Battle of Fallujah”) sustained casualties of 200,000 dead. (A pro-Lancet argument why this doesn’t matter is made here).
All very interesting, when it comes to future decisions. For now, we are bound to stay and help make Iraq become peaceful, remain democratic, and gain the full and unencumbered independence of the West and its neighbours that it deserves.
Second day of student protests continued today in Tehran over the illegal detention of student leaders and regime’s interference in the internal election of student committees. The reason to interfere in these election is because regime doesn’t want vocal and freedom loving students to lead these committees at all.
Blogged in solidarity with Iranian democrats everywhere.
The Iraqi blogger Iraq The Model reports:
Nothing changed in my life as a Baghdadi since my city was announced a part of the Islamic State of al-Qaeda.
Of course I did not expect an improvement in electricity, security or other services but I was at least expecting a change in life style under the leadership of the new caliph Abu Omar al-Baghdadi (Abu who??).
So what has changed then since the declaration?
Really, what was the cost or the effect on the ground other than the ink they used to print their announcement or the pennies they paid al-Jazeera to spread the news?!
To me it looks like the position of al-Qaeda has gotten so bad after the heavy blows it received at the hands of our liberators in the MNF and our brave brothers in our army and the patriots who rejected al-Qaeda and its agenda.
I think this was what forced those losers to make this meaningless announcement of a fake state. It reflects the undeniable desperation and the abandoning of their original ambitions, from a victory that drives away the Americans and the Iraqis who believed in the change to a pathetic maneuver such as this one.
But we are still here, at least the majority of us are,
Our liberators and allies are still here,
The voters are still here and the elected are still here.
The al-Qaeda is left with nothing but to fantasize about creating a caliph state as long as they still have a foothold in the country and hope that some locals would change their mind and side with them.
“Our liberators and allies are still here”.
Let’s keep it like that as long as they need us.
Over at Spiked, Dolan Cummings, co-convenor of the Battle of Ideas, makes his (excellent) case for freedom of speech.
…to argue for free speech is to make the case for free-thinking, reasoned debate and genuine tolerance. It is also to put forward a particular understanding of how society functions and the role of individual and collective agency, which is very different from the fearful and conservative worldview that gives birth to censorship and taboos. Instead, it is a worldview that allows for the possibility that things could be very different, and that human beings could be the authors of our own destinies. Rather than seeing change as a threat and seeking to contain discord, we can talk openly about the future, exchange ideas and argue over them rather than trying to suppress those that make us uncomfortable.
Freedom of speech is not merely a means to an end, then, or a rhetorical trick. It is an invitation to live a free life.
The Times interviews a former member of the janjaweed milita from Sudan.
Dily, a Sudanese Arab, recounts how for three years he and his fellow Janjawid charged the farming villages of Darfur on their camels and horses, raking the huts with gunfire and shouting: “Kill the slaves. Kill the slaves.”
He reckons he attacked about 30 villages in all, and cannot count the people he shot. The villages were invariably destroyed, he says. The homes were burnt to the ground and the men, women and children killed — sometimes with the help of government airstrikes. If there were survivors “they would be left there . . . They couldn’t get help. Sometimes they made it to camps but mostly they died of thirst or starvation”.
While Newsnight reported that:
we have a world exclusive interview with a former member of the Janjaweed who was involved in raids that massacred thousands of civilians.
He claims he was acting on orders from the Sudanese Government.
The Times also reports from Darfur on the state of the African Union peacekeeping force:
“They are seen as Keystone cops, nothing more than a token force designed to show Africa is taking the crisis seriously when everyone knows it is not. It is disgraceful to think people’s lives depend on such a force,” an aid worker recently told The Times.
Senior officers say they have orders to report violations, not to intervene. “If there is fighting going on, we could get harmed . . . That is against the mandate,” Major Namara Gabriel, a Ugandan, declared.
Last year, Thabo Mbeki spoke to the National Assembly of Sudan:
…our shared colonial past left both of us with a common and terrible legacy of countries deeply divided on the basis of race, colour, culture and religion.
As of yesterday, Sudan has a Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The protracted and destructive war in the South has come to an end, never to return. It is also our firm view that that Peace Agreement and the new Sudan that will be born as a result of its implementation, provide a firm basis for the solution of other conflicts in Sudan, including the conflict in Darfur.
Today, I visited El Fasher in the Darfur region and have witnessed the challenges facing the government and people of Sudan in the area. I am confident that working together with the AU the leadership of this country will fully resolve the situation.
While George Galloway offers his analysis:
it is right that the remit of the African Union peacekeepers has been extended to the end of the year.
It provides a space to negotiate a peace, just as a peace was negotiated over the conflict in the south of Sudan.
But there are pro-imperialist forces that are seeking to prevent such a peace. They are the same forces that undermined the African Union mission. They want peace and the African peacekeepers to fail because they want a Western force in Sudan.
There are two reasons for this. First, it is about rehabilitating the discredited doctrine of humanitarian imperialism. Afghanistan was meant to be the great showcase for that. Look at it now. With every disaster in Afghanistan, Blair in particular is more and more desperate to find another benighted people he can liberate with daisy cutters and cluster bombs.
The second reason is that Sudan has oil reserves which might turn out to be among the largest in the world. It is a vast country.
We are being reminded by various cruise-missile liberals that its borders were created by colonial administrators. The subtext is clear – it is not a legitimate state, it’s a state we can feel free to bomb, as Bill Clinton did in 1998, wiping out half the country’s pharmaceutical capacity.
In the name of suffering black people, Bush and the neocons have their eyes on Sudan’s black gold.
Peter Tatchell in Tribune (not online) has a better analysis:
To date, between 200,000 and 400,000 people in Darfur have been killed and two million others displaced. Three million Darfurians now live a knife-edge existence, with many dependent on international aid for their survival.
The genocide in Darfur is not separate from the many other conflicts and brutalities in Sudan. It is one aspect of Khartoum’s generalised oppression of all Sudanese people.
Sudan is ruled by a harsh Islamist dictatorship. Human rights abuses are widespread. This is the elephant in the room that most people ignore when they discuss Darfur.
The mass murder of black Africans in Darfur is directly related to the fact that the government of Sudan is an Arab-dominated Islamist dictatorship.
The Darfur killing fields are a litmus test of the UN’s willingness to enforce international law and challenge murderous regimes. So far, the UN has failed the test. It has allowed the killing to continue. The signal to tyrants everywhere is that they can get away with mass murder. On this form, there will be many more Darfurs in the future.
Calling for UN action to save lives in Darfur isn’t neo-imperialism, as some on the left allege. It is international solidarity to secure justice – the liberation of the oppressed – in the same tradition as the global movements against apartheid South Africa. Doing nothing, which is what sections of left would prefer, is collision with the oppressors in Khartoum. How can it be right for the supposedly ‘anti-imperialist left’ to leave black Africans to die in their hundreds of thousands?
We know the fascist left is drawn inexorably to support every murderous tyranny in the world, but the left is not the only problem.
While African leaders like Mbeki have just one analytical tool – the lens of post-colonial solidarity – the suffering in Darfur, Zimbabwe and other parts of the continent of Africa will continue.
This is not just a failure of the U.N., it is a failure of African leadership.
Acknowledgement to Harry’s Place.
Headlines this morning from The Times.
Scientists say that a complete ban on cod fishing is the only way to save the species in the North Sea, after the complete failure of the European Union’s fishing policy.
Meanwhile, the E.U. is moving to ban standby settings on televisions and DVD players.
UPDATE: Instead of just making fun of the E.U., Tim Worstall has something useful to say on the subject of fishing.
In the Pope’s recent, controversial speech, he said, inter alia:
A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures.
I think that’s flying in the face of experience.
We have a global, rationalist, humanist culture that includes science that is not riven by violent misunderstanding. People might disagree about why the dinosaurs died out, or whether string theory is science – and these can be serious disputes about the work of lifetimes – but nobody beheads, and nobody has ever burned, anyone because they disagreed about such issues.
The dialogue of rational, sceptical people transcends all boundaries and unites us all. Through that unification, we explore each other’s cultures with interest and enthusiasm.
This is an interesting point. Has American pressure got anything to do with the Labour Party’s recent change of direction on Islamism?
Here’s one reason to think this might be an issue, from the C.I.A.’s website – a U.S. national Intelligence Council document. Quote:
A New Caliphate provides an example of how a global movement fueled by radical religious identity politics could constitute a challenge to Western norms and values as the foundation of the global system.
Hat tip – Sir Percy.