inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #0 of 146: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 13 Nov 03 05:18
    
The supposedly-over but clearly still hot war in Iraq has obscured urgent
needs for political, diplomatic, and perhaps military action in other
parts of the Middle East, like Afghanistan and Pakistan. What do we gain
from this war and reconstruction, if by channeling our energies and money
into winning it, we lose so much on other fronts at a significant cost to
Western civilization. What have we gained?
 
This topic brings together vocal, knowledgeable members of the WELL
community for a compelling discussion of today's most urgent political
issue. We'll begin by asking the participants in the discussion to
introduce themselves.
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #1 of 146: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Thu 13 Nov 03 06:38
    
I'm Sharon Fisher, and while I'm an analyst for a computer research
group the primary reason I'm here is just that I like to yack about
this stuff. I am also the Boise coordinator for the Howard Dean Meetups
and the Idaho state coordinator for the Howard Dean Birthday Bash, so
I am coming at this with some bias. :-)
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #2 of 146: tambourine verde (barb-albq) Thu 13 Nov 03 08:19
    
Hi, I'm Barbara Wold, jill of all trades and master of some. I'm
currently working in the technical publishing business and have done
alot of writing and editing, primarily in the healthcare area. I'm here
because I'm a political junky and believe that this is a critical time
in the history of our republic. What happens with this war will
undoubtedly have a profound affect on the US and world economy,
international relations and security, and the future of healthcare and
social programs I will need to depend on in the future as baby boomers
like me approach retirement age.

I came of age in the 60s and am now an energetic Dean supporter too. 
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #3 of 146: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Thu 13 Nov 03 08:27
    
(Barb, are you in Albequerque?)
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #4 of 146: Ron Levin (eclectic2) Thu 13 Nov 03 08:36
    
Hi, I'm Ron Levin and I'm currently working as a reader for a movie
studio.  I also volunteer for a number of progressive organizations,
like Amnesty International, in their Prisoner of Conscience program.  

I'm interested in the Iraq war because, like Barb, I think this is a
key moment in the history of our country.  Its origins & outcome will
help define what kind of country we are & hope to become.  In addition,
it's an issue that could have a decisive impact on the upcoming
presidential election.  
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #5 of 146: tambourine verde (barb-albq) Thu 13 Nov 03 09:09
    
(Yes, I'm in Albuquerque, NM)
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #6 of 146: David Kline (dkline) Thu 13 Nov 03 10:06
    
My name is David Kline, and I apologize in advance for a more long-winded
post than those of my friends and fellow participants here. But I need a
bit more verbiage to try and set a different context for discussing the
war in Iraq than the usual one we see debated in the pres.

From 1979 to 1988, I spent a good deal of time on the ground in
Afghanistan covering the ultimately-successful armed resistance to the
Soviet invaders.

From the very beginning of my reportage from Afghanistan, I and a number
of my colleagues consistently tried to warn Washington and the American
public of the dangers posed by the then-small but heavily-funded Islamic
fundamentalist wing of the Afghan resistance. We recognized that these
people -- the precursors to the Taliban and Al Queda -- were unlike any
people or any political force any of us had ever seen, or Western
civilization had ever confronted.  And we repeatedly urged Washington to
force Pakistan to stop arming and funding these fundamentalists.

Finally, on May 24, 1988, on the eve of the Soviet withdrawal in defeat
from Afghanistan, I wrote my last article on the Afghan struggle.  It was
an editorial for the Christian Science Monitor, and in it I issued the
following warning:

"Unless Washington reigns in these [Islamic] fundamentalists, the hard-won
peace may be lost."

More than that, I suggested, unless they were stopped, the whole world
would have hell to pay.

I mention this not to claim any special prescience, because as I've noted,
other reporters and analysts were issuing similar warnings. The point,
rather, is to spotlight the nearly two decades-long history of missed
opportunities and failed policies on the part of the U.S. towards not just
to the Islamic world in general, but the all-important struggle against
Jihadist Islam in particular.

I believe that Western civilization -- and its enlightenment principles of
a secular society built upon the irreducible freedom of the individual,
even if imperfectly applied -- is engaged in an epic struggle against the
obscurantist forces of Taliban/Al Queda-style religious fundamentalism
that is every bit as important to our futures as the 75-year-long struggle
against communism was during the last century.
 
To me this is a crucial point in evaluating America's war in Iraq. Because
unlike many opponents of this war, my critique is not just that
Washington's policies in Iraq are illegal, immoral, and destructive of
treasure and lives. My position is not a pacifist one. 

In fact, my biggest critique of Washington is that it is fighting THE
WRONG WAR -- and in the process, crippling our ability to wage the JUST
and NECESSARY WAR against Jihadism that is so crucial to our survival.

Consider that while we flail about in the quagmire of Iraq, alienating 
ourselves from the vast majority of democratic, modern-minded Muslims 
throughout the world who should be our allies in the struggle against 
radical Islam, the real enemy -- Al Queda and its fellow Jihadists -- is 
gaining political and military strength in Pakistan. 

In fact, the fundamentalists may only be ONE ELECTION AWAY from gaining
constitutional control over Pakistan's 50 nuclear weapons.

Now to me, that's a helluva lot scarier a prospect than that the maniacal 
butcher of Baghdad, Saddam Hussein, might reclaim power one day.

So I think that's how we should evaluate the war in Iraq -- how is it
helping, or hurting, the life-and-death struggle we face against those who
would impose a Taliban future upon a large portion of our planet?

And since we have several activists in the Dean campiagn here, we should
consider a related question: Does Dean, or anyone, truly have a national
security strategy that addresses these concerns in a meaningful way?

Apologies again for being long-winded. I'll keep it short next time.
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #7 of 146: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Thu 13 Nov 03 10:18
    
Please don't! We're fortunate to have someone of your background here.
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #8 of 146: tambourine verde (barb-albq) Fri 14 Nov 03 13:08
    
I share most of the views expressed by <dkline>. I too believe the
real dangers to our democracy, security and freedom are gaining
strength while feeding on the blunders and blindness evident in Bush's
sorry Iraq policies. I don't see how increased chaos possibly helps the
"war on terror" and I don't see how Iraq figured prominently as a
terrorist base. Meanwhile, almost completely ignored is the return of
the Taliban in Afghanistan and the incredibly dangerous situation that
prevails in Pakistan. How is this helping to adddress the real problems
we face?
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #9 of 146: one big petri dish (jnfr) Fri 14 Nov 03 13:22
    
I love reading David's stuff. Please don't leave anything out, David!

I'm Jennifer Powell, and I live in Colorado these days. I work freelance in 
online communities for various corporations, and occasionally do some tech 
writing. My history is in fairly radical left-wing organizing through the 
70s and 80s, which left me disillusioned not only with the left but with 
people in general. 

I agree with everyone above that we are at a crucial historical juncture. I
also think that this administration has done just about everything wrong
that could have been done (the initial invasion of Afghanistan being one
thing I strongly supported). 

My unanswered question is: where do we go from here, given the current mess? 
What can we do that would actually lead us towards a safer and more stable 
world, rather than the rapidly escalating mess that is happening now?
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #10 of 146: David Kline (dkline) Fri 14 Nov 03 13:53
    
Thanks to the idiocy of our Dilettante Warriors in the White House (none
of whom have ever seen fighting close up), I fear that it's too late now
for anything in Iraq except disaster. The question is, How bad a disaster?

It looks like the White House may declare "victory" and abandon the crime
scene. If so, the only way that Iraqis themselves may be able to prevent
complete chaos and anarchy (not to mention the return of Saddam) might be
if the Shiites finally decide to take off the gloves and assert their
power. That may mean the formation of an Islamic rather than a secular
state, which is unfortunate but better than anarchy. The good news is that
so far everywhere Khomeini- or Taliban-style state power has been
implemented, the people have ultimately rejected it, so in the end a
clergy-ruled Iraq will likely be only temporary.

But what a shame this all had to happen. All this lost treasure and lives,
and for what? There were other ways to deal with Saddam, who in any event
had ZERO to do with 9/11. Meanwhile, the worldwide united front against
Jihadist Islam that seemed to be building in the months after 9/11 -- even
Syria was working with us to target Al Queda -- has now evaporated.

What kind of foreign policy is it that fractures our core alliances,
alienates us from our friends, and drives the vast middle forces within
Islam who should be our allies ever deeper into the embrace of our mortal
enemies in the Jihad camp?

A really stupid one, that's what kind.
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #11 of 146: tambourine verde (barb-albq) Fri 14 Nov 03 16:27
    
One dedicated to sadly misguided neo-con dreams of empire and
fattening the wallets of selected campaign contributors and
ex-employers. Perhaps they'll just install some kind of mock
government, walk away until after the election and then reengage in
Syria or something, just to get the ball rolling again. I can't believe
they will leave the oilfields to the Shia, for one thing.

It sure doesn't look good for us, given what's revealed in the recent
leaked CIA report:

http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/7239049.htm
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #12 of 146: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Fri 14 Nov 03 17:02
    
Could you summarize?
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #13 of 146: tambourine verde (barb-albq) Fri 14 Nov 03 17:15
    
Except:

WASHINGTON - A new, top-secret CIA report from Iraq warns that growing
numbers of Iraqis are concluding the U.S.-led coalition can be
defeated and are supporting the insurgents.

The report paints a bleak picture of the political and security
situation in Iraq and cautions that the U.S.-led drive to rebuild the
country as a democracy could collapse unless corrective actions are
taken immediately.

L. Paul Bremer, leader of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq,
who arrived unexpectedly in Washington for strategy sessions
yesterday, essentially endorsed the CIA's findings, a senior
administration official said.
{...}
The report, one official said, warned that aggressive U.S.
counterinsurgency tactics could induce more Iraqis to join the
guerrilla campaign that has killed at least 153 U.S. soldiers - 35 of
them this month - since Bush declared an end to major combat operations
on May 1.

The report also added to concerns about the governing council. The
group, which is dominated by former Iraqi exiles with little popular
support, has failed to convince ordinary Iraqis that the occupation is
temporary and will lead to a unified, sovereign Iraq, the report said.
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #14 of 146: one big petri dish (jnfr) Fri 14 Nov 03 17:52
    
Ah yes, this was the memo that Bremer endorsed. I've heard speculation that 
he did this because Bush is so isolated from any real information, Bremer 
thought he had to get harsh to get attention. 

I've read the PNAC documents, and to me these people seem steeped in 
fantasy.
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #15 of 146: Ron Levin (eclectic2) Fri 14 Nov 03 18:31
    
U.S. War Dead in Iraq Exceeds Early Vietnam Years 
By David Morgan 

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - The U.S. death toll in Iraq has surpassed the
number of American soldiers killed during the first three years of the
Vietnam War, the brutal Cold War conflict that cast a shadow over U.S.
affairs for more than a generation. 

A Reuters analysis of Defense Department statistics showed on Thursday
that the Vietnam War, which the Army says officially began on Dec. 11,
1961, produced a combined 392 fatal casualties from 1962 through 1964,
when American troop levels in Indochina stood at just over 17,000. 

By comparison, a roadside bomb attack that killed a soldier in Baghdad
on Wednesday brought to 397 the tally of American dead in Iraq, where
U.S. forces number about 130,000 troops -- the same number reached in
Vietnam by October 1965. 

The casualty count for Iraq apparently surpassed the Vietnam figure
last Sunday, when a U.S. soldier killed in a rocket-propelled grenade
attack south of Baghdad became the conflict's 393rd American casualty
since Operation Iraqi Freedom began on March 20. 

More:
http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=3820826
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #16 of 146: John Zuill (klauposius) Sat 15 Nov 03 06:56
    
DK - in you intro you said that fundamentalists might gain
soverignties by election. This seems abit like the old domino theory of
the cold war. I don't think the west dealt with communism properly. If
you see this struggle as similar to that, do you mean we should fight
it the same way? 

If not wouldn't it be a good idea to reconcieve our enemy. The United
States always seem to create it's own enemy. Perhaps we all do.
Chamberlain dealt with a different Hitler than Churchill because of the
way they concieved the enemy. During the cold war our enemy was not
anti-democratic. We set up dictatorships in what we saw as a
contradition to him. He was just anti-capitalist. Or prehaps he wsa 
just the next biggest thing to us. 

Our enemy in this case just as vaguely concieved. I think our
unexamined view of Iran contributes to this. Electoral politics does
play a part in Iranian politics. Something may be growing there, but
because of our rigoursly anti-fundamenatalist views we are unable to
embrace what we might like Iran. And this is a disadvantage in our
present exertions in Iraq. Once again I see a lack of pragmatism and a
harmful load of ideology. What do you  think?
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #17 of 146: Ron Levin (eclectic2) Sat 15 Nov 03 07:58
    
<During the cold war our enemy was not anti-democratic.>

I beg your pardon?  

<Something may be growing there, but because of our rigoursly
anti-fundamenatalist views we are unable to embrace what we might like
Iran.>

The US has made clear its support for the reformists in Iran, and its
opposition to the unelected clerics that maintain hold on power. 
Ironically, the US is actually more popular in Iran than in our Muslim
allies because we're seen by reformers as a model, not as an oppressor.
 Supporting reform in Iran has been a delicate dance for the US
because we don't want reformers to be seen as US proxies.  
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #18 of 146: John Zuill (klauposius) Sat 15 Nov 03 08:17
    
to Ron Levin's Post - I may be wrong, but don't we have a trade
embargo against Iran? That wasn't lifted was it? If so, the reformists
will have a very difficult time reciprocating US fondness for them.

<During the cold war our enemy was not anti-democratic.>

By this I mean that our enemy, as we concieved him, was wrong not
because he was undemocratic but for other reasons. We supported many
tyrannies even built them. From our actions it would appear we are not
particularly supportive of nascent democracies. 

I am asking what are the terms by which we decide who our enemies are?
Being the most powerful nation on earth, we have that perogative. How
do we use it? Are we pragmatic? I think not. Just as, as a culture, we
think love comes from mysterious forces, so we see our enemies as being
revealed to us by a kind of destiny in which we have no control, when
we are the principle generator of our enemies. Fidel Castro would not
survive if there was no trade embargo, yet we see him somehow in
issolation from ourselves. So much of the Carribean is the way it is
because we executed various actioins there. 

We decided that Iraq was the enemey. There were no terrorists. The
Bathists are threatened by fundamentalists. There was very little
evidence of WMD. The back room boys may have been after the oil, but
that doesn't explain public opinion. The public are still saying we
were right. How was that choice made?
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #19 of 146: Ron Levin (eclectic2) Sat 15 Nov 03 08:37
    
<I may be wrong, but don't we have a trade embargo against Iran?> <

Yes.

<That wasn't lifted was it?>

No.

<If so, the reformists will have a very difficult time reciprocating
US fondness for them.>

As I said, it's a delicate dance.  They don't want to be seen as US
proxies.  The US doesn't intend to fully lift the sanctions unless
there's some reciprocity on the part of the clerics, like allowing free
elections.  

<From our actions it would appear we are not particularly supportive
of nascent democracies.>

I think it depends on the circumstances.  If the democracy will be
friendly to the US, we're supportive.  After the Cold War, for
instance, the US helped our former opponents become democratic.  And
while the US has a long history of anti-democratic interventionism in
Latin America, the continent is currently democratic and the US has
been largely supportive of that process.  

<How was that choice made?>

I think most people are just loathe to admit that such a serious
decision could have been a mistake.  
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #20 of 146: David Kline (dkline) Sat 15 Nov 03 08:43
    
Islamic fundamentalism, just like Marxism-Leninism before it, is a
relatively widespread political and ideological response to oppression and
loss of hope. Jihadist organizations such as Al Queda feed off that
discontent and -- aided now by a neo-imperial U.S. foreign policy that
seems to confirm the Jihadist's claims that "outsiders" are the cause of
all the Muslim world's miseries -- organize thousands into terror cells.

We need to wage a protracted political and military war against Jihadist
fundamentalism. It truly does pose a danger to civilization -- or at least
any kind of world that we'd want to live in (think Taliban here).

This was how we dealt with communism, which I hardly think could be 
defined as "anti-capitalist but not anti-democratic." As a recent article 
in the Atlantic pointed out, communist state power was responsible for 
the murder of approximately 100 million people over the course of 75 
years -- far more than the Nazis ever killed.

And yet while we were willing to use force against the Soviets at times,
by and large our main efforts went into "containment" and political,
economic and ideological struggle. Even with all the warped distortions of
the Cold War (such as Vietnam), hundreds of millions of people behind the
"Iron Curtain" nonetheless saw the Western democracies with all their
flaws as infinitely superior to life under the soul-killing state power of
the Marxists. And they were right.

Well, now we have our own distortions of what a proper anti-fundamentalist
strategy should be: Iraq, and the hubristic arrogance of power
demonstrated by the Bush administration.

But the fact that Bush wages a warped "anti-terror" strategy does NOT 
mean that Al Queda and the Jihadists are not a genuine and grave threat.
 
I can assure you that Al Queda will not stop -- ever! -- until they kill
hundreds of thousands of people, even millions, in order to enfeeble the
West to such a degree that (in their minds) Islamic civilization can
finally end its thousand year slumber and rise to rule the world again.

They have no real demands (did the 9/11 hijackers leave a note outlining
any demands?) and they absolutely, positively cannot be negotiated with.  
The want us dead, period. And frankly, they don't care how many of their
fellow Muslims they have to kill to get to us. In Kashmir, for example,
they've already tried very hard to start a nuclear war between India and
Pakistan. That's because in their minds, the worse things get -- for
everyone, but especially for the Wrst -- the sooner their new Islamic
World Order will rise to rule the world.

I know these people, and believe me if they get their hands on those 50
Pakistani nukes, we are in serious trouble on a scale that will make 9/11
look like ... well, I'm at a loss for words here.

That's why we need to wage war against them -- a war of survival, in my 
opinion. Yes, we have to kill every Al Queda leader we can find, but 
truthfully our more important task is political and ideological because 
there will always be new recruits until the causes of Jihadism are gone.

In fact, here's the biggest issue, for them and for us:

The Jihadists claim the West is the cause of all the Muslim world's
problems. There's no doubt that imperialism has caused them harm, but is
it really the primary cause of Islam's backwardness? No. The principal and
primary source of Islam's problems is *inside Islam itself.*

Here's a little quiz: Do you happen to know the religious beliefs and 
practices of your next door neighbors? Do you care? Can you eat in a 
reastauant at a table next to someone wearing a cross around his neck, 
or a yarmulke on his head, or an Islamic covering over her head?

Ask these same questions most anywhere in the Muslim world, and the
average man on the street wouldn't even know how to answer. They'd ask you
to please repeat the question, because the very concept of even living
next to peoplewho think or believe differently is utterly alien. The idea
of *civil* or *secular* society is unknown in many Muslim countries.

So what does the above mean?

To me it means that our main task politically should be to support the
millions of democratic, modern-minded Muslims worldwide who yearn for
freedom, democracy, prosperity, decent health care and education for their
kids -- things the Jihadists can never deliver (again, think Taliban).

We should support these people so that they can lead Islamic civilization
through much the same sort of "Enlightenment" and "Reformation" process
that Western civilization went through over the past few hundred years.  
Through this process, the Muslim world will eventually throw off its own
religious/ideological shackles, just as we in the West did, and build
civil societies where the rule of law & individual freedom mainly prevail,
and where people can finally have some hope for their future.

That's how we'll ultimately win "the war on terror."

(damn, another long-winded post)
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #21 of 146: David Kline (dkline) Sat 15 Nov 03 08:51
    
Slips, and good ones.

We've got to distinguish genuine threats, such as Al Queda, from the 
bogus war-mongering over Iraq by our current leaders.

Or to use an example from history, just because America suffered from 
"McCarthyism" for a time, did that mean that Soviet hegemonism was not a 
genuine danger and curse upon the lives of over a billion people?

I saw what the Soviets did in Afghanistan, and the history books are full 
of what they did all across eastern Europe -- and in the USSR itself.
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #22 of 146: John Zuill (klauposius) Sat 15 Nov 03 09:21
    
I for one am not against long posts if they are of substance, and
Kline's seems to be. 

Let me just say that I am not saying that the communists were in
anyway democratic. I am simply saying that supporting democracy has not
been our policy. People will disagree with me, but that is not what I
am asking principlely. I think democracy is quite a complex institution
and is not the natural ground to which a country moves necessarily. 

The question I would like to ask is - how do we decide who our enemies
are? Iran is a good example of what I am asking. We had a lot to do
with the way things are in Iran. We never acknowlege this. Yet to do so
would be a first step toward normal relations with that country.
Unlike our close friend Saudi Arabia, a real attempt to construct some
sort of consensual goverment is being attempted in Iran. Why do we
assume that thier version of this would be like ours; wholly secular
and with the values we cherish? 

We keep saying we are promoting our particular set of values. Yet in
Saudi we support a tyranny. Yes, and I know everyone says we are
pressuring them, that we don't really approve of them and they promise
to change.  But we all know they aren't going to change and what does
it matter if we don't approve of them - we support them - what else
matters. In Iran, where people are trying, we pick and choose who we
like, embargo them all, tell them they don't get it and make them the
axis of evil, a threat to the free world when the present government
replaced an autocracy that we created. 

In Iraq we claim we represent democracy but the only real reason we
don't like Saddam is because he misbehaved in Kuwait. Before that we
supported him. 

Without going into Israel; (  the chief subject of so many very long
posts) we can see that our decisioins about who we like would not seem
to indicate that we have lofty ideals. It would seem to indicate that
we don't like Muslims and don't care what kind of government they have
as long as that government  likes us. If I were Muslim, I imagine this
is what I would think. The present policy of the US is not pragmatic.
it is is ultimately wasteful I think.

The Taliban and the like are a threat, but I seriously think they are
an exotic weed that grows in a particular enviroment. As long as the
enviroment exists the weed will get around our specific attempts to
iradicate it. Our whole attitude to the ME has to change or we will be
fighting phantoms for a long time to come. 

So I ask again: What do we really think we represent? And who do we
really think our enemies are?
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #23 of 146: John Zuill (klauposius) Sat 15 Nov 03 09:51
    
One other questioin to Mr. Kline: Karzai seems to be a truly
remarkable person. In his country there are terrorists. As you so
adequately reviewed, there are WMD right across the border of
Afganistan, in Pakistan. Everytime Karaid is interviewed by the media
or contacted by the west he says he can handle anything as long as he
has money. He seems to make progress. If terrorists are our really
problem, Karzai is someone we can talk to, and central asia is where
our "friends" in Saudi send thier terrorist funding, why are we in
Iraq?  Why is Bush pulling in all his favours to get congressional
money for Iraq when the results seem more probable in Afganistan? And
how is Mr. Karzai doing? You never hear boo about him anymore?  

I promise to stop now. Sorry if I am taking up all the oxygen.
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #24 of 146: tambourine verde (barb-albq) Sat 15 Nov 03 11:06
    
I am enjoying the long posts as they shed alot of light on the various
aspects of what is at stake and why, and ask many good questions as
well.

Personally, I don't think the Bush admin. has much genuine interest in
promoting democracy or improving conditions for people in the Arab
world other than as an excuse or side-product of their real goals.
After all, the Bush admin. isn't promoting these things even in our own
republic and, in fact, is taking actions and making plans to defeat
many of the central tenants of a transparent democracy here at home.
Their real mission seems to be to guarantee a more "controllable"
source of oil and line the pockets of their political contributors with
gold, allocated in secret.

Although the radical Islamists are indeed a serious threat, I think
their power and numbers are being exaggerated and distorted in order to
serve the wider aims of the neocon imperialists. We need an enemy, it
seems. And now that the USSR is no more, this new threat will replace
it as a money drain and rallying cry for those who gain from keeping
the fear factor high among voters.

To me, the danger of bankrupting the US treasury, supposedly in
pursuit of homeland security and the war on terror, is a much larger
threat to the average American than raving radical Islamists. When our
education, healthcare, safety net, employment opportunities and
infrastructure are compromised and starved to finance the wrong
response to Islamic threats, a much larger percentage of our population
will suffer. Meanwhile, the problems with growing Islamic radicalism
are not addressed in a way that will alleviate the source of their
anger and fanaticism.

It seems to me the best way to address the threat of radical
fundamentalists would be to starve their funds, marginalize their
leaders using targeted intelligence initiatives, and counteract their
propaganda and madrassas with support for moderates throughout the Arab
world. Military tactics, like the ones being employed today, only
serve to increase recruiting and provide handy targets for those
seeking glory.

As <dkline> says, probably the most dangerous situation exists in
Pakistan, where real "WMD"s are present and vulnerable. Creating chaos
in Iraq does nothing to help with this clear and present danger. And
there is no way military tactics can help in Pakistan. What is
required, I think, is a sophisiticated blend of diplomatic, financial,
educational and intelligence moves that would aim to counteract the
influence of outrider fundamentalists. Maybe someday we will have an
administration that can handle such an delicate and complicated
offensive, putting the needs of real people before the needs of certain
corporate cronies and oil mongers.
  
inkwell.vue.200 : The Wrong War?
permalink #25 of 146: David Kline (dkline) Sat 15 Nov 03 11:37
    
> We had a lot to do with the way things are in Iran. We never acknowlege
> this. Yet to do so would be a first step toward normal relations with 
> that country.

Perfectly said, It's interesting that just last week, former U.S. 
represenetative to the UN Madeleine Albright publicly apologized to Iran 
for America's undemocratic CIA-imposition of the Shah 50 years ago. That's 
a good first step.

But the problem we're having in this discussion is the conflation of "is"
and "should". What is our foreign policy right now vs. what should it be?

To my mind, our foreign policy is NOT genuinely interested in democracy,
nor even truly interested in uniting with progressive forces in the world
to oppose radical Islam. It's built around a fundamentally-flawed neo-con
ideology that believes we can project armed force into the Middle East to
impose a "democratic" pro-American government first in Iraq, and then
throughout the region.
 
It's the domino theory all over again -- or at least its flip side.

But as we're seeing, it just doesn't work that way. You cannot defy Muslim
and world opinion, wage unilateral military action against sovereign
states in violation of all known international law, and hope to create
from this neo-imperial behavior a gravitational pull toward democracy.

> Unlike our close friend Saudi Arabia, a real attempt to construct some
> sort of consensual goverment is being attempted in Iran. Why do we
> assume that thier version of this would be like ours; wholly secular
> and with the values we cherish? 

People have an inalienable right to choose through democratic means
whatever form of government they wish -- even Taliban-style Islam. The 
right of self-determination is quite nearly absolute, in my view.

I just think that, as we're now seeing in Iran, when people make the 
mistake of supporting fundamentalist regimes and clergy-rule, they later 
come to regret it. 

In other words, the trends of history show that ultimately people move
towards a democratic system that provides as much freedom and initiative
for individual human beings as possible -- because this is not only good
for individuals but good for society as well. Economics, culture, art,
education, politics, and technology all thrive best under what we call
"secular" democracies -- i.e., those that guarantee human rights and the
rule of law to people regardless of what their beliefs or politics are.

But it's certainly possible to share a religious identity and still 
guarantee these rights, as the new consitution of the Islamic Republic of 
Afghanistan appears to be trying to do.
  

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