Fallujah: for the children

The issue of whether we should invade Fallujah is the wrong question. The right question is, why is it now neccessary to invade? The answer is, because of poor decisions by the Administration, most notably in the knee-jerk decision to disband the Iraqi Army and the mismanagement of the reconstruction funds.

But go in, I believe, we now must, mainly because as long as Falluja remains a foreign insurgent power base, then the future of liberal freedoms in Iraq is threatened. This is why:

Several people in Jolan said that the foreign fighters�Saudis, Tunisians, Moroccans, Yemenis, and Lebanese, directed by Syrian militants�had been crucial to the defense of the neighborhood. The groups of mujahideen who hung around mosques included men who looked to me like Arabs from the Gulf. Most of them were dark, with angular features, and they had long, well-groomed beards. Their dishdashas were short, in the Wahhabi style, ending a little below their knees. Friends of mine who had been held by mujahideen told me they had heard men speaking with accents from the Gulf, Syria, and North Africa.

The foreign mujahideen still in Jolan imposed strict Islamic codes of behavior on the neighborhood. They harassed Iraqis who smoked cigarettes or drank water using their left hand, which is considered impure. They banned alcohol, Western films, makeup, hairdressers, �behaving like women��i.e., homosexuality�and even dominoes in the coffeehouses. Men found publicly drunk had been flogged, and I was told of a dozen men who had been beaten and imprisoned for selling drugs.

These grafs are excerpted from Nir Rosen's compelling and exhaustively investigative reporting from Falluja, for the New Yorker magazine. The point here is that liberal freedoms are being curtailed by Islamicists who seek to turn all of Iraq into an explicitly Taliban-modeled nightmare state.

Of course, the selective blindness of the far left with regard to human freedom continues. One acquaintance sent me this typically-overwrought excerpt from Counterpunch.org:

Hush. Enough chatter about the stupid American election. I'm trying to listen to Fallujah right now.
I'm trying to hear the sounds of their helicopters overhead, trying to feel the rattle in my bones as chop, chop, chop, over Falluja, they draft the very air into war.
Chinaview reports (8 hours ago) that two have been killed and six injured in Fallujah, but we know since reading last Friday's article in the Lancet (editor's note: methodology completely discredited) that we have to multiply these numbers times ten.

So shush that grating talk about how we're all soon back together in some conspiracy of imperial purpose, all hailing the chief.

I'm listening for the still-born child, the heart attack, the stroke. The sound a little person makes when she covers her head with her bare hands.

Please mute that electoral count recap, would you?

I've got to listen to Falluja right now.

This is of course an elaborately crafted piece of propaganda that completely evades any attempt at discussing the merits of our post-war reconstruction policies, to try and simply score some theatrical points on emotion. To which, I respond with this:

November 5, 2004
Release Number: 04-11-12

CAMP RAMADI, Iraq � An Army unit assigned to I Marine Expeditionary Force, discovered and defused an explosive-laden youth center in Ramadi Nov. 4, which was rigged by insurgents to detonate and potentially kill dozens of Iraqi children. They also discovered more than two tons of explosives hidden in a mosque.

The discoveries were made during a sweep of the city looking for improvised explosive devices.

After a thorough investigation of the youth center, the Soldiers discovered that the explosives were rigged to detonate three ways: through a light switch, a remote control and by wiring that ran from the youth center to the nearby Al-Haq Mosque, where the unit discovered the firing mechanism.

At another mosque, a search yielded the discovery of more than two tons of ammunition, explosives, mortar systems and RPGs. Artillery rounds; assault rifles and various IED-making materials were found, as well. Fifty suspected insurgents were also detained during the sweep.

Mosques are granted protective status due to their religious and cultural significance. However, when insurgents violate the sanctity of the mosque by using the structure for military purposes, the site loses its protective status.

Ultimately, it's fundamentally dishonest to criticize a foreign policy or a military action on humanitarian grounds when the application of moral righteousness is so transparently one-sided. Anyone with genuine concern for the children of Fallujah have to concede, if they possess any intellectual integrity, that the future of those children is brighter under an elected Iraqi government rather than a Taliban-inspired city-state.

UPDATE: an email correspondent writes:

I couldn't agree with you more on the lines you conclude your argument with. In the minds of many who disagree with you, however, they stand out in stark
contradiction to some of your opening lines:

"But go in, I believe, we now must, mainly because as long as Falluja
remains a foreign insurgent power base"

The WE who are going into Falluja now were also instrumental in creating the
Taliban who have now run amuck. And the WE are also *foreign* fighters who
have supported Saddam historically. The WE were also complicit, a hair short
of encouraging, in Saddam's butchering of Shiite Kurds.

The issue has never been that anyone suppports the Taliban, or their brutish
ways. The problem has been the credibility of the occupying force. How can
you, per your own words, apply moral values so one-sidedly in favor of this
occupying force?

There's a fallacy here, of conflating all American foreign policy interventions as one monolithic bloc. You have to recognize that the realpolitik foreign policy doctrine of the Reagan Administration is completely different from the neo-conservative/PNAC doctrine animating the present one.

As I argued in the first paragraph, the fact that invading Fallujah is neccessary is a direct result of post-war incompetence by the present Administration. Extending causality beyond that is a pointless excercise, otherwise you might as well blame the British for creating Iraq in the first place.

I simply don't agree that the "credibility" of the occupying force is an issue. The bottom line is that the Taliban-lite DO control Falluja, that they DO want to control all of Iraq, and that they ARE a barrier to free elections in January. In other words, Falluja is an obstacle to both Iraqi and American self-interest. The self-interest of the Iraqi people is the primary objective, and the self-interest of America derives as a secondary measure from that one.

The question above has a certain idealistic tinge, that all motives must be pure, which I reject. Self-interest is a valid, even neccessary, requirement of policy. Whatever America's historical role may have been, this nation evolves much like any other. And so do their relationships, such as the enmity-turned-alliance of Germany and Japan with us today. Or America and Britain.

The important point here to construct our policy upon is to look forward, towards an alliance with a free Iraq (an invasion I did not support but whose outcome now I am committed to seeing succeed).

The invasion of Fallujah serves to liberate its inhabitants from the mini-Taliban, whom the "many who disagree with me" refuse to address.

As a liberal humanist, I believe that we must use our strength to liberate the oppressed whenever possible. There are cases where military power alone will not suffice however, such as Iran, a nation that invading would only hamper, rather than encourage, liberal reform. In Falluja, however, the course is clear, and there are no other options.


Thomas Nephew said...

Agree about the regrettable necessity of invading Fallujah.

I'm a little surprised about your feeling that the Lancet article is "completely discredited," actually. I can't remember where I read it (probably Yglesias) but the point remains that the interval 8000-to-100000 doesn't include zero -- that is, the war and occupation have cost extra lives, not saved them as might have been expected compared to Saddam+sanctions.

I don't think these numbers in themselves determine what should be done, but in the long run, this number needs to change, and it does appear to me that civilians are dying in unacceptable numbers.

Glad you're still posting; this seems as political as ever to me, so I'll have to re-read what the difference from unmedia will be; maybe no US politics prescriptions here, I guess.

Thomas Nephew said...
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Thomas Nephew said...
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Aziz Poonawalla said...

right, im going to focus on foreign policy, islam-related issues, and suchlike. But eth explicitly domestic-political strategy stuff is all at Dean Nation. Including any Bush bashing :)