Thursday, October 12, 2006

Apparently the concept of humor is now to be condemned as well ...

This is roughly the reaction I had when reading Mark's latest attempted criticism of the Iraq war. The rationale? President Bush and General Garner were purportedly joking about prospective wars against Iran and Cuba after having toppled Saddam Hussein. Prior to this, Mark had listed a quote from Joaquin Navarro-Valls about how those who determine that all peaceful means under international law for resolving the issues surrounding the Iraqi regime will have to assume a grave responsibility before God, their own conscience, and history.

While Mark apparently regards this as a sign of unforgiveable hubris on the part of the president (who he then proceeds to claim in the comments "is not capable of being perfectly cavalier about matters of life and death"), a reader unaffected by Bush Derangement Syndrome might otherwise conclude that Bush and General Garner are simply enjoying a humorous anecdote.

And then there is this whopper:
Let its mush-brained teachings not intrude on the hard-headed practical realism of politicos who know their business and know what's best for 655,000 Iraqis to die for and 300,000 Iraqis to flee their homes for.
First, the 655,000 death toll is regarded as a gross exaggeration and shoddy scholarship by anyone who has actually studied the matter, as is noted by those in Mark's comments who are not patent political shills or are actively rooting for the other side (long-time readers of Mark's site should be able to guess who is who). Whether Mark changes his opinion on that or not because of it will be another matter entirely. I believe the actual figures on the Iraqi death toll are~50,000 (over the course of 3 years, as opposed to the roughly 70,000 or so a year who died under Saddam), of whom 20,000 were active insurgents. This isn't terribly surprising, as the US has lost ~2,600 troops in Iraq, making it roughly 1.5 US troops for every 10 insurgents, as might well be expected in the type of campaign we are dealing with. For Mark to blame the United States for the deaths of the remaining 30,000 and the current internal refugee situation (and I don't see any other way to read his remarks) however, is it to conflate correlation with causality.

There are two reasons that 30,000 Iraqis have been killed and 300,000 are now living as internal refugees. One is the constant campaign of violence from al Qaeda in Iraq and its indigenous allies in the Mujahideen Shura Council and the other is the rise of mass sectarian killings perpetrated by Muqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army. Both of these organizations, if Mark were even remotely following the news, are in active opposition to the United States and its mission in Iraq. If one adheres to Mark's anti-war arguments and al Qaeda was not active inside Iraq pre-war (which I don't believe for a moment), that would mean that both the rise organizations is a post-war phenomenon that was not caused by the invasion unless Mark buys into some kind of conspiracy theory that we created both organizations. In the case of Sadr, for instance, he is openly supported by Iran's Ayatollah Kazim Haeri, which would tend to make Iran rather than the US morally culpable for his actions. Al Qaeda, quite obviously, has its own objectives and agenda and every Iraqi civilian they kill is on their head, not ours. To state otherwise is to adopt a morally obtuse view of the situation.

Now Mark's argument (at least as I understand it) is that none of this would have happened had we not invaded Iraq. Once one recognizes the distinction between correlation and causality here, however, I think one can appreciate just how shaky ground this position stands on. It's not like al Qaeda or Iran wouldn't be trying to kill people somewhere else if they weren't currently killing them in Iraq, for instance. Moreover, the Navarro-Valls quote that Mark invokes also raises the question of if the current situation in Iraq is so bad (and I agree that it is quite dire), doesn't that also mean that those who would just as soon abandon the Iraqi people to the tender mercies of al Qaeda and Sadr by pulling our forces out (as I believe Mark has stated we should do now that he's declared Iraq an entirely failed venture) should assume an equally grave responsibility before God, their own conscience, and history? Then again, from the tone of some of Mark's posts in the past (and feel free to correct me on this one) it seems that he was entirely content to let Saddam butcher the Iraqi people as long as he allowed a small group of Chaldeans to practice their faith as a museum display, a view that is about as far removed from the Catholic view on the dignity of the human person that he is wont to invoke in many torture debates.

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