This is the Message Centre for Otto Fisch ("Stop analysing Strava.... and cut your hedge")

Seated uncomfortably on the fence...

Post 1

Otto Fisch ("Stop analysing Strava.... and cut your hedge")

What to do about Iraq? Not me in particular, but the world in general.

I really don't know what to think - I really don't. Lots of people whose opinions I respect are against war - not just the usual bunch of Trots who oppose everything and suggest nothing. But I'm struggling to make sense of the arguments on all sides, as there seems to be so much muddle and confusion about what the arguments are.

Most people agree that Saddam does have weapons of mass destruction, and that he ought not to have them, given his record of using them against his own people and invading his neighbours. Although it's true that the West supported him and sold him the weapons, that's not really an argument for not doing something now. Julie Burchill argued that this means that there's all the more reason to do something, to make amends for our mistake.

The link with Al-Queda is an irrelevance. Their aims are very different to the secular Iraqi regime. Of course Al-Queda would support Saddam against America - the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and all that. As America should well know, given the number of very dodgy regimes it supported just because they opposed communism. It worries me that people believe this link. I read that some terrifyingly large percentage of Americans think that Iraq was responsible for September 11th - in fact, no Iraqis were involved. Lots of Saudis, though.

So what's the argument? There's two. One is that Saddam is a crazed, murderous dictator and we need to liberate Iraq for the sake of the Iraqis. Maybe, comes the response, but what about Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Myanmar and all the rest of them? Is the argument that the west should be the world's policeman and get rid of nasty, murderous regimes? Actually, I'm not automatically opposed to this, provided that nation-building is done with proper aid from the global community, and policed properly. The accusation is that this is just neo-colonialism, imposing our values on others, but at least some of the values of liberal democracy are better than the values of genocidal murder and pillage, no?

The second argument is that Saddam is a threat to his neighbours and the rest of the world *if* he starts arming terrorists of various flavours. This is a cheap shot, I know, but didn't the US turn a deliberately blind eye to IRA fund raising activities and arms smuggling?? FOR YEARS AND YEARS!! Let's bomb Boston. It's a cheap shot because, although it's true, it just shows that the US are guilty of the same kind of crime, not that nothing should be done about bigger offenders. I'm afraid that my knowledge of internal Iraqi affairs is very limited, so I don't know how likely it is that Saddam would arm terrorist groups. But it seems to me that there's at least a possibility that Saddam is a real threat to his neighbours and to the rest of the world as well.

So, my question for the pro-war lobby (who are thin on the ground round here!) is "what is the argument for war"? Can you give a coherent, evidenced, argument for war? And what's next? What do you propose doing about the Kurds? What about Palestine?

But I also have questions for the NO WAR lobby. Under what circumstances would you back an armed conflict? I'm really not clear what the NO WAR argument amounts to. Is it a generic - "no war against anyone ever for any reason", or a very particular "no war now without a UN resolution and more evidence"? Like all mass movements, I expect that there's no real agreement.

Might it not be true that there can be just wars, and that short term death, chaos, destruction, maiming, and abject human misery might be a price worth paying for a better medium / long term future. Would the Iraqi people really suffer more during a brief and decisive war than under a longer, more drawn out period of sanctions, or under Saddam's rule?

Anyone got any answers for me? I want to have a view on this, but I really can't make up my mind. I'm deeply suspicious about US intentions, but I want some coherent arguments and some answers to some questions. I'm afraid I can't buy into either of the cheap ready made off the shelf entrenched positions on this, without a much greater sense of what international justice ought to look like. Maybe I'll write a post article....


Seated uncomfortably on the fence...

Post 2


I live in Texas, I oppose the war because I oppose George Bush. Many Americans feel that Anthony Scalara gave the election to Bush and that the real president of the United States is Al Gore. It is the first time that the popular vote was overturned. Funny that it was overturned by Florida, Bushs brothers state. We are not happy about the economy, the war, Ashcroft, Cheney, Homeland security (which sounds a little to like the Fatherland to me), corporate hanky-panky, Bushs and Cheneys own Corporate wrongdoings, SUVs and the trashing of the environment. So just to let you know that we are not all gung ho over here for war.

Seated uncomfortably on the fence...

Post 3

Otto Fisch ("Stop analysing Strava.... and cut your hedge")

Hi Raymondo,

Thanks for your message, which I managed to miss for several days!

The Presidential election was covered in some detail over here, as you can imagine, and we couldn't believe what we were seeing! It's good to know that there is dissent in America. Michael Moore is quite well known over here, and "Stupid White Men" was a bestseller - the European edition had a new preface which basically said "stop laughing, you lot are nearly as bad or are going the same way".

America puzzles me - I meant to go and live there for a while to try to understand you lot, but that's not likely to happen now. I've never met an American who I didn't like, but I can't connect that to the way the US government tends to behave. Perhaps it's because I've only met Americans outside America, and those who feel the need to visit other countries are likely to be more rounded people - the same is true of Brits, of course. smiley - smiley

Seated uncomfortably on the fence...

Post 4


of course there are the obligatory 27 8x10 colour glossey photographs with the circles and the arrows and a paragraph on the back explaining how each one was to be used in evidence against me. Actually I was born in Oxfordshire, so I guess I only count as half an American. That half is part Commanche though...

Seated uncomfortably on the fence...

Post 5


Or perhaps I should have said. Seated comfortably on the Group W bench thank you.

Seated uncomfortably on the fence...

Post 6

Otto Fisch ("Stop analysing Strava.... and cut your hedge")

And the biggest, meanest father raper of them all came over to me and said "What d'ya get, kid"
"I got a fifty dollar fine and told to pick up the garbage"

smiley - laughsmiley - laughsmiley - laughsmiley - laugh

Seated uncomfortably on the fence...

Post 7


Otto, I wrote an article that you might find interesting.


Essentially my argument is that the decision to invade or not to invade Iraq cannot be made in isolation, it has to be one action consistent with a more general foreign policy. Here are the three most relevant paras from that article:

The debate about Iraq has centred solely around whether or not the US should invade. Whilst this question is important and the stakes are enormously high, focussing on this question alone without reference to wider foreign policy issues means we cannot come to a satisfactory answer. The decision about whether or not to go to war should be made in terms of whether or not it is consistent with longer term foreign policy goals (such as promoting human rights and international law). The debate should be about what those foreign policy goals should be, whether or not going to war with Iraq is consistent with those goals, and if there are alternative short or long term actions which might be more consistent with them.


Despite these criticisms, the narrow question of whether or not we should go to war remains. Will the Iraqis ultimately be better off after this war than before? Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to this question. Firstly, we can’t know what the outcomes will be, we can only make educated guesses (for example, according to Human Rights Watch one UN official told the Washington Post that “[t]here could be a few million refugees heading to Iran. There could be six million people in Baghdad without access to clean water or electricity. There could be millions more waiting for someone to give them food because that’s what they’ve come to depend on…”). Secondly, it depends on what we would do instead of war, how we would conduct the war, what we would do after a war, and so on. Instead of these questions, we are being asked to choose between sanctions and bombs (“… the alternative [to war] is to carry on with a sanctions regime which, because of the way Saddam Hussein implements it, leads to thousands of people dying needlessly in Iraq every year.” – Tony Blair), and given the horrific human cost of the sanctions some might believe that any alternative is better. Effectively, Blair is saying that unless we let him and Bush bomb Iraq they will do something even more horrendous.

Ultimately, we may decide, perhaps in a moment of cynical despair, that the best we can do is to choose the least worst option from those presented to us. Alternatively, we can try and set our own agenda and demand a consistent policy of support for human rights and democracy around the world.

Seated uncomfortably on the fence...

Post 8


Basically I have argued that the UK has an historical argument for joining with the US following the Marshall Plan and generally bailing us out in WWII. My position was, and is, that we are a small power off the coast of mainland Europe, that could, and I stress, could, have difficulties in the future with any , or all of the pan-Euro superstate. The 'Special Relationship', is just that-not a 'so-called' one but a truly special deal, one time only thing.If we did have problems in future, and I may be wrong but I feel that the climate in Europe is becoming increasingly extreme, we would face it alone if we did not support the US aggression now.

I don't believe that we live in a totalitarian regime, and I think Mr Blair had some serious problems with just trotting along after Bush jnr. but to make cheap and easy political capital out of Blair the "lapdog of incompetents" misses the larger, and more long-term picture, according to me, at least.

There was a really interesting letter in the Independent several weeks ago by a guy from Los Angeles. Basically his point was that the Marshall Plan had little to do withpost-war altruism, and everything to do with filling a market for US production that had gone soft following a downturn in domestic and global apathy following the end of the war. His argument follows that new contracts, provided in return for oil, removes the OPEC stranglehold on US oil supplies, stabilizes the Middle East politically by removing the clout that they had, see 1970's, and buoys up the US economy a la Marshall. This I thought made a hell of a lot of sense.

I think, as you have pointed out, the alleged connection between Al-Queda and Iraq is tenuous at best, but like the link between the IRA and Semtex, as if it were the Happy Shopper 'own brand' of republican groups everywhere ('we have no idea who planted the bomb but the explosive used was Semtex-draw your own conclusions')it serves its purpose. I think it could be possible to do the right thing for all the wrong reasons, and pointing out that only this time have we bothered ourselves about the suffering of those under a brutal regime does not remove the rightness of freeing them, nor does it mean that we can wage a war with no casualties. Historically people die in these things, whichever side they are on, and the question, I think we need to consider is-'can we do this thing, given our moral qualms, and the dodgy political locus of action and will the eventuality be less bad for the majority?'

The argument about whether Saddam is a righteous target is more clear cut I think-the big boys are shouting names at us and we are studiously avoiding eye contact 'cos those guys can HIT. At the same time we are looking hard at the puffed up little kid asking if he spilled our drink. He may or may not be a long term threat-and who isn't-but right now he'll do. Right or wrong that is how it's being played-not for laughs.

We cannot of course avoid consideration of the massive rise in infant mortality in Iraq since the sanctions kicked in-OK we kill a few now, on prime-time TV but how many have we killed quietly in chilbirth, or from normally curable illnesses/conditions?

We are not going to come out of this 'clear-cut' right, but time may show that our actions, for whatever reasons, have led to progress.


Seated uncomfortably on the fence...

Post 9

Otto Fisch ("Stop analysing Strava.... and cut your hedge")

Hi Dogster, Raindog, and anyone else of a canine persuasion lurking around here.

First of all - apologies to you Dogster for not replying - I must have missed your posting. I enjoyed your article very much, and I'm in complete agreement. From reading both your article and Raindog's post, I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who thought things were rather more complex than they appeared from the binary oppositions that were put forward. Shame we can't discuss it more....

On Raindog's point about the "special relationship". Prior to the current crisis, I would have argued for an EU military force capable of conducting peacekeeping and limited dictator / genocidal maniac squashing duties so that we wouldn't *need* the Americans. I found myself in a discussion group on another site with a large number of Americans (some very perceptive and knowledgable, some not), and after a long debate ended up feeling that we shouldn't have had to involve them in Kosovo. It was a European problem which could have had a European solution. Of course, all this looks rather irrelevent now.

In terms of Britain's foreign policy, I'd like to see the UK develop much stronger links with the Commonwealth countries. There's the potential for a very useful organisation for all kinds of purposes if it's done well.....


Seated uncomfortably on the fence...

Post 10

Mr. X ---> I spent a year dead for tax purposes. It worked so well that I'm going to do it again.

So what do you think with hindsight?

smiley - pirate

Seated uncomfortably on the fence...

Post 11

Otto Fisch ("Stop analysing Strava.... and cut your hedge")

Well, it's hard not to conclude that the whole thing was a terrible idea. But how much of the current ISIS crisis (so to speak) is a direct and inevitable consequence of the invasion is hard to say.

I'm reminded of the historian who, when asked about the impact of the French revolution, said "it's too soon to say".

I'm interested in what I said about "most people" agreeing that Iraq had WMDs. I tend to understate, and so by "most people" I almost certainly meant "nearly everyone". I can't remember if there were any significant/credible objections at the time that argued that he didn't have them. I think I remember thinking that he must have them, as he seemed to be behaving as if he did.

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