August 11, 2003


”An unprecedented internet campaign waged on the frontline and in the US is exposing the real risks for troops in Iraq,” The Guardian announces. “Paul Harris and Jonathan Franklin report on rising fears that the conflict is now a desert Vietnam.”

Criticism is also coming directly from soldiers risking their lives under the guns of Saddam Hussein's fighters, and they are using a weapon not available to troops in previous wars: the internet.

Through emails and chatrooms a picture is emerging of day-to-day gripes, coupled with ferocious criticism of the way the war has been handled. They paint a vivid picture of US army life that is a world away from the sanitised official version.

I don’t doubt that doubts and criticism are emerging. But would it have killed The Guardian to report the other side of this unprecedented internet campaign?

Actually, it probably would have.

Posted by Tim Blair at August 11, 2003 01:12 AM

Amen on that Tim. It seems for every negative email or message, there are 10 others on the positive side.

Of course, heaven forbid they report anything positive!

Posted by: Plunge at August 11, 2003 at 01:20 AM

Funny how the "other side" conveniently overlooks the fact that the US helped install, arm and support Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath party right through the height of their atrocities.

Is there any reason to think the Iraqi's suffer the same selective amnesia?

Posted by: Analogue Voter at August 11, 2003 at 01:33 AM

Analoge Voter- Where did you get the idea that Saddam was installed by the US? Pretty much every thing I've read about him suggests he installed himself.

Posted by: ross at August 11, 2003 at 02:30 AM

Boy, here comes that wonderful argument again. The US made a mistake in its relations in Iraq in the 1980's (isn't it wonderfully lucky that no other country has ever made a similar mistake in the Middle East?) so any honest person would conclude that we have to continue to allow the mistake to stand. The fact that this will, in and of itself, allow the continuation of the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and the oppression of millions of them is quite irrelevant. The important thing is that no mistake may ever, ever be corrected. Especially by an ignorant cowboy who had nothing to do with making the original mistake.

After all, we can expect people like Uday and Qusay to soften the tyranny they learned from their father just as soon as they gain power in a free, open election giving them 105% of the vote just like dear, old Dad.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at August 11, 2003 at 02:34 AM

The "US helped install, arm and support Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath party right through the height of their atrocities"? Not true. Geez, we have to correct these inaccuracies again?

Okay, what "arms" did the U.S. provide Hussein THROUGHOUT his rule?

None. Hussein was armed chiefly by the Soviet Union (Iraq was a client state of the USSR) with some additional help from other countries, most notably France. His military consisted of Soviet tanks, Soviet missiles, Soviet rifles, Soviet and French aircraft (Migs, Mirage). There isn't (or wasn't) ONE single U.S. weapon sold or provided to him.

During the Iran/Iraq war, the U.S. provided Hussein with satellite information/photographs of Iranian troop movements. There's also evidence that the Reagan Administration helped him procure cluster bombs to be used against the massive waves of Iranian troops. We didn't give those weapons to him; but the Reaganites did help him acquire them. So, the U.S. is guilty here.

But all of the above support STOPPED once the Iran/Iraq war was over. The support in the 1980s was given out of a fear that the Iranian revolution would sweep through the region and inflame the entire Mideast in a larger war. I think they were right at the time.

No guns, no tanks, no missiles, no aircraft at all were given to him. However, the U.S. did also stupidly permit him in the 1980s to purchase anthrax and other biological agents with the "promise" from him that they wouldn't be weaponized. Now, that was inexcusable.

The main reason for the lack of US support, of course, was that he was able to use his oil profits to purchase weapons from the Soviet Union and elsewhere. Didn't need our help.

There is no doubt that some, repeat some, of the responsibility in helping maintain his regime lays at the doorstep of the U.S. But the responsibility is so small compared to the support given him by other governments that far exceeded the U.S.


Posted by: SMGalbraith at August 11, 2003 at 04:09 AM

SMG - you're quite right that other nations supported Hussein.

But you are quite wrong if you think US support ceased after the Iran/Iraq war.

Try -

Written by the guy who spotted that Tony Blair's "latest intelligence report" was in fact largely plagiarised from a 10 year old student paper.

Posted by: Analogue Voter at August 11, 2003 at 04:45 AM

OK, here are the money quotes from the Overview at the end of A_V's link:

# Items sent from the U.S. during the Reagan and Bush Administrations that helped Iraq’s non-conventional weapons programs and that were shipped to known military industrial facilities include:

* Computers to develop ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons;[59] machine tools and lasers to extend ballistic missile range;[60] graphics terminals to design and analyze rockets;[61] West Nile Fever virus, a known potential BW agent, sent by the U.S. government’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC);[62] the agents for botulism, tetnus, and anthrax.[63]

# One study lists 207 firms from 21 countries that contributed to Iraq’s non-conventional weapons program during and after the Iran-Iraq war. E.g., West German (86); British (18); Austrian (17); French (16); Italian (12); Swiss (11); and American (18).[64]

Citation 63 is to the Riegle Report, which we've already discussed on an earlier thread here. Apart from that, there really isn't much interesting stuff here. Machine tools? Lasers? Graphics terminals? Can you say dual-use? The only new thing is the CDC sending West Nile, and that sounds an awful lot like a transaction covered under Article X of the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapon Convention.

But let's humour the argument and suppose that the then-US Administration was entirely complicit in Saddam's development of CBW. How does this alter the practical (and now moot) case for disarming Iraq? I mean, it's certainly fun to point to actions taken 15 years ago, and moralize about how they shouldn't have taken place, and people should have known better, and so on. So what?

Posted by: murray at August 11, 2003 at 07:57 AM

Just to head back to the original topic for a moment, the reason all the gripes are getting reported is that the reporters in general have no military experience.

If they did, they would know that you start to worry when the troops stop bitching.

Posted by: Harry Tuttle at August 11, 2003 at 09:46 AM

To those who assert that Saddam was literally "installed by the US", exactly what do you mean by that? How did the US "install" Saddam? This has never been explained in any satisfactory manner, but is asserted over and over as if that were proof. The other problem in the theory, as others have said, is that Iraq was a Soviet ally. Period. The vast majority of their weapons came from the Soviet Union and China. There is ample evidence for this. Indeed in the interview between Hussein Kamel and the IAEA, he stated very clearly that Iraq "went to the Soviet Union in 1968". Anyone in the Ba'athist Party would say that. And Hussein effectively came to power in 1968.

Posted by: Steve Edwards at August 11, 2003 at 01:09 PM

The movements that The Guardian refers too may not be all that they seem.

The ‘Bring Them Home Now’ and ‘Military Families Speak Out’ websites are hosted by a guy called Andrew Boyd, who wrote this book, ‘The Activists Cookbook’;

…and is pretty much a full time left wing activist.

In their press release, the co-founders are listed as Nancy Lessin and Charley Richardson. A quick bit of googling shows that they are life long labor activists with a history of anti-war protests. They do claim to have a son serving in Iraq though. However, in this article;
.. they attended a pre-war rally, where they said that they didn’t speak on behalf of their son, and that they got abused by veterans!

The David Hackworth alluded to in the article has often written criticism of the way Pentagon does business, and knows his stuff (he’s at, but he certainly isn’t easy on terrorists or on the middle east. Like any professional former soldier he just cares about troops welfare.

The Guardian has chopped off the end of Private Isaac Kindblade letter, where he stated;
“It would take a group of supermen to do what's been asked of us. Maybe people back home think we are. Hell, maybe we are. I'm 20, and I can't help but think that serving in a war is a rite of passage, earning my generation a place in the history books.
I'm honored to be over here, and I realize that this is the experience of a lifetime. All the same, we are ready to come home.”

Posted by: wilbur at August 11, 2003 at 08:37 PM

If the US government installed Saddam Hussein as the Iraqi dictator it was Jimmy Carter who did the installation. In a weird way this kinda makes sense. Not that I actually believe it, but Jimmy Carter never met a socialist dictator that he did not like, or was not at least willing to strap on the ol' kneepads for.

Posted by: D2D at August 12, 2003 at 03:40 AM

Murray - you appear to agree that the US (and others) provided anthrax, botulinum, e-coli, West Nile fever, equipment for developing missile and nuclear programmes etc, to what has been relentlessly described here, in the media and by politicians as "the world's worst dictator".

If you have looked at the Riegle Report, the UK Scott Report, House of Commons Hansard, Congressional Records, Cambridge Academic Glen Rangwalla's report and the link below, you will have seen that the support took place even during Saddam's worst crimes - the same ones condemned by Bush, who correctly stated "he even gassed his own people".

All this you dismiss with a casual "so what".

Suddenly those thousands of dead Iraqi's, Kurd's and Iranians aren't important, because they don't suit your "argument", and so can be dismissed.

You profess an attachment to international law so passionate that you appeal to it as justification for sending one of the world's worst diseases to the world's worst dictator.

Yet for you international law is of no real consequence, if it doesn't suit you, as in the bombing, invading and occupying of Iraq.

It's quite clear you are an incoherent moron with the morals of a viper.

More background on US assistance to Iraq's WMD programme -

Posted by: Analogue Voter at August 12, 2003 at 05:20 AM

There is an old saying amongst military leaders

"When my soldiers stop bitching and moaning, then I'll get worried."

It is the soldiers lot to complain about what the numbskulls in charge ask them to do. It has always been that way and I don't expect it to ever change.

It becomes a "news" item because that is what the media wants it to be.

The other side of this for me is "When the media stops whining about Bush, then I will get worried." I think I have a very worry-free future ahead of me.


Posted by: derf at August 12, 2003 at 06:45 AM

Ohhh, dear, the Angry Left rears its head...again. Last week Analogue_Voter called me a "Freeper/Hitler Youth type", and this week I'm an "an incoherent moron with the morals of a viper". Red herrings galore!

Perhaps A_V is hoping I won't notice that he failed to answer my question, so I'll repeat it:

[S]uppose that the then-US Administration was entirely complicit in Saddam's development of CBW. How does this alter the practical (and now moot) case for disarming Iraq?

Note that first sentence, Analogue_Voter. I'm conceding your point. I'm doing it for the sake of argument, sure, but I'm inviting you to make your case. You appear to be a little slow on the uptake, so I'll rephrase it:

Suppose, back in 1988, George H.W. Bush personally oversaw Saddam's nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs. Suppose he personally piloted the planes that dropped CW on Halabja. Suppose he then parachuted down and shot the wounded with anthrax-tipped radioactive bullets.

OK? So the question I want you to answer is this:

How does any of this alter the case for disarming Saddam Huseein in 2003?

Posted by: murray at August 12, 2003 at 07:22 AM

The hard left absolutely loves to dredge up past examples of military support for brutal dictators as a rationale for undermining US opposition to their rule. I think you’ve done a good job addressing the fundamental reason why this critique is irrelevant, but I’d like to raise an additional point:

By the logic of the leftist critiques (including Analoge Voter), the US has to oppose another regime constantly throughout its existence in order to have the credibility to criticize it in the present day. But take a look at the regimes that fit this definition: Cuba, Iran and North Korea. Each of these nations are countries the hard left routinely savages the US for not "engaging". Shouldn’t they be praising the US for dealing with these regimes in a “pure” manner? And why aren’t leftists who wish to “engage” Cuba, Iran and North Korea guilty of trying to ‘prop up’ tyrants?

Oh well, at least the warloving jingoists have a convenient excuse the next time some dippy leftist on Castro’s payroll opines for lifting of
sanctions. (“Well, we’d really LOVE to do so, but unfortunately if we ‘engage’ Castro even once, we will forfeit all rights to ever criticize him again for all eternity...”)

Posted by: Sean at August 12, 2003 at 09:53 AM

Murray - what case for "disarming" Iraq in 2003 via aerial blitzkrieg, invasion and occupation would that be?

It can't be the fact that Saddam Hussein murdered large numbers of people, since your response to Western support of these crimes at their peak is a casual "so what".

Or did you really think Iraq's battered military were comin to getcha, as you cowered under your Anne Coulter duvet, quivering with fear?

That would be pathetic.

Or perhaps you've just got a thing about men with moustaches?

That might be forgivable.

Posted by: Analogue Voter at August 12, 2003 at 12:04 PM

Um, actually "so what" appears to be YOUR response, since you keep avoiding the question posed to you.

So allow me to re-repeat: How does the accusations of America's detente with Hussein from 1982-1990 demonstrate that the US should not have overthrown Huseein in 2003?

Posted by: Sean at August 12, 2003 at 12:15 PM

A_V, A_V, A_V. You attempt to keep baiting me into debating down at your level. It's not gonna work.

You've made no attempt to answer the question posed three times now by Sean and me, because you have no answer to it, and you know it.

You're in the seventh stage of Bad Argumentation, bud: Aimless Blustering. Let me know when you can construct a coherent argument.

Posted by: murray at August 12, 2003 at 12:31 PM

Murray -

Until you actually make a case for disarming Iraq, how can I support, refute or criticise it?

If you ever decide to tell us, please spare any reference to the violence of the regime - since you supported the worst of it.

Posted by: Analogue Voter at August 12, 2003 at 10:52 PM


I'm not asking you to support, refute, or criticize anything I've written. I've simply asked you to defend the argument that you yourself made.

Like many people, you seem to believe that past Western support for Saddam's regime invalidates any subsequent action against them. You began posting here with a bunch of links that you seem to think support this argument.

I asked you, many times, to defend your own proposition--the one you seemed to think was such a powerful argument. If you attempt to make an argument, you should be prepared to defend it. But one last time, with feeling:

If, in 2003, the UN and the world's democratic governments believe that Dictator X is developing WMD, how does it help us to know that Western firms were among his suppliers back in the 80s, besides as a cautionary tale? How should we behave differently towards Dictator X in the light of this knowledge, besides resolving to be more prudent in the future? Does it mean we can never act against Dictator X? If so, why?

You have repeatedly refused to even begin to defend your own argument. Instead, you've blustered, misdirected, misrepresented, erected strawmen, and--the first refuge of the feeble debater--attacked me personally.

It's obvious that you don't have the courage of your own convictions, since you won't--as I keep saying--defend the argument that you attempted to make.

Posted by: murray at August 13, 2003 at 01:53 AM

Murray -

Actually I posed the original question on this thread, namely whether Iraqi's suffer the amnesia shown here (or, for you, complete indifference) regarding the role of their liberators in their earlier oppression. For those outside of La La Limbaughland that's quite an important one, since many (most?) Iraqi's know that the foreign guys with guns standing in their streets are agents of the same power that supported Saddam's brutal war with Iran and his gassing of Kurds etc.

That one remains unaswered here.

Instead you refer over and over to the "case for [violently] disarming Iraq" without stating what that case is.

I'll get back to you when I develop telepathic powers.

Posted by: Analogue Voter at August 13, 2003 at 06:49 AM

Your original post begged the question of US government involvement in Saddam's atrocities, and several people correctly queried you on it: Ross, JorgXMcKie, SMGalbraith, me, Steve Edwards, D2D, and Sean in this comment thread alone. Your only response was a partial one to SMGalbraith. Otherwise you have most assiduously avoided directly addressing anyone's questions as to your logic, or your ultimate point, which remains unclear. No-one is compelled to respond to your argument until you actually make it, Analogue_Voter.

Instead you have indulged in just about every dodgy debating tactic in the book, with the result being that you appear to be way, way over your head, intellectually. Otherwise, you're a troll. Either way, you're not worth wasting time on.

Posted by: murray at August 13, 2003 at 07:03 AM