December 03, 2003


A British commie collective disses the peacenik Left:

How is it possible for us to call ourselves Marxists and support a war waged by a coalition of rich western liberal democracies against the government of a poor “Third World” country? We would turn the question round: how it is possible that Marxism has been so corrupted and distorted that “Marxists” prefer to see thousands more Iraqis die in the torture chambers of the Ba’ath, and millions more suffer under the iniquities excused (not caused) by the UN sanctions, rather than admit that socialists not only can but must support even the worst bourgeois democracy against even the least bad tyranny? For the beginnings of an answer, let us consider just some of the transparent and disgusting lies generated and spread by the western “left” before and during the war.

Read on. This essay has been online for some months, but doesn’t seem to have been widely linked. It deserves to be.

(Via reader Judith W.)

Posted by Tim Blair at December 3, 2003 07:13 PM

That was more or less my line for the past year.
But evidence has forced me to adjust my view.
The US admin turned down SH's last-minute offer to step down, turn over any terrorists to the CIA, open up armouries to FBI, grant full oil access to US industry and hold elections supervised by the UN.
Instead it chose forcible regime change, on the understanding that the costs would not exceed the benefits.
That assumption has turned out to be false. I know regime change is not a dinner party, but the tale of things gone wrong is as long as my arm and getting longer. Wrong things thought:

  • rogue state WMD proliferation would be reduced, rather than increased elsewhere

  • fundamentalist terrorists would be discouraged, rather than encourgaged elsewhere, by provocation and default, esp in Paki & Saudi

  • US military would be embraced as liberators, rather than be regarded as occupiers at best

  • Baathists would give up without a fight, rather than start an partisan insurrection

  • Iraqis would pay for their own reconstruction, rather than be hobbled by a looted & sanctions-dilapidated oil industry

  • RoW would roll over and contribute to the finance and support for new government, rather than desert the new Iraq in droves

  • Syrians, Iranians and Saudis would be intimidated into subordination, rather than become a source of jihadists

  • bulk of the US military would be home by Christmas, rather than be slated to stay till 2006, suffering serious re-enlistment stress

  • whole thing would cost south of $100 bill, rather than north of $300 bill

  • total Iraqi-inclusive casualties would be 10,000 kia, rather than north of 30,000 kia

  • Iraq would turn into a secular democracy, rather than theocratic demagoguery ie Iran-lite

  • Suunis, Shiites and Kurds would all share a united Iraq, rather than talk of civil war and partition

Sure SH et al is gone, and his party is destroyed, for which we can all be grateful.

But CENTCOM kept his weapons-proliferating, terrorist-harbouring, civilian-oppressing & neighbour-aggressing capabilities in check, at low cost, for the better part of the nineties.
So we have payed an enormous price for a benefit that we could have had for free.
And there is still plenty of time for things to get worse.
Net fundie terrorism is up, not down.
Net WMD proliferation is up, not down.
And OBL & SH are still free.
Sometimes the game isn't worth the candle.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at December 3, 2003 at 09:05 PM

Posted this on the local Indymedia site for a bit of a giggle. Will be interesting to see the reaction.

It's arguably the best debunking of all the anti-war arguments I've read.

Posted by: Macca at December 3, 2003 at 09:20 PM

It must break some sort of record for "sneer quotes".
However, it is sneering at the loony left, so I don't mind.

Posted by: Osamas Psychotic Proctologist at December 3, 2003 at 11:05 PM

"The US admin turned down SH's last-minute offer to step down, turn over any terrorists to the CIA, open up armouries to FBI, grant full oil access to US industry and hold elections supervised by the UN."

So, provided this wasn't some delaying tactic, or outright hoax, and provided indeed that it was from Saddam Hussein...

... Doesn't that imply that Saddam Hussein and Iraq were
-- Being obfuscatory about WMD programs (a behavior that the UN had specifically warned Iraq not to engage in, under threat of "serious consequences")
-- In league with terrorist organizations, most likely including religiously motivated groups (thus negating the suggestion that the secular Saddam and hyperreligious like Osama wouldn't couldn't work with each other)
-- Spending signficant amounts of money from the Oil for Food program on weaponry despite UN demands for disarmament
-- Finally, exposing itself as a despotic, tyrannical regime that denied its citizens the human right of voting for its leaders

And none of that seems like a good idea to forcibly eject the regime? A regime that had a history of lying to the world and belligerece to its neighbors?

Was the world supposed to say "Oh, hey, no problem Saddam. Go on, get outta here you nutty dictator! We TOTALLY trust you on the not causing trouble anymore thing. Oh, and if it's not too much trouble, can you, like, maybe let us know what happened to all that money?"

"Net fundie terrorism is up, not down."
-- How do you measure this?
"Net WMD proliferation is up, not down."
-- Or this?
"And OBL & SH are still free."
-- Technically true, though it's awfully hard for them hop down to the bar to grab some beers and watch the game with the fellas. We have no evidence that they've been captured or killed; we have little (and not entirely persuasive) evidence that they are alive.

Posted by: Steve in Houston at December 4, 2003 at 12:34 AM

An amazingly good diatribe, even if it comes from a perspective I could not possibly share.

The writers have a remarkably realistic appraisal of the situation, given the time of writing. And they seem to be capable of applying their ideology in a rational and thoroughly consistent manner - virtues pretty much absent in the anti-war left.

The strangest thing about the extent of their realism is this quote: "it makes more sense to assess each scene in this continuing drama on its own merits, by the light of the doctrine of the lesser evil, than to either buy into the whole deal or reject it out of hand simply because it isn’t revolutionary socialism. Given the widespread popularity of capitalism and the vanishingly small support for socialism in the contemporary world, it would be stupid to expect anything more radical."

It still leaves me wondering - why bother being a "revolutionary socialist" at all???

Posted by: Bob Bunnett at December 4, 2003 at 12:41 AM

I can only say "wow! a thinking lefty!" and I find myself feeling that if only the lefty leaders were at least as honest as this I'd still be a lefty.

Posted by: random at December 4, 2003 at 01:00 AM

Thanks Tim! Restoring my faith in the far left.

Jack, If you find yourself disagreeing with a communist, what does that say about your beliefs on the political spectrum?

They have 'special' rooms for you at some 'special' institutions!

Posted by: Mahatma at December 4, 2003 at 01:46 AM

My favorite lines:

"So much for the festival of fools and liars that erupted in the West in March and April 2003, and that presented such a pathetic spectacle compared to the magnificent festival of the formerly oppressed in the cities of Iraq, where thousands engaged in freelance redistribution and creative recycling, only to be denounced by the fools and liars as “looters”, "

I nearly fell out my chair at that one.

Posted by: Ryan at December 4, 2003 at 05:01 AM

First off, congratulations to Tim Blair for running the Funniest Blog 2003, according to some other bloggers anyway (sorry, but Ive misplaced the link).
I’ve enjoyed reading the comments so far, and I guess I would have enjoyed the experience even if I wasn’t one of the writers in the “commie collective” that Tim has kindly linked to. As I am one of them, I thank you for your compliments, even the ones that are a bit backhanded, and/or imply that we should be giving up on our principles and moving on from the left (with or without sneer quotes).
Yes, we are ashamed of the anti-war crowd, we do diss them, and we do think that they are unrealistic as well as repulsive. Some of them should have been sent off for psychiatric treatment long ago (no names, but think British playwright/screenwriter in his dotage); some of them should probably be prosecuted for giving aid and comfort to the enemy; and so on. To that extent we share much of the feeling of the majority of this weblog’s readers.
But that’s feeling, not thought. Whether you’ve read the rest of the stuff on our website or not, please note that *our criticisms of them are from the left, not from the right*. You may loathe and despise them because they seem to you to represent the core traditions of the left: we loathe and despise them precisely because they don’t. On the contrary, they pretend to be on the left while moronically giving support (intended or not) to individuals and movements that, given half a chance, would happily annihilate them - and us, and you, and anyone else who doesn’t want to see the Caliphate restored.
So, in answer to Bob Bunnett’s question, “why bother being a ‘revolutionary socialist’ at all?”, it’s not so much why bother, as why not bother? Given that revolutionary socialism still seems to us to be the least bad of the options available, should we renege on it just because it’s out of fashion, marginalised and ineffectual? Would Bob Bunnett change his views in order to fit into the mainstream? We hope not.
Since we don’t agree with the right, we don’t agree with the fake “left”, and we don’t want to be in the middle of the road in case we get run over (sorry, tired old gag stolen from Aneurin Bevan), we really have nowhere else to go. Poor us, eh? But at least we can promise that when we get into power we’ll allow you to keep on blogging and commenting, and we’ll even give you a government grant to finance your upgrades - whether you want a government grant or not.

Posted by: Patrick at December 4, 2003 at 05:09 AM


I don't bother wasting time agreeing, or disagreeing, with ideologists.
That is for people in special rooms.

I compare words with the world, ie seek to speak Truth in order to do Good ie empirical inquiry for utilitarian policy

Have you got a problem with that?

I am just trying to compare regime change's purported benefits with the actual benefits, and ditto for costs.

Seems to me that the benefits were wildly oversold and the costs wildly underestimated.

But if you don't mind being duped into such transactional disparities, then hey I have a bridge that you might be interested in buying.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at December 4, 2003 at 06:32 AM

Steve in Houston

I don't have a crystal ball, but cutting a deal with Saddam Hussein, to keep the old Iraqi state intact, whilst letting him step down from office, but no doubt keep institutional control over patronage, sounds like a pretty good deal over what we have now.

I flew that "cutting a deal" kite on my blog, as the best compromise rather than war.

It was clear then that US war plans were not what they seemed, given the squabble between Shinseki and Wolfowitz over troop deployments.

I thought that SH would not be interested in the deal as he was a Stalinist. Little did I realise what power maniacs the US admin were.

The US rejected the deal, as they wanted a short victorious war, and US-sponsored regime change so that they could install their own puppet - Chalabi.

Chalabi is what's known in the trade as a carpet bagger, he was going to do to the Iraqi oil industry what the oligarchs did to the Soviet oil industry after Yeltsin's regime change.

The US admin are now realising what so many other people who had great plans to make over the world have realised: things have come unstuck.

There was no need to trust SH, just keeping an eye on him would do. That's power politics.

DO people on this blog "trust" Iraq's Shiite majority to make nice with the West? There are quite a few mullahs making the rounds there.

We had SH in a box. Now we have Iran-lite plus Lebanon and Belfast. The peace-keeping mission that will never end.


Posted by: Jack Strocchi at December 4, 2003 at 07:07 AM

Jack, what about all of human history leads you to believe that you can even begin to evaluate what the actual benefits of the attempt to establish democracy in the most backward part of the planet are, a few months after the attempt started? That's not even like trying to judge America's post-WWII efforts by how Germany was in 1946; it's like trying to judge it by the fact that Poland hadn't been reliberated by January 1, 1940.

Posted by: Mike G at December 4, 2003 at 07:08 AM

Jack Strocchi

"The US admin turned down SH's last-minute offer to step down, turn over any terrorists to the CIA, open up armouries to FBI, grant full oil access to US industry and hold elections supervised by the UN."

This is the first time Iv heard of that so if you can point to where you read it please do so. But to be up front, I would go with "Steve in Houston" assessment. I cant see the Democrats or the ALP staying silent even if half true. There is an equal or possibly longer list of anti-war reasons that "were wildly oversold" does that make a good reason to be pro-war?.

Posted by: Gary at December 4, 2003 at 07:26 AM

Well it sounds like these guys are truer than the LLLs to the original teachings of Marx and Engels, who approved of European colonialism as a way to force the lesser breeds into the modern world so they could eventually join in the socialist world revolution, after going through a capitalist phase. Marx and Engels did look on them as the lesser breeds, as much as the worst of European colonialists did.

As to being an adherent of revolutionary socialism at this late date, every attempt to make such ideas concrete, by realizing them in the world as it exists, has led to regimes indistinguishable from fascist regimes. By induction, the next time this is tried the same result will occur. Trying to make a new world to accomodate the fantasies of socialist ideology always gives this result. This experiment has begun again in South America and no sooner did it start than the government attempting it in Venezuela started to become anti-democratic and tyrannical. This is the predictable result of revolutionary socialism and as long as you try to achive that, you will get fascism. Give it up.

Posted by: Michael Lonie at December 4, 2003 at 07:33 AM

I'm afraid that, as rational and even admirable as I find much of this piece, I agree with Michael Lonie: you've missed one of history's real lessons (and not the kind you draw yourself prematurely, like Jack) if you don't see that there's never been a form of socialist government that wasn't basically totalitarian and-- arguably more damaging if not morally worse-- rife with cronyism and self-delusion. To make sure the provinces produce enough steel according to the 5-year plan, you build gulags for those who fail. To stay out of the gulags, the provincial leaders fake the numbers they report back to you. Since the numbers are fake anyway, why not skim off the top to boot, everyone else does. And so it goes until the whole economy collapses.

Capitalism looks so mean and nasty, but it is surely not coincidence that the one system that contains its own realistic punishments (mismanage and go broke) is the only one which never had to resort to murdering five or ten million people at a time to make the system stick, like gentle benevolent socialism did time and time again. Socialism achieved some real things in capitalist countries in the way of ameliorating working conditions and creating a social safety net. Revolutionary socialism in communist countries achieved boneyards by the acre and turned fertile fields into blood pudding. It had its chance and created misery unparalleled in history. Let it be done with forever.

Posted by: Mike G at December 4, 2003 at 08:00 AM



Here are some links.
Saddam's desperate offers to stave off war
US 'rejected Iraqi concessions'
War alternatives were exhausted, officials insist
U.S. Adviser Got Iraq Peace Feeler
As you would expect, Hitchens jumps on the offer as proof that SH was bad all along, without producing any evidence that a peace deal stand down, per CHarles Taylor in LIberia, would have not been a satisfactory solution.
Final Offer

The Democrats, apart from Dean, are stymied becasue they supported the war. That is why Dean is doing well.

The ALP can't lay a glove on Howard, because Howard is the only politician with an "exit strategy" all worked out in advance.
Clever fellow.

The anti-war side did over sell the down side of the war, and has under sold the good side of the peace.

However, there is no getting away from the fact that a huge amount of blood has been shed, treasure spent for a very small net good ie Hussein on the run instead of stepped down.

No terrorists stopped or WMD systems destroyed.

And now everyone hates the US.

UNless Iraq regime change magically causes the rest of the Arabs to embrace democracy, I can only see this situation dragging on like all the other semiinsurgencies in Lebanon, Algeria, Sudan, Somalia, Palestine etx

Except insurgents will have plenty of oil pipelines to sabotage.

Does that sound familiar?

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at December 4, 2003 at 08:03 AM

Mike G,

I am pessimistic about Iraq because Iraq is different to Japan and Germany.
J & G were democracies before the war, and are full of Japs and Germans who are easier to manage.

I tend to look at examples of Arabic responses to foreign incursion and attempts to promote liberalism.
Iraq is Arabic. And they don't respond well to foreign management. That is a fact.

Also this GWB's admin is different from FDR's admin, it is worse.
FDR had a big plan for nation building, and was committed to staying for ten years. The US wants out within a year.

Wishful thinking has characterised this affair from the get go.
Time to get real.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at December 4, 2003 at 08:10 AM

Japan was a democracy before the war? I guess it had a prime minister. Didn't the military kill at least one of them?

I'll put that on a par with your other "facts," which border on racism. It's always interesting that it's the right wing fascist pigs who have faith in the essential human nature underlying difference peoples and their yearning to be free, while it's the multiculuralist lefties wind up saying that the wogs can never learn democracy like good old Johnny Englishman.

Posted by: Mike G at December 4, 2003 at 08:17 AM

I am neither right wing fascist nor left wing multiculturalist.

Just one poor guy trying to make sense of this crazy mixed up world.

Japan had electoral democratic insitutions in the first half of the 20thC but they were undermined by the Eastern strategists who wanted to get their hands on Manchukoko.

Imperialism does not go well with democracy.
A point to remember.

My criticism of Arabic attitudes to democracy is cultural, not biological.
Individual Arabs are able to practice democracy in the West. Their is no genetic inhibition there.

But they do not have an especially good record of practising or promoting it in their own countries.
Or would I be mistaken about that fact?

Before the war I was hopeful that, this time, things might be different. But the sight of several million fundamental Shiites banging their foreheads with prayer books on the way to Kebala did not inspire me with hope.

It appears that Sistani will call the shots when the US leaves. He is a fundamentalist cleric. Not noted for long run committments to popular democracy.

And there is clearly a growing insurgency building up in the Suuni triangle.

Wait till Sistani and the Suunis go head to head. That should be interesting.

And you allege I am being racist by being pessimistic?
I call that realism.
You should try some yourself.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at December 4, 2003 at 08:37 AM

I'm frankly amazed. This is the first piece of writing I've read from the left that seems genuinely concerned with the "working class" as an actuality, not an abstraction, with a political will un-limned by the left or right, and not as a straw man, or a totem to be invoked to end argument or summon righteousness. As someone genuinely from that class, I have to congratulate Patrick and his colleagues for actually talking about the working class without making me want to reach for my hammer.

Of course, I have no sympathy with Marxism, but as I never tire of pointing out to the leftists I meet who oppose the war, support the Palestinian regime, hate Israel, etc. - in every case you're supporting a regime that oppresses poor and working people, and opposing one with genuinely socialist roots. The irony is rich, and like most things that are too rich, more than a bit nauseating.

Posted by: rick mcginnis at December 4, 2003 at 09:01 AM

Thanks Jack, Still after 12 years of Saddams "cheat and retreat" do really believe offers made by third party with such vague details could be treated with anything but scepticism. There is nothing wrong with pessimistic but you shouldn't let it blind you. And there is a lot of positive and negative news coming out of Iraq to make anybody's "absolute" opinion invalid.

Posted by: Gary at December 4, 2003 at 09:17 AM


Japan had a prime minister but it was NOT a democracy prior to World War II. At best, it was an oligarchal system, w/ the PMs and the political system pretty much dominated by a handful of industrial collectives. Weimar was far closer to a democratic system than the Japanese political structure, and one of the few reformers who tried to head down that path (Inuki, iirc) was indeed assassinated.

As for FDR's plans for staying, etc., I'd be curious to know where evidence of this is from. There were COMPETING plans for a variety of responses post-occupation, at least for Germany (one of which being the famous Morgenthau Plan), but the Marshall Plan, frex, was implemented in response to FAILINGS of the occupation. Nor were many of the plans implemented in Japan set down in advance---instead MacArthur played it more than a little by ear.

As for democracy and imperialism, I take it that Great Britain from the 1800s to the present is not much of a democracy. IIRC, Australia, among others, was a colony, yet while there were/are kings and queens of England, government is in the hands of an elected parliament/Prime Minister with broad-based suffrage for most of that period (again, broader than existed in Japan).

As for the offers from Saddam, to begin with, what they did not offer was what Dubya and Blair said was necessary to avoid war: Publicly tell us what you did w/ your WMD. Just lay it out.

Instead, the "offer" (via back channels and the like) was negotiations. Now, there's always room for negotiations. Especially if you think that the summer will prevent you from campaigning. If you think that the UN, or France/Germany/Russia, will pressure your enemies from going forward. If you think that the Americans can't keep their troops in a forward position for months on end (a good bet). But then, he also said that he'd stand for free and open elections as part of the deal---and we're expected to buy THAT??

But it IS interesting to note that the supposedly impossible connection between Al-Qaeda and Saddam is, in fact, confirmed by these offers, since Saddam apparently offered a top al-Qaeda operative. Now, how could they do that, unless he was in the country w/ Saddam's knowledge? But, that's impossible, innit, since there was "no link" between secular Saddam and religious al-Qaeda??

Posted by: Dean at December 4, 2003 at 10:01 AM

Still kickin' round the same old cans. You've lost this one, blogmiremeister. no tidal wave of democracy, no WMD, no public funerals, no saddam dead in a ditch, no time to fix up this mess before the primaries... unless... is that hoofbeats of the UN I can hear, coming to save Bush the Lesser's lily white, watch-me-get-back-on-Air-Force-One ass?

I do believe it is. But hang on, I though the UN was irrelevant?

Posted by: Miranda Divide at December 4, 2003 at 10:16 AM

"The hoofbeats of the UN"? As they ride into the sunset -- ie, West, as far from Iraq as they can get. Then again, perhaps the Security (Blanket) Council will issue a nice directive that will make the "insurgents" quake in their boots and then start beating their weapons into plowshares or something. After all, it's always worked before... right?

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 4, 2003 at 11:08 AM

It’s nice to know that there are a few Marxists who mean well, though I certainly agree with Michael Lonie & Michael G. Anyway I didn’t confine myself to reading just the Iraq article supporting the good old US of A, but felt obliged to look at the other things at the site, & was pleasantly surprised to find the article on Zimbabwe as well. I don’t know anything about what’s going on in Kenya, but because of the credibility that you gain regarding Zimbabwe & South Africa, I’ll be on the lookout for unsettling info on Kenya.

Posted by: ForNow at December 4, 2003 at 01:17 PM

I think I'm getting the point of Jack's argument. The bigger the liar in the past the more reason to believe him when he says something you want to hear. Works for me. Also makes me wonder exactly where Jack got that bridge.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at December 5, 2003 at 01:09 AM

Jack Strocchi wrote:

It appears that Sistani will call the shots when the US leaves. He is a fundamentalist cleric. Not noted for long run committments to popular democracy.

I may be allowing my prejudices against fundamentalists to cloud my jusdgement here. Sistani certainly looks like your standard Middle Eastern mad mullah, but he does not talk or act like one.
In fact his rhetoric and actions seem reasonable and democratic.
Juan Cole is the best commentator on the region, with the least imposing ideological axes to grind, and he seems to think Sistani is ok, not a US lover, but not a rogue state maker and certainly a democrat:
in [Sistani's] fatwas since June, he has consistently said that legitimate government must derive from the will of the people...He specifically says that sovereignty derives from the people.
That seems to me as democratic as anything said by Enlightenment thinkers in Europe. Of course, Sistani does demarcate a limit to democracy, which is that the people must not legislate or adopt policy that directly contradicts Islamic law. But then all democracies are limited by constitutional provisions. A majority of Americans now might not vote for all the 10 amendments to the constitution that make up the Bill of Rights. But they are stuck with them anyway.
Likewise, Sistani thinks an Iraqi democracy would be stuck with the "constitutional" principles of shari`ah or Islamic law. But he nevertheless insists on one person one vote as the guarantor of governmental legitimacy. That seems to me a commitment to pure democracy.

So I am prepared to close one eye and hope for the best, regarding prospects for democracy.
The big problem as far as Iraq's future is concerned are two real conflict potentias, one between the Shiites:

  • Intra-Shiites: eg Sistani v Sadr, v Hakim Badrites

  • Shiites V Suuni: eg Suuni Baathists V the rest

If either of these flares up into major civil conflict, then prospects for democracy are dim.
The example of Algiers is instructive.
An early and convincing, election victory for moderate non-Iranian backed Shiites appears to be the best hope for damage mimisation.
This would not be a bad result, definitely better than Hussein or Khomeinite-type rule.
Democracy in Iraq is better than non-democracy, but the cost of 30,000+ kia/mia and 300 bill is too high, relative to the benefit.
That amount of blood and treasure would have better served peace and freedom fighting terrorism and securing peace in Palestine.
The US military brass is angry and worried about the political misuse of the professional Army.
But it is "defining victory down" to the level of non-quagmire, non-Hussein, rather than the brave new united Iraq, pro-US, pro-Israel, fantasy world of the neo-cons.
And that stuff about Hussein being involved with 911 or accumulating WMDs on the sly has been exposed as a tissue of lies.
Please, spare me the post-facto spin-doctoring about WMDs by Kay and OBL by Feith.
I did not fall for it before the war, and I certainly am not interested in being part of another sucker play.
Pro-war boosters need to take a good, long hard look at themselves, and be honest about their mistakes and self-delusions.
Allowing foreign policy of the US to be hi-jacked by con-men (pun, sorry) is against the interests of the free world.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at December 5, 2003 at 11:46 AM

JorgXMcKie tries to turn up the rhetorical heat and winds up shooting himself in the foot:

The bigger the liar in the past the more reason to believe him when he says something you want to hear.

He sounds like he is talking about the neo-cons, rather than Hussein.
This is an example of, what Freudians used to call, "projection" ie when the guilty party projects their own bad faith onto the motivations of the opposing party.
I suggest JorgXMcKie see a therapist.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at December 5, 2003 at 11:53 AM