February 25, 2004


Brendan O’Neill pursues Saddam’s shredder in this week’s Spectator:

Nobody doubts that Saddam was a cruel and ruthless tyrant who murdered many thousands of his own people (at least 17,000 according to Amnesty; 290,000 according to Human Rights Watch) and that the vast majority of Iraqis are glad he’s gone. But did his regime have a human-shredding machine that made mincemeat of men?

The evidence is far from compelling.

Other shredder-doubters are covered here. My own position? I’m not inclined to quickly dismiss the shredder claims, because any regime capable of these outrages is easily capable of devising an alternative use for industrial machinery. Reader Reg wrote:

We have footage of men being executed with explosives. We know of people being shot in front of their families. We hear from Western journalists of informants being returned to their homes in garbage bags, or in sealed coffins with insults scrawled across them. We can read in Kanan Makiya's book Republic of Fear about people being steamrollered under fresh ashphalt, or of men whose sole occupation seemed to be Government-Licensed Rapist. We know of the incredibly brutal ethnic cleansing of the Anfal, including the gassing of towns and mass executions.

As Reg concluded, there seem to be “some minor, passing concerns about the character of the Hussein regime, plastic shredders or no.” Back to O’Neill:

The shredding machine was first mentioned in public by James Mahon, then head of research at Indict, at a meeting at the House of Commons on 12 March. Mahon had just returned from northern Iraq, where Indict researchers, along with Ann Clwyd, interviewed Iraqis who had suffered under Saddam’s regime. One of them said Iraqis had been fed into a shredder ...

Clwyd tells me: ‘We heard it from a victim; we heard it and we believed it.’ So nothing was done to check the truth of what the victim said, against other witness statements or other evidence for a shredding machine? ‘Well, no,’ says Clwyd. ‘[Indict researchers] didn’t have to do that; they were just taking witness statements.’

But surely, before going public with so shocking a story, facts ought to have been checked and double-checked? Clwyd clearly doesn’t think so. ‘We heard it from someone who had been released from the Abu Ghraib prison....I heard his account of what went on in the prison. I was there when [Indict’s] cross-examination of the witness took place, and I am satisfied from what I heard that shredding was a method of execution. We knew he wasn’t making it up.’

This is all that Indict had to go on — uncorroborated and quite amazing claims made by a single person from northern Iraq.

Obviously, interviewing anyone with first-hand -- or feet-first -- experience of the alleged shredder is impossible. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that this person from northern Iraq was lying, for whatever reason; we pro-liberation types now find ourselves in the utterly humiliating position of having supported the removal of a tyrant who tortured and killed tens of thousands of people (at least), but who didn’t use a plastic shredder.

By contrast, antiwar folks are able now to state with authority: “Look at this! No shredding here at all! This murdered victim of Saddam’s regime, recently hauled from a mass grave, is completely intact! Except for the bullet hole in his skull!

Compelling argument, isn’t it?

Posted by Tim Blair at February 25, 2004 03:00 AM

Obviously, Saddam's shredder was looted by the U.S. Army, in order to dispose of the warmongering Bushnazi's phoney turkey!!!


Posted by: Rick at February 25, 2004 at 03:07 AM

Pity these folks aren't as punctilious about claims made about "5000 starving babied per month" or "hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties" or "millions of displaced persons" or -- well I could go on, but it is evident that only SOME claims without factual proof are to be taken as important, isn't it? Can you say "plastic turkey?"

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at February 25, 2004 at 03:27 AM

Why did they expect to find a shredder in the prison? It was most probably used in the industrial complex where it was initially installed.
Plastic shredders big enough to accept human bodies are not that easy move around.
And what did those critics expect to find of a human body shredded to 5mm granules?

Posted by: Barry at February 25, 2004 at 03:50 AM

Shredder doubters and plastic turkey believers ... oh brother

Posted by: Rich at February 25, 2004 at 04:02 AM

I've seen a plastic shredder in action - in fact I've used one in a factory. There's no doubt a human being COULD be fed into one. And if they could be, why, in a regime like Saddam's, wouldn't they be?

Posted by: sue at February 25, 2004 at 04:20 AM

This reminds me of Holocaust deniers claiming to have "debunked" the Holocaust by pointing out there's no evidence of the Nazis making soap or lampshades from the victims, and I believe, is intended by O'Neill and others to serve the same purpose. Basically, they're quieting their consciences by saying, "well, claim X was a lie, so I can ignore the REST of the claims, too".

Ditto for their constant harping on the incubator story from the Gulf War; pointing to a false atrocity allows them to ignore the real ones that were committed.

Posted by: Robert Crawford at February 25, 2004 at 05:06 AM

In his lame attempts to spin the possibility of the nonexistence of a people shreder into further delegitimizing the Coalition, I think O'Neill has forgone a shredder for a hair-splitter.

My guess he adheres to the old saw that "close only counts with horseshoes and hand grenades". Which is appropriate in this case.

Posted by: Steve in Houston at February 25, 2004 at 05:19 AM

The issue is not whether Sadaam Hussein was a bad man who did bad things. I freely grant that he was a first-rate tyrant, and the world is better off without his like in power.

The issue, though, is whether the US would have had international support for waging war on Iraq had removal of Sadaam for these atrocities been the justification at the time. The justification for war by the US at the time was that Iraq had WMDs, that Sadaam was in league with al Qaeda, and that America's security was directly and immediately threatened as a result. This has not yet proven to be the case, so it is reasonable to question whether the war was justified.

The end does not justify the means if lies, deceit, or just plain sloppy reasoning were used to declare war. Getting rid of one brutal tyrant does not make the world safer when his removal requires a superpower to act as an even bigger tyrant.

Until someone can prove to me that the assertions made by the Bush administration were valid, I will persist in feeling that I was manipulated and lied to. In the meantime, I join others in condemning Sadaam's brutality and celebrating the possibility of a better life for the Iraqi people. I just wish we'd gotten rid of him honestly.

Posted by: Stumax at February 25, 2004 at 05:21 AM

The issue, though, is whether the US would have had international support for waging war on Iraq had removal of Sadaam for these atrocities been the justification at the time.

And the answer to that is "No".

Here's a clue: the nature of Saddam's regime WAS PART OF THE JUSTIFICATION. The "anti-war" movement simply ignored it, in large part by playing the "if you can't get rid of all tyrants, you shouldn't get rid of one" game.

Here's another clue: there wasn't just one reason to remove Saddam. There were dozens. No single one may have been convincing, but ALL OF THEM TOGETHER would be convincing to any but the most ardent pacifist. Instead of dealing with ALL of the reasons, the "anti-war" movement preferred to dismiss them one-by-one as "insufficient".

I remember one "peace" advocate whining that the Bush administration "couldn't stick to just one reason" for removing Saddam.

In any case, "Stumax", you've proven my point: this is just an excuse to ignore Saddam's obvious atrocities so that your "peace" credentials aren't soiled by Iraq's mass graves.

Posted by: Robert Crawford at February 25, 2004 at 05:49 AM

O'Neill is part of Spiked online whose editor, was forced to shut down his previous magazine, L.M., when they were sued for libel for claiming that the news organisation I.T.N. had faked footage of Serbian prison camp.

Good to see they are carrying on with that tradition.

Posted by: Ross at February 25, 2004 at 06:12 AM

There can only be one reason for doing something? Hmph.

Also, it was violations of the cease fire agreement, including dismantling of the WMD programs. While the expected stockpiles didn't show up, they did find evidence of cease fire violations, including attempts to conceal WMD programs for later use when the heat was off.

Posted by: Patrick Chester at February 25, 2004 at 06:16 AM

The issue, though, is whether the US would have had international support for waging war on Iraq had removal of Sadaam for these atrocities been the justification at the time.

The answer to that issue is NO. The international community didn't care about that. Orson Scott Card:

It was in the campaign to win over the U.N., and only then, that the WMD situation became the main plank in the pro-war platform, and that was only because this was the only violation of U.N. resolutions that the Security Council veto-holders and the largest NATO powers seemed even remotely interested in considering.

In other words, it was not us, but France, Germany, Russia, and China that decided that the only place worth focusing our efforts was the question of WMDs.

Posted by: Sortelli at February 25, 2004 at 07:14 AM

Like arguing how many devils can dance on the head of a pin.

Posted by: Rick T. at February 25, 2004 at 07:33 AM

I'm with you Tim. You are the man.

With that said, we must be concerned with the truth. Personally, I believe the story. But, if it can be shown that this story was an embellishment or exaggeration I want to know.

I want to stress that I would be skeptical if it was suddenly shown that Saddam did NOT feed people into shredders. That's how much I believe the story. However, to reiterate, I want the truth.

Posted by: Sean at February 25, 2004 at 07:43 AM

Stumax: What does "international support" matter for, exactly? (And, er, do you seriously think that the support of Eastern Europe, for example, actually hinged on any specific claim, let alone humanitarian ones of this specificity, which were never used to try and convince the UN (on the obvious grounds that the UN is filled with murderous despots who don't give a fig for humanitarian concerns, unless pretending to do so gets them political points)?)

"International support" usually decodes to one (or both) of two things: "France (and maybe Germany)" or "The UN"; neither set has any particular moral or temporal authority, so who the fuck cares about "international support", when it's used to mean that?

When "international support" is used to mean "support by those countries whose support is necessary to the success of the mission, or those which are our actual allies", well, the US had that in spades, without having to go to the UN, no?

(Also, what Sortelli said, and Card being quoted. The UN debacle was a direct result of the corruption and uselessness of the UN itself... though of course those who wish the UN was neither pretend otherwise.)

Posted by: Sigivald at February 25, 2004 at 07:47 AM

Measuring the pre-UN/UScontainment atrocities (against Shia, Kurds, Iranians) of Hussein is a political red herring, since it begs the question that UN weapons inspections and US military positions has Husseins aggression, proliferation and repression contained "in the box".

You have to compare contained-Hussein apples to regime-changed Iraq apples to make the correct evaluation.

The correct utilitarian-humanitarian argument for removing Saddam's regime should balance the number of people per annum he killed/totured/imprisoned/terrorised, against the actual and likely number of people killed in the process of regime change, including insurgencies, civil war and theocratic purges.

The default Hussein atrocity figure should be discounted over the expected life time of his dynastic regime, which one would expect to last another generation. (Sanctions casualties are not attributable to Hussein, they were imposed in error, given that he gave up his WMDs.)

Even the US State Department attributes Hussein atrocity figure at nomore than 1-2,000 per annum, over the default-contained period from the early nineties-to-naughties.

This would sum to a maximum of ~50,000 lives destroyed by the Husseins over a period of 25 years, from the end of GW-related hostilities in 1992 till ~2020, by which time the sons would likely be removed.

The regime change carnage, Iraqi and US KIA & WIA, is already in the 10-20,000 range after less than a year. Present trends indicated that the war has unleashed a wave of mass-casualty sterrorist uicide bombing - exactly the phenomenon that it was designed to curb.

If political violence-related casualities eascalates to > 2,000 per annum, then regime change is a humanitarian catastrophe, and moral debit is incurred by George Bush.

If political violence-related casualities trail off to 2,000 per annum, then regime change is a humanitarian catastrophe, and moral debit is incurred by George Bush.

It should go without saying, although the US Army does say it, that Iraq regime change was a strategic failure.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at February 25, 2004 at 08:07 AM

Those of us that supported the war must be careful to avoid hypocrisy in this matter - we can hardy harangue journalists who propogate the 'plastic turkey' story, whilst happily repeating another story whose veracity has been questioned. I can quite easily believe that Saddam and his pyschopathic offsiders were quite capable of using a shredder, but that doesnt mean they did. A regime of such evil needs no exaggeration, and unfortunately if such stories are proved to be false, then opponents of the war will seize on them as 'proof' that everything was a lie.
I believe that this war was morally right, but to maintain that moral high ground we have to practise what we preach. If this story isnt true, then that should be acknowledged, its relative unimportance noted, and move on. If it is true (which is highly possible) then show the proof, and then ignore the people that continue to ignore what thine eyes have seen.

Posted by: Paul Dub at February 25, 2004 at 08:11 AM

> But surely, before going public with so shocking
> a story, facts ought to have been checked and
> double-checked? Clwyd clearly doesn’t think so.

Oh, isn't THAT special!

I half expected Clwyd to answer: "No, you blithering idiot, I did NOT knock on the door of Abu Ghraib prison and ask if they had any shredders, or what they used them for. Under the circumstances, gathering anti-Saddam testimony in Iraq, I considered myself fortunate to leave in one piece."

Daniel in Medford

Posted by: Daniel in Medford at February 25, 2004 at 08:12 AM

Jack Strocchi: are you an accountant, by any chance? Just curious...

Daniel in Medford

Posted by: Daniel in Medford at February 25, 2004 at 08:14 AM

Is this why we aren't, as yet, about to do to Mugabe what the Coalition of the willing did to Hussein: Mugabe does not as yet the belle casus a plastic shredding machine: quick someone, send him one, but hide it in the scrub so he can't find it to use.And take a photo as proof, Mugabe as a human shredding machine.

Posted by: d at February 25, 2004 at 08:16 AM

`has a ...machine', as a correction.

Posted by: d at February 25, 2004 at 08:17 AM

Jack Strocchi on your logic we should have left Hitler in power once he had killed all the Jews only a few thousand deaths a year would have been required to keep him in power while it took millions to displace him. Mate liberty is not a zero sum game.

Posted by: Simon at February 25, 2004 at 08:56 AM

"...although the US Army does say it..."

From the article: "US officials have played down the report. They say the views are those of the author alone and do not represent any official policy.

In a disclaimer, the US Army's War College's Institute for Strategic Studies adds that the report does not represent the views of the college."

Jack, do you even read articles you link to? Or is it a comprehension problem?

Posted by: scott h. at February 25, 2004 at 09:18 AM

It should go without saying, although the US Army does say it, that Iraq regime change was a strategic failure.

Let's rescue that quote from dowdification, shall we?

It should go without saying, although [Jeffrey Record, a visiting professor at] the US Army [War College] does say it, that Iraq regime change was a strategic failure.

One of the reasons for the US Army's unparallelled success in recent times is that it trains its officers to be independent, educated thinkers. One of the ways it achieves this is by exposing them to a wide range of ideas and arguments, including those of people who are opposed to US foreign policy. If you read the War College's quarterly journal Parameters, you'll often find articles that express skepticism to one strategic policy or another. The Record paper is part of this tradition, and should be viewed as an encouraging sign of institutional open-mindedness rather than as another means to score cheap points against the Bush Administration.

Posted by: reg at February 25, 2004 at 09:22 AM

If there is no evidence for a human shredder beyond rumour, we need to say so.
Of course Saddam was an evil man and getting rid of him and his regime was correct, but we weaken our case by believing any old story about his regime.
It's not a question of whether we agree with something, or would like to believe it, rather it's a question of how convincing it is- and the degree to which it is supported by evidence. Otherwise, we're as bad as the Robert Fisks and the Margos.
If it's too good to be true, than it usually isn't.

Posted by: anon at February 25, 2004 at 09:39 AM

Even if the shredder story turns out to be fake, there were still plenty of other reasons (ie, rape, murder, genocide) to remove Saddam Hussein.

Posted by: TimT at February 25, 2004 at 09:41 AM

TimT's right, and we should all thank Jack Strocchi for his first link. "Saddam Hussein's regime has also invented unique and horrific methods of torture including electric shocks to a male's genitals, pulling out fingernails, suspending individuals from rotating ceiling fans, dripping acid on a victim's skin, gouging out eyes, and burning victims with a hot iron or blowtorch." "In one cell pieces of human flesh — ear lobes — were nailed to the wall, and blood spattered the ceiling. A large metal fan hung from the ceiling, and my guide told me prisoners were attached to the fan and beaten with clubs as they twirled. There were hooks in the ceiling used to suspend victims. A torture victim told me that prisoners were also crucified, nails driven through their hands into the wall. A favorite technique was to hang men from the hooks and attach a heavy weight to their testicles."

Nevermind the acid baths and the state-sponsored rape, where are the plastic shredders?

Posted by: scott h. at February 25, 2004 at 09:55 AM

Stumax: "justification for war ... was that Iraq had WMDs ... was in league with al Qaeda, and that America's security was directly and immediately threatened"


Justification was that Saddam was maintaining illegal WMD programs, and probably stocks; that he might cooperate with al Qaida; that such potentials fromed an unacceptable risk to US and others security; and that Saddam had persistently violated multiple UN resolutions, and the cease-fire agreement between himself and the US and other coaltion parties.

"The end does not justify the means": so say you. Others may disagree.

"A superpower"(acting)"as an even bigger tyrant." Really? A tyrant over whom? World opinion? As expressed in the UN? In effect, the US is a tyrant unless it's actions are signed of by those epitomes of morality and high-minded idealism, the governments of France, China and Russia?
If that's the course of "honesty", may I be spared from it and it's consequences.

"Sadaam Hussein was a bad man who did bad things."

Yeah. And Hitler was a very naughty boy.

Posted by: John F at February 25, 2004 at 10:14 AM

anti-war hippies can get shredded feet first themselves!

Posted by: koranistoiletpaper at February 25, 2004 at 10:17 AM

"The end does not justify the means if lies, deceit, or just plain sloppy reasoning were used to declare war. Getting rid of one brutal tyrant does not make the world safer when his removal requires a superpower to act as an even bigger tyrant."

Oh. My. God. Stumax, you, and all the other little pedants weighing the lives (and deaths) of Iraqis against your fine sensibilities can go fuck yourselves. Wait -- on second thought, those of you actually capable of such an act (very few, or not for very long, I imagine) may actually enjoy yourselves, however briefly. I don't want you to have any fun. So instead, you can each be strapped to a chair with your eyelids taped open while videos of Saddam's atrocities play on the big screen before you, over and over.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at February 25, 2004 at 11:22 AM


Just in case you thought I was avoiding your main point...

Your claim appears to be that containment by the US and the UN throughout the 90s reduced Saddam's atrocities to "merely" 1,000-2,000 per year. Then you prorate this figure through to 2020 to arrive at a total of 50,000 dead in the 1992-2020 interval. Using "utilitarian-humanitarian" calculations, you then conclude that if the violence in Iraq continues at its present rate, the US invasion is a net loss, in humanitarian terms.

There are at least two major objections to this argument:

1. If we were to perform a true "utilitarian-humanitarian" calculation, we'd have to tally up the atrocities avoided by the containment policy between 1992-2003. If your contention is that containment reduced the scope of Saddam's atrocities, this reduction should be credited to the US/UN's H-U account. Say Saddam would have committed 4,000 atrocities per year in the absence of containment--that would mean that the US/UN would receive credit for 2,000-3,000 atrocities per year avoided between 1992-2003.

2. You beg the question in assuming that containment would have continued uninterrupted through to 2020. The US and UK went to considerable expense in maintaining the no-fly zones over Northern Iraq, and it is by no means certain that they would have continued to do so, especially since the UN sanctions were quite clearly at the end of their lives. The French, in particular, were anxious to lift the sanctions so they could get on with the important business of cultivating business ties with Saddam. Once containment ended, it's probably safe to assume that Saddam and his sons would return to their old habits.

And I don't want to get back into the WMD argument, since it's like arguing with the retarded. Even if Saddam had, in a fit of goodwill, destroyed all his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs, it was incumbent upon him to provide proof of the fact to UNSCOM and UNMOVIC. Had he done so, he could have alleviated his subjects suffering very rapidly. Since he refused, their suffering is on his head.

Nice try.

Posted by: reg at February 25, 2004 at 02:22 PM

(Sanctions casualties are not attributable to Hussein, they were imposed in error, given that he gave up his WMDs.)

Your ignorance astounds me. It takes my breath away. Saddam was not complying with the sanctions. He did not cooperate fully with the UN inspectors. He never complied with international law and he only put on a show when there was an army at the border. The inspectors gave him a "B", as if that was good enough. At any time Saddam could have reversed course. He could have truly ended his pursuit of banned weapons. He could have given in to every demand. He could have let scientists be questioned without thugs over their shoulders and reporters roam Iraq without "minders" following them.

The shocker was that he didn't have anything. Now, if you actually believe he had been acting in good faith then he somehow neglected to actually tell anyone... whose mistake is that? David Kay and his team found no weapons, but they never said that Saddam had been complying all along.

It was his responsibility to come clean from the beginning and he chose not to do that. Fool.

Posted by: Sortelli at February 25, 2004 at 02:39 PM

There should be a reverse Godwin's law. When the subject in question is mass-murder by a fascist dictatorship and someone starts going off on some miniscule point of 0.0000% significance, like show turkeys, then they should get booted to the kiddy debate table.

Posted by: Robin Goodfellow at February 25, 2004 at 03:27 PM

Let me see if I understand .. it's not the fact that Saddam & Sons were mass muderers who tortured their own people for pleasure that's in doubt it's .. what they *used* to do this?!

The war in Iraq isn't even over yet, really. The country (meaning people) is trying to recover and rebuild. I'm willing to give it a few years before we start wondering about the precise ways Saddam & Sons carried out their brutality.

In a few years I hope/expect to be reading a book (maybe books) authored by an Iraqi full of eye witness accounts of exactly what went on. (There are accounts already available on the web and as parts of other books.)

Are eyewitness accounts by Iraqis discounted? Does something that happened in Iraq need to be witnessed by someone from the NY Times or the BBC to be believed?

Posted by: Chris Josephson at February 25, 2004 at 05:17 PM

Ross - just a comment about "Spiked online". Brendan O'Neill is really a standout among its regular contributors - he is a fool, a twerp and a poseur. But most of Spiked is pretty damn good.

Common themes among its writers are: their contempt for the increasingly "risk-averse" and litigious culture developing in many western nations; their rejection of the nanny state and all that is bad (and their is plenty) about the Blair government; their distaste for the politically correct suppression of free speech; and a deep distrust of supra-national institutions in favour of national sovereignty. It is probably the latter that leads many of them to a prima facie opposition to intervention in other nations on possible spurious "human rights' grounds - but this opposition is not absolute (except perhaps for the pathetic O'Neill).

In short, I don't think your generalised comments about Spiked are either accurate or fair. Most of what is wriiten in Spiked is likely to meet the strong approval of the centre-right libertarians who make up most of Tim's regular readership - if any of you doubt me check it out. Personally, I find its general tone of technological, free market optimism downright bloody refreshing in the modern world. In particular, it has carried some of the best shit-canning of hippy-drippy environmental mysticism and global warming hysteria that I have seen.


Posted by: Bob Bunnett at February 25, 2004 at 10:57 PM

Stories like the shredder are told told by right wingers to convince themselves that their actions are justified. If the shredder story was made up then their other stories are probably made up as well. Presenting these stories as fact then devaluates the true stories of Saddam's Iraq. Same thing with the WMD story. The pro war side wanted to believe it regardless of actual evidence (or lack of evidence). The arguement is not based on fact but is an emotional appeal which will be accepted or rejected according to political idealogy . The ultimate justification of the invasion of Iraq will be it's success in making the middle east more friendly to western interests.

Posted by: Cynic at February 26, 2004 at 02:37 AM

Hello, Cynic. Here's your Iraq reading list for today:

Amnesty International

Human Rights Watch

UN High Commission on Human Rights

Physicians for Human Rights

...and Wikipedia

When you get back, perhaps after a nice long bath to wash the disgust away, perhaps you can resume lecturing us on the importance of the plastic shredder.

Posted by: reg at February 26, 2004 at 02:59 AM

My son is serving in Iraq. He's stationed at Abu Ghraib prison, which, as I'm sure you know, was one of the principal Ba'athist prisons. In his e-mails, he's described it as a "little Dachau"; his description of death row is ... I can't think of the right word: it was as bad as bad can be. One detail stands out: the Army is building barracks and other structures for use by the troops; however, wherever they dig to lay foundations, they find bodies.

To me, arguing about WMDs is pointless; it's like arguing that the war against the Nazis was illegitimate because we did not find caches of Zyklon B. We may not have found the weapons; all we found are the corpses. That's enough, I think.

Stumax, we had to use the WMD justification to sell the idea of the war to the UN for one simple reason: because it was the only grounds on which the UN would act. If the UN went along with war against Hussein on humanitarian or human rights grounds, a significant number of the governments that comprise the UN (and remember, the UN is not the united nations - it's the united *governments*) would be signing their own death warrants. That war and peace, life and death, should be compelled over not killing, not even weapons, but over documentation of the destruction of weapons, is absurd beyond anything Kafka ever imagined; yet that's the UN.

Regards ...

Posted by: Brown Line at February 26, 2004 at 04:28 AM

Brown Line, what a terrible job your son and his fellows have, and those who are meant to dig the foundations but find evidence of evil once rampant.

Posted by: d at February 26, 2004 at 08:53 AM

Bob Bunnett's on the money. Brendan O'Neill is a berk. I remember him listing 'ten must-read blogs' or somesuch, and there, prominently on the list was Brendan's very own blog. The technical term for someone like this is an 'asshat'.

There's basically four different types of regime in the world when it comes to putting prisoners in shredders: 1) ones where the thought of it is simply rejected out of hand, uh uh, no way - Portugal, New Zealand, Japan. Then there's the ones where you go 'oh come on - what possible proof do you have of that?' - Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela. Then there's the 'OK, so they're not very nice, but I doubt they stoop that low' countries - Burma, China, Vietnam. And finally there's number four: the ones where you not only believe it, but expect it - Iraq, Iran, North Korea. In other words, the Axis of Evil. What happened in Iraq was not only comparable to the horrors of Stalin's Russia or Mao's China, it was sustained by and derived from them.

Posted by: David Gillies at February 26, 2004 at 10:42 AM

So who's the NEXT dictator you'll all be urging other people's sons and daughters to get killed for?

Which regime is next in your programme to rid the world of evil dictators?

Who should go and do the ridding? Oh, you know, the working class, the blacks and latinos, you know all those people who are expendable anyway. Too busy cutting and pasting my blog and day trading to actually get involved in the actual killing.

You understand - I'm fulfilling an important role on the home front waiting for Margo to get back from writing her book.

Posted by: Miranda Divide at February 27, 2004 at 12:12 PM

Miranda Divide: I'd go for Kim Jong-Il, personally. Because if we don't get rid of him, thousands of those expendable little yellow people will continue to starve to death as you're eating your breakfast. But of course, not being Westerners, they don't count in your cosy little world view, do they?
Before 9/11 we could continue to do an ostrich routine, it was "not our problem" to solve the world's ills. And who's to say that we're so "right" anyway?
But when the planes hit the WTC and Pentagon, some of us at least realised that the world is literally not big enough for both Western Democracies and Scumbag Dictatorships to survive in. The only reason why regimes like Syria's (which not all that long ago exterminated a whole city that was in revolt) continue to exist is because we're not all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-wise. And because ridding the world of such evil will, as you say, cost the lives of our sons and daughters, yea, and plenty of innocent victims of the regimes too. Not something to be entered into too lightly. One step at a time, and keeping the butcher's bill as low as we can.

Posted by: Alan E Brain at February 29, 2004 at 01:55 PM