From: Brian Holtz []
Sent: Friday, April 11, 2003 5:23 PM

Novelist Arundhati Roy writes in The Guardian on 2003-04-02:

Mesopotamia. Babylon. The Tigris and Euphrates. How many children, in how many classrooms, over how many centuries, have hang-glided through the past, transported on the wings of these words? And now the bombs are falling, incinerating and humiliating that ancient civilisation
1. No "civilization" is being "incinerated" in this war. Roy's statement is historically illiterate.
2. The institution that is being "humiliated" in this war is no "civilization", but rather a thoroughly  uncivilized Stalinist dictatorship.  One of course could not say that the fall of this dictatorship "humiliates" Islamic civilization.  It does not even "humiliate" the Iraqi army, because that army for the most part wisely chose not to fight for the Iraqi dictatorship.
[..] adolescent American soldiers scrawl colourful messages in childish handwriting [..] Private AJ said. "I wanna take revenge for 9/11."
Yes, there are ignorant people in every nation, and in every army.
According to a New York Times/CBS News survey, 42 per cent of the American public believes that Saddam Hussein is directly responsible for the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.
Not quite. 17% said Saddam bears "most or all" of the responsibility, while 42% said "some", as opposed to "none" (22%), "hardly any" (3%), or "don't know" (16%).
And an ABC news poll says that 55 per cent of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein directly supports al-Qaida.
I found no evidence of any such poll on either or Google.  Even if true, it doesn't affect whether toppling this dictator was a good idea.
[British and American] governments supported Saddam Hussein both politically and financially through his worst excesses.
A flagrant distortion of the facts. Saddam's biggest patrons and armorers have always been the Soviet Union and France. America in the 1980s gave Iraq a little intelligence support in its war against what was at the time justifiably seen as a bigger threat: the terrorist theocracy in Iran.
"Iraq. Will. Be. Liberated." (Perhaps he means that even if Iraqi people's bodies are killed, their souls will be liberated.)
If Roy was too obtuse on Apr 3 to understand what "liberated" means, perhaps the Apr 9 jubilation in the streets of Baghdad has educated her.
Iraq was brought to its knees, its people starved, half a million of its children killed,its infrastructure severely damaged,
See this article in Reason magazine:
As embargo critic Richard Garfield, a public health specialist at Columbia University, wrote in his own comprehensive 1999 survey of under-5 deaths in Iraq, "The 1995 study’s conclusions were subsequently withdrawn by the authors....Notwithstanding the retraction of the original data, their estimate of more than 500,000 excess child deaths due to the embargo is still often repeated by sanctions critics."
Reason instead concludes that the embargo "has, at the least, contributed to more than 100,000 deaths since 1990."  The sanctions were imposed by the United Nations -- the only body that Roy implies could have made the war not be "illegal". Saddam could have ended the U.N. sanctions at any time by fully cooperating with the U.N., but he chose not to.  And for six years he even refused the U.N.'s offer of "oil for food".  Between the U.N. and an outlaw dictator who uses poison gas on his own citizens, it's obvious who is to blame for any excess civilian mortality under that dictator's regime.
after making sure that most of its weapons have been destroyed,
If that were true, then why did Saddam resist weapons inspections?
in an act of cowardice that must surely be unrivalled in history, the "Allies"/"Coalition of the Willing"(better known as the Coalition of the Bullied and Bought) - sent in an invading army!
Roy's charge of "cowardice" is manifestly ludicrous. On the contrary, history will record that ending Saddam's tyranny and his prospects for wielding WMD was an act of moral courage.
Operation Iraqi Freedom? I don't think so.
The crowds in Iraq disagree.
So far the Iraqi army, with its hungry, ill-equipped soldiers, its old guns and ageing tanks, has somehow managed to temporarily confound and occasionally even outmanoeuvre the "Allies". Faced with the richest, best-equipped, most powerful armed forces the world has ever seen, Iraq has shown spectacular courage and has even managed to put up what actually amounts to a defence.
The coalition has obviously been neither "confounded" nor "outmanoeuvred". A few now-dead Iraqi irregulars have indeed displayed suicidal courage, but most of the actual Iraqi army wisely chose not to fight in defense of Saddam's evil regime.
A defence which the Bush/Blair Pair have immediately denounced as deceitful and cowardly.
It is obviously deceitful and cowardly to fake surrenders or to pose as civilians, since that behavior seeks selfish advantage at the expense of the safety of one's comrades and compatriots.
we had Geoff Hoon, the British defence secretary, deriding [Saddam] for not having the courage to stand up and be killed, calling him a coward who hides in trenches. We then had a flurry of Coalition speculation - Was it really Saddam, was it his double?
I agree that too many commentators have labeled certain forms of Iraqi discretion as cowardice, and that Saddam survival skepticism has been overdone.
After dropping not hundreds, but thousands of bombs on Baghdad, when a marketplace was mistakenly blown up and civilians killed - a US army spokesman implied that the Iraqis were blowing themselves up! "They're using very old stock. Their missiles go up and come down."
All the ordnance that Iraqis fire into the Baghdad skies has to come down somewhere. The U.S. has in the last two decades an undeniably excellent record in limiting collateral damage and admitting such damage that it knows it has caused.
If so, may we ask how this squares with the accusation that the Iraqi regime is a paid-up member of the Axis of Evil and a threat to world peace?
It apparently has not occurred to Roy that Saddam's threat to world peace did not lie in his air-defense capabilities.
When the Arab TV station al-Jazeera shows civilian casualties it's denounced as "emotive" Arab propaganda aimed at orchestrating hostility towards the "Allies"
Roy doesn't attempt to give a source for these alleged quotes, and doesn't dare deny that Arab TV has been significantly more slanted than coalition TV. Indeed, when Baghdad fell, people throughout the Arab world were quoted as being mystified, because they hadn't been given a balanced picture of the progress of the war.
But the awed, breathless footage of aircraft carriers, stealth bombers and cruise missiles arcing across the desert sky on American and British TV is described as the "terrible beauty" of war.
Another unsourced quote.
When invading American soldiers (from the army "that's only here to help") are taken prisoner and shown on Iraqi TV, George Bush says it violates the Geneva convention
It's indeed a substantive violation to air public interviews with POWs for propaganda purposes.
But it is entirely acceptable for US television stations to show the hundreds of prisoners being held by the US government in Guantanamo Bay, kneeling on the ground with their hands tied behind their backs, blinded with opaque goggles and with earphones clamped on their ears, to ensure complete visual and aural deprivation. When questioned about the treatment of these prisoners, US Government officials don't deny that they're being being ill-treated.
False; they aren't being ill-treated, and the US indeed denies that they are. Roy incorrectly implies that the precautions taken during transportation are a characteristic of incarcerated life at Guantanamo.
They deny that they're "prisoners of war"!
They're aren't.  Roy should try reading the Geneva conventions, which deny POW status to combatants who don't fight in uniform or with some other "fixed distinctive sign recognisable at a distance".
(So what's the party line on the massacre of prisoners in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan?
Nobody denies that the prisoners revolted and tried to fight their way out with captured weapons. That they paid a heavy price for their actions does not make it a "massacre".
And what of the prisoner tortured to death by the special forces at the Bagram airforce base? Doctors have formally called it homicide.)
Which doctors?  Roy cites none. If a captured (and probably wounded) enemy dies in captivity, that hardly proves he was "tortured to death". Even the World Socialist Web Site can only suggest (rather than assert) the possibility of foul play in this death, and (like Roy) cites no evidence.
the "Allies" bombed the Iraqi television station (also, incidentally, a contravention of the Geneva convention),
False. The Geneva conventions do not forbid disrupting enemy means of command and control, and Iraqi officials were using TV broadcasts to exhort their troops to resist using specific tactics.
And now we have the siege of Basra. About a million and a half people, 40 per cent of them children. Without clean water, and with very little food.
The "siege" of Basra only lasted a few days, and Basra is now liberated. There are zero reports of anyone in Basra dying of thirst or hunger.
We're still waiting for the legendary Shia "uprising", for the happy hordes to stream out of the city and rain roses and hosannahs on the "liberating" army. Where are the hordes?
Check your TV, Ms. Roy.
(It may well be that if Saddam's regime falls there will be dancing on the streets of Basra. But then, if the Bush regime were to fall, there would be dancing on the streets the world over.)
Roy's specious analogy utterly fails, since Bush is not a genocidal tyrant whose toppling would be greeted by mass celebration in his own streets.
the "Allies" have brought in a few trucks of food and water and positioned them tantalisingly on the outskirts of the city. Desperate people flock to the trucks and fight each other for food. (The water we hear, is being sold. To revitalise the dying economy, you understand.)
"We hear"? From whom? Sold by whom? What coalition official says water needs to be sold instead of given away? Roy gives us no reason to think she isn't just making this up.
Nick Guttmann, head of emergencies for Christian Aid, writing for the Independent on Sunday said that it would take 32 Sir Galahad's a day to match the amount of food Iraq was receiving before the bombing began.
Actually, the refugee (and of course environmental) crises forecast by antiwar activists have failed to materialize.
They've been at it for years. Consider this moderate proposal by John McNaughton from the Pentagon Papers, published during the Vietnam war: "Destruction of locks and dams [..] leads after time to widespread starvation (more than a million?) unless food is provided - which we could offer to do 'at the conference table'."
Roy's thirty-year-old quote is hilariously ironic, since coalition forces deliberately raced ahead to secure Iraq's dams precisely to prevent such flooding -- by Saddam.
So, here's the moral maths as it stands: 200,000 Iraqis estimated to have been killed in the first Gulf war. Hundreds of thousands dead because of the economic sanctions. (At least that lot has been saved from Saddam Hussein.) More being killed every day.
It's indicative of Roy's notion of "morality" that her "moral math" totally excludes any deaths she'd blame on Saddam, and all the deaths that Saddam's fall will prevent. Even the deaths Roy alleges (without sources) would not have happened had Saddam not invaded and annexed a sovereign nation.
Tens of thousands of US soldiers who fought the 1991 war officially declared "disabled" by a disease called the Gulf war syndrome, believed in part to be caused by exposure to depleted uranium.
False. There is zero scientific evidence to support this "belief".  I've read the DoD FAQ on DU , and it totally rebuts this sort of uninformed fear-mongoring
And now this talk of bringing the UN back into the picture. But that old UN girl - it turns out that she just ain't what she was cracked up to be. She's been demoted (although she retains her high salary). Now she's the world's janitor. She's the Philippino cleaning lady, the Indian jamadarni, the postal bride from Thailand, the Mexican household help, the Jamaican au pair. She's employed to clean other peoples' shit. She's used and abused at will.
Insubstantive histrionics. If the UN is better at humanitarian relief than it is at fighting tyranny, that's hardly America's fault.
The US will decide who gets those juicy "reconstruction" contracts.
"Juicy"?  Sorry, but the relevant numbers are economically insignificant.  This is the easy way to spot left-wing anti-capitalist nonsense: when they start spinning conspiracy theories about who stands to profit. Don't hold your breath waiting for an actual economic analysis in terms of percentage of GDP, percentage of any corporation's revenues, profit margin vs. alternative opportunities, evidence of non-competitive bidding, etc.
after Bush called for the immediate resumption of the UN's oil for food programme, the UN security council voted unanimously for the resolution. This means that everybody agrees that Iraqi money (from the sale of Iraqi oil) should be used to feed Iraqi people who are starving because of US led sanctions and the illegal US-led war.
1. They're not "starving".
2. The sanctions were UN sanctions.
3. The dislocations proximately caused by the sanctions have their ultimate cause in Saddam's "illegal" defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.
4. History will show that the US-led war is the best thing that's happened to Iraq since the discovery of oil there.
Contracts for the "reconstruction" of Iraq we're told, in discussions on the business news, could jump-start the world economy.
Roy quotes no source for this utter nonsense. No economist with any basic math skills would ever claim that Iraqi reconstruction (a few $ billion) could have any affect on the $40 trillion "world economy". Roy here demonstrates that she is economically illiterate.
It's funny how the interests of American corporations are so often, so successfully and so deliberately confused with the interests of the world economy.
It's funny -- no, pathetic -- how leftists habitually make statements recognizable as self-refuting by anyone with the least understanding of macroeconomics.
While the American people will end up paying for the war, oil companies, weapons manufacturers, arms dealers, and corporations involved in "reconstruction" work will make direct gains from the war. Many of them are old friends and former employers of the Bush/ Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice cabal.
Ohmigosh, the people appointed to run the Defense Dept. actually have a professional or academic background related to the defense industry?  Wow, that must mean there's a conspiracy afoot!
Bush has already asked Congress for $75bn
More for military costs than reconstruction costs.
The news doesn't hit the stands because much of the US corporate media is owned and managed by the same interests.
"Interests"? How conveniently vague. Would that be the Trilateral Commission, or the Council on Foreign Relations?  Or maybe it's Majestic-12 (who also control our relations with the aliens from Area 51)?
Operation Iraqi Freedom, Tony Blair assures us is about returning Iraqi oil to the Iraqi people. That is, returning Iraqi oil to the Iraqi people via corporate multinationals. Like Shell, like Chevron, like Halliburton. Or are we missing the plot here?
Indeed she is. Any petroleum economist will tell you that, since the nationalization of the oil industries circa the 1960's, the major beneficiaries of Arab oil have been Arab rulers and the Arab peoples they bribe to stay in power. Oil companies would be better served by keeping Iraqi oil off the market, to drive up the value of their reserves in e.g. Texas.
As the rift between Europe and America deepens, there are signs that the world could be entering a new era of economic boycotts. CNN reported that Americans are emptying French wine into gutters
The "rift" will soon be a dim memory, as will such silly boycotts.
Suddenly, the "inevitability" of the project of corporate globalisation is beginning to seem more than a little evitable.
If Ms. Roy wants to make any bets against globalization , I'd be happy to oblige.
It's become clear that the war against terror is not really about terror, and the war on Iraq not only about oil. It's about a superpower's self-destructive impulse towards supremacy, stranglehold, global hegemony.
Even left-leaning academic economists admit that freer trade and globalization is good for both the developed and developing world. Critics of globalization must have skipped class when the economic theorems were proved concerning the Principle of Comparative Advantage.
The argument is being made that the people of Argentina and Iraq have both been decimated by the same process. Only the weapons used against them differ: In one case it's an IMF chequebook. In the other, cruise missiles.
Argentina's problem was/is a corrupt bureaucracy. Read economist Hernando De Soto's landmark book "The Mystery of Capital" for more information.
Finally, there's the matter of Saddam's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. (Oops, nearly forgot about those!)
I don't much care about Saddam's chemical or biological weapons. What I care about is his track record of trying to conquer territory from two neighboring countries, firing ballistic missiles at two others, and his UN-documented efforts to build nuclear weapons.
In the fog of war - one thing's for sure - if Saddam 's regime indeed has weapons of mass destruction, it is showing an astonishing degree of responsibility and restraint in the teeth of extreme provocation. Under similar circumstances, (say if Iraqi troops were bombing New York and laying siege to Washington DC) could we expect the same of the Bush regime?
Roy is oblivious to the fact that both American and Iraqi military officers can recognize when the use of WMD would be unjust, and whether they would be held responsible for such use. The danger of Saddam's WMD was not that his military might use them, but that he might install them in Manhattan and D.C. and then dictate terms.
Excuse me while I laugh.
Instead of laughing, Roy should try a little thinking.
Either Saddam is an extremely responsible tyrant. Or - he simply does not possess weapons of mass destruction.
Sorry, but this false dichotomy misses the obvious alternative I just described. Thank you for playing, please enjoy a copy of our home game.
Either way, regardless of what happens next, Iraq comes out of the argument smelling sweeter than the US government.
Roy comes out of this argument sounding dumber than even some of the dumbest critics of the war.
In most parts of the world, the invasion of Iraq is being seen as a racist war.
The world -- including America -- is full of ignorance, religious superstition, and jealousy. But if Roy is trying to say that America is fundamentally different than any other nation in the history of humanity, she'll get no argument here.
There is a tidal wave of hatred for the US rising from the ancient heart of the world. In Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe, Australia. I encounter it every day.
There is a tidal wave of ignorance like Roy's sloshing from the antiquated and obsolete worldviews of the past. I see it every day, and I see it receding every decade. Freedom and Reason are inexorably defeating Tyranny and Ignorance, and people like Roy are simply too obtuse to notice it.
dictators like Saddam Hussein, and all the other despots in the Middle East, in the central Asian republics, in Africa and Latin America, many of them installed, supported and financed by the US government, are a menace to their own people.
While it has committed its share of unpardonable sins, the US government is indisputably the single most effective organization for promoting freedom and prosperity that human history has ever known.
Other than strengthening the hand of civil society (instead of weakening it as has been done in the case of Iraq), there is no easy, pristine way of dealing with them.
That's the problem with people like Roy: they don't recognize a strengthening of civil society even when they see it on live TV, because they childishly think that the right thing to do must always be "easy" and "pristine".
these tin-pot dictators are not the greatest threat to the world. The real and pressing danger, the greatest threat of all is the locomotive force that drives the political and economic engine of the US government,
Old-fashioned tyrants are indeed not the greatest threat to humanity's freedom and prosperity. Nor are religious or ethnic hatred or even leftist populism like Roy's, because each of these are recognizable as misguided among people with sufficient education. The greatest threat is from people on both the left and the right who misunderstand the interplay of economics, ecology, and technology. They will continue for centuries to oppose technological progress (e.g. stem cell research, GMOs) and economic development, because they can always convince themselves that history is about to prove them right -- even though it's consistently proved them wrong.
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