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December 09, 2005

No Ambiguity on Torture
Posted by Morton H. Halperin

Secretary Rice implemented a two pronged strategy in dealing with the torture issue during her trip to Europe.  First, she threatened European governments by asserting that nothing was done that violated their sovereignty. The warning was clear:  the US government will expose the complicity of European governments in secret renditions if they continue to imply that they were done without their consent. Second, she implied that she was announcing a change in policy only to deny that she had.

This will not do. Congress must act to make clear that the United States will not engage in any conduct prohibited by the Convention Against Torture (CAT) as Congress understood those prohibitons when it ratified the CAT.

The Senate was in fact very clear when it ratified the CAT. The United States agreed not to inflict torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on any person under its control anywhere in the world. The phrase "cruel, inhuman or degrading" was given the precise meaning that it was identical to what was prohibited by the "cruel or unusual" language of the American constitution.  And in ratifying the treaty, the Senate made it clear that it applied anywhere in the world and to the entire US government.

Thus, this is, as it should be, a solemn treaty obligation and not a matter of "policy" as Secretary Rice suggested. "Policy" can be changed by mere executive branch action and in secret; a treaty obligation cannot.   

The McCain amendment now pending in both the Defense authorization and appropriations bills simply prohibits the use of  funds to violate this obligation.  It is a deep stain on America's role as a beacon of human rights that such legislation is needed.  Sadly, it is, and one can only hope that Congress will enact this prohibition with no exceptions and no ambiguity before it once again departs.

For many years the United States was the leader in championing the clear statement in the CAT that "no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."  When we were put to that test ourselves we failed.

That our enemy does not respect human dignity is also no excuse.  As Senator McCain has said, this is about who we are, not who they are. 

Because it is about deep values and our role in the world, arguments about the utility of torture should not be heard.  Nonetheless, the ineffectiveness of torture in extracting accurate information is highlighted by the report today in the New York Times that the source of the allegation that Saddam was linked to 9/11 came from someone in Egyptian custody and almost certainly subject to torture or the threat of such treatment.

It seems clear that European publics were not satisfied and that this crisis in US-European relations will not abate until the United States is unambiguously committed to honoring its commitments under the CAT. The American people should demand no less.


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» Torture Is Not US Campaign Launched from Draft Zinni!
Last week, the American Progress Action Fund along with Operation Truth launched a campaign in support of the McCain anti-torture amendment- Torture Is Not US. To some it might seem odd that we even have to have a discussion about torture, after all aren [Read More]

» Torture Is Not US Campaign Launched from Draft Zinni!
Last week, the American Progress Action Fund along with Operation Truth launched a campaign in support of the McCain anti-torture amendment- Torture Is Not US. To some it might seem odd that we even have to have a discussion about torture, after all aren [Read More]


What won’t do? Is it European complicity, and European duplicity? Or is it the policy itself?

Europe signed huge trade pacts with Iran and considered admitting Turkey into the EU, with little said about torture. Why is the US practice of rendition a big issue, when European countries are in fact allowing it, and when the US is merely extraditing people to countries where the crimes were committed?

As for the US being a “beacon of human rights,” it is liberals who constantly point out that the US is “no better” than the terrorists, that the US uses the same methods. The huge number of Chomsky zombies and the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Europe all think that the US is the worst human rights abuser, and has been for fifty years. Long before the war on terrorism, liberals were actively promoting the idea that the US was not a “beacon of human rights.” Pardon me if I’m more than dismissive of liberals pulling that little trope out now.

By their thirty year campaign to paint the US as the worst human rights abuser, liberals have eliminated any political benefit from following the Geneva Conventions and the CAT. This has had the predictable effect of undermining the treaties themselves.

Would there be any difference in the political situation if the US follows the CAT? Would there be any international political benefit? The answer is no. Leftists would still successfully promote the idea that the US is worse for human rights than the Islamic terrorists.

As a matter of practical necessity, nation-states do not maintain treaty obligations without the compensation of substantial political benefit. Liberals have removed all chance of such benefit.

I'm thankful that you are contributing to this blog Mr. Halperin, but I'm sorry that you don't seem to acknowledge the severity of the problem we have in the White House and in Republicans generally. As Jeff Younger serves as the perfect example, conservatives in America are angry, ruthless and stupid. I was previously quoted on for saying that I believe we must pursue a strategy of containment similar to what we employed against the Soviets. I think the damage has already been done, but we can only hope to curtain the further damage they will do. I don't believe you can work with people who persecuted their previous president for sexual indiscretion, but then view as saintly a man who plays cute with even laws against terrorism. The hypocrisy inherent in claming to advance democracy and spread freedom while advocating torture and occupying nations which haven't attack our own is obvious. But one can be numb to the signifiance of this hypocrisy because we've come to expect such things from our political leaders. This case is different. This is a new breed of conservative. These people are dangerous for everyone, including themselves. Their arrogance prevents them from realizing the damage they are doing to even their own interests. These times are different sir. These people can't be negotiated with. We must do something to protect them from their own stupidity.

Kevin S, like most liberals, makes unwarranted inferences.

I substantially agree with Charles Krauthammer’s article on torture,

If that is the case, then the moral preening and the phony arguments can stop now, and we can all agree that in this real world of astonishingly murderous enemies, in two very circumscribed circumstances, we must all be prepared to torture. Having established that, we can then begin to work together to codify rules of interrogation for the two very unpleasant but very real cases in which we are morally permitted--indeed morally compelled--to do terrible things.

You can read a very persuasive rejoinder to Krauthammer (and a fortiori to me) by Andrew Sullivan here.

My post above makes no mention of my position on torture; instead I criticize liberals for demolishing favorable political incentives.

Whether from excessive emotion or plain ignorance of the rhetorical principle of charity, Kevin S couldn’t help but lie. But anyone who would send me personal email like this

i read your comment on democracy arsenal. you're an idiot…you should really keep your thoughts to yourself, because you're stupid…seriously though, shut up...

May have more serious problems.

Is Dan Kervick the only rational liberal in America?

Aye, that's the spirit Kevin S., well spoke.

I'd add "greedy" to "angry, ruthless and stupid".

And evil too? Hmm...a liberal might ponder that.

A humanitarian gesture it would be to protect such pirates from their own bloody stupidity, but let's hope they will still be held accountable by law?

To support torture knowing it is ineffective as an interogation method basically means you dig needlessly inflicting incalculable fear and pain. On a grander scale, suppporters of a needless Iraq war do the same. That's twisted and criminal in a whole different way than Thong-gate or Kosovo.

We sail into the GWOT era and the stakes cannot be higher. Yet now is a time of global piracy, with no moral compass nor a star to guide us.

Personally, I find it very difficult to be rational about the subject of torture. I rarely write anything about it, even though it is a frequent subject of discussion in the blogs, because I don't know what to say. Moral and political argument can only get off the ground when you share some common premises, or agree on certain ultimate values. But I am often struck dumb by the writing and thinking of some of the defenders of torture, and sometimes feel there is an impassible gulf between me and them that makes discussion futile.

Somehow, I find it depressing that so many people on the liberal side of the debate have been reduced to arguing "we shouldn't torture people because it is ineffective." That almost seems like saying that we shouldn't practice cannibalism because human flesh is somewhat indigestible and tends to cause constipation. Liberal policy-makers love it, and nod approvingly, when some panel of intelligence or military experts tells them that we in our enlightened age have learned through experiment that torture doesn't work. They are relieved to learn that torture doesn't work, because it excuses them from the chore of grappling with the difficult moral emotions surrounding pain, power, domination and violence. But one is often left with the impression that the convenient moral argument placed out front is only weakly connected to the underlying response of horror and outrage experienced when one learns one's government has been involved in torture. Is the "it doesn't work" argument really the best we can do?

Because what if torture does work, at least some of the time? What if in addition to the gush of lies that pour out of the victim's mouth in order to get the pain to stop, at least some of the time some useful truth comes out as well? Is it alright then? I would like it if at least a few more public people were willing to say, from time to time, that we shouldn't torture people because torture is hideous, and that we should courageously prefer to accept the slightly heightened risk that our enemies will succed in killing us to the cowardly descent into cruel and unfeeling savagery.

Much of the debate about torture, while seeming to be about the abstract moral casuistry of the proper uses of pain, really seems to be expression of an inarticulate conflict on a deeper emotional level about the attitudes and responses of the disputants toward pain and its infliction. I know that my response to people like Krauthammer goes well beyond the distilled intellectual content of his arguments.

I find it hard to engage Krauthammer's arguments on a rational level, because having seen him in debate, and having read his coulmns from time to time, he strikes me as a bitter and twisted fiend, consumed by a raging and sadistic hatred of his enemies, real and imagined. He presents his arguments with a smug and self-righteous arrogance. He's so unattractively proud of his self-styled ruthlessness, and what he apparently sees as his own cold and unsentimental strength in opposition to his opponents' weakness and timidity.

Krauthammer doesn't strike me at all as person who has regretfully concluded that there are situations in which the awfulness of torture might be demanded by the overriding value of the vastly greater evil which the torture might prevent. My distinct impression is that his only regrets are that he is not there himself to "stress" the body parts and derange the minds of his enemies - or the associates of his enemies, or the associates of the associates of his enemies - and that there are only a finite number of Arabs on Earth to brutalize and humiliate.

So I don't trust him and his moral instincts. No matter how seeming-rational his arguments might be, I can't help but think of him as a deceptive and morally poisonous serpent who shouldn't be listened to.

Granted, we don't know much about what has happened behind the walls of Guantanamo and the secret prisons. But what we do no strongly suggests that torture is being used as it was during the Inquisition - not just to learn the answer to your question after you have already acquired decisive evidence that the subject knows the answer, but also to find out whether the subject knows the answer to your question. And so many people have been released that one suspects that many are guilty only of having the wrong friends, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Lefties argue that the US has done LOTS OF BAD THINGS to people who happened to be in the way, which it indeed HAS. I don't know of anyone mainstream who believes the US is the worst HR abuser ever. There have been Human Rights abuses, no state is squeaky clean.

But we are supposed to be better than than that, we are supposed to be a society of laws and ethics. We are supposed to prove that we can make it work without that kind of thing. That is the ideal of the country and forgive liberals for wanting to uphold it!

If the US had followed the rules, rules it has been legally bound to follow, then no, we might not get a +1 in likability, we'd still be at 0, but now? Now we're at -20 and falling a little bit more each day. We should always hold ourselves to the highest standard imaginable out of self-respect if nothing else. We're America dammit, let's act like it!

Dan, you make a very good point. Let me present an alternative.

You say that we ought to see it as a moral issue, our morals, and we ought to do right because we are moral people.

However, it's clear that many of us are not moral people, but people who believe in tit for tat. They can be good to people who're good to them, but they'll be bad to people who're bad to them. And so they can follow rules of war provided that the enemy never breaks those rules. But if the enemy does break the rules they'll break them too. Ideally the same exact amount, which theoretically should be the amount that would persuade the enemy they aren't winning anything. Less would encourage the enemy to keep doing it because they get ahead, more would get them to keep doing it to retaliate. Only when you do precisely the same amount -- in the enemy's perception -- do you get them to cut it out.

Of course, in the case where one side gets an advantage by breaking the rules that the other side doesn't get, then the temptation is to say we aren't playing with that rule today. The enemy doesn't win by trying to hit back the same way, and if they break some other rule where they get the advantage we can call them barbarians.

And of course war is terrible anyway, and if you're going to kill a soldier anyway is it really any worse to burn him to death than to leave him gut-shot to die slowly? So in vietnam we made a big deal about the enemy using bombs that spread glass and plastic because they were hard for our medical people to pick out of wounds, they didn't show up much in x-rays etc. The enemy had a much harder time getting their wounded to places that had x-rays so they didn't mind if we did the same thing, it hurt them more than it did us. They objected to us using napalm, but we like napalm -- when we have air superiority it's our own toy.

So the times we give up a weapon are the times it isn't useful for us, and sometimes when we don't need it. Military use of biological warfare is generally not useful. You have to keep your own guys from getting it. The effects are slow, you have to hit troops a day or ten early, the ones who'll be dying five days from now are still fully capable today. Nobody uses it on battlefields. Gas is chancy, you depend on the wind not to shift and if the other guy uses it too your victory can be very costly. So mostly nobody uses it unless it's their only hope. And we say we didn't use it in WWII against the japanese even though the japanese couldn't hit back. It might have been useful to us but that particular time we were fighting a good war, and we could win just fine without it.

When we were fighting Saddam's army we were fine with napalm and cluster bombs and DU in cities, the other side had no air force and no DU, and we had no cities they could reach. We weren't fine with telling the US public we were using cluster bombs in cities because the public didn't like to hear it.

So -- after the war at least some small groups of our enemies started kidnapping civilians and cutting off their heads on video. And they tortured people. Saddam tortured people, it seems to be the custom there. If it was clear that we could win handily without it, and it gave us no benefit, then we might not do it. But we're losing. When you're losing you don't want to give up any method that *might* help. And it isn't certain it won't help. And the other guys are doing it so we naturally want to do it back.

It would be a whole lot easier to give up torture if we could win without it. Imagine that the other side used torture and video-ed executions and we didn't, and we lost. Then for the next 50 years we'd have americans who said we lost because we were too nice, too namby-pamby to do what it took to win. The other side tortured innocent civilians and scared them, but we didn't torture anybody so we weren't as scary and that's why the insurgents won.

So it follows that when we think there are insurgents who torture and kill innocent civilians who happen to be on our side -- aid workers and translators etc -- it's our duty to torture and kill innocent civilians who appear to be on their side. We can't be less ruthless than the enemy or we'll lose.

See, many of us are indifferently moral. We won't steal unless we feel poor. We won't lie unless the truth hurts. And we won't torture unless we think we need to.

It doesn't work to make a moral argument with such people. An argument that sometimes works is, "We don't need it. We're winning without it.". But everybody knows we're losing. Another argument that sometimes works is, "It doesn't work. It doesn't help. Do something that works instead.". But we don't know anything that works, and we're frustrated. So that argument fails too.

We're going to do whatever we can think of to win, until we finally accept defeat.

That is an interesting point J Thomas. One more thing is, in the future, expect other countries to do it to our own guys. Countries that might not have otherwise.

MNPundit, yes, but we might manage to negotiate agreements with other countries. We refuse to negotiate anything with a hundred independent groups of insurgents when it's hard for us to even tell them apart.

We might likely agree to no napalm, maybe no cluster bombs, no lethal use of white phosphorus, no chemical weapons, when it's somebody else who can hit us back the same way. We can't possibly agree to give up DU until we have stockpiles of non-DUk shells, but when we do we might believe we get an advantage by such an agreement. If our armor is better than their armor....

We can make specific agreements with specific enemies. We can give their POWs medical treatment as good as our own and the whole nine yards. Part of the problem in iraq is that we decided that the enemy were evil muslims, and some of them acted the part. The beheading videos. And some shia cleric made a speech where he told a shia militia that if they captured a british or american woman soldier they were entitled to keep her as a slave/concubine. Etc. And particularly in Fallujah, the civilians gave them the idea they were on the other side, that they were enemy civilians. So we were ready to treat them all as enemy combatants.

But the thing that most stops us from showing mercy is that we're losing. It was the same for the french in algeria. It's much easier to play nice when you're winning. It isn't that we're evil, it's that we're kind of good. We aren't good enough to stay good when it gets tough.

And J Thomas nails it.

See, I don't mind playing by rules.

But the rules apply to BOTH sides.

If the other guy isn't playing by the rules, then the rules are irrelevant.

I'm not going to fight with my hands tied unless the other guy has his hands tied, too. The moment he slips out of the ropes, I'm going to fight as dirty as him.

John, with asymmetric warfare that doesn't have to be true. You might have the force that you win easily with one hand tied behind your back. You might win easier that way than if you show the citizens you're no better than the bad guys.

Or not. If you're going to treat it as a pragmatic question then you need to look at what actually works. If the enemy is making ruthless mistakes that actually hurt him, better to capitalise on those mistakes than copy him. And what works for him might not work for you. I'm not pre-judging it and deciding that those things *don't ever* work for us. But if you care about results then you need to carefully predict the results and not just assume them.

  1. There is no evidence that we are losing in Iraq whether it be battle or politics.
  2. Asymmetric warfare is an operational concept inapplicable to the strategic level of war. Strategy determines goals; asymmetric goals simply mean there is no conflict of ends. Therefore, the existence of conflict implies the absence of goal asymmetry. I’ve pointed this out to liberal armchair generals many, many times. Liberal rhetoric seems to be an illicit trade in equivocation.
  3. Asymmetry is perfectly applicable to operational use of weapon systems. Napalm combined with direct fire weapons produce a dilemma for the enemy. If he moves out of the area to escape the napalm, he becomes vulnerable to direct fire weapons. If he stays put, safe from direct fire, he gets killed by the napalm. A similar dilemma is established for troops in the assault, where napalm also obscure direct fire positions and prevents the tactical rebuttal of counter-attacks.
  4. The most moral way to fight a war is to use overwhelming, ruthless force to rapidlyproduce the psychological phenomenon called defeat. The so-called “restrained” approach produces more death, more destruction, and more civilian casualties because the war drags on.
  5. Any moral responsibility for civilian casualties must lie with the side that impersonates civilians, purposely operates within protected site, and uses civilian areas as cover for warfighting activities. When the enemy engages in these unlawful practices, he loses Geneva protections. Hence, cluster bombs and the like are used on him; protected sites lose protection as soon as they are used by a belligerent. (Of course, use of such weapons must be subject to Geneva’s “proportionality” rule. But each brigade in Iraq has a legion of lawyers to answer these questions on the battlefield.) As a long-term moral issue, incentives must be in place to persuade belligerents that honorable surrender is preferable to treatment without Geneva protections. The liberal quest for a nice for of warfare ironically undermines their very aim --- adherence to Geneva.
  6. All of which brings me back to my original point.

Jeff Younger says: "There is no evidence that we are losing in Iraq whether it be battle or politics."

(That's if you believe DOD, the Lincoln Group, WSJ, NRO, and/or Fox News and other corporate stooges who continue to profit from the conflict.)

Any moderately literate 5th grader would recognize this position as ignorant propaganda. (and then be accused by Jeff and his ilk of having a "liberal" bias.)

Captain wrote a lie when he wrote, "and then be accused by Jeff and his ilk of having a ‘liberal’ bias." The liberal position is not a ‘bias’ but a different (and I think illogical) political philosophy. I’ve never attached the label of ‘bias’ to it. ‘Wrong’ maybe, but not ‘bias.’ I even admit reasonable disagreement on most issues. After all, political advocacy is almost always an “on balance argument.”

Is the unwarranted inference as ad hominem the only way liberals can argue? This method of unwarranted inference is quite transparent, even to the rhetorically unsophisticated. No wonder liberals fail to persuade the American electorate.

Captain, If any 5th grader can see it, kindly give us the evidence. That would be so much more effective than making up damaging inferences about your opponents.

The Telegraph notes

The European Union secretly allowed the United States to use transit facilities on European soil to transport "criminals" in 2003, according to a previously unpublished document. The revelation contradicts repeated EU denials that it knew of "rendition" flights by the CIA.
Yes, the EU mislead its people, and the Left, in order to embarrass the US.

Just another chilly autumn wind before the coming Cold War with Europe.

Jeff, you are mixing up the term "assymmetric warfare" with "assymmetric goals", a completely different concept.

Assymetric goals means that the goals aren't completely and directly opposed, so there's room for competition and cooperation both. Assymetric goals does not imply no conflict. And it's completely irrelevant to the current discussion.

Assymetric warfare implies a fundamental assymmetry in the fight. For example in wars of national liberation, the stronger side wins if they can establish a normal functioning government which the weaker side cannot or will not disrupt. The weaker side wins if they can prevent that from happening long enough for the stronger side to give up. They have no obligation to establish a functioning government themselves until after the other side has failed.

Geneva conventions are irrelevant to this, geneva conventions are only important to us because we care about our treaties and we care about our international relations. If we follow geneva conventions in iraq but still offend so many iraqis that they won't let us govern them, then we lose. Arguing whether our actions are legal by international law is a mug's game, it doesn't help us with iraqis but only with foreigners and our own civilians.

So -- if Saddam's army had fought hard among civilians, as they threatened to, forcing us to choose between a long embarrassing siege that hurt civilians or a short deadly attack that hurt civilians, then Saddam would have broken the geneva conventions and by those rules the civilians we killed would be his fault. It mostly didn't happen, because the iraqi soldiers quite naturally didn't want to. They wanted to think they weren't just protecting Saddam but protecting their grandmothers, and they weren't ready to die along with their grandmothers to embarrass the USA.

But if some insurgent sniper starts shooting at us from his apartment and we take out the whole building, regardless whether it's allowed under the geneva conventions that whole neighborhood is likely to be horrified by our action. They think our job is supposed to be to protect them. If we kill 50 civilians to take out one insurgent then they get the idea our priorities are misplaced, that we aren't on their side at all.

If we look like bloodthirsty maniacs to iraqi civilians, it doesn't matter whether a little splinter group of insurgents also looks like bloodthirsty maniacs. Asymmetric warfare. The victory conditions are different. We win if we establish order, they win if they survive as a group and remain a threat.

Tell the guy who owns the apartment building. "An insurgent broke into one of your apartments and shot at our patrol so we destroyed the whole building. The geneva conventions support us, we were right to do it." See how he feels about it. We mostly don't do that in the USA. If a crazy sniper starts shooting at people we don't send in airstrikes we send in a SWAT team. And we tend to avoid that in iraq too, not because of the geneva conventions but because we're trying to rebuild and we can't afford to blow things up faster than they can get rebuilt.

We successfully used overwhelming ruthless force to beat the iraqi army. It worked. NOW we're running an occupation. We say that we're supporting the legitimate iraqi government. Iraqi civilians aren't enemy civilians any more. They're allied civilians now. It's our job to protect them from the insurgents who are trying to conquer them. Overwhelming ruthless force against our own civilians is not workable.

See, we already won the war against the evil government that was oppressing its civilians. Now it's a different game. What would happen if somebody robbed a bank in DC and the police came and had a shootout and killed the bank robber along with 50 innocent civilians? How would the public respond if the police then pointed out that all moral responsibility for the dead civilians lay with the side of the bank robber?

How would we feel if the chinese government had pointed out that the USA is not capable of enforcing order in DC, and it was chinese soldiers who killed the robber plus 50 civilians?

When we're trying to establish an iraqi government, geneva conventions aren't the point. The point is to find something that works.


"Yes, the EU mislead its people, and the Left, in order to embarrass the US."

Look at it the other way. We revealed the truth to embarrass european governments. This does not put us in a good position. "Haha, we are the evil nazis, true, but your own government collaborated with us. See how hypocritical they are to say we're evil, when they themselves allowed us to do horrible evil things in your own country!"

The governments we're embarrassing are the ones that actually have been cooperating with us. Way to go, USA. One more chance for everybody to see how we treat our friends. We'll see how it helps the next time we need an agreement with some new country.

"Hey, you in Uzjerkistan. We want to put some military bases in your country, and also we'd like some help with some ah, delicate matters. We're very good at rewarding our friends. Ask anybody, ask our friends in the EU, or turkey, or the EU, or well anywhere.

"Just another chilly autumn wind before the coming Cold War with Europe."

I guess if it's inevitable there's no point in being polite. Not like we benefit by slowing it down....

Jeff Younger insists: "There is no evidence that we are losing in Iraq whether it be battle or politics."

He welcomes evidence a 5th grader might comprehend which can more clearly demonstrate his own ignorance. Let's see how he twists numbers below to pave his sick "march to victory."


The war in numbers: From WMD to the victims
The Independent
13 December 2005

$204.4 billion The cost to the US of the war so far. The UK's bill up until March 2005 was £3.1 billion

2,339 Allied troops killed

98 UK troops killed

30,000 Estimated Iraqi civilian deaths

0 Number of WMDs found

8 per cent of Iraqi children suffering acute malnutrition

$35,819m World Bank estimated cost of reconstruction

53,470 Iraqi insurgents killed

67 per cent Iraqis who feel less secure because of occupation

$343 Average monthly salary for an Iraqi soldier. Average monthly salary for an American soldier in Iraq: $4,160.75

66 journalists killed in Iraq. Journalists killed during Vietnam war: 63

5 foreign civilians kidnapped per month

47 per cent Iraqis who never have enough electricity

20 casualties per month from unexploded mines

20 per cent Inflation rate 2005

25-40 per cent Estimated unemployment rate, Nov 2005

251 Foreigners kidnapped

70 per cent of Iraqi's whose sewage system rarely works

183,000 British and American troops are still in action in Iraq. There are 162,000 US troops and 8,000 British with 13,000 from other nations

90 Daily attacks by insurgents in Nov '05. In Jun '03: 8

82 per centIraqis who are "strongly opposed" to presence of coalition troops

15,955 US troops wounded in action

Captain Morgan, continues his campaign of insults with “He welcomes evidence a 5th grader might comprehend which can more clearly demonstrate his own ignorance. Let's see how he twists numbers below to pave his sick "march to victory." That’s it Captain, keep it up, every time you use bad rhetoric you send another moderate toward the Republican Party.

I am eager to respond to your post, but I have an observation for you. Facts alone can neither prove nor refute anything. We make judgments by interpreting and explaining the facts; decisions are made by reference to ideas and theories.

So before I respond, wouldn’t you like to interpret the facts, and then construct a theory explaining what the facts mean. It would make my riposte much more difficult. As it is, I hardly need to do anything to refute your conclusions.

Come on, at least make this discussion interesting, if not very informative.

Jeff Younger, you could perhaps provide solid information yourself and then provide interpretations to show how it implies that we are winning in iraq.

Show him how it's done.

Yes, please show me how one makes an ass of themselves. The point is that anyone who could twist these numbers to imply victory and rationalize continued sufferring and death for the greed-fueled (but otherwise nebulous) goals of the Bush cabal needs some serious reeducation, a little hard labor and perhaps electro-shock therapy. Being a member of your Middle School debate team doesn't mean your opinions should be taken seriously.

Captain Morgan, it is possible to interpret your numbers as implying progress. It just takes a special attitude, and being willing to assume the best.

For example, your statement that 8% of iraqi children are suffering acute malnutrition. This is worse than under Saddam with sanctions, when we made such a point about how he was spending his money on palaces and nukes while the children were starving. However, that number was for the whole country. What if all the bad numbers are coming from Sunni areas? We could be feeding the shias and kurds and systematically starving the sunnis. 8% of all iraqi children would translate to 40% of sunni children. So if we're successfully starving them out, that's progress!

Similarly for the other numbers. If you make the right assumptions about the details that aren't revealed, they can all look like progress or at least not failure.

So we have been successful in curbing childhood obesity in Iraq! How could I have been so naive to think US policies were contributing to death, destruction and terror? Maybe Bush should call in the airforce to napalm McDonalds outlets in the US?

I'll accept that point.

If we view the Iraq campaign as a war with political objectives, which Strategic political objectives have been stated in the National Security Strategy (NSS) and Operational objectives stated in Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq (MSSI), then we will interpret these facts as political-military events. Since politics is a practical science, we must look simultaneously to history and to present goals to determine the objective meaning of the facts under our interpretation.

Here is a summary of the strategic objectives in the NSS:

  • Human rights

  • Political alliances to combat and prevent terrorist attacks

  • Certain regional conflicts

  • Preempting WMD threats

  • Access to strategic markets and trade

  • Development of global democratic infrastructure within the limits of national sovereignty

  • Diplomacy with major players

  • National security transformation

Here is a summary of the operational objectives in the MSSI:

  • Political stability

  • Economic stability

  • Internal security

  • Operationally proficient Iraqi security forces

Let’s start with casualties. The historical record shows that urban operations are extremely dangerous, producing higher casualties than any other kind of military operation. The historical casualty figures for large scale urban operations are staggering.

  • At Stalingrad, the total casualties of the urban battle numbered 209,000 in two months between 23NOV1942 to 02FEB1943 (Kursk: Hitler’s Gamble Walter S. Dunn).

  • At Manila 1945, US casualties were 6,500 and civilian casualties numbered over 100,000, in one month (American War Plans StevenRoss).

  • At Seoul 1950-51, enemy casualties exceeded 90,000 in four days (The Korean War, 1950-53 Peter Abbott).

  • At Hue City 1968, friendly casualties exceeded 15,000, enemy casualties exceeded 15,000 (5,000 dead), civilian casualties numbered in the “many thousands” in just 28 days (America’s War in Vietnam: A Short Narrative History Larry H Addington).

  • In Beirut 1982, 389 Marines tasked to the UN were killed in one terrorist attack (The Marine Corps Book of Lists Albert A Nofi).

  • In San Salvador 1981-1990, friendly (Salvadoran government) casualties exceeded 53,066 and FMLN casualties exceeded 13,985, averaging 7,450 per year not counting civilians (Keeping the Peace: Multidimensional Un Operations in Cambodia and El Salvador edited by Michael W Doyle, Robert C Orr, Ian Johnstone).

  • In Panama City 1989, casualties exceeded 1,000 in four days (Emperors in the Jungle: The Hidden History of the U.S. in Panama John Lindsay-Poland ).

  • In Mogadishu in 1992-3, casualties exceeded 1,000 in one battle lasting just over 24 hours (”Night of a thousand Casualties” The WashingtonPost Rick Atkinson).

  • In Grozny 1994-5, the Russians killed over 4,000 civilians in one month (Russo-Chechen Conflict 1800-2000: A Deadly Embrace Robert Seely).

Urban warfare is extremely lethal. How have we done in Iraq? 2,339 Allied troops killed. 98 UK troops killed. 30,000 Estimated Iraqi civilian deaths. 8 per cent of Iraqi children suffering acute malnutrition. And many other chilling signs of death, kidnapping and mahem.

But, compared to the suffering caused by large-scale urban operations in history, the low casualties and relatively light human toll of the Iraq war are unprecedented. IF you must wage a war, this is the outer-most limit in humane mission accomplishment. The campaign from a purely humanitarian perspective must be judged a success, but there is more. The US military has accomplished this feat against the world’s foremost experts in urban guerilla warfare, with a decade of preparation, with a bloody tenacity rivaled only be the Imperial Japanese, and with optimized operational plans to maximize civilian casualties. Historically, the Iraq war is an amazing feat in Western military history and will surely be studied for its ingenious application of tache d’oeil.

There is room for criticism, however. In the transition from major military operations to peacekeeping, the US military and Administration were in denial. They refused to see the clear I&W intelligence that pointed to an insipient insurgency, not a latent insurgency. Indeed, the insurgency was not only insipient, but almost ready to transition to conventional military operations as was shown by the operations in Falluja. Future operations will be safer to assume incipiency from the outset, and begin political pacification much earlier.

What about the bad intelligence that led to the war? What does the historical record have to tell us? It tells that such occurrences are actually quite common. The torpedoing of the Lusitania was probably a law act of war by the Germans (she was carrying war materials), but that smarmy liberal Woodrow Wilson probably lied about to the American people. In the Spanish American War, it was the smarmy liberal journalists who lied to the American people about the sinking of the Maine. In 1964, the smarmy liberal president Lyndon Johnson used the Tonkin Bay hoax to persuade Congress to pass a resolution authorizing unlimited force in Vietnam. It turns out that false intelligence is a common cause of war. In this regard, the Iraq war cannot be judged differently.

This is especially true because banned weapons were actually found in Iraq: coalition forces have discovered functioning binary-agent chemical missiles, precursor agents for them, and 1.77 tones of enriched uranium, and the UNMOVIC report makes it clear the weapons were there. So, as a matter of history and practice, such inaccuracies of intelligence are both inevitable and common.

The Iraq War is remarkable for its humane conduct. Liberals are right to criticize political and military errors, but they are wrong to ignore the amazing, new, high standard of humanity set by coalition forces in Iraq.

Jeff, you have missed the point so completelyi and thoroughly that I can only suppose it was intentional.

The question was whether there is evidence that we are losing.

Given that question, arguing that we have been humane in our urban bombing campaigns is irrelevant.

Your argument is wrong in itself, hut it's irrelevant that it's wrong so I won't bother to correct it.

You're welcome to try again.

J Thomas, I guess you should give up trying to understand what I write. Although, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to argue that I’m using technical terms again.

You see, tache d'oeil requires humane warfighting at the operational level. When I was at the Infantry School it went under the name of "constrained warfare." Today, they call in “limited warfare” which is misleading, IMHO.

Completing the political destruction of the enemy, humanely or at least relatively humanely is the essential factor in making tache d’doeil work. The French failures in Indochina and Algeria and US failure in Vietnam and Somalia are conventionally blamed on failures of constraint.

We toppled the Iraqi government, with amazing restraint, and we have shown a remarkable ability to fight in urban areas without massive casualties on any side but the insurgents. The military has thus brilliantly supported the strategic objective I outlined at the beginning of the post.

If you still don’t get it, you never will. We may as well call it quits.

Jeff, the question was whether there is evidence we are losing in iraq. You have not addressed that at all.

Since you have not at all addressed the question it's irrelevant that you are wrong on the question you did address.

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McCain lost this friendly war with Obama and I'm glad.

The priorities of journalism are completely out of whack these days and what once was considered a bastion of trustworthiness and reliability has now become no better than your average trash magazine in the grocery store check out line. The wise are reading between the lines, the stories that aren't being reported, and the internet has become the information lifeline that we so need at this time. Ratings be damned, I want reliable news!

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