Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The devil's math.

2000 is just a number. When you are adding up the calculus of war, it's nothing, really. One day at Antietam or Pont Du Hoc claimed more American lives. One day in the Congo claims more lives today. So it doesn't help to look at that number, 2000. It helps to look at one:













This kid on the left is Andrew Bedard. He's from Missoula, Montana.
He is 19. This picture is only two years old.
His friends were surprised when he joined the Marines. He didn't seem the gung-ho type. When they would ask him about going to Iraq, he would joke about being stationed to Hawaii.
He is an only child.
His parents are divorced.
He wants to come home and go to the University of Montana. He calls his friends from Iraq, sometimes in the middle of the night, and asks them if they'll still be around when he gets back in four years. It's hard being away from them. He reminds them of how good they have it back in Missoula. In Iraq, everyone is poor and things are pretty much destroyed.
He has a dog named Boingo.
He's a bit shy, but still manages to be popular.

He had been in Iraq a month when he was killed October 4th.

Here's what someone posted on a memorial site for Andrew:
"An entire country is now free for the first time in living memory and your name will forever be remembered in Marine Corp history. In the years to follow as other countries in the Middle East start to follow the great freedom principle, it’ll be men like you will stand above and look down on a safer and more secure and peaceful world."

Bullshit.

Maybe the worst part of it is that Andrew died for an experiment, a gamble taken by men and women he didn't know, an experiment to see if they could prove a theory they had about foreign policy. No, all kinds of bullshit theories:

American Greatness Conservatism.
Draining the Swamp.
The Exportation of Democracy.
Re-Making the Map of the Middle East.
Securing Our Energy Reserves.
The End Of History.
Fighting Terrorists On Their Home Turf.
Re-Defining American Power After the Cold War.
The Islamic Ring Of Fire.
The Clash of Civilizations.

Bullshit.

In forty years starting in 1932, government doctors in Tuskegee, Alabama, purposely did not treat black men with syphilis so that they could study the effects of the disease. This is one of the darkest chapters in the history of American governance, when the powerful decided to do away with the powerless as a way of testing their pet ideas.
Well, at least the Tuskegee Experiment was an attempt to treat a crippling, deadly disease, and at least it had the nobility of a good end, even if that end was polluted by such horrific means. The current Neo-Conservative experiment we are undertaking in Iraq has no such noble goal. It's all about finding more useful ways to project American power, whether that power is used for better or for worse. It's about seeing how far the principles of this country can be stretched, bruised, and worn out in the pursuit of that power. It's about ego, the ego of men who have bided their time and spent their lives scratching away in the hopes of finally achieving a Straussian Gnosis, a secret knowledge that would place them in charge, inconvenient facts and the lessons of history and the voices of caution be damned. They are in charge now, and their knowledge has failed. But the price won't be posted to their door.

I have a confession; I supported the war. I was one of the "liberal hawks" who focused only on the (true) horror of the Hussein regime, without listening to the nagging doubts of caution and the fear of pride that I felt right above my belt. No, I too was swept up in the bright hubristic vision, and thought that we could re-make the broken map. I remember thinking such silly things at the time:

The invasion will be welcomed, after the people realize Hussein is gone for good.
Iraq is at heart a middle-class country.
We could move our bases out of Saudi Arabia, and have a stable base of power in the Middle East.
The other Satrapies will democratize because of our example in Iraq, and our menace.
If the Shia and Sunnis and Kurds don't get along, we'll just break the country up.
We're the only remaining superpower. We have a moral obligation to project power against dictators.


Bullshit.


See the other 1999 here.

15 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Tuskegee Syphilis experiment used poor sharecroppers who already had syphilis. They just didn't treat them for it (which was still horrible). You may be confusing them with the Tuskege Airmen who fought magnificently in WWII.

2:17 PM  
Anonymous your worst nightmare said...

Contrary to your post, it's not true that "government doctors in Tuskegee, Alabama, purposely infected and did not treat black soldiers with syphilis so that they could study the effects of the disease."

The experiment was confined to the placebo non-treatment of the black population already infected with syphillis.

Similarly, Iraq was a mess before the invasion and regime change. Iraq was more like the Tuskegee experiments during sanctions, no-fly zones and a corrupt UN "Food for Oil" scam, where known maladies went untreated while the world watched and in some cases exploited the situation as the nation festered.

One of the treatments Tuskegee patients were denied was mercury. Tough medicine indeed.

2:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish I'd said that. I'm glad you did. I don't feel so lonely, here in the red states. Ursa Major

2:18 PM  
Blogger leftcoastbreakdown.com said...

To anonymous, you are right. I forgot that the Tuskegee experiment was diliberately misleading men into thinking they were being treated, not actually injecting them with it. My bad.

The mercury treatment I didn't know about, although it was a standard treatment for the "French Pox" for hundreds of years. And tooth decay. As Bill Maher put it, "I went back as an adult and had the mercury drilled out of my teeth. You can do the same for Catholicism."

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would you want to live in a country that would support such a naked projection of power? Shouldn't you move to a place that's a little more...sensitive. France perhaps.

2:42 PM  
Blogger leftcoastbreakdown.com said...

From now on, France must be referred to as "the country that was right about Iraq". E.g., Shouldn't you move to a place that's a little more...sensitive. France (the country that was right about Iraq), perhaps.
Besides, I've lived in France. I hated the health care system and loved the cheese.
Cheers,
Spence
(who is usually in favor of "naked projections")

3:34 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

France is many things, but I wouldn't point to them as "the country that was right about Iraq". Do some reading.

They:

1. Had secret guarantees with Saddam to make sure no authorization of force against him would pass the security council.

2. Later made back-channel overtures to us to commit several thousand troops to the Iraqi invasion, and were unceremoniously denied.

I'm sympathetic to the overall point of your post; but "France was right" isn't what comes out of all this. France worked against us, realpolitiking as they always do. This time, it appears, they've come out on top.

Pick any other democratic country that opposed the war to make your stand.

3:43 PM  
Blogger leftcoastbreakdown.com said...

Joe,
My remarks about France were a joking response to the fellow above who made the hackneyed, cliched move-to-France remark.
Indeed, it is pretty much by happenstance that the Chiraq govt. ended up on the right side of things. France usually does what's in their best interests, no doubt. Or at least what they think is. They get that wrong alot as well. It just happened that in this case, their best interest was also ours. We just didn't accept it.
I have a post above, called "Somewhere a grad student sheds a hot tear of shame" that's about how, when you fuck up, you prove your enemies right, even when they were only right for all the wrong reasons. History so often gets written by those who know best how to duck!

3:57 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Yes, every life is precious, especially those that are willing to stand up and fight for what they believe in. But if you are not willing to make sacrifices for freedom, including your own life, then you do not deserve freedom. And before you make any irrelevant chickenhawk comment, yes I was there.

4:52 AM  
Blogger leftcoastbreakdown.com said...

Mike, what you believed in turned out to be a lie. This doesn't serve as a cautionary tale? I'm willing to stand up and fight for what I believe in, but Iraq has about as much to do with my freedom as whether the Jets lose on Sunday. The fact that I was hood-winked by a bunch of liars and fanatics into briefly believing that it does only makes me more cynical, and it should make you more cynical too. And that's one of the real tragedies here. Of course, the people who should be the angriest aren't me, but the people who actually suffered to carry out this farce, those who went over there. But I imagine it must be incredibly painful to go through such an ordeal and deal with the realization that all your sacrifice was for naught. I can't even begin to think of how that must feel, and the emotional defenses you must put up. No one likes to feel like they've been swindled, especially not when they've given so much. But we have to be tough enough to admit that even things in which we've heavily invested can be wrong.
The only analogy that I have was that I spent two years living in poverty in the Third World as a Mormon missionary, getting mistreated, robbed at gunpoint, and physically attacked, going thru two hurricanes and the separation from everyone I loved, only to come home and slowly realize that I really didn't believe in the Church, and that I had spent two wasted years carrying out the Church's Amway-like conversion program instead of doing what I had thought I would be doing, which was helping people. I got a little bitter, yeah. You should get a little bitter, too. The lies we tell to young people to get them to do things we want done are not noble, even if the hearts that believe them are. I've no idea why Andrew chose to go into the Marines or whether he supported this war. But I know that those who did are responsible for sending a young man to die in a poorly chosen and deceitful cause. They are responsible, and I don't know of any better way to honor his death then to hold them to their responsibility.
Cheers,
Spence

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Colin said...

"Well, at least the Tuskegee Experiment was an attempt to treat a crippling, deadly disease, and at least it had the nobility of a good end, even if that end was polluted by such horrific means. The current Neo-Conservative experiment we are undertaking in Iraq has no such noble goal."

Seems to me that the elimination of terrorism by spreading democracy is in fact a noble goal. Maybe it's wrong, but it's still noble.

"It's all about finding more useful ways to project American power, whether that power is used for better or for worse. It's about seeing how far the principles of this country can be stretched, bruised, and worn out in the pursuit of that power. It's about ego, the ego of men who have bided their time and spent their lives scratching away in the hopes of finally achieving a Straussian Gnosis, a secret knowledge that would place them in charge, inconvenient facts and the lessons of history and the voices of caution be damned. They are in charge now, and their knowledge has failed. But the price won't be posted to their door."

How can you claim to know what is in their heads or hearts? What is your basis for such accusations? That Iraq is a failure is news to me, when did this failure occur? How can such an assessment be made?
Less than 3 years after Baghdad fell Iraq has an elected parliament, new freedoms and Saddam is on trial. Every day Iraqi security forces become more numerous and better trained. True, Iraq cannot be mistaken, for, example, the Netherlands, but it seems awfully early to declare it a lost cause.

"The invasion will be welcomed, after the people realize Hussein is gone for good."

I'm genuinely curious what percentage of Iraqis wish the war never occured and that Saddam was back in the saddle.

"Iraq is at heart a middle-class country."

No, at one time it was, but I think that now it is a poor country.

"We could move our bases out of Saudi Arabia, and have a stable base of power in the Middle East."

We did leave Saudi Arabia. And the Kurds are more than willing to give us permanent bases.

"The other Satrapies will democratize because of our example in Iraq, and our menace."

"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it." -- Walid Jumblatt

"If the Shia and Sunnis and Kurds don't get along, we'll just break the country up."

The new constitution does give vastly increased autonomy to the provinces.

"We're the only remaining superpower. We have a moral obligation to project power against dictators."

We do.

Three years ago the U.S. began it's march (sorry, rush) to war in Iraq. Supporters said that we needed to spread democracy to strike a blow against terrorism. Today Iraq is a struggling democracy. Its former dictator, responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands, is on trial. Across the Middle East we see hopeful signs of reform. Syria and Iran live in mortal fear that this democratic experiment will succeed, which drives their support for the forces of destabiliation. And the US has not suffered a terrorist attack at home since 9/11.

And 2,000 Americans have died in the service of their country. Is that terrible price worth it? We do not yet know. But neither can we declare it to be a failure.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've read the standard work on the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and it seems to me no one here is accurately characterizing it. It started as an attempt to treat syphilis in an area where it was endemic. The Public Health Service (PHS) poject was funded by a private foundation which, when the Great Crash came, couldn't afford to fund treatment any more. There was a lot of scientific debate about whether the course of syphilis was different in blacks and whites and the study turned into an attempt to follow the course of the disease in the black sharecroppers. Not so bad? They did deceive the sharecroppers by telling them they were treating them. And when penicillin became available and was shown to be a foolproof cure for syphilis, the PHS prevented the sharecroppers from receiving penicillin and being cured to continue to follow the course of the disease. That was the real crime. It continued into the 1970s. See James Jones book, Bad Blood.

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The invasion will be welcomed, after the people realize Hussein is gone for good.

Tell the Iraqi bloggers, the ordinary people who no longer have to fear relatives disappearing in the night, the mothers, sons, fathers and daughters who have sifted through Saddam's mass graves to find their loved ones, that their country would have preferred to stay under his heel. Go right ahead.

Iraq is at heart a middle-class country.

That's an ignorant statement. The Kurdish region even has a public works department that patches the roads. IEDs are detonated at cloverleafs and traffic lights. The Shia and Kurds get along with each other alright, it's the Sunnis -who previously ran the country and should have been the management class- who act like savages and try to foment tribal and religious divisions. And they're failing.

We could move our bases out of Saudi Arabia, and have a stable base of power in the Middle East.

This has happened. Yes there are roadside bombings, but the insurgency is in no wise increasing its sway or making any kind of progress toward pushing western forces out of Iraq. On the contrary, they are being cut to pieces daily and for practical purposes have no territory or civilian population under their control. We're winning the shooting war and daily up-ending the politics and conventional wisdom of the region.

The other Satrapies will democratize because of our example in Iraq, and our menace.

Libya gave its WMD and Qaddafi made no bones that he did so because he didn't want land in jail with his country occupied by US troops. Egypt and Syria have held real (if local) elections, and even Saudi Arabia has devolved more power to local elected officials. Tell me any of that would have happened without the Iraq invasion.

If the Shia and Sunnis and Kurds don't get along, we'll just break the country up.

I don't recall anyone seriously suggesting this. The whole point is to show that tribalism and autocratic rule aren't the carved-in-stone fate of middle eastern peoples. There is now a real and consistent track record of local, regional and national elections and political processes in Iraq to suggest that it was no fantasy.

We're the only remaining superpower. We have a moral obligation to project power against dictators.

We're the center of the free world, and its most powerful nation. We have a moral obligation to put our money and our muscle where our mouth is, or else just shut up about liberty and democracy. One side of our internal political dialogue has chosen the latter route. The rest still remember who they are and where they came from.

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've read the standard work on the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and it seems to me no one here is accurately characterizing it. It started as an attempt to treat syphilis in an area where it was endemic. The Public Health Service (PHS) poject was funded by a private foundation which, when the Great Crash came, couldn't afford to fund treatment any more. There was a lot of scientific debate about whether the course of syphilis was different in blacks and whites and the study turned into an attempt to follow the course of the disease in the black sharecroppers. Not so bad? They did deceive the sharecroppers by telling them they were treating them. And when penicillin became available and was shown to be a foolproof cure for syphilis, the PHS prevented the sharecroppers from receiving penicillin and being cured to continue to follow the course of the disease. That was the real crime. It continued into the 1970s. See James Jones book, Bad Blood.

10:29 AM  
Blogger c.t. said...

"Mike, what you believed in turned out to be a lie."

Yes, Mike, didn't you hear the left 4 seconds into the invasion saying it was a lie? They've been saying it on the teevee and radio (and in the movie houses) pretty much everyday now. You can't hear that everyday and not come to the conclusions that that that you believed in (why define what 'that' is, I'm shamed, it's a lie) turned out to be a lie (what did? and how is it a lie? Why question, Mike, Garafalo has spoken, and spoken and spoken, and then even the slightly smarter ones like Moore, and then the geniuses like Al Franken, oh, and all the upstanding Democrat politicians like Howard Dean and fine, honest intellectuals like Noam Chomsky have all spoken and reiterated that 'it' is a 'lie'.

Back to reality... Tyranny is not good, liberals. Either you don't understand tyranny or you like it. I see elements of both in the left. You should have learned by now. That you havn't shows you're not worth any more of my ti

7:04 PM  

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