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Author Topic: This Democracy Diversion - An Iraq Thread
Mandos
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posted 05 February 2003 04:25 PM      Profile for Mandos   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Frankly, from an international standpoint, it doesn't matter to me whether or not the US is Heaven on Earth and Iraq hell, or whether Bush is the conquering Michael and Hussein Satan. These countries, even (especially!) folks like Chomsky acknowledge, are totally different internally, and I'd much rather live in the US than in Iraq--as would most babblers, I'd imagine. (But pre-Gulf War I, I'd rather live in Iraq than Saudi Arabia...)


However, we are talking world politics here. In reality, it makes no difference. All countries behave exactly the same way in the world when it comes to their interests; the US, Iraq, France, etc, etc. Sure, they all mouth pious platitudes, but who except the ignorant actually believe them? And for those who claim that this is a fight between "democracy" and "dictatorship" or "civilization" and "barbarism", have you seen the US record on this, especially in the Middle East? What makes you think that this will be any different? It almost certainly won't--it didn't if Afghanistan ("Meet the new rulers, as misogynist as the old rulers...").


So when I oppose the war I do so not out of love for Hussein or hatred of "America", but rather from the perspective of the identicality of all nation states in international behaviour. Simply put, American hegemony in the Middle East is disastrous and in itself the source, the lynchpin of many of the problems in the Middle East. Not because the US is "evil", but simply because it is Big and it is following the power-calculus of nations and empires. And in that way, it is worse for world peace than the torturer Hussein himself.


Thus, discussion of democracy is a diversion. It makes no difference that Iraq or Israel or the US have nukes, and the only variable that matters here is size. And so I oppose the great, because their perfidy is proliferated and magnified among the less great.


From: There, there. | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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posted 05 February 2003 04:30 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
One detail you might add to that lament, Mandos, something that must have occurred to many reading the other news threads as they spin on through the day:

All the careful, wonky arguments don't matter, and especially the moralizing doesn't matter. The war is going to happen.

I'm trying to figure out how to start there and then have intelligent discussions. Anyone know?


From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Mandos
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posted 05 February 2003 04:36 PM      Profile for Mandos   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Here's a place to start: There will be no Kurdistan. All such attempts will be ruthlessly crushed, as before. There will be no Shi'a rule or significant policy-making participation. Too close to Iran, unless puppets are selected. Any attempts to change this will be ruthlessly crushed. These things are all part of that calculus of power that I mentioned.
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Lima Bean
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posted 05 February 2003 04:37 PM      Profile for Lima Bean   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post
Aren't they already dropping bombs on Iraq and all over the Middle East?

The war is happening.


From: s | Registered: Aug 2002  |  IP: Logged
prowsej
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posted 05 February 2003 04:39 PM      Profile for prowsej   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I don't understand the case against Iraq from an international law perspective. After the Gulf War, part of Iraq's conditions of surrender was that they would relinquish all WMDs. The case for war largely seems to be based on their not fulfilling this obligation.

However, it seems that the US is being selective in its enforcement of the terms of a treaty ending a war. There are numerous historical precedents of countries not fully complying with a treaty of surrender. The enforcement of this particular treaty seems arbitrary; it appears that the proposed enforcement is not originating out of a deep conviction to uphold international law, but instead treaty enforcement is being used as a pretext for a war (and the true motivations for war can only be speculated upon).

Essentially, my question is “why can’t Iraq cite state sovereignty and build all the WMDs it wants?”


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Mandos
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posted 05 February 2003 04:39 PM      Profile for Mandos   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
They are, but not at the intensity with which they plan it now. Now it is "March to Baghdad," bloodier than it was before. What we have now is low-intensity. By "war", we now refer to high-intensity war.
From: There, there. | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
Lima Bean
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posted 05 February 2003 04:47 PM      Profile for Lima Bean   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post
That's just as useless a spin as what we get from CNN.

It's plain to see that the US is just going to have a field day with the Middle East, and nobody will be able to do anything about it.

It's a totally unjustified assault if you ask me. Why should Bush be allowed to contravene the dictates of the UN just to make someone else comply with them??? Why does he care at all--I've said it before and I'm saying it again: It's really none of his business what goes on there and if he gets to have WMDs (which we all know he does), then there's no way he can tell anyone else that they can't.

The war is happening now. People are dying. Low intensity or high, it's all wrong and it shouldn't be happening.

Aargh.


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Mandos
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posted 05 February 2003 05:08 PM      Profile for Mandos   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Yes, I know. But I don't really know how to characterize the difference in scale. What is about to happen is going to be bigger than what is already happening.
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satana
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posted 05 February 2003 05:10 PM      Profile for satana     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I agree with Mandos. The Kurdistan problem may remain in the news for long time but there will not b a Kurdistan. Some Shi'a puppet may come out of the war. I'd also like to add, that I doubt Saddaam will go away. The US still hasn't come up with anyone else they trust more than him. Even if he is replaced, I'm pretty sure the Ba'th party will remain in power.
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Tackaberry
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posted 05 February 2003 05:57 PM      Profile for Tackaberry   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I tend to agree with Lima Bean. It's not the # of bombs that make a war a war. It's the bombs period.
We should protest on a stop the war platform.

I sincerely believe that in free elections that today Iraqis would still vote for Saddam.

So for me the problem is; do human rights violations negate the right to self determination? Is self determination a responsibility as well as a right? Has Iraq failed in this responsibility?, if it exists?

I don't care about the WMDs, I care about the human rights violations.
For me the war is a choice between crap and shit.


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mandrake
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posted 05 February 2003 06:54 PM      Profile for mandrake     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
If the war doesn't happen, it will disappoint so many people on this board. If the war doesn't go as they predicted (i.e. attacks on cities, massive civilian casualties), they'll have to find something else to whine about. All of their carefully scripted scenarios where the big, bad Americans slaughter millions of poor, defenceless, weaponless Iraquis will remain unfulfilled. They'll just have to wait for another opportunity to decry mass carnage.

It doesn't occur to these people that the published war strategies may just be red herrings designed to mislead the Iraqui military planners. It would be so sad if the entire war took place in the open desert, where only soldiers fight and die. If these characters really believe that Iraq is not as strong as it was in 1991, and has no WMD, they why would this new war not be quicker and less bloodless than the last Gulf War, where only a few thousand died on both sides.


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prowsej
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posted 05 February 2003 07:02 PM      Profile for prowsej   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Reasons, aside from the possible use of WMDs, why this war may be more bloody than the first Gulf War:
  • Urban Warfare
  • Goal of regime change, rather than simply getting the enemy to run (greater goal means longer war means more death)
  • Possibly greater emphasis on ground troops by Americans (depending on which proposed plan you believe)
    From: Ottawa ON | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
  • WingNut
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    posted 05 February 2003 07:45 PM      Profile for WingNut   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
    Occupation forces will tragets for suicide bombers.
    The entire region wll be destabilzed risking violence in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.
    The Israelis will use the cover to commit greater vilonece against Palestinians and possibly move against Arafat. This will result increased tensions causing greater lielihood of the first two points.
    In every single instance, when world attention has been drawn away, India and Pakistan move closer to the brink. They are involved in a massive arms race neither can afford and Pakistan has a slight tactical nucler advantage over India right now. Think they'll go?

    And what about you war mongers, mandrake? What if it turns out far more bloody and devastating then you think? Yousay we want to complain? Well, no one died from complaining. What if it turns out far worse than your imagination (where Iraqi deaths don't matter)? What then? Will it be enough to sate your blood lust?


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    mandrake
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    posted 05 February 2003 08:37 PM      Profile for mandrake     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
    quote:
    And what about you war mongers, mandrake? What if it turns out far more bloody and devastating then you think? Yousay we want to complain? Well, no one died from complaining. What if it turns out far worse than your imagination (where Iraqi deaths don't matter)? What then? Will it be enough to sate your blood lust?

    Even if it turns out far worse than my imagination, how could it possibly me worse than the scenario that you guys insist will happen?


    From: erehwon | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
    Mandos
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    posted 06 February 2003 12:55 AM      Profile for Mandos   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
    I, for one, do not insist on the Worst Case Scenario for the war itself. The Best Case Scenario is bad enough in terms of casualties, but, like democracy and dictatorship, it is ultimately besides the point (though the mere possibility of something between Best and Worst is itself chilling). What is the long-term geopolitical fallout from this very situation? Almost every alternative scenario, to me, is bad, even the mild ones. Note that I am completely discounting the Happy Liberal Middle East scenario, which is so fantastic and ahistorical as to be the product of either delusional or dishonest minds. If it turns out that way, more the better--but that will be by fluke, since we know that the intentions of US policymakers are actually quite different.
    From: There, there. | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
    Can-Am
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    posted 06 February 2003 01:24 AM      Profile for Can-Am     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
    quote:
    Essentially, my question is “why can’t Iraq cite state sovereignty and build all the WMDs it wants?”


    For the same reason Germany could not claim sovereignty and simply restrict itself to mass murder of jews, gays, Roma, etc. within it's own borders.

    This idea that lines on a map give the leaders within carte blanche is a load of shit. It is properly called the sovereignty con. There is a yawning gap between Canadian society and that constructed by Saddam. The world needs to get its act together and start toppling more Saddams, not fewer.

    "But where will it end?" wail the nay-sayers. It ends when we have stopped the worst of the monsters. The mechanism is not dissimilar from how we determine who goes to jail in Canada. There are some laws (e.g., pot possession) that are highly debatable. But the vast majority of crimes (rape, murder, armed robbery, extortion, embezzlement, etc.) are accepted as such by the vast majority of Canadians. We all just intuitively understand that rape is a horrific crime, and that the perpetrators deserve to lose their freedom by being sent to prison. Just because the rapist-murderer happens to be the leader of Iraq does not excuse his behaviour. That was supposed to be the purpose of the ICC. Maybe some day the US will back something like the ICC, for now all we have is consensus among key nations.

    Rational human beings are perfectly capable of differentiating between the US and Iraq, or even between China and North Korea (the former is sometimes unfriendly to us, and still has human-rights issues, but is on the right track and deserves sovereignty; the latter is a nightmarish landscape of starvation, forced labour and psychotic leadership which threatens the region with nuclear war; Kim Jong Il's rule should be terminated as soon as possible).

    If people of good faith refuse to shoulder these burdens and ACT when required (as when the world allowed the Rwanda massacre to take place) then the US will end up making the decisions for us.

    And the fact that the US has WMDs is NOT the same as North Korea having them. The RCMP carry guns. This is NOT the same as some serial killer having a gun. RCMP officers are allowed to have guns because they have demonstrated that they are (except in rare cases) trustworthy, stable and sane. Serial killers, to say the least, do not demonstrate these qualities and hence we don't allow them to own guns.

    It is a huge cop-out for those of us who are fortunate enough to live in free, wealthy countries like Canada to deny those opportunities to the people of places like Iraq just because some ultra-repressive regime happens to be in power. ALL people want freedom. NOBODY wants to live in chains, real or symbolic. Ultimately all the world's people should be able to choose--and remove--those who will lead them. We have made progress--after WWI there were only a handful of democratic nations on earth. Today nearly half of all nations are free or mostly free. We need to help liberate the rest.

    This moral-equivalence stuff is bankrupt at its core. You are either with us (meaning people who favour ending human rights abuses) or you are with the moonbats who cannot tell an RCMP officer from Paul Bernardo.

    [ 06 February 2003: Message edited by: Can-Am ]


    From: Canada | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
    Can-Am
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    posted 06 February 2003 01:47 AM      Profile for Can-Am     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
    quote:
    Note that I am completely discounting the Happy Liberal Middle East scenario, which is so fantastic and ahistorical as to be the product of either delusional or dishonest minds

    A Happy Liberal Europe was once equally "fantastic". Two hundred years ago the Beothuk tribe was hunted to extinction in Newfoundland. Fifty years ago blacks were lynched weekly in Alabama. But we overcame the past and have made massive progress. Why shold the people of the Middle East not be capable of such transcendent change? Are they constitutionally incapable of a social revolution which would liberate women and gays?

    I don't think so. I am much more optimistic than you are. I believe the Middle East will soon turn the corner and head toward a brighter, self-directed future.

    But Saddam has GOT to go first. So do the mullahs in Iran (popular uprising will do it). So do the criminal cabal in Saudi (Bush's links here are deeply shameful and a huge impediment to liberating that hellhole of a nation).


    From: Canada | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
    Mandos
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    posted 06 February 2003 02:02 AM      Profile for Mandos   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
    Can-Am: Unfortunately, your final dichotomy is exactly the problem. It is predicated on the assumption that this is a war about human rights and WMD. In fact, your entire argument is based on this one claim.


    What you call rejection of Moral Equivalence, I call a coverup, and a result of willful ignorance of history. Since when, even in WWII, has the primary motivation of war-making been to promote human rights? Why should this be any different?


    The RCMP officer carries his gun because we consented to it. When he shoots incorrectly, even in accident, we make his life miserable for it--we make him pay. And that is the only difference between him (or her) and the gang member. In places where there are fewer controls on the police, the police become much closer to the gang members in their nature. In fact, this is amply observed in many places. Police can become morally equivalent to gangsters when they are not restrained.


    US foreign policy-making is not restrained. However decent or indecent US society is, internally, in every way it behaves like any other country with too many weapons and too many interests. As the most powerful country and least accountable country, it's tally of blood is quite comparable to that of Saddam Hussein. And it is shielded quite carefully from accountability both internally and externally, despite elections. The sources of this are systemic, and ample has been written to analyse this phenomenon including on babble.


    Toppling dictators is a fine goal. I am happy with the notion of toppling dictators so that more are internally like the US and not like Iraq. But so long as the US follows a foreign policy based on the premises and interests that it is trying to satisfy, as long as its actions are not accountable to the people they affect, the US is an unreliable instrument at best. At worst, it is actively harmful. Tying support for foreign actions by the prettiness of the country that is performing them is not particularly logical.


    From: There, there. | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
    Mandos
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    posted 06 February 2003 02:13 AM      Profile for Mandos   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
    No, they are not constitutionally incapable of this. If you have been reading my prior posts on this forum, I am absolutely opposed to that idea.


    A Happy Liberal Europe came about because people realized, after WWII, that a calculus of interests in Europe that had produced things like Versailles was utterly insupportable. Crushing Germany and German aspirations was not the answer. Germany was not a pawn to satisfy national goals, as Keynes points out in Econ. Conseq. of the Peace as he criticizes Clemenceau. In a sense, the Marshall Plan was based on a consensus that politics had to be Different in order for stability in Europe--imperative because, yes, there is the proximity and race issue that is unavoidable--to take hold in the long term. This consensus exists to this very day in Europe, quite imperfectly, but European integration as an idea is a reflection of this.


    The most important hawks and policymakers in the US, aside from some naive liberal cheerleaders, have not changed the way they see the Middle East and its peoples. There is no indication that they have moved beyond Versailles, even though their cheerleaders like to tell us this. The very execution and planning of this war and affairs in the Middle East as a whole tells us this. I would be surprised if they've all had a change of heart; it is my extreme pessimism that this has occured that bolsters my opposition to the war.


    Under these conditions, toppling dictators as an end in itself is but an abstract concept, used to make us all feel better when it has no connection to any real motivations. Peace, ultimately, cannot emerge from unpeaceful motivations.


    From: There, there. | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
    Mandos
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    posted 06 February 2003 02:16 AM      Profile for Mandos   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
    So, to conclude, a Happy Liberal Middle East is possible. But it is extremely unlikely to occur this way. If it does, I claim that there were ways that involved much fewer casualties, and that other motivations chose much riskier strategies to the detriment of us all.
    From: There, there. | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
    Can-Am
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    posted 06 February 2003 02:34 AM      Profile for Can-Am     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
    quote:
    If it does, I claim that there were ways that involved much fewer casualties, and that other motivations chose much riskier strategies to the detriment of us all.

    The problem is we will never know. Casting aspersions at US action while proffering nothing except cynicism as an alternative helps no one. What are these "ways" you claim to understand? What are the concrete details? If it is "more inspectors and more UN resolutions" well, that is a cowardly abdication of the world's responsibility to try to stop people like Saddam from killing his own people.

    Ultimately your vision of the US yields nothing of any conceivable use to me. Which are the nations so morally superior? France? Pshaw! The French are FAR MORE self-interested than the Yanks, by a long shot. What about trans-national bodies? The UN? The UN was wholly incapable of stopping Rwanda. Today they allow Iraq to assume the chair of the Disarmament Committee.

    Essentially it's glass 1/2 full vs. glass 1/2 empty, Mandos. You choose pessimism and cynicism. I see an improving world where poverty is gradually receding, freedom gradually expanding, and our species groping its way toward a NET improvement over the centuries.


    Re your remarks about cops. You seem to imply that all cops are in essence brutal thugs that are just waiting to kill, if only they could escape the straight-jacket of restraint we impose upon them. This is an egregious insult to the people who do police work in peaceful nations.

    Brutal thugs become cops in places like Iraq because the regime is brutal and thuggish.

    I'm sorry, but all I can say is that I am glad I am not living in your world. How can you be so pessimistic and bleak and get any enjoyment out of life?


    From: Canada | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
    Mandos
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    posted 06 February 2003 02:51 AM      Profile for Mandos   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
    I really ought to get to bed now. I have to teach tomorrow morning But I cannot resist one final rejoinder.


    My comment on cops was not a sweeping comment on their personal moral character. Once again, for the policeman, you make the same error of conflation. I am talking about their moral status as a police force, not as individual people. I am talking about the risks to society and how we control them. Why must you personalize everything, and in such an absolute? ("Either with us, or against us.") Cops can be nice people with or without restraint. But to get perfectly nice cops, they also have to be filtered; it is the same with policy-makers, especially when they like to pretend that they are cops.


    French, Yanks, Russia, etc, etc. The whole point I am making is that there is no one in existence who can make the claims you want to make for the US. This is endemic to the way that almost all foreign policy-makers see their roles, how they are rewarded, educated, etc, etc, etc. It is systemic.


    I too feel that the world is in many ways a better place. But in some ways, it is getting worse. It is this latter I feel obliged to focus on. The former exists, but it is tenuous. I enjoy life by knowing that things could get better, even if they don't.


    What course should have been taken? We had many opportunities to rectify the situation, going all the way back to Lawrence of Arabia. A strong, united Arab polity could have been set up. A binational state could have been set up in Israel/Palestine. Many different things over the years that could have amounted to a fundamentally different way of viewing foreign policy could have been done. If it had been seen then, Saddam Hussein would never have existed as a dictator. Hindsight is 20/20 you say? From where do we go from here? This requires a thread in itself, and not why I started this one, and I'm going to bed.


    From: There, there. | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
    satana
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    posted 06 February 2003 02:53 AM      Profile for satana     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
    'night
    From: far away | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
    DrConway
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    posted 06 February 2003 02:53 AM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
    quote:
    The RCMP officer carries his gun because we consented to it. When he shoots incorrectly, even in accident, we make his life miserable for it--we make him pay.

    As a professional cynic I have to wonder if "making him pay" is really what is intended when a police officer who wantonly abuses his power gets "suspended with pay", or gets a "desk job".

    quote:
    Re your remarks about cops. You seem to imply that all cops are in essence brutal thugs that are just waiting to kill, if only they could escape the straight-jacket of restraint we impose upon them. This is an egregious insult to the people who do police work in peaceful nations.

    Sometimes police officers indeed do seem to create this impression, as far as I'm concerned.

    Especially when offering the flimsiest of excuses for crimes that would be prosecuted as manslaughter if anyone but a police officer did such a thing.

    Two cases immediately come to mind - Daniel Possee in North Vancouver, and a teenager who "appeared to be holding a metal object" that turned out to be his walkman.

    In neither case was a police officer formally stripped of rank and put on trial.


    From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
    skdadl
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    posted 06 February 2003 10:07 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
    quote:
    Toppling dictators is a fine goal.

    I would be happier if we stopped creating them in the first place.

    It's true that not only the U.S. has done this -- the European imperial powers were doing it a century ago. But the U.S. is the current bearer of the white man's burden, and looks set to do it again.


    From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
    Michelle
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    posted 09 February 2003 01:07 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
    Moving this to the Middle East forum.
    From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged

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