Freeman: "Iraq Is Not a Flimsy Construction"

If I can add to Matt Welch's post on the execrable Chas Freeman (I blogged his Tiananmen massacre apologetics here): It should be pointed out that, despite his position as former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Freeman seems not to have too deep an understanding of the history of the Middle East. For instance, after the first Gulf War, Freeman told the left-wing journalist Alexander Cockburn that the prospect of an Iraq fractured by sectarian warfare was unlikely because, after all, the Shia and Sunni are actually pretty close pals.

"The behavior of the Iraqi Shia in the Iran-Iraq war convinced the Saudis that the Shia were not Iranian surrogates. Washington was obsessed by that idea, and attributed it to the Saudis. I don't know where all this panic about the breakup of Iraq came from. After all, Mesopotamia has been there for quite a while-about six thousand years. Iraq is not a flimsy construction."

Also, it is perhaps worth mentioning that The Nation's Robert Dreyfuss, quoted in Welch's post denouncing the "neocons [and] friends of the Israeli far right" that oppose Freeman (like liberal blogger Matt Yglesias), is a former Middle East editor of the Executive Intelligence Review, house organ of the Lyndon LaRouche movement.

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  • Charles Davis||

    Chas Freeman may be an idiot, but who the hell is Michael Moynihan to criticize anybody for saying stupid things about Iraq?

    Consider this brilliance from Moynihan in 2003 (http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?ID=2672):

    Now, the cacophonous shouts of "no war for oil" have become barely audible whispers about civilian casualties--a troubling, but very old malady in Baathist Iraq. Stockholm's popular dailies, who previously invested countless column inches to the anti-war cause, have stop harrumphing and started deflecting. Perhaps in a few months, when America's irrelevant enemies abroad produce a Mark Herold-inspired poster detailing civilian casualties, they will regroup. But for the most part, its time to say goodbye to all that. They will defeat America on another front, perhaps. They will always have Kyoto.

    As the fiercest fighting draws to close, I am sifting through the debris of Europe's anti-war movement. The ideological revolution was contingent upon a great humanitarian disaster. Neither have happened. So what can they say in their defense? The ones who marched through democratic Sweden waving Iraqi flags? How do those opposed to war on a set of vague, lop-sided moral principals react when seeing cheering Iraqis swarm American Humvees, shouting that they, the wretched of the Earth, love Booooosh? I mean, what do they really think? Does anyone honestly believe that the scenes of liberation could ever trump their hatred of America's President? What about the Al-Samoud rockets, suspicious factories, POW executions, newly uncovered torture chambers, human shields, dead soldiers wearing gas masks, the cache of "ready to fire" Sarin-tipped missiles, the pathetic promises of a new, "creative" variety of "unconventional warfare"?

    Prior to the war, the peaceniks operated on the principal of "plausible deniability"; we all knew Iraq was in violation of 1441, but who could conclusively prove it? To the hard-left the discoveries are mere inconveniences, CIA-planted speed bumps, predicated on a lie. The political conspiracy theorist always has an implausible answer for why his side lost: Israel planned 9-11, Germany was "stabbed in the back," there were no Cambodian "killing fields," the Holocaust was a large-scale typhus epidemic. There is, of course, little point in debating the cultists, the religious zealots, the righteously indignant. Ignore them and they won't go away, but it will significantly lower your blood pressure.

    But for wide swaths of anti-war Sweden--the ones who think Marx and Engels are a German boy band--the reality of grateful Iraqis and the rapidity of American and British military success, this war dealt a crushing blow. So the war debate is relegated to the political fringe and the "mainstream" useful idiots have buried their heads in the sand.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Mike I was going to go to the mat and defend you from Mr "ZOMG Moynihan didn't accurately predict the outcome of the Iraq invasion what a douche!" But since you didn't link back to the post from which that snippet was clipped, can't help you.

    What I will say is,

    After all, Mesopotamia has been there for quite a while-about six thousand years. Iraq is not a flimsy construction

    There is a distinction between the region/civilization formerly known as Mesopotamia and the modern set of arbitrary borders called Iraq.

  • ||

    After all, Mesopotamia has been there for quite a while-about six thousand years. Iraq is not a flimsy construction

    That's just a shockingly stupid thing to say. Mesopotamia is a name given to a geographical region - like Europe, like Asia. As Hugh points out, Iraq is a country defined by borders some Englishwoman (Bell) or English and French guys (Sykes, Picot) drew in the sand (too lazy to go look up which, but I think it was Bell).

    A flimsy construction is about exactly what it's been since it was invented in the 1920s.

  • Underzog||

    That guy attacking the neo cons for "The Nation" used to write for the Larouchie crazies.

    I love it! Larouche may blame me and the queen of England for the worlds drug trafficking, but I'll always have fond memories of Larouche personally -- such as Larouche picking his nose in a speech running for President and Larouche having the tenacity to run for President from his prison cell, where he was serving time for credit card fraud.

    "There's no need to fear. Underzog is here!"

  • Underzog||

    Are the anti-Semites pissed off at poor Mr. Monyihan again?

    Relax you Ernst Rhoem wannabes and watch this you tube video: Respect our diversity

    "There's no need to fear. Underzog is here!"

  • ||

    Saying the Iraqi Shia aren't Iranian surrogates is NOT equivalent to saying that the Shia and Sunni are great pals.

    The Iraqi Shia are ethnic Arabs. The Iranians are ethnic Persian. They don't even speak the same language.

    Also, the ass-kicking Maliki gave the Shia militias in Basra last year kind of puts the lie to the notion that he's all that cozy with Iran.

    There are many things wrong with Iraq, but it isn't an Iranian surrogate.

  • charlie||

    Michael Moynihan is a writer for the Weekly Standard, house organ of the neoconservative movement. This makes him eminently qualified to criticize others for failing to perfectly predict the future of Iraq.

    BTW -- did Freeman propose testing his hypothesis that Iraq's Sunnis and Shias would not kill each other by advocating the invasion and occupation of their country? And how his relatively rosy outlook on Sunni-Shia relations any different than, say, the "we will be greeted as liberators" bullshit peddled by Moynihan et al?

  • Émile François Zola||

    "Also, it is perhaps worth mentioning that The Nation's Robert Dreyfuss, quoted in Welch's post denouncing the "neocons [and] friends of the Israeli far right" that oppose Freeman (like liberal blogger Matt Yglesias), is a former Middle East editor of the Executive Intelligence Review, house organ of the Lyndon LaRouche movement."

    J'accuse!

  • ||

    Charles Davis | March 6, 2009, 6:28pm | #

    charlie | March 6, 2009, 8:08pm | #

    aaaaaaaaacccchhhhhooooooooooooooooooo!

    Excuse me. I'm allergic to ad hominems.

  • ||

    Chas Freeman may be an idiot, but who the hell is Michael Moynihan to criticize anybody for saying stupid things about Iraq?

    Mr. Moynihan is a journalist -- not nominee for chairman of the National Council of Intelligence. When Mr. Moynihan is up for a top intelligence post, then we'll worry about his incorrect predictions. Until that point he's pointing out failed predictions of a top nominee.

  • jtuf||

    Good point, Benson. I would expect a higher standard of insight from someone applying to influence major US policy decisions.

  • ||

    Funny, what made me most upset about Freeman's e-mail wasn't the comments on Tienanmen Square (as bad as they were, China is another, very different country), but the ones on the Bonus Army - when thousands of impoverished American vets and their families collected in DC for a small amount of promised aid to be released early to ease their condition during the first Depression - 4 were killed, a thousand plus injured in the suppression.

  • Hugh Akston||

    as bad as they were, China is another, very different country

    Just to clarify-are you using cultural relativism to justify China's response to Tienanmen Square? or to undermine Freeman's argument that they were too soft?

  • Hoan Ita||

    Setting up statues in Tianemen square and chanting democratic slogans is against the law in China. End of discussion.

    Those students needed to learn the lesson "you does the crime, you does the time"

  • ||

    Mike,

    Thanks for the good work on this, check's in the mail.

  • JB||

    I just can't wait to see a tank run over this guy's face.

    Heck, you give me a tank and immunity from prosecution and I will learn how to drive a tank and run the retard over.

  • TallDave||

    Not to defend Chas Freeman, but hey:

    Iraq is not a flimsy construction.

    Um. Didn't Maliki just dominate an election on a secular nationalist ticket?

  • Seward||

    TallDave,

    FYI: Maliki is the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister of Iraq is not directly elected.

  • TallDave||

    Obviously. He wasn't even running in this election (which was for provincial councils, not parliament). But his secular nationalist party dominated the election behind his secular nationalist campaigning.

  • TallDave||

    Apropos:

    Reporting from Samarra, Iraq -- Sunni Arab residents welcomed more than 1 million Shiite pilgrims to the city of Samarra on Friday to mark the anniversary of a Shiite saint's death, local officials said, the latest sign of reconciliation among Iraqis eager to put the country's civil war behind them.

    It's not Vermont, but it's not Yugoslavia either.

  • Green Mountain Guns||

    Hmm- I guess you haven't been to Vermont recently.

  • ||

    Iraq wasn't that divided by religion before the war, the fact that Chas Freeman got this wrong doesn't show that he's an idiot or ignorant about the Middle East.

  • jtuf||

    Check your history, sdfsadf,

    From the San Francisco Chronicle

    When the world of the 1930s and '40s was divided between the democratic Allies and the Fascist Axis, Arab nationalists in Iraq and Palestine chose to form an alliance with Nazi Germany. The father of Palestinian nationalism and the mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, began his close collaboration with Nazi Germany in the mid-1930s.

    The British put out an arrest warrant for the pro-Nazi Palestinian leader, but he escaped when war broke out in Europe in the spring of 1939. Later that year, he arrived in Baghdad and linked up with pro-Nazi Iraqi nationalist Rashid Ali al-Gaylani. In 1941 al-Husseini and al-Gaylani engineered a pro- German coup against the pro-British Iraqi government, which brought a reign of terror to Iraq's Jews. This culminated in what we remember as the Farhud, an Arabic word akin to "pogrom."

    In a two-day period Arab mobs went on a rampage in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq, murdering, raping and pillaging these cities' Jewish communities. Nearly 200 Jews were killed, more than 2,000 injured; some 900 Jewish homes were destroyed and looted, as were hundreds of Jewish-owned shops. My father was a survivor of the carnage. He hid in a hole dug in the ground to save his life. He saw Iraqi soldiers pull small children away from their parents and rip the arms off young girls to steal their bracelets. He saw pregnant women being raped and their stomachs cut open.

    Britain eventually regained control, but al-Husseini and other Palestinian nationalists had already fled to Berlin where they became honored guests of the Nazi state. Hitler told a grateful al-Husseini that "Germany's only remaining objective in the [Middle East] would be limited to the annihilation of the Jews living under British protection in Arab lands."

    Later, in a speech over Radio Berlin's Arabic Service, al-Husseini voiced support for the Nazis' "Final Solution" and became the first Arab leader to call openly for the expulsion of Jews from Arab lands -- some eight years before there was a single Palestinian refugee.

    Even though Hitler lost the war, al-Husseini's call was heeded. In 1948, Iraq rounded up and imprisoned hundreds of Jews. Others were removed from their jobs in the civil service, business licenses of Jews were revoked, and quotas were placed on Jewish high school and college students. Later, discriminatory restrictions were imposed on Jewish travel abroad and the buying or selling of property. Thus, even if Jews wanted to escape Iraq, they could not do so legally, and they could not liquidate their assets.

    In 1950, the Iraqi parliament passed a law called Ordinance for the Cancellation of Iraqi Nationality for Jews, Law No. 1 that stripped Iraqi Jews of their citizenship. In 1951, the Iraqi parliament passed another law, confiscating all Jewish property. Within a year, most of Iraq's ancient Jewish population, my family included, fled to Israel.



    Then there's this piece from the BBC:

    A court in The Hague has ruled that the killing of thousands of Kurds in Iraq in the 1980s was an act of genocide.
    The ruling came in the case of Dutch trader Frans van Anraat, who was given a 15-year sentence for selling chemicals to Saddam Hussein's regime.

    He was found guilty of complicity in war crimes over a 1988 chemical attack that killed more than 5,000 people, but acquitted of genocide charges.

    It is the first trial to deal with war crimes against Kurds in Iraq and Iran.



    But I guess Freeman's defenders would rather stick there heads in the sand and make up conspiracy theories about neocons. Cause, you know how right-wing San Francisco and the BBC are.

  • ||

    Lets cut through the crap. The Israel Firsters are out to sink Freeman because he knew the Iraq war would be a disaster for the United States and made no bones about it. ""In retrospect, Al Qaeda has played us with the finesse of a matador exhausting a great bull by guiding it into unproductive lunges at the void behind his cape. By invading Iraq, we transformed an intervention in Afghanistan most Muslims had supported into what looks to them like a wider war against Islam. We destroyed the Iraqi state and catalyzed anarchy, sectarian violence, terrorism, and civil war in that country."

  • TallDave||

    William, that might have flown in 2006 but not today. If anything the reverse it true: we goaded Al Qaeda into a war they had no chance of winning, while their brutal tactics discredited themselves with Muslims everywhere. We are leaving behind a fairly liberal democracy backed by what is becoming by far the most modern and professional Arab military.

    If you want to argue Iraq is divided by religion, you can't say much that doesn't also apply to Syria's Alawite regime, Turkey's fairly recent history of genocide, Lebanon's crazy patchwork of sects, etc. There aren't really that many ethnically homogenous states out there.

  • ||

    we goaded Al Qaeda into a war they had no chance of winning, while their brutal tactics discredited themselves with Muslims everywhere. We are leaving behind a fairly liberal democracy backed by what is becoming by far the most modern and professional Arab military.

    Even assuming this extremely rose-colored-glasses version of the current and future Iraq, it wasn't worth the cost of thousands of American military deaths, thousands of American military maimings, tens of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians, and trillions of dollars spent that will never be paid back by oil revenue as war proponents predicted.

    I'll repeat the analogy: those who proclaim the Iraq war a success are like the guy who goes to Vegas with $10,000, loses $9999 of it in the first day; yet returns home rejoicing because he won back $100 on the next day.

  • VM||

    Hak - he's never let facts get the way for him!

    servus gfrasstsackl.

  • opit||

    Nice links jtuf.
    It still leaves out a lot of detail, but what can you expect on a thread self-congratulatorily vilifying a hack. It's what he does.
    http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB207/index.htm
    I don't think one could say much more about the 'stability' of Iraq than is demolished there.
    The care and attention the U.S. touts for Iraq has an odd genesis.
    http://www.uruknet.info/?p=42948
    Mind, I don't see the need to accuse the U.S. of stupidity when cupidity gives much more compliance to the actual train of events.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jun/26/usforeignpolicy.usnationalsecurity

  • jtuf||

    Opit. If you believe Iraq was stable before the Geogre Bush terms, kindly explain why Clinton imposed economic sanctions on Iraq and maintained no fly zones in the Irqi north and south throughout his two terms.

  • jtuf||

    opit, regarding the gwu article. It seems sound to me, and it goes along with the point of my ealier links. Iraq has been a powder keg for most of the 20th century. Poeple who blame all Iraqi-against-Iraqi violence on the US presence completely ignore the Iraqi-against-Iraqi violence that occured for decades under many different US and Brittish approaches to Iraq. I agree with the gwu article's suggestion that the number of troops we sent in was much less than we needed and that the reconstruction planning was dredfully absent. I just object to the history revisionists that try to paint Pre-2000 as a peaceful place where all the factions got along.

  • opit||

    Opit,

    That second link was to a conspiracy theory website. I read up to the third factual error and then stopped. I figured three strikes and you're out was fair enough. Anyway, the first error was saying its findings where supressed by some Murdoch/Fox News conspiracy. Come on. Am I to beleive that CNN, the BBC, the New York Times, and PSB didn't run the story because Fox News is secretely pulling their strings? The second error was the claim that Iraq's farm economy hasn't changed significantly in ten thousand years. This is the same old "noble savage" theory that says non-Western cultures where all in unchanging harmony until the West showed up. Other cultures have histories that predate Western involvement. Am I to believe that conquest by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Mongolians, Ottomans, Brittish, and a couple other empires, not to mention the abolistion of slavery, did not change how the farm economy was run? The third error was blaming UN sanctions on Bush. UN sanctions started under Clinton. The oil for food program was an attempt to lighten those sanctions.

  • jtuf||

    That last comment was from me, not opit.

  • jtuf||

    Regarding the guardian article, I don't see what is so shocking about oil companies pumping oil or about people doing business with foreigners. My concern is whether the Iraqis were free to sign or not sign the contracts without threats from the US. The Guardian article doesn't bother to provide evidence of strong arming in the negotiations. It just points to oil contracts and relies on its readers hate for oil companies. I've got the same concern over the US military bases as I have over the oil contracts. Were the Iraqis free to negotiate as an equal partner with the US?

  • TallDave||

    Rab,

    How's the math work on that? Was keeping S Korea free a waste of 50,000 American lives? How many was a free Europe worth? Was it worth 400,000 American deaths to free 5 million slaves in the South?

    As for Iraqi deaths, even the worst month of the occupation was better than Saddam's average. That's probably why large majorities of Shia and Kurd say removing him was worth the cost.

    Your Vegas analogy has the small flaw that by any historical standard we accomplished an amazing feat with very few casualties. Calling it a failure is like complaining you put in three quarters and only hit the jackpot twice.

  • ||

    Was keeping S Korea free a waste of 50,000 American lives?

    Yes.

    How many was a free Europe worth?

    Please stop making a fool of yourself comparing Saddam to Hitler. I'm embarrassed for you.

    Was it worth 400,000 American deaths to free 5 million slaves in the South?

    No.

    As for Iraqi deaths, even the worst month of the occupation was better than Saddam's average. That's probably why large majorities of Shia and Kurd say removing him was worth the cost.

    Links for either of these extraordinary assertions?

    Your Vegas analogy has the small flaw that by any historical standard we accomplished an amazing feat with very few casualties.

    Oh my. Get thee to the asylum.

  • ||

    That second link was to a conspiracy theory website. I read up to the third factual error and then stopped.....

    For entertainment, scroll down and click the "Seeds of Destruction" link.

    I went to that Amazon page and browsed through some of the books where it said "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought...". It gave me an idea for a new game to play on blogs:

    6 degrees from Alex Jones (or some other crackpot, there is a generous supply).

    By the way, that site is 2 degrees from Alex Jones.

  • economist||

    TallDave
    Stop FillingIn for the LoneWacko.

  • TallDave||

    Rab,

    Heh. So you think it would be better if slavery survived and S Korea was under Kim Jong Il's boot. I see you dodged the Europe question.

    comparing Saddam to Hitler

    I didn't, so be embarassed for yourself.

    Links for either of these extraordinary assertions?

    They're only extraordinary if you've been swallowing the MSM narrative on Iraq rather than looking at the facts. They're common knowledge to those of us paying attention.

    65% of Shia and 87% of Kurds say the invasion was the right decision. Gee, it's almost like they think we liberated them or something. Saddam is generally held responsible for around 2 million deaths as a direct result of violence from his invasion of Iran, his invasion of Kuwait, his brutal civil war with the Kurds, his brutal civil war with the Shia, and his general day-to-day police state brutality (At Abu Ghraib alone, some 30,000 were executed), which works out to about 7,000 a month, about twice the worst months of the transition.

    Then there's the little things, like free press, free elections, GDP doubling. basic services like sewage and electric doubling, ten million cell phones in a country that had virtually none prewar.

    It's odd that anyone finds it amazing Iraqis didn't prefer living in a Baathist police state.

  • ||

    TallDave, please don't cite increased cell phone usage as a positive result of war. People died so the living could talk to each other easier?

    While I agree that fighting for the freedom of others is quite noble, it is one thing to hire or convince many thousands of people to fight to save others. It is something completely different to conscript them to do it. Enslaving one (and possibly causing them life or limb) to free another is not right.

  • ||

    I hope this doesn't mean that one of my favorite magazines isn't actually libertarian but a blindly marching neo-conservative apologist for Israel. Say it isn't so, Reason...

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