August 24th, 2006

Notes from a Conservative: Is Iraq Really an “Unmitigated” Disaster?

by Philip Baruth

In response to yesterday’s post labeling Iraq an unmitigated disaster, VDB received a short communique from Charity Tensel, publisher of the conservative site “She’s Right.” Charity was one of the die-hards at the Political Barbeque this past summer: came early, stayed late, talked hard.

charity tensel

But apparently Charity takes gentle exception to our use of the adjective “unmitigated”:


It’s been too long. I just have to heckle you about today’s post on Rainville.

When you say, “Iraq is not merely a disaster but an unmitigated disaster,” is that just more of your over-the-top rhetoric, or do you really believe that the situation is in no way mitigated by the freedom, the voting turn-out, the formation of a new government, and the lack of a dictator, who tortures and kills men for even the slightest hint of dissent? I just want to be clear on your position here.

There, at least, we agree: VDB also wants to be clear on VDB’s position.

And now is probably as good a time as any to answer the “Iraqi elections as ex-post-facto justification for invasion” argument.

First, we should put aside any dreamy ideas that the Iraqis have held free and fair democratic elections. They have not.

Elections aren’t fair when the second-largest ethnic group in a country cannot vote because of full-scale violence in their neighborhoods. Elections aren’t free when they are held at the behest of an occupying army, and local militias looking to leverage this war-time referendum into battlefield gains.

Elections aren’t free when desperately frightened people blindly obey the dictates of their religious leaders. Is it an accident that Iraqis voted in a fundamentalist Shiite majority? Not at all.

What about voter turnout? Why so many purple fingers? Because in essence, it was vote or die — and often vote the right way or die.

But put all of that aside. Let’s say, for kicks, that the elections were free and fair and the sun smiled down on a democratic Iraq all the livelong day.

Was it worth 2,600 American lives, 30,000 to 50,000 Iraqi lives, a current tab of $400 billion dollars (due to reach at least a trillion with long-term military benefits factored in), an army that is both tied and broken down, a civil war and at least two nascent border wars whose participants have only begun to fight?

No, VDB doesn’t think so. And we never will. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, our stated purpose for pre-emptively invading a sovereign nation.

Exhaustive subsequent investigation shows that our sanctions — while very hard on the civilian population — had decimated Iraq’s large-scale military capacity. They were not a threat to their neighbors.

And unless the US wants to be in a position to police the internal politics and human rights records of all nations — something at which conservatives pretend to shudder — then we should never invade a nation that poses no threat to its neighbors or to ourselves.

tiny bushIn other words, the doctrine of pre-emptive war has been roundly and violently discredited. And no amount of retroactive jawboning by President Bush about “democracy” and “forward strategies for freedom” will make it not so.

So yes, Charity, we think “unmitigated” is a fair way to modify “disaster” when speaking of Iraq. But it was a great pleasure to hear from you, as always.

And to anyone out there who has yet to check out Charity’s site, it’s listed prominently on the sidebar. Trust us: it’s not the sort of conservative site that will make you throw up a little in your mouth. It’s Vermont conservative, a whole different proposition.

And Charity’s personality genuinely lights it up.