Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Aaro extends the purple finger

I think this one falls into the category 'nice try'.

I notice he's still in denial about the casualty figures ("implausible"), and apparently you only count as 'talking about the Iraqis' if you're talking about them building a vibrant new democracy, painting schools etc. Talking about the years in which they were dying in tens of thousands being murdered with electric drills doesn't count.

"The war was illegal, immoral, the greatest foreign policy blunder since Suez or since Pharaoh spurred his chariot into the Red Sea, Blair lied or dissimulated, was Bush’s poodle, was driven crazy by his own messianism, didn’t tell the Cabinet anything, didn’t listen to the country’s clear opposition"

These aren't "stock phrases" or "conventional wisdoms that now pass from brain to lip without encountering thought along the way", Aaro, they're a reasonable description of the facts. You bought a bill of goods manufactured by an obvious idiot and sold to you by a pushy young lawyer and an international chancer who turned out to be an Iranian agent. Own your mistake, man.

Are you fucking kidding me? Watch: "As far as we know", there was "no widespread fraud" in the Iraqi elections. Other than that bit where Ahmad Chalabi (remember him, Dave?) disqualified half the candidates from a rival party on trumped-up charges of Ba'athism? And "nor was there violence between supporters of the various candidates".

Update: If you want to see video footage of Aaro expanding on this theme while wearing a really horrid purple shirt, the Times website can sort that out for you.


Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Malky has noted this on twitter but still:

the same stock phrases, the same conventional wisdoms that now pass from brain to lip without encountering thought along the way


we have had no discussions about what has been avoided in Iraq — the continuation of sanctions or their breakdown, the continuation of Saddam or his handing over to Uday and/or Qusay, what might have happened had there been a coup or an uprising. It means that our discussions have lacked realism.

Yes, not only is Aaro totally over Iraq, but this intervention is brand-new analyis and not just the same old column rewritten. And for someone who styles himself as a historian, how can he say that this what-if tosh counts as 'realism'?

But most worrying is the following:

what now may be a functioning (if idiosyncratic) democracy. This could make a huge difference to other countries in the region, and we have to discuss how we might help.

that 'idiosyncratic' is horrendous sleight of hand. and 'how we might help' - what does he mean there? Is this about Iran? Because the Iraqi govt has been very chummy with Iran. If he's going to preach 'realism'...

3/09/2010 08:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Solomon Hughes said...

I think he means "Rejoice" ! (or was that Thatcher on the Falklands ?)
I assume David Aaronovitch's point about a "functioning (if idiosyncratic) democracy" which "could make a huge difference to other countries in the region" is part of the 'exemplar democracy' argument - that a democratic Iraq would spur democratisation throughout the Gulf (and beyond). Which assumes that Neighbouring populations would look at Iraq and think - 'why can't we be as lucky as the Iraqi's and have all the good things democracy has delivered, we must press to enjoy the Iraqi experience ourselves'. Which seems unlikely. Especially given that Iraq's "democracy" doesn't seem to be that much more "idiosyncratic" than Iran's.
I thought his argument that Baha Mousa's family will get a big payout and got an inquiry - which is better than they would have got from Saddam - was a particularly low moment.

3/09/2010 09:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The things that some of us were saying seven years ago (as a small, embattled minority) are now "conventional wisdom". The Daily Mail is now saying what the Independent was saying in 2003. Just because the Daily Mail is saying them doesn't mean that they are wrong. After seven years, alternative explanations and alternative narratives have died a natural death because the facts to support them just weren't there.


3/09/2010 09:26:00 AM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

Perhaps Aaronovitch wants people to shut up about deceits, fabrications and so on, because it's so inconvenient when he's trying to get them to trust the government.

what now may be a functioning (if idiosyncratic) democracy.

Idiosyncratic? That just makes it sound rogueish. "Oh, that Iraqi democracy - it's a crazy one."

3/09/2010 10:31:00 AM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

[*] roguish

Also fun is how he castigates the "Shortists" for yammering on about the decision to invade, but then introduces his vague whatiffery. "Oh, it's so boring when you talk about that...On my terms, however..."

3/09/2010 10:36:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

The Daily Mail is now saying what the Independent was saying in 2003

and of course, via John Rentoul, vice versa.

3/09/2010 10:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

In a sense Aaro has us bang to rights - one of the main reasons some of us want to keep talking about the invasion is that we do want to reach a conclusion that would effectively hobble future governments in taking action abroad, if by 'taking action abroad' you mean 'waging aggressive war'. Which is also precisely why he wants to 'move on'.

I also hated the Baha Mousa reference, or more specifically the way he introduces it - "It is true, but difficult to say..." Like a more pious version of "I hate to say it, but..." - and just as mendacious.

3/09/2010 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

That's true Phil. On the other hand, given that we're a zillion quid in debt; that most of the population regard our last war as a bullshit disaster, and that we're still hurling men and material into the black hole of Afghanistan, I do wonder what kind of "action" Aaro sees us taking abroad.

Maybe he means the World Cup or something, because if he means Deal with Iran once and for all or something, he's off his rocker.

3/09/2010 11:40:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

For some reason when I read the article I immediately thought of this scene from a famous movie.

3/09/2010 11:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed, I go on about the invasion because I want to stop my government from breaking international law and taking actions without proper thought.


3/09/2010 11:52:00 AM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

Not sure what lesson Aaro wants us to draw when he says "One political alliance is reported to have done well in Baghdad, Najaf and Basra; another in Nineveh and Diyala" either. He'd have been quicker to just say "Shi'ites voted for Shi'ites and Sunnis for Sunnis".

Which is all sort of the problem, isn't it? I read an article in the UK press over the weekend that contended the Iraqis didn't vote straight down strict ethnoreligious lines, but I guess we'll have to wait for the full results to see.

And after all, more power to the Iraqis if they want to vote for folks like themselves, or whoever. The difficulty is that this model of governance has been tried - albeit in more institutionalised fashion - in Lebanon, which surely isn't anyone's idea of an admirable role model. Further, a strict ethnoreligious vote was what we got last time, leading a lot of the militias to conclude that well, if power is based on gaining a dominant share of the electorate, why don't we just cut out the middle man and severely reduce the number of people voting for other factions? With power drills, as BB notes.

And Aaro rather neglects to note that the current (fragile and still very violent) peace is surely being helped by the fact that, if any single faction decides to use force against another, there are 100,000 US troops close by to smash them back into compliance.

All of which is to say, Iraqi elections, Hooray! Let's just not forget that voting is only one part of democracy, and that things like personal security, the rule of law and respect for individual rights are sort of important too.

Shorter me - It's a funny looking miracle Aaro, and you've got brass balls for ticking off other people for not paying attention to what's really happening in Iraq.

3/09/2010 12:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This could make a huge difference to other countries in the region, and we have to discuss how we might help.

Indeed. The major example of Iraqi "democracy" to other countries in the region would be that if you listen to the yanks about democracy, you end up with a mixture of carbombs and dodgy elections and you get enrolled in an informal Iranian empire.

Given that most of the other countries in the region have the following security goals:

1) no more carbombs thanks!
2) Iran can piss off
3) and so can Israel

the conclusion they are likely to draw is probably "round up the usual suspects and let'em know the boys are back in town".

As far as Iran itself goes, the Iranians seem to be quite able to put on a good demo without Aaro, and you bet Moussavi would want to hang on to the large oil-rich colony the Americans and Aaro so generously handed them.

After all, Iran's foreign policy goals start like this:
1) Iraq can piss off.

3/09/2010 12:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Asteri said...

I don't understand why he's having ago at Syria, quite a lot of Iraqi's (2 Million) seem to have thought that its a preferable choice of residence to Iraq in the last 7 years.

3/09/2010 01:00:00 PM  
Anonymous darjeeling junkie said...

Actually,he's quite right to say
"nor was there violence between supporters of the various candidates".,
such minimal violence as there was being football-related,involving the notorious Kerbala United "firm",the Dawa Rangers and so on.Such violence is a fairly typical "idiosyncracy" of a newly emerged democracy.

3/09/2010 04:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Dave Weeden said...

The Rude Pundit:

"That is good news for Iraqis," says the New York Times of Sunni participation in this week's elections. The Washington Times opines, "Nothing says 'mission accomplished' more than a low-key election in a country recently beset by nationwide conflict." Dale McFeatters of Scripps-Howard writes, "[I]f democracy does take hold in Iraq, this election and those that follow will become the reason we fought this war."

You can do that - change the reason for a war retroactively? So Gordon Brown could be right: WWI was fought for freedom, just no one really thought so at the time.

But, hey, good for you, Iraq. You had an election with only a few dozen people getting killed.

3/09/2010 07:05:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

I was a little mystified as to why an article that appears to want to set things into cotext should have an unsourced quote attacking Matthew Taylor (who of course in addition to being head of the RSA is former head of the No.10 policy unit).In fact it can be traced to a comment on Matthew Taylor's own blog by one Mike Upstone, the complete quote is:
Outward looking”, “collaborative” and “a force for good” does not sit easily with someone who recently jumped up to defend Tony Blair for an illegal and unlawful war that has killed over a million Iraqi’s and helped destabilise an entire region, probably for decades to come…
I’m compelled to question your democratic credentials and commitment to the values of the RSA on that basis.
There seems to be a fundamental conflict of principles.

Experienced Aaronaughts may recall DA complaining about being called a c**t 25 times on Guido, he seems to be adopting a slightly different attitude to the blogosphere's relevance here.

John Stewart on The Daily Show said something like:" How low are we setting the bar for what constitues success when the figure for the number of candidates assassinated is "a few"? But then actually existing liberals do always see the glass half empty.

3/10/2010 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

"while wearing a really horrid purple shirt"

The thinking Decent's Nicky Haslam?

3/10/2010 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger paul said...

He might have added 'if amongst the touchiest' to his pen portrait of one of the most original and brilliant people in the country.

Has Mr T offered his services to the people of Iraq, as rather a lot of damage was inflicted on Iraq's cultural patrimony by herr rumsfeld's 'shit happens' approach to freedom? (c.f. the obsession with looters in haiti).

I pity the fool who asks who is the 'we' in the article title.

3/10/2010 12:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Asteri said...

That video really was dreadful and the shirt was the least of it, the position he's arguing is one better suited for six form debating society, not one for a journalist.

3/10/2010 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I'd say it was closer to pink than purple; though it's not a good colour on anyone. DA's argument is very odd. What is wrong with holding politicians to account? Surely democracy is founded on rule of law - and having laws which politicians must obey just as much as the rest of us. I say that holding elections is actually a very small part of democracy; we have to have a clear idea of who we're voting for. Hence public enquiries are vital. But he also likes to suggest that those of us who were unpersuaded in 2003 (and war is serious enough that, if you don't think there's a good case for, you should be against), necessarily wanted Saddam to remain in power. A second UN resolution, a clearer post-war strategy, much less input/leadership from the US (especially former Saddam supporter, Donald Rumsfeld), and rather more clarity from our government may have persuaded me. I'd also like to note that several of Christopher Hitchens' Slate essays (collected as 'Regime Change') suggest that Saddam was not far from collapse anyway, given that he was very unpopular, had killed any insiders with any talent, wasn't delivering any success, etc. I don't think Dave's sine qua non argument is anything like as safe as he thinks it is. And why call it a 'miracle' anyway? Miracles happen outside nature or cause and effect as currently understood; the invasion of Iraq and subsequent history are perfectly deterministic, if chaotic in more than one sense.

Dave's argument is rather too similar to Zaphod Beeblebrox's "Property is theft. Therefore, theft is property. I stole it, therefore it's mine." But Beeblebrox was President of the Galaxy, so he could probably rely on an apologia from our Aaro.

3/10/2010 09:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chardonnay chap

"But Beeblebrox was President of the Galaxy, so he could probably rely on an apologia from our Aaro"

From Wikipedia

"Zaphod is hedonistic and irresponsible, self-centered almost to the point of solipsism, and often extremely insensitive to the feelings of those around him, he is nevertheless quite charismatic which causes many characters to ignore his other flaws"

I wonder which former PM that sounds like?

3/10/2010 11:35:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I was going to take issue with the 'miracle' phrase, which Aaro clearly loves since he uses it several times - I think it's a candidate for Unspeak in fact. How many 'miracles' have that much money, effort, and time thrown at them - and are then still so unexpected as to be considered 'miraculous'?

There's also an awful lot of disingenuousness going on. I mean if they love Iraqi democracy so much then presumably Aaro and that Brownie off HP Sauce (kerching) would have been truly up in arms when George Bush fired the first democratically-elected Iraqi leader...?

I still don't really understand the Aaro/Cohen party line on Chilcot - both thinking it pointless yet largely approving of its methods. All of this discourse seems to demonstrate a remarkable willingness to ignore straightforward logic as outlined by CC, in favour of tortured and evidently wilful misreadings.

3/11/2010 08:54:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheseboard said...

aaro on the Colbert Report tonight apparently:


3/11/2010 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

I've been trying and failing to come up with a way to adequately lampoon this column - the best so far is a parody called Let's not get hung up in an argument about who launched a war of aggression against who via spurious claims of self-defence.

It's a lot worse than Aaro's usual stabs in this direction. After all, Iraq's previous election led to an outbreak of mass murder by militias attached to some of the country's leading political figures. The last government was dysfunctional, authoritarian and corrupt; Baghdad is one of the most militarised cities on the planet and the streets are heavily patrolled by over a million Iraqi soldiers. I read an Iraqi politician recently claiming that up to 15% of Iraqis have some form of major disability - missing limbs or very serious injuries - compared to the average of 2% for other countries.

International studies regularly find that Iraq is one of the most violent and corrupt nations on Earth. Even Freedom House rate it as unfree.

That's just a very brief rundown of some of the problems the Iraqis face in the short term. "Idiosyncratic".

You can call the recent election a "miracle" if you like, but if ten years from now, Iraq is able to govern, police and defend itself without tens of thousands of US troops to enforce the smackdown on recalcitrant political minorities and their militia backers or by resorting to extreme authoritarianism, that will be a genuine miracle.

*It's also worth recalling that democratisation is not the reason we invaded Iraq, and that the US resisted elections of this type for quite some time afterwards.

3/11/2010 10:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Well, Chilcot is so Establishment that Aaro can't be entirely against it*. So the line goes roughly "you annoying little people wanted an inquiry so here's your inquiry, look, nothing to see, will you shut up now, no, of course you won't, Norman Baker**'s an idiot, nobody ever listens to me, Chomsky!".

*Nothing specific to hang this on, but I get the impression that Aaro sees politics almost entirely in terms of the elite, so that the permissible political spectrum runs from "see the Establishment's point of view" (sensible moderation) through "change the Establishment from within" (crusading reform) to "replace the Establishment with a new and better one" (utopian radicalism). Anything that's not on that line isn't even politics, it's just rabble-rousing.

**Or, as it may be, 'Clare Short'.

3/11/2010 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

Apologies for the monomania, but this is loopy stuff. Love Aaro's anguish about how he can't even chat to some nice female writer without her insisting on bringing up our gigantic, culpable and entirely avoidable bloodbaths. Can I be the first to say Boo hoo hoo for you, you dog?

And that "...those who supported military action to remove Saddam* have had this support treated as if it were the only thing they did". My heart bleeds buckets.

Plus, the reason why the Americans make films about their soldiers rather than ordinary Iraqis is that 90 minutes of screeching power drills and wiping your exploded family members off the wreckage of your burning car is depressing and doesn't make for good box office. Movies are a for-profit industry, not Pravda.

And I love that summary of the complaints we've made about the invasion of Iraq. By way of analogy, The Quiet American is about a well-meaning chump who blunders into a situation he doesn't understand and accidentally unleashes a murderous bloodbath. I imagine a Decent review of it might tend to focus more strongly on the theoretical validity and morality of York Harding's conclusions and the lack of alternative plans for defeating the evil Commies, than the murderous bloodbath part.

And all of this is before we note that Dave is accusing other people of being "arsey" and "sarcastic". Words fail.

*Note also, it's still "remove Saddam" and not "Launch a massive military invasion and occupation of Iraq". Wonder why that is?

3/11/2010 10:37:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

he can't even chat to some nice female writer without her insisting on bringing up our gigantic, culpable and entirely avoidable bloodbaths

cohen gets really upset about this too. I don't really believe in bringing it up if there's no reason, but one of the reasons why it does tend to come up a lot is because the contortions in logic that Aaro, Cohen et al had to go through (and are still going through) to justify their support have a tendency to undermine a lot of their professions on other topics - about the rule of law, human rights, international affairs generally.

I appreciate that Aaro is unlikely to admit this, preferring instead to blame his opponents for 'obsession' or some such, but it's not exactly rocket science to work out why people might keep bringing it up, especially given the abysmal quality of both of their recent writings on the subject - Cohen's knuckleheaded belief that 'if overthrowing a genocidal dictator by force is illegal [even if he is not at that point committing genocide] then you have to say that genocideis legal'.

Aaro doesn't even mention WMD in his book on conspiracies; it's unthinkable that someone wouldn't consider that a legitimate topic to discuss with him - but would presumably consider this evidence of 'Shortist' obsession...

3/11/2010 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Anybody been doing "birth defects in Fallujah"?

3/11/2010 01:56:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

"...those who supported military action to remove Saddam have had this support treated as if it were the only thing they did".

I don't get this - what else did they do which is pertinent to this subject and which we have supposedly ignored?

3/11/2010 04:28:00 PM  

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