Public Nuisance

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The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Monday, February 17, 2003
Thomas Nephew recently wrote a long, and for me rather persuasive, post supporting war against Iraq. Some points that are significant to me:

Resolution 1441, adopted unanimously by the Security Council, explicitly states what seems to be clearly supported by evidence, that Iraq has never fully complied with the original cease-fire resolutions from Gulf War I, as well as subsequent resolutions:

Deploring the fact that Iraq has not provided an accurate, full, final, and complete disclosure, as required by resolution 687 (1991), of all aspects of its programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles with a range greater than one hundred and fifty kilometres, and of all holdings of such weapons, their components and production facilities and locations, as well as all other nuclear programmes, including any which it claims are for purposes not related to nuclear-weapons-usable material,

Deploring further that Iraq repeatedly obstructed immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access to sites designated by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), failed to cooperate fully and unconditionally with UNSCOM and IAEA weapons inspectors, as required by resolution 687 (1991), and ultimately ceased all cooperation with UNSCOM and the IAEA in 1998,

Deploring the absence, since December 1998, in Iraq of international monitoring, inspection, and verification, as required by relevant resolutions, of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, in spite of the Council's repeated demands that Iraq provide immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access to the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), established in resolution 1284 (1999) as the successor organization to UNSCOM...

Deploring also that the Government of Iraq has failed to comply with its commitments pursuant to resolution 687 (1991) with regard to terrorism, pursuant to resolution 688 (1991) to end repression of its civilian population and to provide access by international humanitarian organizations to all those in need of assistance in Iraq, and pursuant to resolutions 686 (1991), 687 (1991), and 1284 (1999) to return or cooperate in accounting for Kuwaiti and third country nationals wrongfully detained by Iraq, or to return Kuwaiti property wrongfully seized by Iraq,

Recalling that in its resolution 687 (1991) the Council declared that a ceasefire would be based on acceptance by Iraq of the provisions of that resolution, including the obligations on Iraq contained therein,

Determined to ensure full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations under resolution 687 (1991) and other relevant resolutions and recalling that the resolutions of the Council constitute the governing standard of Iraqi compliance.

1441 provides what the resolution itself describes as "a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations under relevant resolutions of the Council", and plainly demands not merely the resumed access of inspectors to Iraq, but "immediate, unimpeded, unconditional, and unrestricted access to any and all, including underground, areas, facilities, buildings, equipment, records, and means of transport which they wish to inspect, as well as immediate, unimpeded, unrestricted, and private access to all officials and other persons whom UNMOVIC or the IAEA wish to interview." Finally, it:

Recalls, in that context, that the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations.

Nobody seems to disagree that Iraq, while allowing inspectors to return, has been obstructing inspections to the best of its ability. And the Security Council itself has ruled, unanimously, that Iraq, 12 years later, has yet to comply with the original cease-fire terms of 1991. If this isn't a legitimate cause for war, just how much loger do we need to wait before Iraqi non-compliance is sufficient to justify a resort to armed enforcement of existing Security Council resolutions? If the Security Council in these circumstances can't enforce its own resolutions, how much credibility or relevance does it retain?

Nephew also points out:

what I call the "patient accumulation of failures" of U.N. sanctions on Iraq. Recall that until very lately, these peaceful but painful sanctions themselves were under attack by well-meaning but wrong-headed activists in the West: they were killing Iraqi babies, starving Iraqi children, ruining a country. In what I called a kind of moral jiu-jitsu, responsibility for these tribulations was shifted from Hussein to the Security Council and the United States.

Until recently, we were hearing that these sanctions caused unacceptable humanitarian costs, even that they had resulted in a million Iraqi deaths. If you take those claims seriously (and there is no reason at all to take seriously the claim of 1 million deaths, but undoubtedly some real cost to Iraqi civilians has occurred), you have to judge the cost of war against the cost of continued sanctions - unless you're prepared to advocate a policy of leaving Saddam free to develop his WMD programs unimpeded, a position that I don't think can be seriously defended.

In talking about the Iraqi deaths that will take place if war is launched, some anti-war writers have suggested that supporters of war don't care about Iraqi lives. However it seems probable that, purely in terms of the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people, the suffering of what will probably be a relatively brief war is preferable to indefinite continuance of the combined punishments of further sanctions and the ongoing brutality of the current government.

We hear a lot about various competing numbers for the civilian casualties caused by US bombing in Afghanistan. But even assuming that the high end estimates - maybe 4,000 to 6,000 - are accurate, before the war we were hearing warnings that 500,000 or more people would die from famine in the coming winter. Since the war, over 9 million Afghan children have been vaccinated for polio and measles. Clearly, even by the high-end, probably inaccurate counts of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, the net result has saved a huge number of lives.