February 21, 2006

 

John,

 

One positive result of our exchange is that it has made very real to

me the way in which the two of us can be in quite different worlds

about some issue based on the information each has.

 

Hiroshima is a case in point: the difference in valid information will

determine whether our dropping atomic bombs in 1945 should be seen as

the unnecessary taking of several hundreds of thousands of lives or

the saving of several million.

 

I shared with you what I have read about this, and you with me.But I

was hardly born in 1945 and I am not conversant with the underlying

sources of information.My point is not to go over that issue again,

but to say that valid information makes the difference between wise

policy and criminal policy, for many people in our world today even

between between life and death.

 

That said, I want to go back to the issue I've spent a good part of

the last ten years informing myself about: Iraq, 1991-2003.

 

I go first to make sure I understand what you wrote me:

"DEMORALIZED CIVILIAN POPULACE: It was true in the 1970s when it

caused us the loss of the Vietnamese war, and it certainly seems to be

a potential factor in the Iraq war of today."

I believe you are saying that our disregard for civilian human life in

Vietnam caused us to lose the war.It might also in Iraq too.And if

that's your view, we are in full agreement on this point.

 

I'd call it an agreement based on practical consequences: Acts which

kill civilians may demoralize a people, but they also lose us trust

and credibility.In the long run we lose in a guerrilla war.

 

We lose trust and credibility -- lose hearts and minds -- lose the war

-- because people everywhere will react the same way to a deliberate

or careless or collateral killing of a part of their family.

 

Do we agree on this?

 

On to my second point, directly connected with the first.Here is a

"thought experiment" I invite you to do with me.

 

Imagine for a minute that some people were able to divert the sewage

in King County into the water supply.Let's imagine they did it with

wrenches and pipe -- not bombs -- and that in the process they did not

immediately or directly harm anyone.

 

Now let's imagine that hundreds of civilians -- those with the weakest

immune systems, the very young, the sick and the old -- died as a

result.And let us imagine that the people who did this knew it would

be the result, wanted it to happen, did it to coerce us, and said so

publicly.

 

The fact that they did not directly harm anyone by using bombs or

bullets would not hide from us the fact that this was a criminal act.

We would not just call it malicious destruction of property.We would

correctly call it terrorism.

 

Do you agree that if this happened here that's what it would be?

 

If not, please tell me honestly why you wouldn't call it that.

 

Even if Michael Brown and FEMA were criminally negligent in

responding, would you not label this an act of terrorism?

 

If so, isn't it clear that's how the Iraqi people must have felt in

1991 and after?For the first 12 years of Saddam's rule they had no

political rights.But they had 9,000 megawatts of electrical

capacity, plenty of free medicine, safe water, and a country where

obesity was the major pediatric problem.

 

For the next 12 years (after the Gulf War bombing and during

sanctions) -- while they continued to have no political rights -- they

had 340 megawatts of electricity right after the war and never more

than 4000 up to now.As a direct result, the untreated sewage from

Baghdad's six million people (the population of our state) flowed raw

into the Tigris River.

 

That became the drinking water of everyone downstream.Just as

Baghdad residents had to drink the water from those upstream.We knew

this would happen because our Pentagon bombing planners told us so.

And we knew it was deliberate because they told us why we did it: "to

accelerate the effect of the sanctions."(You've read

concernforiraq.org/infrastructure.)

 

So now I ask you: How is this not terrorism?

 

You said "TERRORISTS:There's a lot of truth to the statement that

one man's terrorists is another man's freedom fighter."

That is also my point: In our present intellectual and political

environment, each party simply calls his enemy a terrorist.Without a

meaningful definition, it's impossible to discuss, to understand, or

do anything but go to war when there's conflict.

 

Amnesty International has a simple standard for what acts they label

terrorism: if it involves the deliberate endangering or taking of

*civilian* life to coerce or intimidate then it is called terrorism.

 

Amnesty abides by this definition impartially.It's also our legal

definition.If we believe in a rule of law, we must abide by it too.

 

In Iraq many people have seen their family members suffer and die as

the result of the lack of what they had before the Gulf War: food,

medicine, safe water, electricity.They may never have heard of our

legal definitions, but do you think that will matter to what they

think of what we have done to them?

 

Finally, here is my third point.

 

It is actually what I call a meta-issue: An issue which affects all of

the above and much, much more.It is the issue: Where do we get our

information and how much can we trust it.

 

You wrote in your letter to the Seattle Times, "Saddam Hussein spent

the bulk of the oil-for-food income on many luxurious palaces and

development for weapons of mass destruction."

 

Do you know how much the oil-for-food income was?Do you know how

much of it was available to Saddam Hussein as cash?Do you know how

much he spent on palaces?Do you know how much he spent on developing

WMDs?

 

The oil-for-food income was $64 billion total.30% went to war

reparations, 13% to the Kurds, 4% to the UN for its Iraq programs, the

balance went into an account from which only UN-(i.e., US-) approved

humanitarian purchases could be made.

 

After all of these deductions, the oil-for-food program provided $0.51

per person per day over 6 years of its operation.It was not

humanitarian aid.It was Iraq's own money, limited by us.

 

Saddam Hussein had no cash available from the program.His palaces

came to $0.04 per person per day by our own accounting.I have never

seen any accounting of money he might have spent on WMD development

after the Gulf War.

 

I once got to ask Stansfield Turner (CIA director under Jimmy Carter)

about children's deaths in Iraq; he said it was all because of

Saddam's palaces.I once asked Robert McNamara about 500,000 Iraqi

kids deaths; he said that was "ridiculous."

 

My point is that we may believe we "know" all kinds of things.Yet

what we "know" may be very misleading and even untrue.

 

Most of us get our information from the mainstream media.As you've

written, we can say there's a liberal media (say the NY Times) and a

conservative media (say the Wall St Journal or, if you like, Fox

News).My example of the reporting of half a million Iraqi children's

deaths in both examples is very telling.

 

It tells me there is a US mass-media window onto the world: at the

left edge of the window is the liberal point of view, at the right is

the conservative.But what can be seen from within that window does

not include the deaths of half a million Iraqi kids.

 

The reason is that this window is a limited opening to the world.

Many views and much information gets excluded.For example, it is not

a problem to show angry Muslim crowds burning American flags.But

showing an articulate Muslim explaining the source of that anger

towards the US almost never happens.

 

That would not be "blame America first" -- as some might say.It

would be a willingness to report on facts that do not reflect well on

America -- even if they made us uncomfortable -- if they are important

to our understanding of the world .It would reflect the importance

of knowing what's happening in that wider world which cannot be seen

from within the US mass-media window.

 

Here is what I've learned from ten years working to educate myself

about Iraq: most Americans are woefully uninformed about the most

basic facts of our policy; many Americans do not want to know; and if

Americans rely only on the mainstream media -- with very few

exceptions -- they will not know.

 

It seems to me that this is at the root of many of the problems we

face today.And at the root of what needs to be changed.

 

Your response is very welcome.

 

Bert

 

 

February 22, 2006

 

Good response.  I'll get back to you.  John

 

 

February 24, 2006

 

Bert

 

Sorry for the slow response.My wife and I went to the Home Show yesterday.

 

You wrote an interesting response and caused me to consider some items in a different light.

 

Once again I have responded in blue . . . below the appropriate paragraph.

 

John

 

 

One positive result of our exchange is that it has made very real to

me the way in which the two of us can be in quite different worlds

about some issue based on the information each has.

 

Hiroshima is a case in point: the difference in valid information will

determine whether our dropping atomic bombs in 1945 should be seen as

the unnecessary taking of several hundreds of thousands of lives or

the saving of several million.

 

I shared with you what I have read about this, and you with me.But I

was hardly born in 1945 and I am not conversant with the underlying

sources of information.My point is not to go over that issue again,

but to say that valid information makes the difference between wise

policy and criminal policy, for many people in our world today even

between life and death.

 

That said, I want to go back to the issue I've spent a good part of

the last ten years informing myself about: Iraq, 1991-2003.

 

I go first to make sure I understand what you wrote me:

"DEMORALIZED CIVILIAN POPULACE: It was true in the 1970s when it

caused us the loss of the Vietnamese war, and it certainly seems to be

a potential factor in the Iraq war of today."

 

I believe you are saying that our disregard for civilian human life in

Vietnam caused us to lose the war.It might also in Iraq too.And if

that's your view, we are in full agreement on this point.

 

That is not what I was implying at all.We lost the war because the people of the United States were demoralized by the left-wing media, which was much more influential then because we didnít have the internet, and the 24/7 TV news stations.The turning point was the Tet Offensive where the North Vietnamese lost every battle.Had Kennedy not been assassinated, perhaps it would have gone better.The press loved Kennedy, and seems to not fully appreciate presidents from Texas.

 

I'd call it an agreement based on practical consequences: Acts which

kill civilians may demoralize a people, but they also lose us trust

and credibility.In the long run we lose in a guerrilla war.

 

We lose trust and credibility -- lose hearts and minds -- lose the war

-- because people everywhere will react the same way to a deliberate

or careless or collateral killing of a part of their family.

 

Do we agree on this?

 

Not entirely.Individuals can, of course, vary all over the place.How countries behave is complex.A major factor seems to be how badly a people are beaten during war.The Japanese or the Germans were subjected to massive bombings of there cities during WW II, but became good friends during the occupation and afterward.I believe this happened because they were beaten so badly that they were ready for peace at any cost.Germanyís attitude was totally different following WW I.Most German people were not exposed to the war, and certainly not the civilians, in general.And there was no occupation.However, there was humiliation, which came in part from the sinking of the German fleet.WW II came about because the Germans were not ready for peace at any cost following WW I.

 

On to my second point, directly connected with the first.Here is a

"thought experiment" I invite you to do with me.

 

Imagine for a minute that some people were able to divert the sewage

in King County into the water supply.Let's imagine they did it with

wrenches and pipe -- not bombs -- and that in the process they did not

immediately or directly harm anyone.

 

Now let's imagine that hundreds of civilians -- those with the weakest

immune systems, the very young, the sick and the old -- died as a

result.And let us imagine that the people who did this knew it would

be the result, wanted it to happen, did it to coerce us, and said so

publicly.

 

The fact that they did not directly harm anyone by using bombs or

bullets would not hide from us the fact that this was a criminal act.

We would not just call it malicious destruction of property.We would

correctly call it terrorism.

 

Do you agree that if this happened here that's what it would be?

 

Of course it is terrorism.Terrorism is a useful tool in war.The fire bombings of cities in WW II was terrorism, along with the use of atomic bombs.In war, there is no substitute for victory.But the question needs to be asked:To what level of terrorism do our morals and conscience allow us to go???

 

If not, please tell me honestly why you wouldn't call it that.

 

Even if Michael Brown and FEMA were criminally negligent in

responding, would you not label this an act of terrorism?

 

No.Terrorism is a deliberate act to kill innocent civilians.

 

If so, isn't it clear that's how the Iraqi people must have felt in

1991 and after?For the first 12 years of Saddam's rule they had no

political rights.But they had 9,000 megawatts of electrical

capacity, plenty of free medicine, safe water, and a country where

obesity was the major pediatric problem.

 

I presume the power plants were knocked out in 1991 in an effort to make Iraq pay the price for attacking Kuwait.It also forces a benevolent leader to focus on his problems at home as opposed to focusing on the wealth of his neighbor.It is my understanding that Saddam had a fair amount of popular support, and if true, perhaps the attack on the power plants was justified.However, people from our culture may well have expected Saddam to take the necessary steps to protect his people from the aftermath.

 

For the next 12 years (after the Gulf War bombing and during

sanctions) -- while they continued to have no political rights -- they

had 340 megawatts of electricity right after the war and never more

than 4000 up to now.As a direct result, the untreated sewage from

Baghdad's six million people (the population of our state) flowed raw

into the Tigris River.

 

That became the drinking water of everyone downstream.Just as

Baghdad residents had to drink the water from those upstream.We knew

this would happen because our Pentagon bombing planners told us so.

And we knew it was deliberate because they told us why we did it: "to

accelerate the effect of the sanctions."(You've read

concernforiraq.org/infrastructure.)

 

I went back and looked at it again.I found numerous references to the death of children after the fact, but none before the bombings of power plants took place.

 

Iím not an expert on bombing strategy.I can see some mission planners agreeing to attack the power plants because that is going to make life miserable for Iraqis on hot summer days with no air conditioning.Perhaps Iím naÔve, but I canít see people of our culture doing it because itís going to cause the deaths of a Ĺ million children. Perhaps youíve gone through these documents thoroughly . . . I have not.I did find references to the value of attacks on military targets relative to unintended civilian casualties, and the application of the ď... proportionality rule.Ē[I would be interested in any thoughts you may have on this subject.]

 

So now I ask you: How is this not terrorism?[see above]

 

You said "TERRORISTS:There's a lot of truth to the statement that

one man's terrorists is another man's freedom fighter."

 

That is also my point: In our present intellectual and political

environment, each party simply calls his enemy a terrorist.Without a

meaningful definition, it's impossible to discuss, to understand, or

do anything but go to war when there's conflict.

 

Amnesty International has a simple standard for what acts they label

terrorism: if it involves the deliberate endangering or taking of

*civilian* life to coerce or intimidate then it is called terrorism.

 

Amnesty abides by this definition impartially.It's also our legal

definition.If we believe in a rule of law, we must abide by it too.

 

Yes, but as I stated above . . . itís a useful tool of war.Should it be used without moral guidelines???Absolutely not.But there are very few rules in all out warfare.

 

In Iraq many people have seen their family members suffer and die as

the result of the lack of what they had before the Gulf War: food,

medicine, safe water, electricity.They may never have heard of our

legal definitions, but do you think that will matter to what they

think of what we have done to them?

 

Finally, here is my third point.

 

It is actually what I call a meta-issue: An issue which affects all of

the above and much, much more.It is the issue: Where do we get our

information and how much can we trust it.

 

You wrote in your letter to the Seattle Times, "Saddam Hussein spent

the bulk of the oil-for-food income on many luxurious palaces and

development for weapons of mass destruction."

 

Do you know how much the oil-for-food income was?Do you know how

much of it was available to Saddam Hussein as cash?Do you know how

much he spent on palaces?Do you know how much he spent on developing

WMDs?

 

The oil-for-food income was $64 billion total.30% went to war

reparations, 13% to the Kurds, 4% to the UN for its Iraq programs, the

balance went into an account from which only UN-(i.e., US-) approved

humanitarian purchases could be made. [30% +13% +4% = 47%.That

leaves 53%, or $33.3 billion.]

 

After all of these deductions, the oil-for-food program provided $0.51

per person per day over 6 years of its operation.It was not

humanitarian aid.It was Iraq's own money, limited by us.

 

Iraqís money limited by the U.N.:†† Using your figures, thatís $6.7 billion.Perhaps better appropriation of the funds would have resulted in a functioning power plant.But using your earlier numbers (53% of $64 billion) he would have $33.3 billion to spend.What happened to the other $26.7 billion???He should have fixed the power plant.

 

Iím guessing here, but it seems to me that the intention of the UN was not to cause the deaths of thousands of Iraqis.I would expect that they budgeted the money that a benevolent leader would need to take care of 6 million people.

 

Saddam Hussein had no cash available from the program.His palaces

came to $0.04 per person per day by our own accounting.I have never

seen any accounting of money he might have spent on WMD development

after the Gulf War.

 

I know that they also found millions of dollars in green backs that could have been used.This money probably came from selling oil they smuggled to other countries.

 

I once got to ask Stansfield Turner (CIA director under Jimmy Carter)

about children's deaths in Iraq; he said it was all because of

Saddam's palaces.I once asked Robert McNamara about 500,000 Iraqi

kids deaths; he said that was "ridiculous."

 

My point is that we may believe we "know" all kinds of things.Yet

what we "know" may be very misleading and even untrue.

 

Most of us get our information from the mainstream media.As you've

written, we can say there's a liberal media (say the NY Times) and a

conservative media (say the Wall St Journal or, if you like, Fox

News).My example of the reporting of half a million Iraqi children's

deaths in both examples is very telling.

 

Fox news is one of my sources, so Iím surprised to see you classify it as conservative.Of the programs that I watch, they have both liberal and conservative representatives.In my limited view, they seem to be living up to their . . . ďfair & balancedĒ . . . advertisement.

 

It tells me there is a US mass-media window onto the world: at the

left edge of the window is the liberal point of view, at the right is

the conservative.But what can be seen from within that window does

not include the deaths of half a million Iraqi kids.

 

You have been tossing around the death of 500,000 children, and I havenít challenged it.I know some blog sites have exaggerated the civilian deaths in the current war far above the UN numbers.†† So just out of curiosity, what is the reference for your Ĺ million?I certainly havenít seen it in the press, liberal or conservative.

 

After typing the above paragraph, I thought maybe I should do a GOOGLE search myself.I was specifically looking for a UN reference, but I didnít spend much time.I did find the following reference that says that UNICEF confirmed the 500,000 number, but later disputed it.There are also some numbers on mortality rates in the no-fly zone during the sanctions.Please take a look at this and give me your comment.

 

http://mattwelch.com/NatPostSave/Sanctions.htm

 

The reason is that this window is a limited opening to the world.

Many views and much information gets excluded.For example, it is not

a problem to show angry Muslim crowds burning American flags.But

showing an articulate Muslim explaining the source of that anger

towards the US almost never happens.

 

Iíve been looking for an articulate Muslim leader that speaks out against suicide bombers that target women and children.Where is the Islamic leader that calls for tolerance, and condemns the political cartoons by Moslems that ridicule western religions?

 

That would not be "blame America first" -- as some might say.It

would be a willingness to report on facts that do not reflect well on

America -- even if they made us uncomfortable -- if they are important

to our understanding of the world .It would reflect the importance

of knowing what's happening in that wider world which cannot be seen

from within the US mass-media window.

 

If it makes the Bush Administration look bad, the liberal press does not hold back.

 

Here is what I've learned from ten years working to educate myself

about Iraq: most Americans are woefully uninformed about the most

basic facts of our policy; many Americans do not want to know; and if

Americans rely only on the mainstream media -- with very few

exceptions -- they will not know.

 

Five years into the Vietnamese war, 25% of the American people did not know that we were at war.

 

It seems to me that this is at the root of many of the problems we

face today.And at the root of what needs to be changed.

 

The root of the problems: ????You seem to be blaming the media.BUT most of the media favors the liberal left.

 

Your response is very welcome.

 

Bert

 

Hope I havenít made any stupid idiotic booboos.My spelling can be terrible at times.

 

John