On the Message Board

Under the headline ‘There are reasons to vote Obama — just not good ones’ Kevin Myers writes in the Irish Independent:

“Obama sought a programme to withdraw all US troops from Iraq by this March. In other words, no surge, no sweeping victories against al-Qa’ida in Anbar province, no Iraqi National Council of Reawakening; but instead, a timetable of capitulation, defeat and withdrawal, followed by regional catastrophe, starting some time around now.

So, as the US stares into the jaws of victory, he has promised instead to turn it into defeat, and to abandon the successful Iraqi policy of General Petraeus.” [27/02/08]

We wrote to question this assertion of ‘success’ in Iraq:

“While violence has recently begun to reduce, due in part to increased ethnic cleansing and internal and external displacement, it must be noted that this ‘success’ is still comparable to 2005 levels. The ‘success’ of this relative reduction can only be measured in terms of what it is hoped can be achieved, thereby differentiating what you or I might want from what the occupiers and instigators of the escalation in troop numbers want. Certainly the effect of the escalation points towards a successful division of Iraq along religious and ethnic lines, as opposed the establishment of a free and independent state.”

Mr. Myers responded:

Dear David Manning,

Thank you for your detailed letter,

The democratically government of Iraq does not agree with the points you make. Governments make policy, not opinion polls.

We all agree that the invasion was appallingly planned,and there are grounds for saying it was illegal, but that is now history. The US is by UN Resolution accepted as the lawful occupier of Iraq.

I look forward to the day when there are no more US troops in Iraq: but the man more likely to bring that about is John Mccain. It is not Barak Obama.

Again, thank you for your letter.


Kevin Myers

To which we replied:

“Fortunately the Iraqi government doesn’t have to agree with the information I’ve offered, it is verifiable fact whether they accept it or not. The policies you mention are not those of the Iraqi government, they are those of the occupying army – again as you say uninfluenced by Iraqi opinion, but in contradiction to it. My point was not necessarily that the occupiers should withdraw, though I do think this is the case, but that their continued presence prolongs the violence – a fact obscured by discourse routed in uncontextualised themes of “victories”, “surges” and “reawakenings”.

Further, if you accept that the US remains in Iraq under the conditions of international law it has a duty to fulfil all obligations under the charter. And of course the present UN mandate does not comment and has no bearing on prior judgements. Therefore if you accept it as legitimate, then the invasion and initial occupation must be judged by the same criteria – which poses serious questions for the interpretation of present circumstances, not just historical.”

In the March 3rd edition of the Irish Independent Mary Kenny writes under the headline ‘How boy soldier became a deft recruiting officer’ (referring to Prince Harry’s deployment in occupied Afghanistan) that the Afghan conflict was an act of ‘defence’. Ms. Kenny also criticises the short sightedness of peaceniks and hippies, who only ‘enhance the iron dominance of tyrants and oppressors’.

We wrote to question these claims:

“The act of aggression, the initial invasion, that spawned this conflict precluded any future claim to self defence. And this stark fact cannot be obscured by any amount of diversionary comparison with legitimate defence against Nazi aggression. It is this reality that exposes the sad truth behind Harry’s misplaced confidence in his and his army’s stern benevolence… “We Do Bad Things To Bad People.” He is one of those bad people.”

Ms. Kenny responded:

Well, different people will have different views on this.

I don’t include Afghanistan in the “Middle East”, by the way. It’s a complicated issue, but I do think that “defence” against Islamicist forces who HAVE attacked democratic western societies is indeed – defence. NATO clearly takes that view too in regard to the Afghan situation, where so many of the Islamicist training-camps are sited.

Elected politicians (in the NATO countries) have made this decision, not soldiers. In that sense, soldiers are always “pawns”: but they can be admired for doing their duty just the same.

And I certainly wish to be defended from suicide bombers, who have struck very close to my home.

Yours, Mary K

We responded the same day:

Dear Mary Kenny,

It’s a very strange concept of defence where, by the their own admission, the invasions actually increased the threat they were allegedly designed to defend against.

“A report by the Joint Terrorist Analysis Centre – which includes officials from MI5, MI6, GCHQ and the police – explicitly linked US-led involvement in Iraq with terrorist activity in the UK.” [The Guardian, July 19 2005]

“A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.” [New York Times, 24 September 2006]

“Dr Jonathan Eyal, the director of international security at the Royal United Services Institute, said that the al-Qaeda revival was down to the West’s inability to kill or capture Osama bin Laden and that wars in Afghanistan and Iraq made matters worse.” [The Telegraph, 25/02/2007]

It also seems unfair that you can on one hand take donnish umbrage with the inclusion of Afghanistan under the term Middle East and yet purposefully confuse Al Qaeda with the Afghan people. The Afghan people, and indeed the Afghan government, prior to and since the invasion have never attacked democratic western societies (I doubt you supported a British invasion of the Republic during the troubles) – the bombers were as you know predominantly of Saudi Arabian origin, yet we have witnessed no military aggression there.

I agree, soldiers are for the most part pawns, but it is those soldiers that refuse to do the unconscionable bidding of their corrupt leaders, knowing the likely punishment and ridicule, that deserve to be praised. Rather this than repeat the old lie…’Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori’.

Yours sincerely,

David Manning

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