Citing the harms from air strikes on Somalia as a reason to continue to bomb, invade and occupy Iraq is the height of incoherent self-justification.
By Glenn Greenwald
(May 03, 2008) -- Glenn Greenwald, who blogs at Salon.com and has written three popular books in recent years, regularly reviews editorials at The Washington Post, under opinion editor Fred Hiatt, taking issue with their hawkish views on the Iraq war.
He weighed in today with the following, also available in somewhat fuller form at www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald.
Long-time war cheerleader Fred Hiatt of The Washington Post has a truly incoherent Editorial this morning in which he cites the problems he says are created by air strikes of the type the U.S. just carried out against an alleged Al Qaeda leader in Somalia in order to argue that it's better, instead, to invade and occupy countries such as Iraq. Here are the problems that he says arise when we merely bomb -- rather than bomb, invade and occupy -- other countries:
"But Thursday's U.S. operation had a distinct downside: At least two dozen other people were killed in the attack, some of them apparently civilians. Al-Shabab responded defiantly, and Somalia-watchers said new leaders for the militia and al-Qaeda will quickly come forward, while fresh recruits may be gained through a backlash against the American intervention. . . .
" Somalia itself, meanwhile, has grown steadily more dangerous. The government, which is backed by Ethiopian troops, has lost ground to Islamist and tribal insurgents, and fighting has destroyed a large part of Mogadishu, the capital, while displacing up to 60 percent of the city's population, or 700,000 people. Famine is a distinct danger: The United Nations says that 2.6 million Somalis are in need of food aid and that the number could rise by the end of the year to 3.5 million -- half the country's population."
Hiatt then says that problems like these -- chaos, civilian deaths, population displacement, and the prospect of helping Al Qaeda's recruitment efforts -- are reasons that we should, instead, pursue and prolong policies like the one we've undertaken in Iraq: "Somalia is a cautionary example for those who, like Barack Obama, favor rapidly withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq and managing any threat from al-Qaeda with an "over the horizon" strike force. Such forces indeed have the ability to target and kill leaders. They do nothing, however, to change the conditions under which al-Qaeda finds refuge and recruits."
It's hard to recall a more incoherent argument than this.
Self-evidently, every problem that Hiatt argues is created by "mere" air strikes against other countries is magnified by many magnitudes by the types of invasions and long-term occupations which Hiatt cheers on for Iraq. Unlike the handful of civilians killed by the Somalian air strike, Hiatt's Glorious War in Iraq has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians (though the exact number is debated because we don't really bother to count).
While 700,000 people are displaced in Somalia due to internal strife, Hiatt's Glorious Invasion and Occupation of Iraq has resulted in the displacement of 4 million Iraqis. While continuous U.S. bombing of countries in the Middle East and North Africa obviously inflames anti-American sentiment around the world, thus aiding Al Qaeda's recruitment, Hiatt's desired endless occupation of Iraq does more for that cause than any other policy. Citing the harms from air strikes on Somalia as a reason to continue to bomb, invade and occupy Iraq is the height of incoherent self-justification from a desperate and disgraced war cheerleader.
Hiatt concludes the Editorial with a typically self-righteous decree: "Successful counterterrorism requires providing security for the civilian population, economic reconstruction and the brokering of political accords -- in other words, nation-building. That's as true in Somalia as it is in Iraq."
It doesn't sound like "nation-building" is what we're doing in Iraq -- more like the opposite:
"BAGHDAD (AFP) - A US air strike damaged a hospital in the Iraqi capital's violent Shiite stronghold of Sadr City on Saturday, injuring 20 people, as American forces claimed to have killed 14 militiamen. . . . However, witnesses and an AFP reporter at the scene said the main Al-Sadr hospital had been badly damaged and a fleet of ambulances were destroyed. . . .
"Hospital staff said at least 20 people wounded in the air raid were taken to the same hospital which had its glass windows shattered, and medical and electrical equipment damaged.
"Doctors and hospital staff were livid they had been hit. 'They (the Americans) will say it was a weapons cache (they hit),' said the head of Baghdad's health department, Dr Ali Bistan. 'But, in fact they want to destroy the infrastructure of the country.' He charged that the attack was aimed at preventing doctors and medicines reaching the hospital which is located inside an area of increased clashes between American troops and militiamen.'
As Iraqi journalist Ali Fadhil put it on the recent Charlie Rose Show to commemorate the Fifth Anniversary of Hiatt's noble invasion: ' We have a huge crisis of refugees inside and outside Iraq. We have a total failure of the -- of the civilian -- the civilian structure and what's happening inside. We have the sectarian divisions increasing. We didn't have that before. Now we have it. So, basically, my assessment is we have a whole nation called Iraq, now it's wiped out."
Just like Fred Hiatt says: merely bombing countries is bad because it results in civilian deaths, causes displacement, and makes Muslims mad at us -- and we can't have any of that. That's why we must, instead, stay in Iraq forever and continue to drop bombs on hospitals which prevent those we're fighting against from seeking medical care -- acts which, if intentional, are war crimes by any objective measure -- and why stopping those activities and withdrawing from that country would be really terrible. Because that behavior -- endless occupation and war, which Hiatt craves even more of -- entails none of the problems of mere "over the horizon" bombing campaigns.
That's the twisted, muddled mind of today's war cheerleaders seeking justification for the endless carnage they know they've unleashed.
Glenn Greenwald is author of the new book from Random House/Crown, "Great American Hypocrites." He blogs at www.salon.com.