Hip Deep in Blood

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Recently by Michael S. Rozeff: Love It or Leave It?


Juan Williams thought the Iraqis should be grateful for the U.S. destruction of their country. At the end of 2008, he called Iraqis “ingrates” who didn’t welcome American forces with open arms:

“But on a serious level, how many American lives have been sacrificed to the cause of liberating Iraq? How much money has been spent while they're not spending their own profits from their oil? American money. So I just think it's absolutely the act of an ingrate for them to behave in this way. Just unbelievable to me.”

What’s his thinking on Libya?

It’s that“We can’t argue with American policy now, Quaddafi’s dead and the results speak for themselves.”

And what does he say is American policy? It’s this:

“A man who was an enemy of the American people, someone who killed Americans aboard Pan Am 103, someone who was taking out Americans and acting against our interests in the Middle East for decades has finally been eliminated from the scene.”

Was Quaddafi an enemy of the American people? No, he was not. See here and here for details. This photo of a half-smiling and/or friendly Obama shaking hands with Quaddafi, taken in mid-2009, illustrates that he was no enemy.

Did Quaddafi kill Americans on Pan Am 103 in 1988? Mr. Jalil, who heads Libya’s NTC, said in February that he had evidence of this, but he hasn’t released it yet. Some relatives of survivors are demanding today that it be released. Some regret that Quaddafi is dead, because he might have shed light on the atrocity. One, Dr. Jim Swire, says

"There is much still to be resolved. Gaddafi, whether he was involved or not, might have been able to clear up a few points," Dr Swire said.

"Now that he is dead we may have lost an opportunity for getting nearer to the truth.

"Although we have not a scrap of evidence that Gaddafi himself was involved in causing the Lockerbie atrocity, my take on that was that he would have at least known who was."

Although Quaddafi was suspected of giving the order, we cannot at this time be sure of his role in the bombing. We surely cannot applaud an American invasion and bombing of Libya because, in the words of Williams, it “eliminated from the scene” someone who “killed Americans aboard Pan Am 103.” We don’t know if that is true.

Even if it is true and even if voluminous evidence appears that proves it to be true, we can’t congratulate Obama or the U.S. government for making an undeclared war in order to "eliminate" or kill Quaddafi. We cannot take joy in flouting any semblance of due process of law, even in international politics. We cannot feel proud that the U.S. extensively bombed an entire country as the means to eliminate him, in the course of which a great many innocents were killed and maimed. And so, Mr. Williams is wrong on this score too.

Then, last, Mr. Williams claims the justification that Quaddafi was “acting against our interests in the Middle East for decades.” The fact is that Quaddafi was cooperating with the U.S. for the past decade. He gave up any nuclear ambitions. He compensated survivors of Pan Am 103. He was cooperating with the CIA.

But surely he did have interests that ran counter to American interests, and vice versa. So what? No two nations have identical interests. The interests of Great Britain, considered in knee-jerk fashion to be a close ally, have run considerably against American interests. France’s interests often conflict with those of the U.S. These kinds of conflicts do not justify invading a country or participating in mass bombing attacks that wound their leaders or result in their deaths.

Quaddafi was not at war with the U.S. He sent no terrorists here. He was against al-Qaeda. There was not the remotest threat to America from Libya, a faraway nation of only 6.4 million people. How can Mr. Williams possibly argue in any rational way that Quaddafi was an American enemy and that this justifies the American policy of sending armed forces to Libya and over Libya to bomb one government into oblivion while supporting a coalition of replacements?

Mr. Williams is badly mistaken. His justifications for not arguing with American policy, as he defines it, add up to a big fat zero.

We can't argue with American policy, we are told, because America has won this one. That's a phony-baloney argument in and of itself. Winning is not everything. We have to count the costs of winning. We always have to compare the gains with the losses (costs). We have to do that over the course of all such interventions. Libya is not a one-shot deal. There are also Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Vietnam, Korea, and many other wars, some worldwide in scope, to consider. We have to consider the costs to all sides in these and other wars. Does Libya cancel out Iraq? Hardly.

Does Libya prove that American policy is now right because the U.S. has succeeded in finding another country that it can bomb into submission? Hardly. Suppose that the U.S. had possessed the means to launch a surprise attack on the Soviet Union and had utterly destroyed that country because its leader was deemed an American enemy and its interests conflicted with U.S. interests. Would that have justified a U.S. preemptive attack? Not at all.

We have to argue with American policy, not only because of the evident costs in human and economic terms but more broadly in terms of the moral costs and the kind of world order that is being built.

The development of a natural law basis for international order among rivalrous states is quite fragile, but it is better than nothing. In the existing order of states, we rightfully want justifications rooted in justice for going to war. We especially want such justifications when we unilaterally start a war in some foreign nation, as in Iraq and Libya. We want appropriate procedures too. Without such justifications and procedures, we go straight downwards into "might makes right". And might makes right is basically what Mr. Williams is saying too.

I strongly reject might makes right, from Juan Williams or from anyone else. We cannot realize our humanity with might makes right. The world that the U.S. is building under might makes right is going to be a brutal and terrifying place to live in. Any government that has the might will believe that it has the right to use that might, both domestically and overseas. It will act and concoct thin or fake justifications when it wants to.

If there is one thing we can be sure of, it is that a government with might will not use it in justice and for justice unless it is severely constrained and limited by the people under its rule. This is certainly not today the case with the U.S. government. The U.S. government thinks it is right or at least says it is right, and it finds plenty of commentators like Juan Williams, who believe this and repeat it for public consumption.

The U.S. exercise of might in Iraq was totally wrong. Juan Williams was wrong to think of the Iraqis as ingrates. Today he is equally wrong to applaud the U.S. use of might in Libya. He thinks the U.S. is right because its might has succeeded at removing Quaddafi. That removal is entirely irrelevant in view of how this removal has been brought about. The U.S. and NATO participation have flouted civilized canons of international justice that have been built up only painstakingly and are all too fragile to begin with. Bringing Quaddafi to his death in the way it has been done may be viewed by U.S. leaders as some sort of "justice" and victory, but it has been bought at the high price of once again wounding the moral heart of true justice.

If and when Obama and Hillary attempt to spin the Libya story as a victory for justice, don't believe a word of it.

Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York. He is the author of the free e-book Essays on American Empire: Liberty vs. Domination and the free e-book The U.S. Constitution and Money: Corruption and Decline.

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