Ivins: One Apology Short

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I know. The article I've been looking at is dated yesterday and I seem to have heard rumors of this floating around. So pardon me if this is old news to you, but it seems that Molly Ivins has had to recant her recent (June 28) claim that "more Iraqis (civilians) had now been killed in this war than had been killed by Saddam Hussein over his 24-year rule."

Crow eaten here: This is a horror. In a column written June 28, I asserted that more Iraqis (civilians) had now been killed in this war than had been killed by Saddam Hussein over his 24-year rule. Wrong. Really, really wrong.

The only problem is figuring out by how large a factor I was wrong.
So she admits her error in the face of easily-verifiable facts. But what I find more illuminating is what else she admits. First off, she spent quite a bit of time ghoulishly tallying up civilian casualties.
I had been keeping an eye on civilian deaths in Iraq for a couple of months, waiting for the most conservative estimates to creep over 20,000, which I had fixed in my mind as the number of Iraqi civilians Saddam had killed.
Is it just me, or does this preoccupation with counting dead bodies seem particularly grotesque, especially in light of the ridiculously low numerical "goal"?

More amazingly, this figure, which at first sounds like it was arrived at with the aid of a dart thrown while blindfolded, was used by someone who claims to have "opposed" Hussein "through human rights work for decades." If so, why was she not at the time as meticulous as she had to be below? (The widely differing degrees of attention to detail sure do make Ivins look like she has an axe to grind.) Note also that much of her data comes from ... human rights organizations: I doubt they were hiding it from her.
According to Human Rights Watch, Hussein killed several hundred thousand of his fellow citizens. The massacre of the Kurdish Barzani tribe in 1983 killed at least 8,000; the infamous gas attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja killed 5,000 in 1988; and seized documents from Iraqi security organizations show 182,000 were murdered during the Anfal ethnic cleansing campaign against Kurds, also in 1988.

In 1991, following the first Gulf War, both the Kurds and the Shiites rebelled. The allied forces did not intervene [emphasis added, but they did recently and still do --ed], and Saddam brutally suppressed both uprisings and drained the southern marshes that had been home to a local population for more than 5,000 years.

Saddam's regime left 271 mass graves, with more still being discovered. That figure alone was the source for my original mistaken estimate of 20,000 [emphasis added]. Saddam's widespread use of systematic torture, including rape, has been verified by the U.N. Committee on Human Rights and other human rights groups over the years.


There have been estimates as high as 1 million civilians killed by Saddam....

And then there's this doozie:
I was certainly under no illusions regarding Saddam Hussein, whom I have opposed through human rights work for decades. My sincere apologies. It is unforgivable of me not to have checked. I am so sorry.
I'll take her at her word that she at least did what she felt appropriate to oppose Hussein, but she is apologizing for the wrong thing.

It is one thing to openly oppose a war, or to disagree with the way a war is being fought. It is quite another to attempt to reduce the moral calculus of a war to the act of counting dead bodies. Ivins stated in her earlier column.
Since my name is Molly Ivins and I speak for myself, I'll tell you exactly why I opposed invading Iraq: because I thought it would be bad for this country, our country, my country. I opposed the invasion out of patriotism, and that is the reason I continue to oppose it today -- I think it is bad for us. I think it has done nothing but harm to the United States of America. I think we have created more terrorists than we faced to start with and that our good name has been sullied all over the world. I think we have alienated our allies and have killed more Iraqis than Saddam Hussein ever did.
Her objections can be summarized as follows: (1) The war is harmful to our country. (2) The war has somehow created terrorists. (3) We have alienated our allies. (4) We have killed more Iraqis than Saddam Hussein.

Of course, I disagree with all four of these, but the first three reasons are all, conceivably, reasonable objections to our waging this war. The fourth objection, however, is clearly different than the others. It is a moral objection to our involvement in this war on the grounds that it is causing civilian casualties. Molly Ivins clearly condemns our nation on moral grounds for Iraqi civilian deaths, and her magic number of 20,000 allowed her to say that we had even surpassed the brutality of Saddam Hussein!

But why these civilians (or Saddam's subjects before the war) died is, apparently, of absolutely no consequence to Ivins. While I think Bush is executing his "forward strategy of freedom" very imperfectly, I understand why, on that basis, he decided to invade Iraq. But does Ivins? And should she?

Ivins herself regarded the Hussein regime as immoral. Also, she clearly understands on some level that our regime is moral, as witnessed by the fact that she knows she is safe to give her opinion about the war here without fear of reprisal. Furthermore, she admits that this is no dictatorship by taking the trouble to make her opinion known on a national scale, so that it can influence voters.

So, by Ivins's own words and actions, it is clear that she should grasp the demonstrable fact that this is not a war between two evil regimes. Instead, it is a conflict between a good side (ours) and an evil side (Hussein and his sympathetic "insurgents"). No dictatorial regime has the right to sovereignty since it violates the rights of its people. A free nation has the right, but not the obligation, to invade a dictatorship at any time. And the government of a free nation, when it discerns that the interests of its people are best served by invading such a country is obligated to do so.

The blame for all deaths in such a war, military or civilian, and on either side rests squarely on the dictatorial regime that made such a war necessary in the first place.

So, Miss Ivins, you see. The United States may be responsible at the level of immediate causation for Iraqi civilian deaths in this war, but it is not morally responsible for a single one of these deaths.

On top of that, Molly, your own numbers indicate that removing Saddam Hussein from power saves an average of perhaps more than 40,000 (that's a million divided by 24) lives per annum, more than twice as many who have died (in nearly two and a half years) as a result of the military invasion Hussein saddled our country with.

Miss Ivins, if you won't apologize -- as you should -- for blaming the United States for the civilian deaths in this war, at least credit your own country with preventing the Butcher of Baghdad from causing any further "civilian deaths" in Iraq. While that is not the primary moral justification for waging this war, it is, at least a goal you hold dear.

Or is counting lives saved and lived free not exciting enough for you?

-- CAV


7-14-05: Ah! I saw this story first at Michelle Malkin. She updated it today.

1 comment:

Mover Mike said...

Your analysis is great, I just posted her apology!
Mover Mike