Now Is No Time to Go Wobbly in Iraq





Dr. Klinghoffer is a senior research associate in the department of Political Science at Rutgers University, Camden. She is the co-author of International Citizens' Tribunals: Mobilizing Public Opinion to Advance Human Rights and the author of Vietnam, Jews and the Middle East: Unintended Consequences. Click here for her HNN blog.

It's time to face facts. If President Bush's approval rating dropped after he requested 87 billions of dollars for Iraqi reconstruction, it is because the American people are not feeling particularly kindly towards the Iraqi people. And why should they? After all, the Iraqis are killing their sons and daughters, bad mouthing the United States, blaming the coalition for everything that is wrong with their country and failing to turn in not only Saddam and his cronies but those who are undermining the coalition efforts to rebuild the country. To add insult to injury, at the recent UN meeting the governing council seemed to side with France! Even if they are right, Ahmad Chalabi and company should have chosen a more opportune time to make their case.

So the administration should stop waxing lyrical about the poor Iraqi people, the number of reopened schools, hospitals and court houses or the other useful infra structure improvements the occupation forces made. Its time to admit that choosing to emphasize the WMD issue was a mistake. Instead, the administration should admit that just as stopping the Balkan havoc created by Slobodan Milosevic was the last necessary step to insure peace in Europe, overthrowing Saddam's Baath murderous expansionist regime was the first necessary step towards securing peace in the Middle East. What the administration must do at this moment is to explain to the American people the bad behavior of the Iraqi people, the reasons it is in their own interest to sacrifice life and treasure to remake Iraq and, last but not least, the reason they believe it to be doable.

Nobody likes ingrates and newly liberated people tend to behave as ingrates. Thus, according to Biblical liturgy, it took God mere months to get fed up with the constant whining and ingratitude exhibited by the post-Exodus Israelites. The Israelites took no time to forget the ten plagues, the splitting of the Red Sea and the falling of the Manna. "Did you take us out of Egypt only to let us die in the desert?" they inquired when asked to face down the Canaanites. Distrusting God and Moses they sought to appoint another leader who would return them to slavery in Egypt.

Freedom is scary and slavery teaches risk aversion. That is the basic truth the administration failed to take into account in its post-war planning. It is difficult for free people to appreciate the disabling effects of living under constant fear especially since enslaved people seem so intelligent and normal. Note Madeleine Albright's comment on Syria, the other Baathist state: "My sense was that Syria would change ,overnight if the Assad regime's boot were lifted from its neck. Syria possesses a literate population, a relatively enlightened attitude towards women, and ancient cosmopolitan trading culture. It could be a key to bringing the Middle East fully into the 21st Century if it people were no living under what amounts to a police state." This is precisely what the Bush administration expected of Iraq. But it is not the way newly liberated people behave now or then.

So, what can a liberator do? A fed up God wished to smite the Israelites and start anew with the descendants of Moses. Moses pointed out the irreparable harm such a course of action would cause God's long term goal of remaking these pesky Israelites into "a light unto the nations" by spreading the tradition of law based rule. When the world hears that you destroyed the people whom you personally led out of bondage, Moses argued, they will say you did so because you were incapable of bringing them to the promised land. Moses won the argument. God punished the rebel leaders and their direct supporters but put up with the multitude. "Be kind to us," their descendant since pray, "for the sake of Thy Name!"

If God could not afford to undermine his own credibility by letting the Israelites perish in the desert, the United States certainly cannot afford to walk away from Iraq. Credibility matters. No deterrence is possible without it. Recent internal and external criticisms have already strengthened the hands of the Islamists. Note the following paragraph in the September 13, 2003 Ansar Al Islam call for Iraqis to increase their guerrilla attacks against coalition forces in Iraq:

InshaAllah, there are good omens coming soon. We watched the Christians, the slaves of the cross, the Protestants, the Jews both guards and slaves, Americans, British and their followers cry out asking for help and relief from the UN organization to support their aggression . . . a matter that made all the countries scoff at them, in particular France as it published in the press. The fire of sedition has started among their leaders! I want you to know that you're the ones who made them taste the bitters of distress and tribulation with the help of Allah. You placed in them fear and terror and their soldiers have began to run away from Iraq.

Why? Because the Westerners wish for peace or in the Proclamation's language, "fighting them is their torture. To be able to stay the course, the administration must explain to the American people the degree to which Iraq was a true slave state.

In his book The New Iraq; Rebuilding the Country, for Its People, the Middle East, and the World, Joseph Braude writes: "In 1994 Saddam issued an order to cut off the ears of persons who failed to report to their military duty or who left their commissions without authorization. By using this cruel method, the regime evoked memories of ancient times. Section 282 of the world's first code of law, legislated by Hammurabi of Babylon over 2500 years ago decreed: "If a slave say to his master, 'You are not my master,' if they convict him his master shall cut off his ear." The evocation of ancient laws of slavery unwittingly reinforced many Iraqis' feeling of enslavement to their state."

Unwittingly or not, Islamists use the Quran and the Hadiths (sayings of Mohammed) to echo the slavery theme with demands of unquestioning obedience to the leader. In the aforementioned Ansar al Islam proclamation, Mohammed is quoted as saying: "Who obeys me, he obeys Allah and who disobeys me disobeys Allah, Who obeys the leader, obeys me and who disobeys the leader, disobeys me." And "He who hates something from his leader, he has to endure." In other words, a leader like Saddam deserves obedience regardless of his venality. A good Moslem, argue the writers of the proclamation, unlike the other "people of the book" endures because he, unlike his enemies, is not "greedy" for life. "As you are desirous for victory or martyrdom, they are desirous for life. Allah Almighty says: "And thou wilt find them greediest of mankind for life and (greedier) than the idolaters. Each one of them would like to be allowed to live a thousand years."

To convince the American people of the worthiness of their cause, the Bush administration must also explain to the American people that the Islamists cannot be appeased or contained because they are not rebelling against specific American or Western policies.

Indeed, they are seeking to defeat a culture which values life over death and freedom of choice over obedience to a leader and peace over war. To defeat the Islamist the United States must demonstrate that the peoples of the Middle East like the peoples of Europe can be taught that prerequisite skill of the 21st century - self government. Why Iraq? Because the American coalition owed it to start with them after the additional misery 12 years of Saddam Hussein containment inflicted on them. Why in 2003? Because 9/11 made clear that additional waiting will be reckless. The failure of Washington to stay the course in Germany after World War I caused World War II. It was not the German people who were changed by the Second World War, it was the American people

Is the remaking of such a slave culture doable? And if so can Americans do it? That was the question which no longer was asked in 1945. Americans knew the remaking was not a matter of choice but a matter of life and death. "The German Mind: Our Greatest Problem" was the name of a New York Times Magazine article authored by Brigadier General Edwin L. Sibert (Assistant Chief of Staff, Army Intelligence, USFET) and published on February 17, 1946, approximately a year after the beginning of the Allied occupation of Germany. Why? Because the occupation was getting terrible press, deNazification seemed a sham, democratization did not seem to be catching on , and British intelligence was warning of a possible revolt. Then as now, to be convinced of the importance of staying the course, the American people had to understand the nature of the problem faced by the occupation forces.

Siebert saw Germans as robots or slaves. "We are up against at least two hundred years of German history. Frederick William I, King of Prussia, created the basis of a Prussian civil service which in the end produced the type of "little man" who elected Hitler, the type of which Hitler represented. This human robot was a fabulous creature. . . This robot civil servant was bred quite as carefully and trained to perform certain tricks just as the greyhounds were. These tricks were performed at the slightest command - unthinkingly and irrevocable. Sometimes these tricks included brutalities, and these were carried out as dispassionately as an inventory." "Outside this ruler-slave relationship," Siebert goes on "stood a small class of German scholars and artists. Some of them, consciously or unconsciously, provided the dope with which the rulers could compensate their robots."

The dope was German nationalism which the military defeat in and of itself did not erase. An interview with students at Erlangen published the following day made that crystal clear. The students not only refused to accept any responsibility for Nazi atrocities but resented émigrés. They did not want to be told that they were "responsible for things as they were." We had fought for their country, they told reporters, "while people who are supposed to be the German leaders . . . were keeping quiet in Germany or even helping the enemies outside Germany. Nor did they withdraw their support for Hitler's decision to war: "Germany was not wrong to go to War," another student opined, " If she had not, she would have been strangled by England, France and Poland."

The reporter ended the article thus:

There is no great enthusiasm for a democratic Germany among the students, and almost no idea about the workings of a free society. This is understandable in view of the age of most of the students. They have never known anything but an authoritarian government.

But what is frightening is that they think of the Government only as a vehicle for creating a strong Germany.

"Germany is weak now," one said, "But she will not always be weak. We must regain our rightful place in Europe under a strong government. That is why we are here."

He explained that Germany "will need educated men with a background of war service" to lead her people in the future, since "the whole people has gone through war and will naturally accept us as leaders." He admitted that there was no political party that he was willing to join at present but, if the students of Erlangen are any criterion, there soon will be.

Then, unlike now, the editors of the New York Times admitted the problem but refused to contemplate defeat. With minor changes its February 25th editorial entitled "Crossroads in Germany" can be easily read as "Crossroads in Iraq" and their conclusions then are valid now:

All we can be sure of is that the Nazi (Islamist) doctrines are not carried in the germ plasm. They, and the brutal tradition from which they sprang, were educated in, and can be educated out, though the process will be long and difficult. Many of the veterans may be beyond saving, but if the right atmosphere can be created in Germany (Iraq) there is hope for their younger brothers and sisters. The problem of occupation is to create that right atmosphere. In a few instances, as in the local elections, the job has been begun. Most of it still lies ahead.

Whether its worthy or not, the American government must remake Iraq for the same reason it remade Germany, for the sake of the United States of America.


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Esel - 10/13/2003

"Patrick" as in Patrick Henry


G. Esel - 10/13/2003


The Military is not Politics IN AMERICA. (so far !). Washington was nothing like Hindenburg. If you must reach for far-fetched analogies, have Baron von Steuben as titular leader annoiting Aaron Burr king and then watching as the Articles of Confederation were shredded and Thomas Jefferson and Patrick clasped in irons. No Shays rebellion, no Federalist papers, no Bill of Rights, no Kentucky and Virginia resolutions, no peaceful transfer of power in 1800, but instead a two-front Drang nach Lebensraum against Untermenschen in Canada and Mexico. Fortunately, "Befehl ist Befehl" is not a deeply ingrained American value (yet).


F.H. Thomas - 10/13/2003


Quite true, and humorously stated, but consider both the political and military obligations of the citizen of Prussia:

In 1932, when Hitler won plurality on 34% of the votes (over 80% in Bavaria), he was chosen by Paul von Hindenburg (like George Washington to most Germans) to form a government. As citizens, even the Bolshie Prussians had to go along, out of loyalty to Hindenburg, and to Germany. Later, when many of those same Prussians were drafted into the service, there was no choice. As they said 65 years ago, and maybe today, "Befehl ist Befehl". Stoicism was not alone the province of the Romans. Interestingly, many Communists refused, which made them the second most populous group in work camps.

Not sure what you mean by your "irrelevant" characterization. The quote I reacted to was from Klinghoffer's article, and essentially made the same condescending and historically invalid point about the Germans as she had about the Arabs.

Thank you nonetheless for your witty comment!


Gluck Esel - 10/13/2003


If Hitler had tried to conquer Europe using only troops, commanders and resources from Bavaria he would have had his ass kicked at the gates of Warsaw and on the Maginot line.


Phil Edwards - 10/13/2003


If this account is actually accurate, it is the latest in a disturbing series of "we will preemptively strike whenever we feel like it" copy-cating between War Criminal Sharon and Dry Drunk Bush.


F.H. Thomas - 10/12/2003


Thank you for your usual combination of learning, intelligence, humanity, and a lacerating wit on occasion. Your comments on the Arabs are spot on.

If I may extend that line of thought to another area:

"Siebert saw Germans as robots or slaves. "We are up against at least two hundred years of German history. Frederick William I, King of Prussia, created the basis of a Prussian civil service which in the end produced the type of "little man" who elected Hitler, the type of which Hitler represented."

As Thomas Fleming notes in "The New Dealer's War", this is typical anti-German, anti-intellectual crap, which at the time was called "Vanisstartism", after one of the worst racists of all time. Prussia was the home of the Social Democratic Party, the Communist Party, the home of German liberalism, and the origin of many socially advanced institutions such as health care and pensions. It is still the most left-leaning of German states. Interestingly, it was also the most ethnically diverse-the "Pruess" were, after all, German speaking slavs.

Hitler did not carry Prussia. His power base in Germany was Bavaria, specifically Munich, where the NSDAP was headquartered. If it had been up to "the home of German militarism", he would not have been elected dog catcher.

Always interesting, Mr Lamovsky. Thank you, again.


S. T. Bond - 10/12/2003

I live in a rural mountainous place where everyone owns a gun and knows how to use it, men and most women. Just about everyone is very conservative in religion and morals and patriotism. (Conservative in the old sense, not “Conservatism” on steroids as it’s used today.) The government is far away and seems to involve rich people fighting over how to get richer. Most people just want to be left alone to deal with their daily problems. If people of a different race and very different religion force themselves on us with superior weapons, people who don’t speak English, what chance would they have to install foreign institutions on us?

Part of the problem, both in Iraq and Palestine, is the failure of an urban culture to understand a rural and lower social class society. Middle and upper class people constantly shift place and allegiance, more or less following the line of least resistance to their goals. “Common folk” must adapt to place and opportunity. They aren’t stupid, but adapt by tenacity and persistence and hope. I don’t think the idiots who run the American show over there can do anything but make fools of themselves.
I live in a rural mountainous place where everyone owns a gun and knows how to use it, men and most women. Just about everyone is very conservative in religion and morals and patriotism. (Conservative in the old sense, not “Conservatism” on steroids as it’s used today.) The government is far away and seems to involve rich people fighting over how to get richer. Most people just want to be left alone to deal with their daily problems. If people of a different race and very different religion force themselves on us with superior weapons, people who don’t speak English, what chance would they have to install foreign institutions on us?

Part of the problem, both in Iraq and Palestine, is the failure of an urban culture to understand a rural and lower social class society. Middle and upper class people constantly shift place and allegiance, more or less following the line of least resistance to their goals. “Common folk” must adapt to place and opportunity. They aren’t stupid, but adapt by tenacity and persistence and hope. I don’t think the idiots who run the American show over there can do anything but make fools of themselves.
I live in a rural mountainous place where everyone owns a gun and knows how to use it, men and most women. Just about everyone is very conservative in religion and morals and patriotism. (Conservative in the old sense, not “Conservatism” on steroids as it’s used today.) The government is far away and seems to involve rich people fighting over how to get richer. Most people just want to be left alone to deal with their daily problems. If people of a different race and very different religion force themselves on us with superior weapons, people who don’t speak English, what chance would they have to install foreign institutions on us?

Part of the problem, both in Iraq and Palestine, is the failure of an urban culture to understand a rural and lower social class society. Middle and upper class people constantly shift place and allegiance, more or less following the line of least resistance to their goals. “Common folk” must adapt to place and opportunity. They aren’t stupid, but adapt by tenacity and persistence and hope. I don’t think the idiots who run the American show over there can do anything but make fools of themselves.
I live in a rural mountainous place where everyone owns a gun and knows how to use it, men and most women. Just about everyone is very conservative in religion and morals and patriotism. (Conservative in the old sense, not “Conservatism” on steroids as it’s used today.) The government is far away and seems to involve rich people fighting over how to get richer. Most people just want to be left alone to deal with their daily problems. If people of a different race and very different religion force themselves on us with superior weapons, people who don’t speak English, what chance would they have to install foreign institutions on us?

Part of the problem, both in Iraq and Palestine, is the failure of an urban culture to understand a rural and lower social class society. Middle and upper class people constantly shift place and allegiance, more or less following the line of least resistance to their goals. “Common folk” must adapt to place and opportunity. They aren’t stupid, but adapt by tenacity and persistence and hope. I don’t think the idiots who run the American show over there can do anything but make fools of themselves.
I live in a rural mountainous place where everyone owns a gun and knows how to use it, men and most women. Just about everyone is very conservative in religion and morals and patriotism. (Conservative in the old sense, not “Conservatism” on steroids as it’s used today.) The government is far away and seems to involve rich people fighting over how to get richer. Most people just want to be left alone to deal with their daily problems. If people of a different race and very different religion force themselves on us with superior weapons, people who don’t speak English, what chance would they have to install foreign institutions on us?

Part of the problem, both in Iraq and Palestine, is the failure of an urban culture to understand a rural and lower social class society. Middle and upper class people constantly shift place and allegiance, more or less following the line of least resistance to their goals. “Common folk” must adapt to place and opportunity. They aren’t stupid, but adapt by tenacity and persistence and hope. I don’t think the idiots who run the American show over there can do anything but make fools of themselves.


Josh Greenland - 10/12/2003

About a month ago, the US military collectively punished a group of Iraqi farmers by bulldozing their orchards. Their crime was not informing on anti-occupation guerrillas supposedly in their midst:

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=452375


john horse - 10/9/2003

I agree with most of the critical reaction to Klinghoffer's article. My comment has to do with one small sentence. According to Klinghoffer, "Its time to admit that choosing to emphasize the WMD issue was a mistake."

What Klinghoffer doesn't say is why the emphasis on the WMDs was a mistake. This is, after all, not an insignificant issue. If Iraq had the WMDs that Bush claimed that it had, then the emphasis on the WMDs was not a mistake. If Klinghoffer now believes that the evidence does not support Bush's WMD claims she should say so.

The American public would not have supported this war unless they felt that Iraq posed a threat, which is why finding the WMDs is critical. This is not an issue that Klinghoffer can now discard because it is no longer convenient.


Jesse Lamovsky - 10/8/2003

Mr. Sib,

What we have to understand is that Dr. Klinghoffer misunderstands the sentiments of the American people because she does not care about the sentiments of the American people- that she is an American in terms of citizenship only. She and others like her have no affinity for the country that gave us refuge from pogroms and persecutions. Her only loyalties are to the State of Israel and, in particular, its Likud government. The United States and its citizens are, to Dr. Klinghoffer and the other Americo-Zionists, simply a blunt instrument to be used in the geopolitical interests of a foreign country.

Jesse Lamovsky


Oscar Chamberlain - 10/8/2003

Except for the part over the Quran and slavery (the Bible, and just about every other major relgious work has been used to similar purpose), this is a pretty good article.

Klinghoffer admits that we cannot win by liberating Iraqis; we must instead conquer them, kill those who resist, totally revamp their public institutions, and maintain control long enough that a leadership inculcated with our values will be in power with a measure of popular support.

I wonder why Bush hasn't said that to us yet.

Sadly, it is because he and his administration were wrong to the point of foolishness. The best possible way to have avoided a choice such as Klinghoffer poses would have been a far more forceful (and troop laden) conquest, with support at the ready to police the nation, take over public utilities and get them running, and move food into all parts of the country quickly.

The administration thought that all that would fall together as if by magic. They were wrong. So they have failed to date, and it is unclear if they have found a new strategy of any kind, other than to hope that some other countries will help bail us out.

Perhaps there may be a partly successful path between Klinghoffer's plan and walking away from chaos. It would require increasing our presence, getting the infrastructure into working order, and backing a quickly fabricated regime for a period of years. It would also require recognizing that we may not succeed in transforming Iraq's political culture enough to create a true democracy.

I'm not sure that Bush is ready to say that, or that the American people would be willing to hear that, either.


Edward Phillips - 10/7/2003

This is a profoundly ignorant analysis from an utterly unqualified, ahistorical and warped source. It was perfectly obvious all along that Iraqis welcomed American and other outside pressure on Saddam, but not an invasion and still less a unilaterally-run, unplanned, and badly bungled occupation.

Desperate and utterly bogus parallels with World War II are an insult to any thinking historian. Germany was the aggressor then - it started World War II. We did not go to war with Germany in 1941 because it violated some of the terms of Versailles, or because of shortcomings in how the League of Nations dealt with Hitler's threat or his oppression, but because he had brutally conquered much of the civilized world, was murdering millions of civilians, and most importantly, had declared war on us first.

Americans are waking up to the lies of the Bush Administration and no amount of Orwellian rewriting of history will derail that awakening. We do need to "remake" Iraq, but not for the sake of Bush's and Sharon's short term political success and certainly not by adopting the perfectly idiotic viewpoint that all history is some version of the Warsaw Ghetto last stand of 1943. It is long past time for HNN to dump Klinghoffer or change its name to the Zionist Fanatic Propaganda Network.



Rod Sib - 10/7/2003

Jesse: She started off by saying "It's time to face facts. If President Bush's approval rating dropped after he requested 87 billions of dollars for Iraqi reconstruction, it is because the American people are not feeling particularly kindly towards the Iraqi people." I started laughing then. For which Americans does she speak? Could it be that his approval rating went down when it was determined that he lied about the immediate threat we all faced? Could it be that it went into further decline when he finally told us what the bill would be after misleading the country into believing Iraq's oil would pay for their reconstruction? Or even some whacky idea that people feel he has mismanaged the economy?

Could it possibly be that his approval ratings decline are his own fault and not because "We do not feel kindly towards the Iraqi people?" Any "serious" writing that would start off with such an unsubstantiated premise is ridiculous and should be discarded, but I really can not say exactly why his approval rating is in decline. He never had my approval. I am actaully in shock that his ratings remain as high as they still are.


Jesse Lamovsky - 10/7/2003

"Nobody likes ingrates and newly liberated people tend to behave as ingrates... Freedom is scary and slavery teaches risk aversion."

What a condescending thing to say. Someone should remind Dr. Klinghoffer that the Arabs are a people with a long history and a (once) great civilization and, oh, by the way, they are also human beings. They are not dumb children. A lot of so-called friends of Israel get to sounding like Afrikaners talking about African blacks when they start spouting off about the Arabs. I don't like it at all. As for freedom being scary, I'd wager that the armed-to-the-teeth American soldiers in the streets of Iraq are quite a bit scarier than any hypothetical "freedom", particularly when they're wiping out whole families at checkpoints and breaking down doors in the middle of the night. You know, all the stuff that usually happens in a "free" country.

"Recent internal and external criticisms have already strengthened the hands of the Islamists. Note the following paragraph in the September 13, 2003 Ansar Al Islam call for Iraqis to increase their guerrilla attacks against coalition forces in Iraq..."

That's right. We can't walk away from Iraq, or the "Islamists" will think they've won something. Oh, sure, we're the strongest country in the history of civilization, but how can we possibly survive the boys down at Ansar Al Islam thinking we're a bunch of wimps? What will that do to our self-esteem?

Dr. Klinghoffer also adds some characteristics shots at the German people, not noting that this "slave society" is responsible for the welfare state, the public school system, and other totems of contemporary liberal mind-control, without which such things as Bush's dumb war would not be possible. You'd think she'd be a little more grateful. As for German students believing that their country was in danger of being "strangled" by the English, French, and Polish, why on earth would they have thought that? Just because of the starvation blockade, the crushing war indemnity, the brutal French occupation of the Rhineland, and the Polish seizure of traditional German lands in the East? Hitler was a madman, but he played on real, honest grievances.

"Whether its worthy or not, the American government must remake Iraq for the same reason it remade Germany, for the sake of the United States of America."

She meant to say, "for the sake of Ariel Sharon and the Likud Government of Israel." Really, she did. After all, she doesn't care about the blood, treasure, and honor of our country, buried in the sands of Iraq. As long as Sharon is safe to build his ghetto-wall, it's "all good" to fifth columnists like Klinghoffer. She and the other American Zionists should make aliyah, if they love Israel so damn much, and leave the rest of us alone to live our lives, without being forced to pay through the nose for these Soviet-style "wars of liberation" that don't help us an iota.




Geoff Ericson - 10/6/2003


W isn't going to lead your blood-curdling crusade, Judith.
Saddam is not Hitler after all, and Paul Wolfowitz is not George Marshall. Time to read a real history book for a change (if there are any at Rutgers).

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