Thursday, October 19, 2006

Iraqi Blogs

Most mornings, I have to turn off Radio 4's Today programme from time to time, out of annoyance at some particularly distorted or agenda-laden piece. This morning, I just can't face it at all. So I'm starting the day with the Iraqi blogosphere.

There's a controversy raging over an angry post from one of the most pro-American blogs, Iraq The Model, that responded to the recent study of Iraqi mortality rates that was published in the Lancet. Here is a taste of their anger:

Among the things I cannot accept is exploiting the suffering of people to make gains that are not the least related to easing the suffering of those people. I’m talking here about those researchers who used the transparency and open doors of the new Iraq to come and count the drops of blood we shed.

Human flesh is abundant and all they have to do is call this hospital or that office to get the count of casualties, even more they can knock on doors and ask us one by one and we would answer because we’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.

We believe in what we’re struggling for and we are proud of our sacrifices.
Iraqi Konfused Kid took exception to this post and an e-mail and blog post debate then followed, which included some of the most prominent citizen commentators in Iraq. Konfused Kid summarises the debate here.

Salam Adil (not his real name), a London-based Iraqi provides another interesting commentary on this controversy while Treasure of Baghdad surveys the opinions of some Iraqi bloggers, many of them involved in the Iraq The Model debate.

As a pro-war, pro-intervention, pro-regime change advocate, I have a duty to read and understand these conflicting opinions from Iraq, and to use them to question my own opinions. So I did.

Treasure of Baghdad's questions included:
Compared to the current situation in Iraq, how different was it before the war?
Do you think the war was worth it or not? Why?
Answers to the latter question ranged from:
Yes. The war was totally worth it.
Not worth it. All the deaths, the injured & handicapped people & all those who had forced to leave their homes are big price for what we got today.
Most of the replies were more nuanced, with one (from a blogger called Zeyyad) being:
I'm afraid to answer that question.
It's clear from the replies that while that particular jury is out right now, a year ago they would have been overwhelmingly of the opinion that the invasion had been worth it. The problem has not so much been the war, as the "peace" that has followed. And with peace like this, who needs wars?

So what's happening in the West right now? The British army is openly, on websites and in newspapers, arguing for withdrawal. Public opinion follows. The U.S. seems to be on the brink of an anti-war swing. Australia stands firm, naturally.

I still stand by my support for the invasion, though my reasons were not those given by the UK and US governments. I have been, therefore, a fellow traveller rather than a supporter of Bush and Blair. There's no doubt that the aftermath has been an almighty cock-up, though. But we are where we are.

So what would happen if there was an abrupt withdrawal of western armies from Iraq? The least plausible answer is the most commonly given, that a new strongman would emerge and unify the country. Sunni, Shia and Kurd elements are too strong for any to be overcome completely in their areas of control.

Most likely, there'd be a Balkans style break up complete with ethnic cleansing, something that is happening already. If anything, there is good evidence that the presence of western troops is acting as a brake on the rate of murder, unlike the failure of UN missions in the former Yugoslavia, but that's too complicated to get sidetracked into here so I'll post about it later.

If true, this means that the people urging a withdrawal of troops now because there has been a high level of mortality so far are in fact urging that the mortality rate should be left to climb, unencumbered, to even higher levels.

And what of the Lancet survey? It's hard to say. Stop-the-War folk have embraced it and pro-war types argued against it. That's predictable enough. There are clearly problems with these sorts of statistical approaches, and the same team had to discard some of their own data during the 2004 study, that showed a population of Fallujah of perhaps 60,000 people (the rest had fled the "Second Battle of Fallujah") sustained casualties of 200,000 dead. (A pro-Lancet argument why this doesn't matter is made here).

All very interesting, when it comes to future decisions. For now, we are bound to stay and help make Iraq become peaceful, remain democratic, and gain the full and unencumbered independence of the West and its neighbours that it deserves.

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