Saddam

December 14, 2003 | 20 comments
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Like almost everyone, I am thrilled that Saddam is finally in custody. He is a bad man, and the world is a better place when he is not in power. As I see the reactions of the Iraqui people, I feel a cautious joy for them. Cautious because they have a long road yet to travel. Another part of me wonder whether this is a prelude to the opening of Iraq and perhaps other countries in the region to missionary work. After watching the Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain fall less than a decade after completing my mission in Austria, I am open to all kinds of miracles in the name of missionary work.

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20 Responses to Saddam

  1. Russell Arben Fox on December 15, 2003 at 9:07 am

    This is not a political forum, and I don’t intend to turn it into one. (I’ve written more than enough about the war in Iraq on my own blog.) But since this is the first mention the war on this blog, I want to use it as a chance to perform a highly unscientifice survey of our (I assume overwhelmingly LDS) readership, as well as my fellow Mormon bloggers. Very simply: did anyone out there actually oppose the war? Or were we all, like President Hinckley, basically pro-war?

  2. Matt Evans on December 15, 2003 at 12:17 pm

    I was solidly in favor of overthrowing Saddam since Summer 2002.

    I don’t ever remember being as proud to be an American as I was while watching the Iraqis celebrate the capture of Saddam. Normally, “truth prevails” only at a glacial pace. It’s not too often that an oppressed people live to see their pleas answered by heaven and witness tyrannical oppressor brought to justice. Tragically, hundreds of thousands of the oppressed didn’t live to see this wonderful day.

    No better thing has happened in the world in the past decade that rivals the good the courageous men, women and leaders of the US military have done in freeing the Iraqi people from Saddam’s rule.

    I am so happy for the Iraqis. I cannot imagine the relief, and renewed confidence in eternal justice, such events much inspire.

    If anyone is feeling happy today, please consider donating to the Iraqi children. Operation Give is collecting toys, school and art supplies, personal care products, and clothing for the Iraqi kids. All of your contribution goes directly to the kids — the project is run entirely by volunteers. The toys are distributed by LDS member Paul Holton, a reservist from Salt Lake stationed in Baghdad. In just 10 weeks we’ve received cash donations of $87,000 and in-kind contributions of over $200,000.

    http://www.operationgive.org

  3. clark on December 15, 2003 at 2:10 pm

    I was cautiously for the war. However as the evidence of WMD came out and some of the questionable evidence, I think I was opposed ot the war. By that I mean that had I known last fall what I know now I’d have argued strenuously for more inspections rather than war. I also was fairly critical of the lack of planning for the peace. i.e. protecting important government buildings from looters, firing all the army, and a few other poor strategic decisions.

    I’m sympathetic to the neo-conservative aims with Iraq. That of setting up a working democracy to try and give hope in the middle east. In one sense it is the only real long term strategy I’ve seen that makes any sense. On the other hand I’m very critical of how this was sold to the public. Further, since the war I’ve done a little more reading on the theoretical basis for neo-Conservativism. While I’m certainly no political philosopher, what I’ve read of Leo Strauss and his use of the “double truth” is very distressing to me. I don’t know how much of that is at play with Iraq (or how much this is actually adopted by neo-cons) but it really makes me worry.

  4. Logan on December 15, 2003 at 2:20 pm

    Well Russell, if you phrase it like that, I can admit to being “basically pro-war.” I have supported the president and the effort for the most part. Like you say, this isn’t a political forum, so I’ll just say that I think that some of the issues involved are a little problematic. But overall, I’m in favor of the war.

    Concerning Saddam’s capture: taking the current situation as given, I don’t see how anyone can look at it as anything but wonderful news.

  5. Nate on December 15, 2003 at 2:46 pm

    Ask me in ten years, when I know something…

    I don’t think the imminent threat of weapons of mass destruction argument holds much water. On the other hand, I am fine if there is a bit of puffing in politics and diplomacy when your real argument is based on a bet. Indeed, I think one can go to war on a bet, i.e. there is some probability that we are wrong and there is no danger, but the danger, if it exists, would be really, really big. Perhaps that justifies the war here. I vacillate.

    I think that the liberate an oppressed people from a vicious tyrannt argument is sufficient to justify the war in the abstract. The problem is that it justifies more wars than I feel comfortable fighting. This may simply be a failure of sympathy, on my part, with the plight of the oppressed.

    I agree with Clark that the noe-con argument is the only long term strategy for the middle east that any recent American has offered that has any substance. On the other hand, I am extremely doubtful that it will work. Name me one Arabic speaking liberal democracy ever in the history of the planet. Of course, there is a first time for most things. (I am a Mormon, so I don’t say everything.) I don’t think we will know if the neo-cons were right or wrong for another ten years at least. I suspect that anyone who says otherwise is deluding themselves into thinking that they know more than they actually do.

    Finally, I don’t much like the Straussians either. (Some of Leo’s stuff is interesting, even when he is wrong, which is almost always.) On the otherhand, I can’t see any actual link between Leo Strauss and our middle east policy. It would be fun to talk about, though, if anyone can point it out to me…

  6. clark on December 15, 2003 at 2:52 pm

    Nate: I’m not that well read on Strauss and clearly not on political philosophy. My reading consisted mainly from the book _Postmodern Platos_ which looked at how Plato was used by Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida and Strauss. According to the book, Stauss used The Republic to more or less validate the old 12th century Islamic philosophy of the double truth. i.e. that the masses aren’t ready for the truth of your philosophy so you hold to a double truth to slowly move them to your point of view.

    In that I find some of the rhetorical strategies of the last two – three years remarkably like what I read of Strauss. I’m conservative, but I feel strongly that war must be *knowingly* approved by the populace. When it isn’t (like in Viet Nam) I find that eventually trouble will result. I’m willing to accept violence in international relations, but feel that the public must bear the ultimate responsibility for those acts and that this requires the possibility of a knowledgable judgment. Something that wasn’t present last fall.

  7. clark on December 15, 2003 at 2:55 pm

    Just to add to the above: here’s a great link on the double truth (although it mainly focuses on its appearance in the west and ignores its history in Islam)

    http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/cgi-local/DHI/dhi.cgi?id=dv2-04

  8. Kaimi on December 15, 2003 at 2:57 pm

    I think that most of my ward members were opposed to the war. It was mentioned a few times in testimony meeting, typically in passing.

    I don’t know if I am easily classifiable as either pro or con. I wasn’t at any ANSWER marches, but I also disagree often with what seem like reflexively pro-war statements by the administration and pundits like Andrew Sullivan.

    It can’t be denied that much actual good came from the removal of Saddam. I hope our troops do well, now that they are on the ground there, and that democracy is restored quickly.

    On the other hand, the process was alarmingly unilateral, secretive and ad hoc. Whether that is the first step in a new foreign policy remains to be seen. In addition, the administration’s sell of the war as being directly related to 9/11 really disturbed me. I have not seen any solid link between Iraq and Osama bin Laden. Yet, due to artful phrasing of pro-war statements, most Americans believe there are direct links.

    Anyway, that’s more than enough discussion for now — especially if we want to keep this blog (mostly) non-political.

  9. Kaimi on December 15, 2003 at 3:06 pm

    A few other quick notes:

    1. I have to second Matt’s statement. If you can donate toys to Iraqi kids, please do so. It’s a cause that everyone can feel good about.

    2. Nate writes:

    “Name me one Arabic speaking liberal democracy ever in the history of the planet.”

    Um, how about Iraq? Of course, the democracy was rapidly overthrown. And it had large numbers of problems. But post-colonial Iraq was a form of constitutional monarchy and democracy (I’m not sure exactly how the power balanced between monrach and legislature, but what I’ve read suggests that the monarch had some power, but the state also worked a lot like a democracy).

    Also, Islamic societies have shown an ability to exist under tolerant, liberal principles at times when Christian societies couldn’t (think Middle Ages).

  10. Nate on December 15, 2003 at 3:16 pm

    Iraq: my point exactly…

    Medieval Islam: True, Islamic society was more liberal than was say 10th century Europe. Unfotunately, much of current Islamic society is LESS liberal than was 10th century Islamic society. I don’t want to be too pessimistic about this, but I am always a little frightened when people talk as though liberal democracy could can be easily established in the middle east if we could just get rid of the bad guys and have fair elections.

  11. clark on December 15, 2003 at 3:16 pm

    I agree with Kaimi in that I think the pessimism towards Islam unfortunately takes too narrow a view of what is possible within Islam. It is akin to judging Christianity by Puritanism. However at the same time the golden age of Islam wasn’t *that* golden an age. It simply was better than what was going on in the majority of the west.

    I am somewhat optimistic towards Iraq, although I do wish the Palestinian issue could have been handled better. But then I was always pessimistic about that…

  12. Lyle on December 15, 2003 at 3:43 pm

    I don’t think that Nate lacks compassion for the masses; but he brings up the correct question:
    Why isn’t there more intervention, past/present, against brutal dictatorship? Personally, I think Rwanda/Sudan/Ivory Coast, etc all show a lack of committment for human rights for everyone, not just Caucasians (broad, western sense). Clinton’s failure to send in ground troops vs. Milosevic? Further proof that many Americans think that their blood and liberty is more precious than that of their brothers and sisters in other countries (and their dollars for that matter).

  13. Max on December 15, 2003 at 3:55 pm

    I opposed our intervention in Iraq, not only because we were invading foreign soil, but we were doing it without the support of other nations. By the way, I’m not convinced that President Hinckley was “for” the war. If you read carefully his brief prayer at the end of his October 2001 converence talk (http://www.lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-225-34,00.html)

    you will note an interesting comment: “asking that Thou wilt forgive our arrogance, pass by our sins, be kind and gracious to us, and cause our hears to turn with love toward thee”

    Seems this is not all out support for the war.

  14. clark on December 15, 2003 at 4:07 pm

    I think that the American public is very cynical about the possibility of success for foreign activities. If anything Bush is the first in a long time who has truly committed the country. And this is only possibly by selling a “our own best interests” pitch.

    Now I certainly agree that American can be selfish. However I also think that many of us look at aid groups who seem to waste a lot of money and don’t necessarily produce results. America is very result oriented and if we are to sacrifice our own lives, we ought to have some expectation of success.

    Does this fall into the problem of violating Benjamin’s comments in Mosiah? I think so – and quite frequently does. Yet at the same time I think that some cooperation is necessary.

    Rwanda is a simpler situation as very little needed to be done by Clinton to prevent a huge tragedy. Yet, at the same time, there is realistically little the US can do in Africa if the nations themselves don’t want to put their own houses in order.

    In a real way Africa is far worse than the mid-east. The mid-east has far more resources, has many regions of highly educated people, and I think many in the near-east respect American democracy even as they resent American supremacy. If we could get them to stop believing in some of the myths that have risen up the last 50 years, I think we truly could come to a workable middle ground of peace.

  15. Jeremiah John on December 15, 2003 at 5:13 pm

    I was and am strongly against the war in Iraq, on basically just war grounds. Indeed I have not heard a real Christian case for the war; almost all American religious leaders came out against the war, as did the Pope. And no, I don’t consider something as abstract as “Christians must protect the weak and fight evil” as a Christian case for war. So, as Joe Lieberman says, if I had my way, Saddam would still be in power!

    While I believe that the United States is justified in intervening unilaterally in cases of serious humanitarian emergencies (genocide is clearly one of these), international law and global cooperation are more important that any one dictator, even one as brutal as Saddam. Opposing dictatorships in places like Egypt, Saudi Arabi, Burma, China, and the Sudan by first of all not giving them weapons, and second by not calling them “partners in the war on terror” and by exposing their crimes, would be a good beginning to the effort to promote freedom and democracy, a beginning that is ethically justifiable. It also shows the world that we are willing to give up good relations with important potential allies in exchange for human rights.

    I don’t think that President Hickley is firmly and clearly pro-war; indeed I think he tried to stake out a position that allowed for the pro-war position but also emphazised the general need for peaceful resolution of conflict.

    I was disturbed, however, by the fact that he asked us to put faith in intelligence agencies when deciding when and if we go to war. This seems to assume that the decision to go to war is essentially a matter of facts, i.e. that the American government and more specifically the CIA have basically the same standards for justifiable war as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

  16. Russell Arben Fox on December 15, 2003 at 6:17 pm

    Jeremiah,

    “I was and am strongly against the war in Iraq, on basically just war grounds.”

    Have you read Jean Bethke Elshtain’s defense of the war? She also uses just war arguments to support her point.

    “I have not heard a real Christian case for the war; almost all American religious leaders came out against the war.”

    Does that mean you do not consider President Hinckley’s defense of the war to be Christian? I wouldn’t be offended if that is your position; I am quite ready to grant that, when it comes to commenting upon or intervening in current affairs, the general authorities do not have a Cardinal Ratzinger-type figure in a Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith-type office to make sure their statements make good theological sense. (It might be nice if they did.) I just want to make I understand your point.

    “I don’t think that President Hickley is firmly and clearly pro-war; indeed I think he tried to stake out a position that allowed for the pro-war position but also emphazised the general need for peaceful resolution of conflict.”

    Yes, he did emphasize the need the general priority of peace in all our dealings with our fellow men. But if you believe that his comments on Iraq during April General Conference this year merely “allowed for the pro-war position,” then, well, you must be using a pretty powerful hermeneutical strategy. Like it or not, Hinckley defended the invasion of Iraq. He may have done more than that, but he definitely also did that. I just don’t see how any other reading of the sermon is possible. (It caused a very faithful and committed pacifist friend of mine no end of anguish and dismay.)

    I should note that I don’t believe that a statement by a prophet is necessarily binding, and certainly not in this particular case. But nothing is gained by going into denial about one’s own orthodoxy. (Case in point: the First Things crowd, most of whom were very vocal in their support of the president, but rather muted and confused when confronted by the Pope’s direct condemnation of the conflict.)

  17. clark on December 15, 2003 at 6:54 pm

    I think by “trust the intelligence agencies” he was implying that we ought to have faith in our leaders to judge the intelligence and make a decision. It wasn’t so much as reducing the decision to facts as it was indicating they had more information than they were letting on. As I said above, that was my opinion as well. The evidence that has come out since makes me question that stance of mine. That’s why I brought up the issue of the “double truth.” It seems to me that many in government think that they know best and that we can’t handle the truth. (To paraphrase Jack Nicolsen)

  18. Jeremiah John on December 16, 2003 at 1:30 am

    Russell: Pres. Hinckley seemed to be trying to stake out a somewhat neutral position, so I was being charitable by characterizing it that way. Maaye I don’t recognize the details well enough. I am surely not in the position of your friend who is in anguish that Pres. Hinckley disagrees with me about the war. And no, I don’t think Pres. Hinckley made a Christian case for the war.

    I think I saw Elshtain’s article in First Things. I remember thinking about it what I think about much of her work, that she is an intelligent person that makes some reasonable and knowledgable points in favor of the conservative point of view. But she is not a natural law theorist or a just war theorist and seems to use the tradition very selectively. But I guess her view should be characterized as a Christian case for the war.

    Clark: The debate about WMDs seemed to lure people into accepting the very dubious position that the presence of very destructive weapons together with a willingness to use them against our cities (never mind the absence of any clear delivery method and lack of any evidence that Saddam wanted to bomb New York) entails a clear right of invasion. If the right of preemption applies to hostile, but extraordinarily weak nations such as Iraq, it surely applies to the United States, which is hostile to many nations and has the means to attack them. People who make this argument usually add, “Saddam is bad and we are good, however” but this does not add anything to this particular argument.

    So the argument that the government knows more than they are letting on, and that this justifies the war, implies that the standard of justifiable war is the same for us and the government.

  19. clark on December 16, 2003 at 2:18 am

    I actually think that the vast, vast majority of Americans think that if someone is going to try and attack you that pre-emption is justified. Whether philosophers agree is an other matter of course. I admit I’m with the masses on this one.

  20. Ady Hahn a.k.a. fly_killa on December 16, 2003 at 3:40 pm

    I supported getting rid of Saddam in 1991 during the 1st Gulf War. If it were in our power to free all of the oppressed peoples of the world, I would support it. Saddam’s flagrant violations of numerous U.N. resolutions and his love of terrorist groups gave us the excuses we needed to free the Iraqi people. It was an opportunity to liberate a people at a relatively low cost of lives. Win/win. I wish we could get rid of Kim Jong-Il as well because of his brutal treatment of his people. However, because of NK’s nuclear and conventional war capabilities, there would be many more soldiers and civilians killed i.e. the costs will outweigh the benefits.

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