Scoop Feedback: The Pro-War Backlash & Rebuttal
A few comments from Scoop Editor Alastair Thompson in reply to earlier feedback from reader Eric Bana included in "Scoop Feedback: Missing Coverage?" appear to have created a minor storm among a section of the Scoop readership. The following are three responses from what might be loosely described as the "now admit we are right" pro-war lobby. Further comments from the Scoop Editor Alastair Thompson in reply are included in italics.
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I was very disappointed in your response to the letter "Missing Coverage" by Eric Bana of the University of Pennsylvania. Your Scoop mission statement does not appear to be borne out in your response to Mr Bana. In particular I select these quotations from your mission statement:
" 1.. It delivers news in a totally new way - unprocessed and raw "from the horse's mouth". Scoop.co.nz is transforming the news environment - providing an open forum for a variety of perspectives to co-exist just as the sources intended.
2.. Scoop is, necessarily, a forum that is neither censored through its own prejudices nor controlled by a multinational media conglomerate."
While accepting your point about having a large volume of material to be handled by a small staff, I find your arguments about not presenting material because it is widely available on all the networks as false.
You cannot have balance within your publication if you are rejecting large chunks of alternative opinion (for any reason at all). One might just as well suggest that the Communist newspaper "Peoples Voice" is or was balanced because you could find counterbalancing arguments in other publications.
(ALASTAIR THOMPSON REPLIES: We are not rejecting " large chunks of alternative opinion" we have simply not received very many pro-war viewpoints.)
You finish you letter with some assertions that do not stand up to scrutiny:
1.. You say that this was an illegal war founded in deceit and fought in deceit. Are you suggesting that the United Nations is the only arbiter of illegality? The UN is as useless s the League of Nations before it. The UN has had 12 years of hand-wringing and passing resolutions while Saddam Hussein (aided by France, Germany, Russia, and China) has thumbed his nose at the rest of the World.
(AT REPLIES: The UN has nothing to do with it. The precepts of International Law, which predate the UN by several hundred years , state that it is illegal to attack unless you are attacked, or in imminent danger of being attacked. As for the deceit, what more evidence is needed than the forgery by someone of documents used to "prove" attempts by Iraq to purchase uranium. )
2.. You suggest the good old anti-American line about American hegemony. While I personally find that the Americans do many things that hurt other nations, I think that it is more of the "elephant rolling over in bed syndrome." The little bed-mates get squashed because the elephant was not aware of their presence. In the absence of an effective international enforcing organisation, Britain and the USA are probably the only major forces that can bring despots to heel. There is plenty of anti-American propaganda about such as "Blood for oil." Where was the oil in Bosnia and Somalia? And while we are mentioning Bosnia, let us remember that the Americans were protecting Muslims from genocide when the went into Bosnia.
3.. You suggest that the Americans are initiating "a clash of civilisations ....against the counsel of every sane person on the planet." Presumably you are including the counsel of France, Germany, Russia, and China who have given criminally evil assistance to Saddam Hussein in contravention of UN embargoes and resolutions?
(AT REPLIES: Why leave the United States off your list. )
4.. You point to America singling out other regimes such as Syria for similar treatment. This is probably so. Would it not be a refreshing change to see powerful nations addressing all rather than a selected few of the world problem spots? You never see the Communist inspired anti-war protesters' hands up about despotism, oppression and starvation on a world-wide basis. How many have protested against Robert Mugabe for example?
(AT REPLIES: You assume that it is accepted that the United States is pursuing despots for the good of the people of the world and not solely in its own interests. I would most of the evidence suggests otherwise. )
5.. Your most outrageous assertion is that the US is significantly responsible for Saddam Hussein in the first place. It is true that George Bush senior let down the Kurds by not supporting their revolution against Hussein. He (unwisely I thought) accepted advice that the Kurds were taking the opportunity to fight amongst themselves rather than fighting Hussein's regime. As for the often bandied about suggestion that America provided Iraq with weapons of mass destruction - this is a gross distortion. America vigorously opposed the sales of such materials to Iraq both before and after the Iran-Iraq war.
(AT REPLIES: Clearly you have been reading too much material from the State Department Library. Try reading Exclusive: Saddam key in early CIA plot and Secret Bechtel Documents Reveal:Yes, It Is About Oil)
They reluctantly lifted the embargo during that war because Iran (with Russia's provocation) was threatening US interests at that time. Many countries were sneaking illicit materials through to Iraq; but the principal offenders in this regard right up until the present day have been France, Germany, Russia, and China with safe passage being given through Syria.
(AT REPLIES: Sorry my understanding of history suggests a rather different turn of events.)
6.. Lastly, you have swallowed the old propaganda line about the sanctions against Iraq causing harm to the Iraqi people. The UN "food for oil" allowance was generously capable of providing food and medicines for the Iraqi population. To blame the US or the UN (whose sanction it was) for the fact that Saddam spent the nation's resources on weapons, palaces and other luxuries is a gross distortion. I trust that this letter opposing your views will get published in accordance with your stated policy of welcoming reader feedback.
(AT REPLIES: Television interview, "60 Minutes", May 12, 1996: Lesley Stahl, speaking of US sanctions against Iraq: "We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And -- and you know, is the price worth it?" U.S. Secretary Of State Madeleine Albright: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it." )
Hugh Webb Auckland
I noticed a couple things about the following, and I wish to point them out. In your response to "Missing Coverage" (April 10th) you stated:
"In conclusion I would observe that I as editor of Scoop I personally am not celebrating the victory over Saddam (I would add that Scoop's position on the war is neutral... we are happy to run pro-war arguments they are just seldom submitted.) I personally am not celebrating today because:
1. This was an illegal war founded in deceit and fought in deceit;
2. This was a war which, superficially at least, cements in the place of the Bush Administration as global hegemon, and this is good for noone. All this victory really signals is the beginning in a new and more dangerous phase in the clash of civilisations that the Bush Administration appears hell bent on pursuing against the counsel of every sane person on this planet;
3. I notice that Donald Rumsfeld is already singling out Syria for what would appear to be phase two of the Neoconservative's total war intentions;
4. While ridding Iraq of Saddam is a good thing, the US is yet to own up to being significantly responsible for him being there in the first place; for providing him with the weapons of mass destruction that he used on his own people; and for imposing a clearly comparable amount of harm on the Iraqi people through their sanctions regime as that which derives from Saddam."
I have countless things to say about this. You first say that you are neutral, yet every single one of your points harasses the war and makes very clear that you oppose it.
(AT REPLIES: I didn't say I was neutral, I said Scoop was neutral. I have quite clear views on this subject and am not apologising for them. Scoop on the other hand is a medium that accepts many views. )
Secondly, on this first point I am really confused. What exactly is a legal war? Is it a war approved by the UN? Because that is what I have been hearing, and that frankly makes no sense. The UN has existed since around the end of WW2, and I don't remember them approving a war yet. There have been countless wars in that 50+ years. Better point, who in that period of time has actually tried to approve their own war, besides George Bush that is. Wait, you are right, the UN did approve one particular, large movement. The Gulf War was approved. But then, that was just about oil too, right?
(AT REPLIES: Right. It was about liberating Kuwait's oil from Saddam. For its part Kuwait is a country that was created by the Western powers at the end of the first world war for what purpose again? You make the same point as Hugh does above about legal wars being legal because of UN mandate. International Law predates the existence of the UN and by any normal standard of consideration the invasion of Iraq was illegal. A good place to read about this can be found here The Founder of International Law Speaks Out on Iraq )
That's what some leftists seem to think. It had nothing to do with the Kuwaitis that were being tortured in schools or the mass executions of Jews and just about anyone else. I mean, the UN may have approved some other movements, but I seriously doubt an [sic…]
(AT REPLIES: Your rhetoric vanished into the ether at this point but I see your point is the same as Hugh's. I.e. that the first Gulf War like the second was about humanitarian considerations. This is an interesting theory that as I discussed earlier does not concur with the facts of U.S. intervention and patronage either in the Middle East or anywhere else for that matter (Chile, El Salvador, Guartemala, Uzbekistan etc…). The U.S. has been responsible for installing and supporting numerous despotic torturing dictators all over the place. The U.S. has always governed its foreign policy on the basis of its interests, not human rights.)
On your second point: I frankly consider myself sane, and several other people that share my veiws. You anti-war people hate the stereotypes given to you. (eg. Ignorant hippies that want peace, don't shower, and ignore all facts that go against what you believe) So why, I ask, do you target us pro-war people? Let me guess, I am ignorant, hateful, blood-thirsty, and insane? Honestly. As you can tell, I know something about what I am talking about. (Do not say I am one the few researched pro-war people, because I can say the same about the anti-war stance) Also, don't say that this is good for no one, because even if this does mean US occupation, which it doesn't and every sane person on the planet knows it, (Now you know how it feels) then it would still be BETTER for the Iraqis. I've seen what they were put through, particularly the Kurds, who got the worst of it, (Halabja) and I don't care what happens with the US there, it will be better for them. The Iraqis freedom is what this war is about to me.
(AT REPLIES: Sorry to question your sanity Grant. Perhaps the language usage was in-germane. Meanwhile I do not disagree with you that getting rid of Saddam is a good thing. What is not a good thing is the way the International Rule of Law has been thrown away in the process… and the several other points made in my original remarks. )
On your third point: It has been highly suggested that Syria is harbouring Saddam, and that is all the US has said. Frankly, if someone was hiding Hitler after WW2, they would be mentioned, and harassed, and in the end, if there was no result and there was proof he was there, possibly war. The same goes for Saddam.
(AT REPLIES: "Saddam=Hitler" the oft heard refrain of the pro-war lobby is repeated again. Assuming for the sake of argument that Syria is providing refuge to Saddam, an assertion for which no evidence is given, you go on to say that this is justification enough for Syria to be invaded. This argument in my view confirms all my fears about the discarding of International Law. As stated earlier the "only justification" for war is real imminent threat or actual attack, the fact that one nation or another has provided refuge for someone that the U.S. or anyone else wants to put on trial (or kill) is not and never will be legal justification for war.)
Now, on your fourth point you took out the most useless peice of Anti-war propaganda. I'll admit, it's convincing, until you think about it, and until you know what you are talking about. I'm guessing that you have read this on a poster or something, or seen it on Anti-war websites, because once you do the research the point is useless. So I will educate you here. In the 1980's Iraq was at war with Iran; mainly cause Saddam wanted more land to play with. The US, quite possibly for fear of a stronger Iran, (but we can ignore that because it's questionable) gave Iraq some bio-chemical weapons technology, very little actually, mainly so that they could eventually develop it so that they would have support power, and the Iranians would be scared and sit down to peace talks. Saddam developed the technology remarkably quickly and used it many many times, and the US pulled back thier support. Now comes the part where your argument becomes useless. Of arms sales to Iraq in the 1980's, the US adds up to a total of….[sic]
(AT REPLIES: . Again the ether seems to have swallowed your argument. I love the language of what we have received though. The U.S. " gave Iraq some bio-chemical weapons technology, very little actually". Actually, what confuses me is how you and Hugh seem to be so sure of your ground on this point. The 8000 pages of the Iraqi weapons declaration which disclosed this information were suppressed by the U.S. State Dept. as I recall. Since the U.S. is the world's biggest arms manufacturer I found it rather hard to believe that the U.S. part in arming Iraq was a minor part. What is truly hysterical is your notion of a "little" amount of bio-chemical weapons technology. Exactly how much is a small amount of this. $1 million worth? $1 billion worth?)
Two final points on your last one there. In regards to the sanctions: What are they supposed to do? Give him things like chlorine, so he can make mustard gas? And it's not just the US that has those sanctions, it was the UN. Also, you can't get on the Americans case for things like that, because Bush did not sell him the weapons, Bush did not put the sanctions in place, other presidents did.
(AT REPLIES: Yes other presidents who just happened to have the same advisers, i.e. Rumsfeld, Perle, Wolfowitz and Cheney. And one of those other President's was his dad! )
Now, my last point for the evening: If I hand you a gun, and you shoot a man, am I responsible? No, the US may have given him weapons (Though hardly any weapons ---> Chirac was helping him make nukes) but they had no idea he would use them.
(AT REPLIES: Good point. In New Zealand Law if you give a gun to someone knowing there is a likelihood that they will use it to kill someone then you are guilty of being accessory to murder. In Saddam's case the argument works like this. If you give a known homicidal maniac chemical weapons then….. )
I hope you read all this, it really pokes some holes in your case. Which is what I am best at. Maybe people should learn something before they think "war is bad, the US is bad, lets hate them and oppose this".
Try going to my website: http://www.geocities.com/wehatehippies/Warning.html
You Do Not Have the Courage to Admit You Are Wrong?
"4. While ridding Iraq of Saddam is a good thing, the US is yet to own up to being significantly responsible for him being there in the first place; for providing him with the weapons of mass destruction that he used on his own people; and for imposing a clearly comparable amount of harm on the Iraqi people through their sanctions regime as that which derives from Saddam."
First of all, this is clearly fiction. If you want to find the source of Saddam's weaponry (T-72 tanks, Kalashnikov AK-47's, Mirage Fighters, Silkworm missiles, etc.), look no further than the unscrupulous French, Russians and Chinese. You will undoubtedly fail to note that these are the weapons that Saddam's army wielded while being summarily defeated. These nations wanted to keep him in power so they could continue lucrative arms contracts and be repaid debts for these apparently ineffective weapons.
You heap so much skepticism on the USA yet you fail to acknowledge that the worst human rights abusers of the century (Russia and China--and yes, France) are your allies. You have a strange sense of justice. The USA did not sell Saddam chemical weapons. The French built the man a nuclear reactor! Israel had the good sense to destroy it before it was operational. You pick allies and enemies that betray your supposed "values."
(AT REPLIES: Very similar themes are raised here to those above albeit with a little more passion. You may like to take up your argument about whether the U.S. provided chemical weapons to Saddam with Grant. As for Chirac, yes the French were very bad. In fact all the permanent members of the UN Security Council have blood on their hands, but just to set the record straight the record shows that Iraqi nuclear scientists received training at the Los Alamos and Laurence Livermore U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories. )
The sanctions you mention are UN mandated (not US mandated as you erroneously claimed), and they would not harm the people if Saddam actually gave the food and medicines purchased under "Oil for food" to the people who need it as opposed to exporting it on the black market. He starves populations not because he has to, but because he wants to. They did not support him in 1991 and so he chooses to starve them. He even drained fertile swamplands in Shia regions to prevent local agriculture from meeting local food needs. Do some research for a change and you will discover it to be true. I thought you were a supporter of UN action? Maybe you are right and the UN is good for nothing at all....
Simply come out and admit that you believed that it was right for Saddam to stay in power (you did oppose removing him, right?), thus allowing him to continue acts of barbary and genocide.
The USA just saved thousands upon thousands of innocents who would be starved by Saddam due to his abuse of "oil for food," which I gather you also find acceptable (you were willing to tolerate it, right?). You exhibit the same values as the German citizenry during WWII. You believe that because you are not personally confronted by this evil that it simply must not exist. You are short-sighted and history will remember you as such.
It is strange that someone like you is willing to compromise all of your values simply to heap hatred on the USA. The USA is powerful, but I see that power being used to promote democracy and freedom for whatever motives. Iraqi's, the supposed "victims" who you claim to care for, seem to love the USA now, even after years of endless propaganda that blamed the USA for every problem in Iraq. How is that? Are they perhaps more informed than you on this issue?
The USA has never "occupied" any country that it liberated. Ask the French, Germans, Japanese and South Koreans if they feel "occupied." Ask them also if they feel they have functioning democracies. Some may harbor US troops as deterrents (Japan, Korea) or as part of NATO, but this is voluntary. Your arguments are without historical basis or precedent.
The USA has an excellent record of fighting for and installing democracy.
I know of no other nation which had the ability and will to do this?
Certainly New Zealand does not--then again what has NZ ever done in the service of humanity? At least some Australians are willing to help fight tyranny. I would not expect that of a Kiwi. Are you against democracy and freedom for Muslims like the Europeans? Or are you just against the USA, whatever the endeavour? Maybe the USA should have let Japan have the Pacific--at least you would be able to speak Japanese!!!
I think your bias makes you and your tiny web site appear petty and childish. How can you even suggest that you are somehow an objective news source? You do not carry all stories on the wires, only the ones that back your angle. You cannot even pretend to be objective.
(AT REPLIES: Matthew, you make your points passionately, that said most of them are similar to those of Hugh and Grant above. One of the most unfortunate results of the U.S. media's through-rose-coloured-glass-reportage of foreign affairs is that many Americans including yourself appear believe the refrain "The USA has an excellent record of fighting for and installing democracy." This is a completely falacious notion. Noam Chomsky explains this phenomena best in his documentary/book "Manufacturing Consent". In it he describes the way in which the U.S. Media always portray U.S. Foreign Policy consequence either as positive, or insufficiently positive, or inadvertently negative. U.S. Foreign Policy is never described as many people outside the United States – and increasing numbers of your fellow countrymen and women – understand it to be: hugely destructive. If you take the time to read some of the links provided in my responses above you will see that your understanding of the nature of things is not completely informed. Moreover if you look closely you will see that almost all of the criticism and discussion that I have cited is not written by peacenik hippies in the South Pacific, but by freedom loving and patriotic Americans. Thank god there are still a large number of them out there. )