M. Junaid Levesque-Alam

How to Keep Pakistan from Descending into Chaos

The eruption of democratic defiance among Arabs has discredited neoconservatives and al-Qaeda alike, shattering their shared assumption that Muslims need violent prodding to reclaim their dignity. In 10 weeks of protests, Tunisians and Egyptians achieved for themselves what 10 years of bloodshed could not purchase for Pax Americana or its archenemy in Iraq or Afghanistan: a spirit of solidarity among millions -- secularists, mainstream Islamists, young men, old women -- eager to rebuild their countries.

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A Snapshot of the Right Wing Tactics

Andrew Jones is a man on a mission. A 2003 UCLA graduate and former head of the campus Republican organization, Jones is waging a war against the twin evils of women's and ethnic studies. He is also taking aim against specific devious leftist professors who poison the minds of freedom-loving students at UCLA with their anti-American foreign policy critiques.

In a most heroic move, Jones has created the Bruin Alumni Association, which targets 30 "dirty" professors and urges UCLA students to spy on their leftist professors by reporting them for deviant behavior -- anything that lies outside "normal thought," in Jones' words. Those who perform this patriotic service are to be rewarded with the bounties Jones has placed on the professors' heads.

This is all well and good and perfectly cheery. But, there is one serious problem with Jones' scheme: The bounty for handing in a suspect professor's class notes and materials is a mere $100. Such a low figure is a serious insult to a righteous cause.

Surely, Jones and his hardworking staff at the Bruin Alumni Association (namely, Jones, who is the staff) must understand the grave threat the leftist academics pose at UCLA. First, there are the cruel female professors who force young college women to think and reflect about their role in society when we all know -- thanks to Republican values -- that women are only supposed to exercise their upper body in the kitchen and their lower body in the bedroom. Then, there are black teachers who tell their students fairy-tales about white-imposed slavery, segregation, disenfranchisement, unequal housing, banking and state services. Last but not least are those anti-American professors whose detailed writings about the government's illegal wars apparently fuel the activities of terrorists abroad -- terrorists who, without UCLA academic research papers, would have absolutely no idea that people in their own countries and of their own faith are always being blown to pieces all around them.

Given this stark reality, I propose to Mr. Jones that he significantly raise the bounties placed on deviant UCLA academics. After all, al Qaida leaders and similar terrorist figureheads have multimillion dollar bounties placed on their heads. Why shouldn't those who aid and abet them right here in our universities also be subject to similar treatment?

Similarly, while I must credit Mr. Jones for raising the stakes a notch with intimidation tactics like hit lists and secret spying operations in the enemy's classrooms, I must say that Mr. Jones is dangerously close to erring on the side of girlie-men tactics. After all, why should we stop with mere spying and intimidating? Higher bounty rewards should be commensurate with even more patriotic, pro-American actions taken against these professors. This should include fly-by airstrikes, precision attacks and home raids. Only through this comprehensive process of ensuring true academic freedom will the beacon of liberty be secured in the homeland.

It goes without saying, of course, that I have painted the scenarios above not as serious suggestions, but only as a means of illustrating that the "logic" pursued by zealots like Jones can easily lead down the path of insanity if pursued to its ineluctable conclusion -- just as we have already seen happen when it comes to untermenschen (literally: underpeople) abroad.

Interestingly, the UCLA graduate's crusade against his university has alienated some fellow hard-right activists. David Horowitz, the leading proponent of the disingenuously named "academic freedom" movement, said Jones used to work under his tutelage but had to be fired for trying to strong-arm students into filing false reports against leftists. Horowitz also derided Jones' tactics as "baiting people" and accused him of stealing his donor list. Since being reprimanded by Horowitz for going too far in attacking academia is a bit like being lectured on boxing etiquette by Mike Tyson, this is no small matter.

Horowitz, though, is not the only one with reservations. Though Jones' little "alumni" spy organization comprises only himself, it boasts a number of "advisers" (read: wealthy right-wing activists). Three of these "advisers" have defected on grounds that Jones' vigilantism is harming the movement: Harvard historian Stephan Thernstrom, Los Angeles radio talk-show host Al Rantel and ex-congressman James Rogan. "Now what's happened is that the whole project is discredited. Now it looks like a bunch of crazies who were trying to go after innocent professors," complained Rantel.

Indeed, as of last Tuesday, Jones himself declared a partial surrender, dropping the bounties but vowing to continue as a "volunteer organization." But neither the handwringing of conservative activists who opposed the bounty idea for tactical reasons nor Jones' own limited retreat will bring a halt to "the whole project." Jones' venture cannot be written off as an extreme deviation within the conservative movement, for the rationale he provides for his campaign is a mirror-image of the philosophy behind the broader effort to destroy academics whose research exposes Republicans' most cherished ideals: white male privilege and the blowing up of people abroad necessary to sustain it.

Articulating his position a few days ago, Jones echoed the line long touted by his ex-mentor, Horowitz, "Everyone retreats into me-search. 'I'm black, so I'm going to study black issues.' White folks don't feel the need to do that." The remarkable idiocy of this statement is almost too much to fathom. Jones seems to believe that, in a country that spent the better part of the 19th century finding scientific rationalizations for theories of black inferiority, that placed blacks in plantation fields, war zones and rope nooses long before it opened its doors to them in institutions of learning that exclusively studied the "greatness" of Europe and America, the educational curriculum was not already oriented toward "white folks." Black studies, in the minds of Jones, exists as some kind of silly, selfish endeavor, instead of as a corrective antidote to 200 years of an official educational program that has been as contemptuous of blacks as the society that enslaved, segregated and marginalized them.

Since Jones, is, after all, a graduate of a school "overrun" by "leftist" faculty, it is impossible he could be ignorant of this historical reality. The only plausible explanation is that he is an irredeemable racist, or that UCLA's mental-health facilities are ill-equipped to handle patients suffering from severe memory loss.

Whatever the case, his self-centeredness and goal of silencing opposition is not 'extreme' within the conservative movement, but rather, completely in line with its anti-intellectual politics aimed against academia. One of the latest and most innovative twists on this victim-mentality play of those in power came in 2004, when rabidly conservative pro-Israel pundits and their front groups made hit lists and began compiling notes on academics who were labeled "anti-Semites" for basing their teachings on Israeli archival evidence (dug up by Israeli Jewish historians, no less), which proved that Israel committed massive war crimes -- including forced expulsion of Palestinians -- to create its 1948 borders. Conservative pro-Israel and other movements (spearheaded by Horowitz, among others) urged implementation of state-led mind control of academia, resulting in congressional passage of bill HR 3077 last year. HR 3077 is designed to weed out teaching deemed "anti-American" and "anti-Israeli" and to bolster education that "better reflect[s] national needs related to homeland security."

Jones' outlook, like that of his right-wing counterparts, is similarly neurotic when it comes to socialism. Before he removed his hit list of 30 "dirty" professors who made the mistake of not sharing Jones' penchant for stupidity, the No. 1 target was professor Peter McLaren, an academic respected in socialist circles, particularly in Mexico and Latin America, where neo-liberalism is the God that failed. Jones' "alumni" website labeled McLaren "a monster" and contained the following, weirdly obsessive description of a McLaren photograph: "He stands before the camera expressionless, long blond hair tousled just so, beady little sunglasses cloaking his knowledge of the evil which lurks in the hearts of men."

I have no idea what "beady little sunglasses" look like, or what special secrets of evil any pair of sunglasses can cloak (can I score a pair?), but the reference to the professor's hair "tousled just so" appears to be a dig related to another one of Jones' objects of hatred: "McLaren, in keeping with the radical left's identity politics, has been a friend to the gay community." Presumably, McLaren would have been a much better academic in Jones' eyes as an enemy of the gay community, bludgeoning their heads with his briefcase and strangling them with his suit jacket wherever he found them.

With his too-clever-by-half idea of bribing students to report their own teachers and his openly professed irrational hatreds, the UCLA graduate ended up crippling his own little crusade and earning the disapproval of other right-wingers who are trying to purge America of critical thinking in tactically sounder ways. Thus, Jones' methods have backfired for the moment. But his effort is a stern reminder that the line between American conservatism today and Germany's fascist anti-intellectual movement of the 1930s is thinner than a hair on a bald man's head.

The Most Important Resolution for 2006

The Iraq war currently enjoys all the popularity of the voracious eagle in "March of the Penguins." Just as the predator in that film picked on our unsuspecting, plodding friends, the war in Iraq has swallowed up tens of thousands of innocent lives and spitted out many more with crippling injuries. The daily grind of casualties, combined with the war's seemingly aimless, winless and boundless nature, has produced a profound turnaround in America's political climate, giving rise to a new majority of Americans who have come to oppose the war, an emboldened media ready to call its progress into question, and a number of high-profile politicians willing to criticize the war and call for a scaling-back or redeployment.

And yet, despite the sea change in sentiment about the war, those who have assertively put forth the single demand that would bring the quagmire to an end -- withdraw the troops now -- have been met with a reception far colder than anything the penguins had to cope with down south. The prevailing feeling has been that, while the war may not be going well -- and, indeed, may even be ruinous -- there is no real alternative to it. This idea can be broken down into two main elements: One, fighting terrorists in Iraq prevents them from striking America again, making Iraq a kind of flytrap for our own security; two, now that the war is underway, we must "finish the job" and fix the mess we created by invading in the first place.

Both of these arguments, however, are predicated upon false and pernicious assumptions, ones which are not only shared by the presiding regime, but were used to bait most of us into supporting this disastrous venture in the first place.

Consider first the notion that our continued presence in Iraq will prevent terrorists from attacking the United States. This idea has been peddled by the president in many of his speeches, and well exploits the fears and anxieties of the public in the aftermath of Sept. 11. But is it really true that fighting in the streets of Baghdad will preclude ambulances from having to race down the streets of New York once again? Not according to the State Department.

In an April 2005, the department decided to hide statistics on international terrorism from Congress. The reason soon became clear: There was a "dramatic up-tick" in terrorist incidents compared to the previous year, according to those congressmen who were briefed privately by the State Department after complaining about the ruse. Larry C. Johnson, the former senior State Department official who first exposed the agency's decision to conceal the data said, "Last year was bad. This year is worse. They are deliberately trying to withhold data because it shows that as far as the war on terrorism internationally, we're losing."

Of course, this should come as no surprise. If the world, America included, is supposed to be safer because all the terrorists are "trapped" in Iraq, one would be hard-pressed to explain why the streets of Madrid, London, and Bali were recently bathed in innocent blood after the war in Iraq was well under way. As is well-known from the public propaganda of Islamist terrorists, American bloodletting in Iraq was, in fact, a prime motivator for conducting these attacks around the world, not an impediment. And meanwhile, most of the fighters operating in Iraq, Islamist or otherwise, are Iraqi natives; according to U.S. intelligence, foreigners comprise only four percent to ten percent of their ranks.

The idea that terrorists are being baited and trapped in Iraq, thanks to the war, is rendered even more absurd by another stark reality: More than 2,100 American soldiers have been killed there, most of them long after the president declared, "Mission accomplished." Clearly then, it is the soldiers who have been trapped and baited -- deployed thousands of miles away from home to fight a war based on pretexts we now know were lies, and ill-equipped for a counterinsurgency their commanders never even imaged would take root. Indeed, the toll on the troops has been so severe that, according to a July 2004 survey conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine, 15 percent to 17 percent of returning troops suffer from "major depression, generalized anxiety or PTSD."

Let us sum up the result: The idea that the Iraq war was some brilliant, coherent plan to contain terrorism is utter nonsense. Instead, it was an ex-post facto rationalization invented after the actual reasons for going to war blew up in the administration's face, a cheap trick intended to play on our emotions. When one stops to think about it, it was all in all a rather sinister ploy: Launch a war that spawns terrorists, then claim that the war is successful in fighting terrorists who never would have existed there in the first place.

To reach this understanding, it is, of course, necessary to realize that there is no fixed or frozen number of terrorists in the world, that terrorizing an entire nation with "shock and awe" will reflexively produce resistance, some of which will also be terrorism. Such a concept is anathema to the America's right-wing punditry, which is loathe to admit that any American policy could possibly be related to terrorism, since, in their view, terrorists are evil-doers because Islam and Arab culture promotes evil-doing.

But it turns out that such pseudo-intellectual diarrhea, often found swirling in the toilet bowl of Fox News, does not even reflect the viewpoint of those ensconced in the commanding heights of American power.

In September 2004, a report was issued by the Pentagon's Defense Science Board, which is made up of "the chairmen of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Policy, Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, and Defense Intelligence Agency advisory committees," according to the organization's website. The report notes that "U.S. policies on Israeli-Palestinian issues and Iraq in 2003-2004 have damaged America's credibility and power to persuade," and that "today, political struggles are about the creation and destruction of credibility." The report continues, "Thus the critical problem in American public diplomacy directed toward the Muslim World is not one of the 'dissemination of information,' or even one of crafting and delivering the 'right' message. Rather, it is a fundamental problem of credibility. Simply, there is none (italics in original)." In other words, our policies do have results, and in this case, rather negative ones.

The other branch of ambivalence concerning immediate withdrawal is based on a kind of "common-sense" approach, alternately known as the "pottery barn" approach: If you break it, you must fix it. The problem with this concept is that applying vague, childlike analogies to specific, concrete and complex situations usually doesn't work. In the case of Iraq, for example, one must first ask: Who is the "we" that is going to fix anything?

If a person walks into a barn and breaks something, he may or may not be able to fix it. But why should anyone trust that person with the opportunity to fix it if he entered that barn on the basis of lies, exaggerations, false pretenses and greedy motives? This is the question to keep foremost in mind when observing certain liberal pundits and politicians, who, without a hint of shame, severely blast the administration on every level and then exhort that same administration to take this or that measure to make everything better.

Again, we are faced with a kind of sinister logic: The government has created an absolute disaster and killed tens of thousands of innocent people in Iraq -- that much is clear. But following the "common sense" argument, the very fact that the government has committed these horrendous acts somehow qualifies it to take control of the reconstruction process necessary to atone for the crimes. This is akin to locking in a rape victim with the rapist, or an assault victim with the assaulter, and then letting the criminal decide and carry out the healing process.

Analogies aside, the reality is that the United States is neither willing nor capable of carrying out reconstruction in Iraq. That it is not willing is transparently clear from a Feb. 7, 2005, document issued by the RAND Corporation, which has close ties to the Pentagon. The document, prefaced with a letter to Secretary Rumsfeld that begins, "Dear Don," is an assessment of U.S. military performance in Iraq. It reveals that the United States government prepared absolutely zero planning for any reconstruction operation whatsoever.

One section titled "Planning and Resourcing Post Conflict Activities" states, "Post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction were addressed only very generally, largely because of the prevailing view that the task would not be difficult. What emerged was a general set of tasks that were not prioritized or resourced." In a following section titled "Stability Operations and the Role of the Military," the first paragraph reads: "No planning was undertaken to provide for the security of the Iraqi people in the post-conflict environment."

These are excerpts that should be photocopied in the thousands and distributed to every pro-war hack who extols America's purported concern and great care in helping the Iraqi people. First, we learn that the government thought that rebuilding a country it had just smashed to pieces with a previous war, suffocating sanctions, and a "shock and awe" campaign would quite simply "not be difficult." Then we learn that there was never any plan in place to provide safety for any Iraqis, even as the world as they had known it for the past several decades came crashing down around them. No serious, thinking person could claim that this is the policy, outlook or behavior of a country that is willing to help the nation it had just destroyed.

One man who came to learn this rather quickly through experience is Larry Diamond, who served as a senior adviser to the Coalition Provision Authority (C.P.A.) in Baghdad and has made something of a name for himself in his increasingly bold but always concrete criticisms of the U.S. reconstruction effort. More than a year ago he wrote in Foreign Affairs, "the Bush administration was never willing to commit the resources necessary to secure the country and did not make the most of the resources it had. U.S. officials did get a number of things right, but they never understood -- or even listened to -- the country they were seeking to rebuild."

Even Diamond's assessment was probably too rosy. Though he credits the C.P.A., the first organization tasked with overseeing Iraq after the war, with having "worked hard" to create a stable framework under Bremer, the reality is that the C.P.A. lost track of at least $8.8 billion during its reign, according to an audit conducted by the agency's own inspector general. The report cited padding of payrolls with fake employees and wanton distribution of funds as among the more serious offenses.

Abuse aside, what proves even more illuminating about the crucial, initial American efforts in reconstruction is whose money was spent. In July 2004, the press reported that the government had spent only two percent of an $18.4 billion package Congress authorized more than eight months ago. Meanwhile, in the same time frame, the Americans gleefully spent all of the budget money drawn from Iraq's own oil fields to the tune of $20 billion.

Little has changed since then. A General Accounting Office report from June 2005 illustrates that there has been a decrease in the quality of spending from the $18.4 billion budget Congress allotted. "Security and justice," an amusing euphemism for military operations, sucked up a full 34 percent of the budget as of April 2005; it used 23 percent in July 2004. Proportional spending on water had also decreased from 23 percent to 12 percent, and spending on electricity declined from 30 percent to 23 percent. Oil remains constant at 9 percent.

The most revealing aspect of the allocation, however, is the area labeled "Other." This has increased from 15 percent to 22 percent, but there is no way to tell what has actually increased. Included in this category are: democracy, education, governance, agriculture, transportation, telecommunications, health, employment, privatization and administrative costs. It is most telling that the U.S. government has taken virtually all the key indices of any civilized society and simply bunched them together (along with some vague, unquantifiable terms like administrative costs, democracy and privatization).

It is hard not to conclude that this has been done deliberately to conceal what has actually been spent on each subcategory, but at any rate, the ruse fools no one: Averaged out, the proportion spent on health, employment, education, agriculture, transportation and telecommunications does not exceed more than 3 percent each.

By now the picture is clear. The rebuilding effort has been conducted with the same integrity applied to the effort to destroy everything that now needs rebuilding -- namely, very little. It is bad enough to let someone into the pottery barn when their entry is based on false motives. It is even worse, however, to let that person continue their stay when they only keep breaking one thing after another.

As evidenced, the rationales employed to continue and deepen the quagmire in Iraq do not withstand serious scrutiny. They are merely branches growing off the same poisoned tree trunk of war, appearing ever more tortuous and flimsy as they twist and turn their way farther and farther from the reality of ongoing lies, destruction, death and failure.

The only way to end the suffering produced by the war is to end the war that has produced the suffering. Until America realizes this, it will continue to hang itself from one of the many branches of deception that will doubtlessly continue to sprout as events drag on and more people needlessly die.

It is precisely because the stakes are so high that the following point must also be emphasized: Leaving Iraq will not "cause" chaos and bloodshed. That has already been set into motion, thanks to the U.S. invasion and occupation. The only question now is whether we will continue to help boost the ranks of the more ruthless elements of the insurgency by letting them use our presence as an excuse for their tactics and larger agenda. The act of withdrawing, on our part, will at least deprive extremist elements of their bogeyman, thus forcing them to adopt a more coherent political program besides killing people in order to remain relevant to the Iraqi -- I emphasize Iraqi -- political process. There is, of course, no guarantee that an Iraqi solution for Iraq will result in a picture-perfect outcome, but as illustrated above, there is an absolute guarantee that further interference on our part will result only in further disaster.

Criminal or Criminalized?

An unattributed but relatively well-known quote reads, "Kill one man, and it's called murder; kill a hundred thousand, and it's called foreign policy." But there is a way to kill one man without calling it murder: capital punishment. And there is a kind of capital punishment that is preceded by use of biased informants, malicious prosecutors, racist prejudice, and weak evidence: American capital punishment.

Such is the predicament faced by Stan Tookie Williams, a death row inmate at San Quentin prison near San Francisco, California, who faces execution on December 13 at 12:01 a.m. unless he is granted clemency by the Gov. Schwarzenegger.

Williams, who founded the notorious Crips gang in South Central L.A. at the age of 18, was arrested and charged with the murder of four people in 1979, convicted in 1981, and sentenced to death row. But as Williams' day of execution approaches, a campaign aimed at saving his life, supported by a number of anti-death penalty groups and celebrities such as Jamie Foxx and Snoop Dogg, has taken root - and with good reason.

Stan Williams, or Tookie, as he is frequently called, has undergone a Malcolm X-like transformation while in prison. After spending several years in solitary confinement, Tookie emerged in 1993 as an inverse image of his former self, renouncing all gang ties and beginning a comprehensive crusade against gang violence.

He has produced nine anti-gang books aimed at children, including one which won an award from the American Library Association; he has spoken to schools and community groups imploring youth not to get caught up in gangs; and he has even drafted a specific program for resolving conflict violence between gangs - one which has been used to reduce violence between the feuding Blood and Crips gangs in New Jersey.

Explaining what he calls his "redemptive transformation," Tookie recently said in an interview:

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The Fallacies of Pro-War Logic

There are two outstanding facts about the war on Iraq. One is that it was based entirely on lies. This most of us already know. There were no weapons of mass destruction, not until the U.S. dropped its own. There is no evidence that al-Qaeda movement was there either, not until the U.S. deployed its soldiers to fill out the pages of Osama's script.

But the other outstanding fact about the war is more perplexing: namely, that it is still being fought. Why are we still fighting a war that is clearly based on lies? Why does a solid, unwavering 40 percent of the American public continue to support the war effort, no matter the cost in lives or money?

It is no doubt true that, for a segment of pro-war America, the presence or absence of WMD or al-Qaeda is entirely irrelevant. In the minds of these war supporters, talk of either threat is as a mere bit of official token rationalism -- thinly veiled codeword for the barely concealed yearning to exact "revenge" on the ubiquitous "Them" for September 11.

But the official face of the pro-war rationale has not yet devolved into such a hideous visage -- not even if it is as "drink-sodden" as Mr. Hitchens'. The main public line of justification for the war employed by the Right is as follows: the United States liberated Iraq by removing a murderous dictator, thus freeing the people of a tyrannical menace and putting them on the path toward democracy. Conversely, the pro-war brigade maintains, anyone who is opposed to the war supports dictatorship.

What is the typical response to this rationale? Usually, a pathetic whimpering one: "Why, yes, dictatorship is bad, yes, Saddam is bad, yes, the people are better off, but the war was illegal and fought on false pretenses." This is a response crafted to convince a policy wonk or a U.N. bureaucrat, not a thinking American. It hardly addresses the pro-war argument, which attempts to make two points: one, that a desirable result brought about by dubious means nonetheless remains a good thing, and two, that a stance against the war is de facto in favor of Saddam.

The first point is plain enough. Sometimes the end can indeed justify the means. But in this case it is prudent to ask: what justifies the end? The removal of Saddam Hussein has not meant the removal of the suffering the Iraqi people endured whilst under Saddam Hussein. Outside of a tiny sliver of Baghdad, gangs, looters, rapists, mercenaries, and militias prowl the highways, the urban centers, and the hinterlands. Any semblance of real security in Iraq is, despite administration propaganda, nowhere in evidence. Under Saddam there was, at least, security to count on.

There were also basic services. Today these citizens of an oil-rich nation find themselves lining up for hours to fill their cars with petrol. The production of energy has barely reached that of pre-war levels, which is especially appalling since the latter was maintained under severe sanctions and dilapidated equipment, not the glorious free-market theology now flourishing in the country. There is little long-term prospect of improvement for either oil or energy production given the realities on the ground. Moreover, the reconstruction program -- twisted and contorted into abject failure by the well-documented greed of overpaid American contractors and select Iraqi cronies -- is severely crippled, at least under American auspices.

Adding insult to injury, as the U.N. discovered six months ago, malnutrition levels of children in Iraq are about twice as high as they were in the pre-war period. Unlike in the post-Gulf War era, the government does not -- and cannot -- carry out its past program of distributing foodstuffs. Who would be suicidal enough to deliver them in a country where even the main road to the airport is unsafe?

But what of the Shia, those most frequent and oft-cited victims of Saddam? Have they not benefited? Not a week goes by now in which dozens, if not hundreds, of Shia are senselessly slaughtered in markets, job centers, recruitment offices, and on pilgrimage. Surely, the ex-dictator must be pleased: he sits in his air-conditioned room eating English muffins and donning pajamas as the blood of his ethnic enemies in numbers that have obviously far exceeded the 168 executions of Shiites he is currently on trial for. Sectarian tensions resulting from this strife have been so inflamed that the term "civil war" is no longer taboo, but rather hotly debated in the country as a full-blown possibility. Indeed, it is now possible that Iraq will be "liberated" from its own national existence.

Last but not least, let us not forget the cheery fate meted to about 100,000 Iraqi civilians who have been freed only from their limbs and lives. That is the figure determined by a thorough, peer-reviewed study conducted by the British medical journal Lancet last December, indicating the number of innocent Iraqis killed as a result of the war. Unsurprisingly, the warmongers have tried to discredit these statistics, but the facts of the case are clearly arrayed against them.

Thus the picture is clear: life in this supposed zone of "liberation" makes the seventh level of hell look like a towering utopian vista. Therefore, there is no need for puerile abstract formulas about "ends justifying means." The end does not even justify itself -- let alone the means. With Saddam in power, many Iraqis died and suffered. Without Saddam in power, more Iraqis are still dying and suffering. Therefore, the real issue goes beyond Saddam.

This leads us on a collision-course with the pro-war argument's second point -- that opposing the war is tantamount to defending Saddam. The charge is, if nothing else, a very clever bit of theoretical legerdemain.

The thick fog of the charge can be cleared once we reframe the issue, away from Saddam and toward the fate of the actual Iraqi people. The U.S. armed Saddam with conventional, chemical and biological agents and diplomatic cover to make war on Iran, Iraqi Shiites and Iraqi Kurds before Gulf War I. All that is well-documented, well-known, and a part of Senate records. So when Saddam was in power serving U.S. interests, the U.S. had no problem with his atrocities.

Now, when Saddam does not serve U.S interests, the U.S. has a problem with Saddam -- but is busily carrying on its own atrocities against the same victims Saddam chose: ordinary Iraqis. Thus, for 30 years, the U.S. has caused harm and violence to ordinary Iraqis. The only difference now is that the middleman has been removed.

Meanwhile, the leftist anti-war movement consistently opposed Saddam when he was an ally of the U.S., opposed U.S. support for Saddam throughout the 1980s, and now, opposes the U.S. role in Iraq. Why? Because of one constant principle: a defense of the Iraqi people's right to peace and person, a defense against both murder-by-proxy imperialism a la Hussein and murder-by-proximity colonialism a la Bush.

For too long, too many of us have done too little. We have not been sharp enough, strong enough, or confident enough to attack the Right with ruthless conviction and courage. This applies doubly to centrist Democrats, liberals and dabblers who shy away from powerful arguments against the warmongers' rationales and instead resort to esoteric legalese or mere whining. When it comes to facing the Right, we must stop curtseying and tipping before its spears and start curtly sharpening the tips of our own spears. This is the only way to push the Right off center stage and place the betterment of humanity back on the agenda.