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January 31, 2005

I Would Like To Be Happy But It's Not Working

In 1996, Madeline Albright was asked about the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children under sanctions. She famously replied, "We think the price is worth it."

This was a statement of almost berserk cruelty. But it was the norm as far as Iraq goes: berserk cruelty has been continually visited on Iraqis over the past forty years, both by other Iraqis and by outsiders. I sometimes think of writing a book called "The Price Is Worth It": How Bill Clinton, Saddam Hussein, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Leonid Breshnev, George H.W. Bush, and Helmut Kohl Crucified The People Of Iraq.

And I don't just pull that list out of my ass. I think if you made a list of the seven people responsible for killing the most Iraqis, it would be them, in that order. Killing Iraqis in volume has been a group effort, and wouldn't have been possible without everyone pitching in.

The circumstances of the massive bloodletting have varied, but the ultimate reason has remained the same: oil. Oil has been a terrible curse for Iraqis—even more than it's been for Saudis and Iranians and many others.

Anyway, this is all to say I can't feel optimistic about yesterday's elections. I wish I could. And I'm truly moved to see Iraqis trying to do what they can to improve their circumstances. But I doubt the elections will change anything whatsoever. As long as they have that oil, I suspect life in Iraq will continue to be horrible.

Still, that certainly doesn't absolve outsiders—particularly Americans—of trying to change that. There's an interesting interview with Naomi Klein here in which she proposes some things we might do.

Posted at January 31, 2005 06:58 AM | TrackBack

Subordinates don't count? Certainly Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Condi Rice, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Norman Schwarzkopf, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Uday, Qusay and others deserve at least dishonorable mentions. Powell's and Cheney's contributions to both wars might raise them up into the top seven, don't you think?

Posted by: Bob at January 31, 2005 08:33 AM


I don't know. There's so much talent in this field, and so much commitment, that even some incredible performers can't break into the top ranks.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at January 31, 2005 08:37 AM

It's tragic for those who did their best, but there are always slots in thinks tanks and other sinecure factories as consolation prizes. Oh, and book deals.

Posted by: Harry at January 31, 2005 11:10 AM

Don't forget Winston Churchill in the pre-WWII era. He loved to gas people. Like our president, Saddam was a student of history.
On another note though I have a question? Am I the only one who when thinking of Winston Churchill pictures him sitting in a wingback chair stroking a cat (now hairless due to recent changes in science) wearing only argyle socks, and aviator goggles murming,"god left his ichor in the soil, and that ichor is oil."? Because if I am the only one I feel the world is at a loss.

Posted by: allmypulp at January 31, 2005 01:19 PM

and once they don't have oil, i suppose, life there will cease to be miserable. by ceasing.

Posted by: boz at January 31, 2005 03:24 PM


The best outcome for the mideast (and the rest of the world) would be a huge reduction in the use of oil, making it less valuable. As some Saudi minister once said, the Stone Age didn't come to an end because they ran out of stones. People in the mideast will figure out other ways to make money.

The problems with having oil -- or any valuable natural resource -- are legion. First, it usually keeps you from devising those other money-making schemes, ones that depend more on brain-power than geographical luck. And the brain-power ones are the ones that endure.

Even worse, it makes other countries try to take you over and exploit you. If you can avoid that, it still leads to power centralized in the hands of whoever controls the resource. Eg, Saddam.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at January 31, 2005 03:50 PM

Irks you? Oy!
Iraqi gets treatment Iroquois

Voting from their very own reservation. Voting from their very own war field.

Mission Accomplished – again! (Good god. We gonna fall hard.)

Posted by: SiegeState at January 31, 2005 04:57 PM

Of course, all wars are about resources and trade. Oil is certainly a curse. A hair-brained idea keeps popping into my head - "what if they (and Iran) could just give away their oil and get on with their own culture and freedom in peace?"
Naomi's excellent interview is stating the bleeding obvious - the US elections was a shell game from the start. The Dems campaign was designed to come second. The organisers were rewarded afterwards - job well done!
With US expertise in rigging elections and committment to control around the world, I just can't see any possibility of anyone "leading" Iraq other than Allowi.
The Iraqi elections are designed to legitimize the signing of oil contracts (in US$) which is why they are there

Posted by: Jim Shanahan at January 31, 2005 06:52 PM