Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Green Zone - upsetting movie

Stylistically, the Green Zone is a lot like the Bourne movies. Okay as far as that goes. But I agree with Kyle Smith's NY Post review and Russ Douthat's NY Times commentary. I was angered by the movie's conspiratorial fill-in-the-blank fictions and contrarian views about OIF. I'm frustrated that no matter how inaccurate or debateable, those fictions and views are viewed as settled truth by OIF opponents. In 2004, I could still argue the case for Operation Iraqi Freedom with people willing to listen and consider, but by now due to prolonged and heavy repetition, people refuse to even reconsider what for them has become axiomatic.

The key misunderstanding of OIF opponents is their core belief that we failed to prove the guilt of Saddam's Iraq. In fact, Saddam's Iraq's guilt was established. Our burden was not to discover and prove; instead, it was to enforce and verify the mandated performance by the guilty party. From 1991 to 2003, Saddam's Iraq was responsible for proving itself innocent using the standard set by its surrender in 1991 and the UN resolutions. Iraq should have met the standard in 1991, but Saddam's repeated noncompliance and added abuses meant the required proof became broader and more stringent. It's true the intel was uncertain by 2003, but that was not due to a conspiracy; rather the quality of the intel was a consequence of 12 years of the deteriorating disarmament-turned-containment mission in Iraq. Because Saddam's guilt was established, any intel was rightly and necessarily viewed in the light least favorable to Saddam's Iraq. In fact, by that point, new intel was not required. While Green Zone's core premise is that we went to war based on unverified intel, the movie fails to explain the verification to standard by the inspections was the verification process. Therefore, the intel didn't trigger the invasion. The trigger for the invasion in 2003 was the same thing that triggered the Operation Desert Fox bombing in Dec 1998: the failure of Saddam's Iraq to prove its innocence according to the required standard.

I was disappointed most by Green Zone's displayed preference for tyranny over liberalism. For example, the movie contends that we should have immediately turned Iraq over to the same actors responsible for the brutality of Saddam's regime and the murderous insurgency. I wonder how badly the critical discussion about liberalization on the Arab street has been corrupted by the Western narrative against OIF and rejection of liberal strategy represented by the Green Zone. When I visited Egypt earlier this year, local newspapers parroted the most caustic Western anti-war rhetoric. I believe anti-OIF Westerners have caused great harm to the progressive liberal cause around the world. Green Zone will only cause more damage at a time when the emerging democratic Iraq should be an inspiration and supported by the world's liberals, not mocked as a lie and conspiracy.

My comment at a movie review:

"... war as the first, best solution to the real but immensely complex problem of Iraq"

Not first at all. We invaded Iraq only after 12 years, across 3 US presidencies, of intensively attempted but failed alternate solutions to the worsening problem of Iraq - hardly war as a first resort. Regime change for Iraq became US policy under Clinton, and became the next-up solution in 1998 after Clinton declared Saddam's Iraq had failed "its final chance" and bombed Iraq in Operation Desert Fox - without going to the UN for permission. Contrary to the movie's emphasis on the intel, intel wasn't even a requirement for Operation Iraqi Freedom because Saddam's Iraq's guilt was established and had only deepened with every act of noncompliance and abuse. So, the Green Zone got its premise fundamentally wrong: the intel - whatever its quality - did not trigger any invasion. Through much of 2002, President Bush even gave Saddam ample warning and he tried the UN process, ignoring Clinton's precedent of bypassing the UN. Despite the generous opportunity to finally comply and resolve the problem peacefully, Saddam instead opted to repeat his pattern of noncompliance. Therefore, the trigger for the invasion was not the intel, but the same trigger for Clinton's order to bomb Saddam's Iraq in Dec 98: Saddam's Iraq's failure to meet the standard of proof required to establish its innocence.
More related comments in Foreign Policy.




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