Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Welfare/Warfare State

We who love Australia should be sad, but not surprised, to find that our troops have been abusing human rights in Iraq. A military has only two purposes: to threaten to shoot people, and to actually shoot them. If you wanted any other job done, you wouldn't send a military, would you? Pointing guns at people is what soldiers do - and that's when they're being relatively restrained!

If our troops had committed other or worse abuses, would we know about it?

To blame a few rogues is to miss the point. Our soldiers should not be there. Our good intentions have miscarried. After 9/11, in a wave of sympathy for our old allies the United States, we joined them in a military campaign in a foreign land broiling with chronic religious, ethnic and nationalist disputes. We now know that the reasons put forward for the war in Iraq were wrong. There were no weapons of mass destruction, and there were no Iraqi links to Al Qaeda. President Bush had his own reasons for making war on Iraq. But the point is, we have now joined in a war which has killed over 100,000 men, women and children. Australia. For what? The best reason, or excuse, that is now on offer is that we are helping to 'build democracy' in Iraq. It's a kind of welfare/warfare state, if you like. We take money from people who didn't consent, and give destructive 'benefits' to people who didn't ask, all in the name of 'democracy' and helping 'the disadvantaged'.

This teaches us a home truth. Democracy loses its value when it means nothing more than that the majority or the state can use force to violate other people's liberty and property rights. What's the point of having a government to keep down thieves and burglars, if those in government are free to take as much of your liberty and property as they feel like? Only when the law equally constrains all people - including those in government, - to respect other people's life, liberty and property, is democracy a guarantee of freedom or human dignity. This applies everywhere - as much in Australia as in Iraq.

The welfare/warfare state violates the values of life, freedom and property at every turn. It denies personal responsibility which is the foundation of morality, it involves everyone in the injustice of its own plunder, and it destroys social harmony. The government does not 'represent' us when it commits crimes and violates human beings.

The truth hurts, but we should still face it. It is wrong that the war in Iraq has any legitimacy in terms of the defence of Australia. It is wrong for Australia's military to be involved in a campaign that has destroyed the lives and the homes of thousands upon thousands of innocent people. The Iraqi people are not our enemies. It is wrong for the Commonwealth in this way to defame the good name of Australia.

A true friend helps his friend to see and do right, not to persist in wrong. We should withdraw our troops from Iraq immediately and urge our old allies the Americans to do the same.

21 Comments:

At September 20, 2006 9:17 pm, Anonymous Sam Ward said...

"We who love Australia should be sad, but not surprised, to find that our troops have been abusing human rights in Iraq."

Do you have any link or news story to back this up?

 
At September 20, 2006 9:20 pm, Anonymous Sam Ward said...

"A military has only two purposes: to threaten to shoot people, and to actually shoot them. If you wanted any other job done, you wouldn't send a military, would you?"

You display complete ignorance of what militaries actually do.

Most of Australia's action (after the first week of fighting) in East Timor was in building infrastructure and schools, hospitals etc.

The reason you don't send non-military personnel is that military engineers can defend themselves by force of arms while the construction is underway.

Who is this guy Sukrit?

 
At September 20, 2006 9:22 pm, Anonymous Sam Ward said...

"After 9/11, in a wave of sympathy for our old allies the United States, we joined them in a military campaign"

We joined them because we have a military alliance with them. An alliance in which we get the very good end of the deal. In return for sending a few special forces and less than a thousand soldiers to periodic American wars, they defend the 2 major oceans surrounding our country with nuclear-capable aircraft carrier fleets.

This is one of the most stupid posts I have ever read.

 
At September 20, 2006 9:23 pm, Anonymous Sam Ward said...

"We should withdraw our troops from Iraq immediately and urge our old allies the Americans to do the same."

Sukrit should withdraw your posting privileges.

 
At September 21, 2006 10:14 pm, Blogger Justin Jefferson said...

Oh by the way, to suggest that the purpose of a military is to threaten to shoot people, or to actually shoot people, 'displays complete ignorance of what militaries actually do', does it? It is you who are displaying complete ignorance.

I suppose they are really a kind of construction consultants - with guns, is that it? You are only proving the point about the welfare/warfare state.

 
At September 21, 2006 10:56 pm, Blogger skepticlawyer said...

Oooo er, folks, I think we're about to have our first stoush ;)

 
At September 21, 2006 11:07 pm, Blogger Sukrit Sabhlok said...

Justin, your assertion Australian troops have been caught abusing human rights in Iraq is premature and wrong. Let's wait for a bit. What's happened seems to be less serious, according to media reports.

Sam, I think Justin's main point was that we cannot trust governments to effectively carry out good intentions.

I supported the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and still do. I don't really care much for so-called arguments (made with an a great deal of self righteousness post-Iraq, but less so pre-Iraq)that there was no WMD.

Whatever one thinks about the initial war, know that the terrorists gain strength when, for example, major continental European nations refuse to unite and bring stability in Iraq.

If you look at the relatively non-interventionist foreign policy period under Clinton you see that 9/11 was unprovoked. Any talk about the rights and wrongs of military force needs to start from the fact that post-cold war foreign policy of the US was comparatively benign until 9/11.

In many ways though, I'm disappointed with the way Iraq has been handled. The moral is that governments always mess things up, and libertarians need to be sceptical about interventionist foreign policy.

Throwing around statistics re: civilian deaths doesn't help. We aren't the ones trying to kill innocent people on purpose. All the terrorists have to do is ask to put the guns down, and we will be happy to oblige.

 
At September 21, 2006 11:45 pm, Blogger Justin Jefferson said...

The news story to back it up comes from the Daily Telegraph's photo and story of an Australian soldier 'skylarking' by holding a gun to the head of an Arab quailing at his knees, and for which the soldier is to be disciplined.

Sukrit, pointing guns at people's heads is abusing human rights. The guy doesn't have to wait til the soldier pulls the trigger before he's got a claim on humanity not to violate him.

To suggest that militaries threaten to shoot people, and actually shoot people, is not to 'display complete ignorance of what militaries actually do'.

If the reason the military was sent to East Timor was so that they can 'defend themselves by force of arms' then you are admitting the proposition that is in issue, which is, that the purpose of sending troops is to threaten to shoot people, or to actually shoot them.

The fact that Australia has an alliance with the US does not show that it is wrong to say that "After 9/11, in a wave of sympathy for our old allies the United States, we joined them in a military campaign".

Despite your apparent anger at encountering a post that you disagree with, nothing you have said has shown any error in my post, and what you are saying concedes the whole point, which is, the Australian state is forcibly taking money from people here, to send soldiers to join in a military campaign that has killed tens of thousands of men, women and children, and which has nothing to do with the legitimate defence of Australia.

If the mere fact of an alliance with America justified Australia's action, what abuses would not be justified? Would militarily joining in a war and the killing of 1,000,000, be justified?

You may assume that Australian troops haven't killed anyone in Iraq, but if they had, how would you know? They are in a war zone in which civil order has broken down, what do you think they're doing?

Your reliance on personal argument, your failure to show any error in my argument, and your request for my views to be banned from the site, all show a failure to join the real issue.

What should be banned from the site as a matter of policy is personal argument, not arguments that you happen to disagree with, but can show no reason against.

 
At September 22, 2006 12:02 am, Blogger skepticlawyer said...

Unless there's something going on that I've missed, I don't recall Sukrit suggesting anyone should be banned...

(sl quickly reads the thread).

Okay, it was Sam. My bad. Justin is a libertarian isolationist, methinks. There are quite a few of them, believe it or not.

 
At September 22, 2006 12:23 am, Blogger Justin Jefferson said...

Yes, I meant to address Sukrit only in that one paragraph.

 
At September 22, 2006 1:16 am, Blogger Justin Jefferson said...

Sukrit, you say you don't care much for so-called arguments based on WMD. The point is, those were the reasons given for going to war. The issue is the justification for war, so libertarians of all people should be expected to care for it.

As to the 'self-righteousness' of saying, post-invasion, that there are no WMD, of course I am saying it post-invasion. We didn't know about it pre-invasion. Pre-invasion, *if the reasons given were not lies and were based on proper intelligence*, then the invasion was justified. I believed so at the time, but later events have shown that the intelligence was defective, the Pentagon knew it, they concealed their own contributions of WMD, the reasons given were false, and they intended to and did deceive the general public. (In fact, Saddam's catalogue of WMD that he gave to the UN was more complete and correct than Bush's because Bush doctored it to take out information about WMD that the US had given Iraq. It's pretty bad when Saddam Hussein is more trustworthy than the President of the United States.)

Time has passed, and we now know things we didn't know at the time. The factual justification for going to war has now been shown to be wrong. On the other hand, the part of the war that was justified, WMD or not, was overthrowing Saddam Hussein. That has now been done.

America has troops in something like 88 countries. That cannot be justified by reference to a philosophy that holds that the proper purpose of government is to protect the lives, liberty and property of its citizens. Instead, it shows the philosophy of the welfare/warfare state: an idea that the people of the state have wisdom above ordinary mortals and are justified in using violence to try to mould everyone else into a better society, according to their own arbitrary precepts. It is the opposite of liberty. The only possible way that that can be described as 'relatively non-interventionist' is to assume a legitimacy in the US government doing what you would call a crime if any other person or state were to do it by force.

You may think that America's foreign policy was 'comparatively benign' in the relevant period, but why should other people have to put up with violence being used against them for reasons of state on the ground that the offending party thinks what it was doing was comparatively benign compared to what it could have been doing? America is up to the neck in meddling in the affairs of states all around the world, including in the middle east. Imagine if middle Eastern states were to position troops in and around the US, giving comfort to their enemies, helping the US's enemies in wars, and funding governments that torture their own citizens so as to cultivate support for themselves and opposition to the US.

It may be said that there is no comparison between the moral legitimacy of the middle eastern states, and that of the US. But for that point to be valid, it must be because the US refrains from the abuse of power. The more it kills and abuses men, women and children, the more there is a legitimate comparison between the terror of the one, and the terror of the other. What difference does it make to someone whose children have been killed for nothing, who the criminal was who did it?

I'm not 'throwing around' statistics about civilian deaths. Civilian deaths are entirely relevant, and it's entirely appropriate to say how many are being killed.

You say that 'we are not the ones trying to kill innocent people on purpose', but that is cutting it a little bit fine. The US has bombed the shit out of the place, and killed many innocent people - far more than were ever killed by terrorists in the west since 1970. We have joined the US, with our military, in the war, not because Iraq attacked Australia, and (we now know) not because Iraq factually presented any threat to Australia, but because we and the US are allies. That is not good enough. If that were accepted as a justification, any amount of abuse would be justified for any reason, so long as we were preserving an alliance that we thought might make us better off.

Either the Australian government represents us in its actions or it does not. If it does not represent us in being in Iraq, the action has no legitimacy, and if it does represent us in being in Iraq, the action has no legitimacy.

Your statement that having a gun pointed at your head is 'less serious' than 'abusing human rights' beggars belief. That cannot be your idea of a condition of freedom?

Libertarians of all people should condemn these abuses, and oppose giving reasons of state as a supposed justification of them.

 
At September 23, 2006 12:47 pm, Anonymous Mikey said...

You don't have to be an isolationist to condemn the 'Wests' status quo foreign policy.

All you have to be is clearheaded.

 
At September 24, 2006 4:20 pm, Blogger Sukrit Sabhlok said...

Justin: there is no practical reason to look back from the comfort of 2006 and debate whether the war in Iraq was justifiable. The time for that debate has past. That said, in principle I agree with your views on the welfare/warfare state.

But the question of whether a particular military action is justifiable is a question of fact. On this, the facts as most people saw it at the time were clearly in favour of an invasion.

Even if I agreed with you that, looking back, the war is unjustifiable, it simply does not follow that we should withdraw our current military presence (unless that is part of an overall plan towards a stable, peaceful Iraq).

The main debate should be on:

1. Iraq's constitution as a document compatible with a free society

2. Whether Iraq needs a federal structure granting greater regional autonomy

3. Whether Iraq should be split into different countries to resolve conflict

4. Whether Iraq's security forces need greater international assistance

You have not reccommended anything on pressing points such as these.

I would like to see more discussion of the approximately 1 million people Saddam is alleged to have killed, and the many mass graves being uncovered to this day. It would take many more years of the Americans responding to terrorist attacks in Iraq to get to that amount of mass murder, if that's what you see coalition troops as doing. 100,000 seems inflated to me, and you will find many who contest that figure.

Finally, on your question regarding the gun pointed at an individual's head... of course that's an infringment of rights. It would be called assault in other circumstances. However, by itself it is not as grave as torture involving physical coercion that leaves lasting harm. In any case, the most recent issue of TIME magazine speculates that the picture you are referring to could be an Australian dressed as an Arab. A voluntary, staged shot, in other words.

I would wait for the facts to emerge before passing judgment.

 
At September 24, 2006 7:25 pm, Blogger Justin Jefferson said...

Sukrit

It is true that we have no time machine, however the point is, if we now know that there was no justification then, and there is no justification now, then our occupation is not justified.

No-one has yet shown a proper justification for our military action in Iraq. Your argument makes the common error of treating governmental action as justified, for no other reason than that it exists.

As to the points you have raised:
1. Iraq's constitution as a document compatible with a free society
2. Whether Iraq needs a federal structure granting greater regional autonomy
3. Whether Iraq should be split into different countries to resolve conflict
4. Whether Iraq's security forces need greater international assistance

all this is to assume what is in issue, namely the rationale and ethics of the welfare/warfare state. I suppose we in Australia have no right to any of our own property because the government has a holy right to confiscate as much as it wants, to pay for military adventuring anywhere in the world to fix up other peoples' dysfuncational states? Is it a kind of welfare state activity only international, and with guns, is that it?

My thought on freedom is this: these actions are inconsistent with the principle of liberty. You assume that the people in government here have a kind of superior wisdsom and a moral right to use violence or the threat of violence against the people of Australia to confiscate their private property without their consent, to pay for armed men to go over to Iraq and do what armed men do in war zones, to try to use coercion to manipulate the mass of people there into a configuration that represents a better society. The arrogance of it!

I am well aware of the atrocities committed under Saddam's regime. I used to act for people seeking refuge in Australia. A couple of client horror stories: someone wrote 'Saddam' on the back of a donkey. The army brought in bulldozers and razed all houses within 7 km. My client's nephew was an ordinary conscript and deserted the army. They took him into detention, put him on the phone to his mother in Switzerland, and stuck an electric drill into him.

I believe there were no arguments against overthrowing Saddam. The arguments run by the left wing, that it would violate Iraq's sovereignty, were typical of their intellectual and moral bankruptcy. The only valid argument against it was that people in the west should not have been violated to pay for it.

But remember there are lots of governments all over the world that routinely violate the liberty of their subjects. If the motion of the welfare/warfare state were accepted, then no-one would have any right to any freedom anywhere at any time, that's the point!

The United States, like Australia, is busy descending into a state in which the basic principles of liberty are being daily violated. These principles are: individual sovereignty in life, liberty and property; free markets; sound money; rule of law; very low tax. The welfare/warfare state violates these rights at every turn. This is not some kind of irrelevant point that we disregard in our rush to consider how best to forcibly mould other peoples closer to our heart's desire.

The draft Constitution for Iraq has all the defects of total government to which we ourselves have fallen victim. All the rights and freedoms enumerated in the draft Iraqi Constitution say that the government may not abrogate a right, and then adds the chilling phrase 'except according to law'. This is the statist creed of total power in the state, and is in essence the same as the system they had and we have: the government can violate as much of your life, liberty and property as it feels like, and all it has to do to legitimise it is make its actions formally legal, as Hitler did. It offers precisely no protection of individual liberty. What preserves our liberties here more than there, is that here we have traditions and concepts of it which infuse prevailing beliefs, which they lack. It is the popular value of freedom, not the legal structures, that safeguard freedom, as is shown by the decline of freedom in the west under the influence of socialism.

The question whether 'Iraq' 'needs' a federal or some other structure, is just state-speak for how other people's liberties are to be carved up. If all liberties depend on whether the state arbitrarily feels like violating them or not, what difference does it make whether the structure is federal or unitary?

As to whether Iraq should be split to avoid further, Iraq is itself a part of a country that was split to avoid further conflict: the Ottoman empire, which was dismembered in 1919. All of the pieces of that puzzle: Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, have been a human rights disaster ever since, and were before.

The question whether to split reeks of the kind of gross statist meddling that has never been justified except on the rationale of violence and exploitation. What makes you think your violence and exploitation is going to be any better than the home-grown variety?

If Iraq's security forces need greater international assistance, it is because of popular resistance to their rule. The coalition can't make up its mind whether it's in favour of what the people want, or against. What the 'impose democracy by violence' crowd don't seem to have considered is that, as in Algeria in the 1990s, a popular vote might, and probably would result in a nasty Islamist dictatorship opposed to the west, and to many aspects of democracy, human rights, and liberty. The coalition can't have it both ways.

If all the armies were to withdraw, no doubt there would be some violence while the locals established who is the boss cocky. How is that any different to the situation now? How do we know that the resolution would not be less violent, quicker, and more satisfactory without the coalition's intervention?

The answer is, we don't.

The arbitrary political opinions, and arbitrary violence of the occupiers does not give any ground for confidence that the Iraqi people would be any worse off left to themselves.

Since our actions there violate the lives, liberties, and properties of both Australian and Iraqi people, and we have no way of knowing whether we can produce a better result, and no reason to think that we can, the occupying armies should withdraw.

If they want to do something constructive to protect people's liberties, it would be more to the point to abolish 4/5ths of their own laws, which are in direct violation of the basic principles of life, liberty and property.

 
At September 25, 2006 8:20 pm, Anonymous Sam Ward said...

Justin your accusation of human rights abuses by Australian forces is plainly untrue.

The videos and photos that have come out did not depict any Iraqis, only Australian soldiers being dickheads.

As for your broader point which is to suggest we scrap the Australian/US alliance, perhaps you could posit an alternative defensive arrangement for Australia?

Sukrit, there is a difference between being an isolationist and a pacifist. An isolationist policy must be realistic for a start.

It is realistic for the US to adopt an isolationist policy because they have thousands of kilometres of ocean separating them from the nearest possible attackers - and it still didn't help them in WWII.

Australia has much more coastline to defend and our potential enemies are much closer. Additionally, they are stronger militarily than we are.

Wether you agree with the Iraq war or not, the fact is that from a utilitarian point of view sending Australian troops was the right decision.

The alternative is tearing up the ANZUS alliance and defending the Indian and Pacific oceans by ourself. As a libertarian sit back and think about how such a need would contribute to increasing the government footprint in Australia. We would need to increase defense spending by a factor of at least 10 to do it effectively, and recruit many more soldiers - something that would probably only be possible with a draft or at least compulsory national service.

The US Pacific Fleet is Australia's REAL defense force. The agreement we share with the US is this: They provide the firepower, we provide political support by sending token forces to overseas conflicts led by the US. It is an extremely good deal for us in practical terms.

 
At September 25, 2006 8:28 pm, Anonymous Sam Ward said...

"Sukrit, pointing guns at people's heads is abusing human rights."

Police do this all over the world when dealing with suspects. How is it an abuse of human rights?

You don't know what happened, you are just speculating.

"If the reason the military was sent to East Timor was so that they can 'defend themselves by force of arms' then you are admitting the proposition that is in issue, which is, that the purpose of sending troops is to threaten to shoot people, or to actually shoot them."

Your logic is suffering.

You don't have to threaten anyone in order to be prepared to defend yourself.

One purpose of the military is to "threaten to shoot people or to actually shoot them". That is not the only purpose.

A small percentage of jobs in the military are combat roles. Many of the Australian soldiers sent to Iraq were engineers and naval clearance divers.

"No-one has yet shown a proper justification for our military action in Iraq. "

Untrue, I provided justification in my 3rd comment in this post. You simply ignored it because you are not interested in hearing any view except your own.

 
At September 25, 2006 11:54 pm, Blogger Justin Jefferson said...

The photo in the Daily Telegraph showed a soldier in battledress holding a pistol to the head of a kneeling oldish guy wearing a red and white dishdash (teatowel-type headgear), whom I, along with probably everyone else who saw it, presumed to be an Iraqi Arab. You seem to be saying he was an Australian soldier. If he was, there are two versions of the facts and the inference that he was an Iraqi Arab was more reasonable.

You don't know what happened either, you are just speculating. The fact is, there is more than one version of the facts. But that doesn't mean therefore it's presumptively okay for agents of the state to point guns at people's heads as you seem to be arguing.

If your starting point is that people in government have a right to go around pointing guns at people's heads whenever they think it would be a good idea, obviously you won't find any human rights abuses in any of the Iraqi war. And the abuses at Abu Graib might have been justified a) to question suspects, and b) to maintain military alliances, right?

The starting point for liberty is that pointing a gun at someone's head is a human rights abuse, unless and until there is a justification for it. Merely being a 'suspect' is not a justification. It depends on the purpose of the action. There is no blanket licence for government to do what is a crime for everyone else, as you seem to assume. And there is no blanket presumption in favour of government. That's the whole point! If the government makes it against the law to own a companion animal, or to sell lemonade, and someone is a 'suspect' in respect of that 'crime', is it justified for police to point a gun at his head is it? The evidence we have shows that our troops are over there pointing guns at people - and if they are shooting them, we wouldn't know - and you fly to the state's defence on the basis that it must be alright, because they are agents of the state, and they have reasons of state for treating people as instruments of their will.

The only justification you have shown for Australia's military action in Iraq is not a proper justification, because if that were right, it would justify Australia in killing 1,000,000 innocent people, even if to withdraw from the Iraqi war would not cost Australia the alliance with the US, but simply because the alliance exists.

If our alliance is the justification for the war in Iraq, what is the US's justification? Their alliance with us?

How do you know that the Australia would need to 'scrap the alliance' with the US, or become 'isolationist' as the price of withdrawing from Iraq seeing that all the reasons originally given for it have now been shown to be false? Sixteen US intelligence agencies have today reported that the war in Iraq has made the US *less* safe. You don't know whether the alliance does depend on our participation in this particular action, you are just assuming it. The US has other allies, for example Canada, who haven't participated. In any event, the whole point of my article is, it is reasonable to withdraw and to urge the US to do the same.

It is true that the US's military presence has probably kept the peace in the world far more than would otherwise have been the case. But it has also been the cause of many wars and dictatorships all over the world and vast numbers of killings of innocents and other gross abuses. According to your point of view, any amount of this military adventurism and wholesale killing all over the world would be justified for any reason, so long as Australia could buy a feeling of security for itself.

As for the supposed justification of 'defending oneself', again you are missing the point. Obviously if you fly into a war zone on the side of a hated occupying invasion force, there's going to be plenty of opportunity to 'defend onself'. The point is, they shouldn't be there, and you have not shown any proper justification why they should be.

According to your view, Australia sends troops to East Timor as construction workers. What next? Baby health nurses? The reason why Australia sends the military is precisely because it expects that the military will be needed to use violence or the threat of violence to get the job done, otherwise they'd send construction workers or baby health nurses, wouldn't they? Armed force is of the essence of the task. No doubt many of the Australian military sent were clerks too. So what?

"Untrue, I provided justification in my 3rd comment in this post. You simply ignored it because you are not interested in hearing any view except your own."

Your resort to personal argument does not disguise the facts that a) you have not provided a proper justification for Australia's military action in Iraq, and if what you said were true, then Australia would be justified in killing millions of innocent people b) you have not shown that the alliance turns on the question of Australia's participation in this particular action, and c) your argument, that it is a 'complete ignorance' of what militaries do to say that they use force, is absurd.

If Australia could withdraw without ending the alliance, would you be for it or against it?

 
At September 26, 2006 2:35 am, Anonymous Sam Ward said...

The photo in the Daily Telegraph showed a soldier in battledress holding a pistol to the head of a kneeling oldish guy wearing a red and white dishdash (teatowel-type headgear), whom I, along with probably everyone else who saw it, presumed to be an Iraqi Arab.

*You* presumed. Stories of it being a prank by soldiers were out before you even made your post. You, like Terry Lane, *wanted to believe it*.

You don't know what happened either, you are just speculating.

The difference being that I am not accusing Australian soldiers of human rights abuses in a public forum. That was you.

But that doesn't mean therefore it's presumptively okay for agents of the state to point guns at people's heads as you seem to be arguing.

It doesn't mean it's not either. Even if it was an Arab having the gun pointed at him, that doesn't necessarily mean the Australian soldier was doing anything wrong. For all you know he might have just lobbed a grenade into a school.

It's not presumptively wrong to point a gun at anything. I think you have an aversion to militaries and guns in general, and would disapprove of anything they did. Pointing a gun at someone is at worst a violation of civil rights, not human rights. Pulling the trigger is another matter entirely.

And the abuses at Abu Graib might have been justified a) to question suspects, and b) to maintain military alliances, right?

No Australians were involved in the Abu Ghraib icidents. You are attempting to smear our troops by association.

The starting point for liberty is that pointing a gun at someone's head is a human rights abuse,

Wrong. The starting point of liberty is it is wrong to initiate force. Pointing a gun at someone's head could be no more than a warning. A warning is not an initiation of force.

There is no blanket licence for government to do what is a crime for everyone else, as you seem to assume

I assume no such thing. A citizen should also have the right to point a gun at someone as a warning, and in fact do in most countries (although Australia is not one of them).

and you fly to the state's defence

You accused Australian troops of human rights abuses, troops who could be individually identified via a video. Individual soldiers are not "the state", they are also individuals who have the right to defense against defamation and/or slander, which is what your original post was very close to being.

The only justification you have shown for Australia's military action in Iraq is not a proper justification

Sure it is. It's a justification on utilitarian grounds. You seem to be seeking a moral justification, go ask a conservative.

If our alliance is the justification for the war in Iraq, what is the US's justification? Their alliance with us?

I am sure you would know already. The fact that you don't agree with their justification doesn't mean they don't have one.

How do you know that the Australia would need to 'scrap the alliance' with the US,

Because that is what an alliance is. If every war is subject to Isolationist justifications by both parties, then that is a "mutual protection pact", not an alliance.

The US has other allies, for example Canada, who haven't participated.

Canada is a member of NATO which is a mutual protection pact. Australia is a member of the ANZUS alliance - so named because it used to include New Zealand but now doesn't because of their political opposition to sending troops.

As for the supposed justification of 'defending oneself', again you are missing the point. Obviously if you fly into a war zone on the side of a hated occupying invasion force, there's going to be plenty of opportunity to 'defend onself'.

In East Timor, Australia flew in to protect the civilians against the remnants of a hated occupying force that we had just kicked out of their country, and to rebuild the infrastructure that was destroyed in the process.

The reason why Australia sends the military is precisely because it expects that the military will be needed to use violence or the threat of violence to get the job done, otherwise they'd send construction workers or baby health nurses, wouldn't they? Armed force is of the essence of the task. No doubt many of the Australian military sent were clerks too. So what?

So you should retract your ridiculous assertion that "A military only has two purposes", because you have obviously conceded the point.

Your resort to personal argument does not disguise

Oh cry me a river, sometimes in a debate it is necessary to point out certain personality flaws that may affect the other party's ability to reason properly.

If Australia could withdraw without ending the alliance, would you be for it or against it?

If you could cure cancer, would you? You can't, so it's a pointless hypothetical argument which resolves nothing.

As I have already said, you obviously have an aversion to militaries and guns in a general sense, which is plainly evident by your claim that "pointing a gun at someone's head is a human rights abuse".

You have also attempted to smear Australian troops by linking them to Abu Ghraib, implied that I am in favour of torture and numerous other stupid emotional outbursts which make you look like a fool.

If you want to spout undergraduate anti-war diatribe on the internet, feel free to make your next post at indymedia.org or some other bastion of intellect, don't do it here where you might have to defend your opinions, because they obviously aren't sufficiently well formed for you to do that yet.

 
At September 26, 2006 10:53 am, Blogger Sukrit Sabhlok said...

I suppose we in Australia have no right to any of our own property because the government has a holy right to confiscate as much as it wants, to pay for military adventuring anywhere in the world to fix up other peoples' dysfuncational states?

The government does not have a right to confiscate our property whenever it wants. Taxes are a form of coercion and theft.

But the point is tax rates aren't being raised drastically to pay for Australia's tiny (as compared to the US and UK) war contingent. If you're so concerned about this burden there are other domestic activities of our government that are far more detrimental. Take Medicare for example.

Of course, reducing taxes to low levels ultimately pays for itself in the long-run through increased entrepreneural activity. But that's another story.

"Is it a kind of welfare state activity only international, and with guns, is that it?"

The parallel between war and welfare is a valid one to draw, but it needs examination on a case by case basis. Iraq was not one such case.

"If all liberties depend on whether the state arbitrarily feels like violating them or not, what difference does it make whether the structure is federal or unitary?"

It makes a difference because granting greater self-government is a step towards a democracy where people feel like their frustrations are being listened to, especially at a local level. It reduces the liklihood of them supporting violence.

"What makes you think your violence and exploitation is going to be any better than the home-grown variety?"

Well, for starters, we have the freedom to criticise our leaders' actions. Even if people in Iraq didn't like how Saddam was waging war on neighbouring states, they usually had to first flee the country before publicly opposing his regime.

"How is that any different to the situation now?"

Nobody's advocating going around invading countries merely for the sake of bringing democracy. In the case of Iraq there were (at the time, legitimate) security concerns.

Now I've heard suggestions that intelligence services like ASIO be privatised, and that overseas war efforts not in direct response to an attack be funded voluntarily by concerned citizens. But going on our present system, the government has the power to act on security concerns, and that is what it did in relation to Iraq (that, and its obligation to do so under ANZUS).

Many NATO countries also went into Iraq because of the clause in the treaty that treats an attack on one member as an attack on all. If freedom loving democracies do not support each other, especially when they have ratified a treaty, that is good news for authoritarian states.

"How do we know that the resolution would not be less violent, quicker, and more satisfactory without the coalition's intervention?"

And if Iraq five years down the track is a stable, prosperous and peaceful democratic ally that would be a good return on taxpayers money. That's why it is justified to stay there until and unless there is clearly no hope of this outcome ever eventuating.

 
At September 26, 2006 10:24 pm, Blogger Justin Jefferson said...

I reject all arguments to the effect that you know what I think, want, intend etc. If you can't argue on point, then don't bore me with your tedious personal remarks.

Your personal opinion that it's not a human rights abuse to point a gun at someone's head is simply wrong: Chan's case 1988 (High Court), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights. Just as a threat of harm that is able to be carried out is an assault on par with a battery, so harm *or the threat of harm* that is immediately able to be carried out is an abuse of human rights.

You still haven't shown any substantive reason for why Iraq should be occupied, and telling me that I know why the Americans are doing it is a) personal argument, and b) mere evasion.

According to your logic, a state of one country can militarily occupy another, can threaten to shoot people there, and the supposed justification is to preserve an alliance regardless of the fact that there is no substantive threat in real terms of defence. No substantive reason, just lies and evasions. The invaded human beings are the mere tools of your 'utility'. Spare me your phony outrage. The fact that Australians were not involved in Abu Graib is irrelevant to your argument, which is that, if it suited Australia's 'utility', human rights abuses are justified, so long as the abusing state 'suspects' the victim (of something), or is doing it to preserve a military alliance regardless of any substantive defence need.

If your absurd argument were accepted, it would mean that no-one has any right to any freedom anywhere ever, because know-it-all fascists might want to expropriate it under compulsion for some chimaerical 'greater good'.

All you have done is prove that Australia's actions in Iraq have the same intellectualy and morally bankrupt foundations as the welfare state.

Oh yeah. And militaries have got nothing to do with guns either BWAHAHAHA. They are actually travelling clerical philanthropic societies.

Don't bore me with a reply. You are only on a downward spiral of fallacies and evasions and are obviously incapable of rational argument. You are dismissed you tedious twit.

 
At September 27, 2006 9:06 pm, Anonymous Sam Ward said...

I suggest you don't bother posting here again.

 

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