Major Gen (Retd) Jim Molan is author of Running the War in Iraq.
Rodger Shanahan says he was left scratching his head over my pronouncements about the Iraq war. He should not have been, because in each case he vehemently attacks something I did not say.
Rodger says I should have quoted figures to substantiate my statement that, unless you are a member of the once governing Sunni elite, things are better now than they were under Saddam. He advises readers to look at the Iraq Body Count website. But of course the IBC did not start until after Saddam had fallen. Rodger might want to explain how we can make a comparison on this basis.
The comparison I was making is based on the 1 million deaths in the Iran-Iraq war, more deaths in the first Gulf War, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of bodies in mass graves found by the Regimes Crimes Commission. My statements stands: 'the violence in Iraq today is far less than during Saddam's time'. Iraq Body Count also shows that the violence now is less than it was during the occupation.
Confusingly, Rodger then goes on to say: 'But to claim that, despite hundreds of deaths a month, each and every month for a decade the invasion was justified because it was worse in Saddam's time is both wrong and wrong-headed'. I certainly did not say this, nor do I mean it or believe it. I do not try to justify the invasion of Iraq. I don't have to justify it, because I did not invade Iraq. But I do try to understand it. Please give me credit for meaning what I say, and what I said was, 'the violence in Iraq today is far less than during Saddam's time'. That is what I said and that is what I mean.
Rodger then criticises me for suggesting that the current level of violence in Iraq should be judged by regional standards, not by Australian standards. I made this point because if a car bomb goes off in Baghdad and kills ten people, those in Australia predisposed to believing that Iraq is a failure will use this as proof of their position. 'Look', they will say, 'the US invaded the place and still there is violence in Iraq'.
I think it is fair to make the point that the impact on a city or a society of violence is relative (Rodger calls this a 'relativist approach to violence'). I have lived for long periods in a number of cities where the media was reporting back into Australia that the level of violence was 'appalling' yet, for the vast majority of the residents, life went on 'relatively' normally.
Rodger then goes ballistic when he accuses me of making the 'blithe assumption that somehow the Middle East is inherently more violent than the rest of the world', something I do not do. Then even more confusingly, Rodger challenges me to enter an argument on levels of violence in Africa, Europe and South America. That is not my blog post and if Rodger wants to make an argument along those lines, he is free to do so. I don't see the relevance of it.
Rodger finishes by saying: 'Jim's views that people in the Middle East have a different standard regarding violence is simplistic at best, and serves to reinforce Edward Said's Orientalist critique of Western conceptions of the region'. I am not too sure what Rodger really means but I generally write what I mean, and the simple point I make stands up to criticism: if you are going to use current levels of violence in Iraq to judge the success or failure of the Iraq war, then get some perspective into the current figures compared to the past.
Your readers might find it interesting that there is now an extra piece on the 60 Minutes website that includes a longer interview with me on the Iraq war. I have also written an opinion piece on the war in the Canberra Times. I thought so much of my writing was open to criticism that there would never be a need to make up or assume what I was saying. I must be mellowing.
Photo by Flickr user james_gordon_losangeles.