Say "YES" to War on Iraq

Liberals Against Liberation

"No to War! No to Oppression!"

The above anti-war message was delivered to me via a sad-looking pink poster. I pulled the poster off a light pole and hung it in my office over my desk. I look at the poster every day when I sit down to work, and every day I wonder how and when the American left lost its moral compass.

You see, lefties, there are times when saying "no" to war means saying "yes" to oppression. Don't believe me? Go ask a Czech or a European Jew about the British and French saying "no" to war with Germany in 1938. War may be bad for children and other living things, but there are times when peace is worse for children and other living things, and this is one of those times. Saying no to war in Iraq means saying yes to the continued oppression of the Iraqi people. It amazes me when I hear lefties argue that we should assassinate Saddam in order to avoid war. If Saddam is assassinated, he will be replaced by another Baathist dictator--and what then for the people of Iraq? More "peace"--i.e., more oppression, more executions, more gassings, more terror, more fear.

While the American left is content to see an Iraqi dictator terrorizing the Iraqi people, the Bushies in D.C. are not. "We do not intend to put American lives at risk to replace one dictator with another," Dick Cheney recently told reporters. For those of you who were too busy making papier-mâché puppets of George W. Bush last week to read the papers, you may have missed this page-one statement in last Friday's New York Times: "The White House is developing a detailed plan, modeled on the postwar occupation of Japan, to install an American-led military government in Iraq if the United States topples Saddam Hussein."

These developments--a Republican administration recognizing that support for dictators in Third World countries is a losing proposition; a commitment to post-WWII-style nation-building in Iraq--are terrific news for people who care about human rights, freedom, and democracy. They also represent an enormous moral victory for the American left, which has long argued that our support for "friendly" dictators around the world was immoral. (Saddam used to be one of those "friendly" dictators.) After 9/11, the left argued that our support for brutal dictatorships in the Middle East helped create anti-American hatred. Apparently the Bush administration now agrees--so why isn't the American left claiming this victory?

Because claiming this victory means backing this war, and the American left refuses to back this or any war--which makes the left completely irrelevant in any conversation about the advisability or necessity of a particular war. (Pacifism is faith, not politics.) What's worse, the left argues that our past support for regimes like Saddam's prevents us from doing anything about Saddam now. We supported (and in some cases installed) tyrants, who in turn created despair, which in turn created terrorists, who came over here and blew shit up... so now what do we do? According to the left, we do nothing. It's all our fault, so we're just going to have to sit back and wait for New York City or D.C. or a big port city (like, say, Seattle or Portland) to disappear.

It seems to me that if supporting tyrants creates terrorists, withdrawing our support from those very same tyrants might help to "uncreate" terrorists. Removing the tyrants from power seems an even better way to uncreate terrorists.

But wait! Taking out Saddam means dropping bombs, and dropping bombs only creates more terrorists!

That's the lefty argument du jour, and a lot of squish-brains are falling for it, but it's not an argument that the historical record supports. The United States dropped a hell of a lot of bombs on Serbia, Panama, Grenada, Vietnam, Germany, Japan, and Italy. If dropping bombs creates terrorists, where are all the German terrorists? Or the Italian terrorists? Or the Vietnamese terrorists?

But wait! Iraq isn't in cahoots with al Qaeda, so why attack Iraq in the war on terrorism?

Because we're not just at war with al Qaeda, stupid. We're at war with a large and growing Islamo-fascist movement that draws its troops and funds from all over the Islamic world. Islamo-fascism is a regional problem, not just an al Qaeda problem or an Afghanistan problem. To stop Islamo-fascism, we're going to have to roll back all of the tyrannous and dictatorial regimes in the Middle East while simultaneously waging war against a militant, deadly religious ideology. To be completely honest, I would actually prefer that the United States go to war against the ridiculous royal family in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have been using American money to export their intolerant and deadly strain of Islam all over the world (the kind of Islam that inspires people to blow up discos in Bali), and getting rid of the Saudi royal family and their fascist clerics makes more sense than getting rid of Saddam. But the Saudis are our "allies," so perhaps we can pressure them to reform, as Josh Feit suggests.

In the meantime, invading and rebuilding Iraq will not only free the Iraqi people, it will also make the Saudis aware of the consequences they face if they continue to oppress their own people while exporting terrorism and terrorists. The War on Iraq will make it clear to our friends and enemies in the Middle East (and elsewhere) that we mean business: Free your people, reform your societies, liberalize, and democratize... or we're going to come over there, remove you from power, free your people, and reform your societies for ourselves.

Post-9/11, post-Bali, what other choice do we have?


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Posted by ECL on November 13, 2008 at 8:58 PM · Report this
Boy, you sure hit the nail on the head with this one, Dan. What was I thinking?
Posted by DanFan on November 13, 2008 at 9:50 PM · Report this
Posted by Glibby on November 14, 2008 at 6:12 AM · Report this
Right on Dan!
Posted by Bookem on November 14, 2008 at 6:45 AM · Report this
Haha oops... What happened here?!
Posted by erdanidi on November 21, 2008 at 2:48 PM · Report this
6 years later and Dan apparently didn't learn any sort of lesson....
Here, as he was frightened by 9/11, he bit the conservative's bait (WMD, terrorterror, etc) and used his platform to spread hogwash.
Then in 2008, as he was angered by Prop 8 passing, he bit the conservative's bait (that blacks were the roadblock) and used his platform to spread the hogwash.
Honestly, I'm not laughing.
Posted by your name here on December 4, 2008 at 11:33 PM · Report this
still waiting for the punchline...
Posted by Seriously? on December 9, 2008 at 2:21 PM · Report this
Ahh, I love identity politics. Dan is capable of seeing the conservative as assholes because they want to take away HIS rights, but he doesn't give a shit about the people in the path of the US military. Bravo, Dan. Onto Iran next, right?
Posted by ps on January 1, 2009 at 1:15 PM · Report this
And by the way Dan, how bout those blacks? They seem kind of uppity lately. And I heard they just hate gays.

Maybe the military could invade the ghettos soon too!
Posted by ps on January 1, 2009 at 1:23 PM · Report this
God, 2002 was a dark, dark time. Even the sane ones wanted to invade Iraq.
Posted by Jaya on January 18, 2009 at 9:16 PM · Report this
Have you finally gotten the taste of Dick Cheney's cum out of the back of your throat on this one yet?

Seriously man, what the fuck were you thinking? More Importantly are you still thinking that bullshit. If so, you are a straight up dumbass.
Posted by Jeff on March 2, 2009 at 4:38 PM · Report this
The sad thing is Dan's children will probably take the bait when it comes their time just as he did. The lack of foresight regarding the administration's members and knowledge of the region's history demonstrated a severe lack of understanding of this region of the world. There's is probably nothing that he can say do or tell his kids--as much as he tries--to explain why he did it. Just saying "I got fooled/Saddam was a threat/we needed to send the rest of the world a message/we needed to help those people in Iraq" is not good enough.

He's an excellent writer, the best advice columnist out there, probably an excellent editor, probably a great parent, but here he simply did not understand the big picture. What we spend to travel and to exist in this country props up these mainly middle eastern governments. Every time we get in a plane, car, train, or bus its more money in their pockets. The more traveling and purchasing we do the more power they get--riding your bike, taking the train and taking the bus are very small first steps and writing about these issues is probably the last thing someone who does not understand them should be doing.
Posted by foreign oil worker on March 13, 2009 at 11:59 AM · Report this
Dan Savage is basically a conservative who wants gay abortions.
Posted by FGFM on March 31, 2010 at 9:47 AM · Report this
Dan Savage should stick to advocating peeing in people's water bottles.
Posted by Lucas Barton on August 18, 2010 at 12:25 PM · Report this
Seriously? You really think that the war was about "defending freedom" or "bringing democracy to Iraq?" Really now.
Posted by Yawgmoth on August 19, 2010 at 11:33 AM · Report this
Islamo-fascists. Yeah. WHAT THE FUCK DAN!
Posted by ashwin on October 24, 2010 at 11:30 AM · Report this
holy shit this was a mindfuck. Awkkkkkward in hindsight
Posted by 5000927 on April 1, 2011 at 2:25 AM · Report this
Wow! Whatever respect I had for Dan Savage just disappeared. Did Dan seriously think modeling post-war Iraq after Japan was a good thing? Seriously? Is he that ignorant of Japan's history?

Let's go through it shall we!

First, Japan was NUKED and forced into total and complete surrender in the face of a nuclear holocaust.

Then Japan was put under more than a decade of US military dictatorship, which turned the country essentially into a brothel for US serviceman (with massive incidents of rape).

Then Japan became a US protectorate for several decades more while it developed semi-democratic institutions.

Today, Japan is a semi-democratic, semi-occupied, somewhat sovereign state. To this day, the people of Okinawa complain about the US occupation of their island, which has lead to a number of incidents involving drunk American serviceman raping or killing Okinawans.

This is what Savage envisioned when he thought of democracy coming to Iraq? Seriously?
Posted by Poyani on July 4, 2011 at 12:46 PM · Report this
Posted by BlackRose on July 29, 2011 at 2:36 AM · Report this
Spoken like a true cosmotarian metrocon. I see SOMEone was reading a little too much Andrew Sullivan.
Posted by pesky go-about on June 10, 2012 at 8:22 AM · Report this
Yes, Dan, please tell us more about arguments that the historical record does not support.

The real problem here is not that Savage somehow forgot his brain in the day he wrote this, but that it exposes the basic ideological underpinnings of his entire "liberal" project, which is basically conservative, accommodationist, and assimilative. If we can just make every deviance normal, the world will be saved! And anyone who still doesn't fit our shared idea of normal, i.e., "Islamo-fascists" (a term invented by neoconservatives), deserves to be bombed into our enlightenment. What a hero.
Posted by DanSavageisDickCheneysHomeboy on March 16, 2013 at 4:09 PM · Report this
Man, I hope a couple thousand people see and comment on this to get it back on the front page. It's like it never even happened.

Yup. And. Not a single comment about the 10 year anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq from the Stranger or SLOG.
Posted by tkc on March 19, 2013 at 4:15 PM · Report this
1. I think Savage has apologized.

2. Like him, I was fooled back in 2002. Unlike him, I did not and do not have a national media platform, so I am spared the embarrassment and bear my shame in private.

3. Far more to blame were the New York Times, CNN -- the media corps with the money and staff to do investigative reporting, and supposedly an objective / liberal point of view, who we now know were complicit with the neocon hawks. Fool me once... oh, but right, I studied history and this happened before (Vietnam) and sadly will probably happen again.

4. Savage did make some valid points back in 2002, Islamo-fascism is a concern, and Bin Laden got exactly what he wanted -- to stir up the hornets nest that benefits his brand of radical extremism, creates over-reactive aggression against moderate Islam, and further creates feedback loops of hate wherein the thugs (on both sides) win.
Posted by delta35 on March 19, 2013 at 5:55 PM · Report this
There is no such thing as "Islamo-Fascism." It's a horse shit term used by racist assholes. There are radical Islamists and there is Fascism. "Islamo-Fascism" is a deliberate attempt at conflating Islam itself with some distorted idea of a world-wide Nazi-like threat that doesn't really exist.

aAnd Savage never apologized. He wrote that he was not in favor of how Bush was prosecuting the war. And that, in fact, he felt Bush hadn't gone far enough in also invading Syria and Saudi Arabia. He siad he was anti-war on the eve of the war (way too late) "for now." But that we was eager to export—through war, death and destruction—fixing what he believed was a mess made "by the West." As if there we're not a myriad of ways to help atone for the West's meddling in the ME other than more murder of innocent children.

Look. I'm a fan of the It Get Better project. However that does not make up for his loud and proud call for the murder of tens of thousands of people.

If he was serious about apologizing he would've stepped the fuck down from his position as editor of a paper.

But No. Instead he got promoted. Like every other Chicken Hawk media lackey. While opponents of the war were crushed - careers ruined.

He only changed his tune slightly when in was politically expedient to do so but he adored and capitalized on the attention being in favor of the war garnered on the talk show circuit. In fact I bet IGB would not have even left the nest if it wasn't for the media attention he got from being FOR the war.

Fuck Savage for his stumping for the war. And fuck his hypocritical silence on it now.
Posted by tkc on March 19, 2013 at 6:20 PM · Report this
pdonahue 25
@23 yer right about one thing, bin ladin got his wish by triggering the reaction Tim McVeigh failed to do, they played us like a fiddle, knowing that the war profiteers would push Bush and his neocons to war. The true legacy of that war, besides the shattered generation of vets who will bleed our VA hospitals white, besides the 4000 dead, the 2000 who committed suicide, is the cost of the fucking thing being put on a credit card that Dan's son will have to pay off. Worse than that is the Patriot Act, the expansion of wiretaps and domestic surveillance, the expansion of executive power to wage war and define enemies. McVeigh and BinLadin must be fist bumping in hell right now.
I am still surprised at the depth of my anger toward Savage and Criss Frizelle for their shameless huksterism, stirring up 'controversial' topics to sell ad space and get more self promotion. It was a winning strategy for them during the AIDS crisis, they kept trying to find that edgy angle to appeal to the contrarian nature of the average disaffected hipster, and took a gamble on Gulf War II, thinking that if Criss Hitchens was for it, it can't be that bad.
I'd really like to read the citation where he apologized for this stand. Frizzelle wrote a rambling piece about his brothers (both gulf war vets) and their sad homecoming back when the surge was unraveling, like Savage he was a conditional war booster who said he supported it "if it doesn't turn into a quagmire" as if he really believed there was some kind of Marshall plan brilliance to the post war strategy. Part of me things they really didn't believe the half assed support they gave, just wanted to be on record as some kind of non-conformist to conventionally held liberal beliefs.
I did not buy into the war then but like they say " I told you so just doesn't seem to cut it now".
Posted by pdonahue on March 19, 2013 at 10:22 PM · Report this
Certainly a cautionary tale about having a public platform that will never disappear, at the very least. Although many people have spoken out for the war and retracted, or at least edged away from the war support, Savage doesn't just drink the cool aid, he adopts the language, attitude, hatred, racism, and other aspects of the worst moral failure in decades. War might be bad for women and children? He says this before it even seemed necessary to imagine that we would be killing women and children. Oh, pro tip: never necessary to kill no-combatants. I could almost forgive him, as I must so many others, except the hatred rolls so easily off his tongue. One would think that such a vocal activist would at least recognize that the person who takes the position promoting hate, the bully, almost always looks ignorant and racist/homophobic/trans-phobic etc in retrospect. It also makes me think of Bill Maher and his continued islamiphobia, like much hatred it is unbending in the face of reason and facts.
Posted by Seorsa on March 20, 2013 at 10:51 AM · Report this
John Cole over at Balloon-Juice had a proper apology (…). Here's how it started:

" I see that Andrew Sullivan was asked to list what he got wrong about Iraq for the five year anniversary of the invasion, and since I was as big a war booster as anyone, I thought I would list what I got wrong:


And I don’t say that to provide people with an easy way to beat up on me, but I do sort of have to face facts. I was wrong about everything.

I was wrong about the Doctrine of Pre-emptive warfare.
I was wrong about Iraq possessing WMD.
I was wrong about Scott Ritter and the inspections.
I was wrong about the UN involvement in weapons inspections.
I was wrong about the containment sanctions.
I was wrong about the broader impact of the war on the Middle East.
I was wrong about this making us more safe.
I was wrong about the number of troops needed to stabilize Iraq.
I was wrong when I stated this administration had a clear plan for the aftermath.
I was wrong about securing the ammunition dumps.
I was wrong about the ease of bringing democracy to the Middle East.
I was wrong about dissolving the Iraqi army.
I was wrong about the looting being unimportant.
I was wrong that Bush/Cheney were competent.
I was wrong that we would be greeted as liberators.
I was wrong to make fun of the anti-war protestors.
I was wrong not to trust the dirty smelly hippies.

I mean, I could go down the list and continue on, but you get the point. I was wrong about EVERY. GOD. DAMNED. THING. It is amazing I could tie my shoes in 2001-2004. If you took all the wrongness I generated, put it together and compacted it and processed it, there would be enough concentrated stupid to fuel three hundred years of Weekly Standard journals. I am not sure how I snapped out of it, but I think Abu Ghraib and the negative impact of the insurgency did sober me up a bit.

War should always be an absolute last resort, not just another option. I will never make the same mistakes again."

Posted by BarrywhycantI post on March 21, 2013 at 4:26 PM · Report this
"Because we're not just at war with al Qaeda, stupid."

I wonder if we still seem as stupid
Posted by feizai on March 21, 2013 at 9:11 PM · Report this
What does he care? He's got his states to get married in. He's as liberal as it takes to get his.
Posted by Zdneal on March 22, 2013 at 3:40 PM · Report this
Curious as to what Dan thinks now about his stance. Wonder if he thinks all those dead soldiers were worth it? Would love to see him come out with a column looking back on this as a wiser self.
Posted by migratingbats on March 25, 2013 at 11:47 AM · Report this
It became obvious midway through this piece that Dan's not very bright about matters like war and peace. Which makes it interesting that he calls those he disagrees with "squish-brains".

His arrogance is breathtaking.
Posted by Bill2 on March 25, 2013 at 4:00 PM · Report this
We're still waiting for that apology, you ignorant, self-important jackass.
Posted by calling all toasters on March 30, 2013 at 9:42 AM · Report this
He was right then and he's right now. Saddam Hussein banned homosexuality. That alone justified executing him.
Posted by destroy all nation-states that ban LGBTs on May 31, 2013 at 10:38 AM · Report this
I'm no peacenik and I agree there are times to go to war but this column makes me sad. Like Hitchens, he misses the point. First, the American people have the right to make an informed decision about a war. All intelligent people knew we were being lied to about this war. If Bush was suddenly worried about people suffering under Sadaam he shouldve presented that case. Savage conflates worries about dictatorship and about fascism. Second, it diverted resources from our main mission in Afghanistan with disastrous results. Third, Sadaam's dictatorship had little to do with Islam and prevented religious extremism from taking over. Fourth, there are many, many other countries where people are suffering (Palestine?) we cant be world police blah blah. This is the third time this week I've wished people would stick to talking about what they know and not pretend expertise in other areas.
Posted by Jherr201 on June 13, 2013 at 4:38 PM · Report this
By Paul Szoldra

Tell Me Again, Why Did My Friends Die in Iraq?

It was probably chilly that December day in Fallujah back in 2004. A man you probably never heard of, Lance Cpl. Franklin Sweger—along with thousands of Marines and soldiers—was engaged in some of the worst combat since Vietnam.

"Everything’s OK mom, don’t worry about me," he told his mother two weeks before. "I think I’m going to make it."

In less than ten days, the city would be for the most part, secure. Its residents would need years to rebuild after the destruction, and its children would see an astronomical rise in birth defects and other abnormalities.

But for Sweger, Dec. 16 would be the last day to fight. "He was the one who was kicking in the doors and going in first," his father Frank Sweger told

Along with his infantry platoon from 1st Battalion 3rd Marines, he was going house-to-house, kicking in doors as he had likely done since the battle had started on Nov. 7. But as he entered one room, friends told me later, he was shot and killed by an insurgent lying in wait.

He was on his last deployment and would've gone on to college. He was funny, a good person, and just 24 years old. Why did he die?


The battle that took the life of Lance Corporal Franklin Sweger was the second assault that year on the then-lawless city of Fallujah. Called Operation Phantom Fury (Operation Al Fajr in Arabic, or The Dawn), it was a full-scale attack on a city teeming with insurgents who had months to prepare defenses, booby traps, and explosives throughout the city.

When it was all over, American and friendly forces suffered more than 100 killed and more than 600 wounded. The Red Cross estimated 800 Iraqi civilian deaths. Insurgent deaths were much greater than both but impossible to count.

Why did they die?


The invasion of Iraq was predicated on the notion of ridding the Hussein regime of "weapons of mass destruction" of course. But in 2004, the game was changed to counterinsurgency—dridding the world of "the terrorists."

And we sure were successful. Until the U.S. pulled out, American soldiers and Marines certainly killed their fair share of terrorists, insurgents, bad guys, and the like. They in turn, killed plenty of us.

Yet for all the blood spilled—of 4,488 military men and women to be precise—there's no good reason why.

The proof of how pointless the entire endeavour was—if you even needed more—came Friday morning, with a report from Liz Sly in the Washington Post.

"At the moment, there is no presence of the Iraqi state in Fallujah," a local journalist who asked not to be named because he fears for his safety told Sly. “The police and the army have abandoned the city, al-Qaeda has taken down all the Iraqi flags and burned them, and it has raised its own flag on all the buildings.”

Fallujah has fallen, and the same scenario is about to happen in the even-larger city of Ramadi.

It shouldn't be such a surprise the place my friends fought for is falling back into civil war. I shouldn't be surprised when the same thing happens in Afghanistan. But it still is, because I don't want it to happen.

Now looking back on his "Last Letter" written in March, Tomas Young, a veteran of Iraq who was shot and paralyzed just five days into his deployment, predicted this moment:

"The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history," he wrote. "It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure."

I'll never know why they died, but it sure wasn't to stop a "mushroom cloud" or to defend the nation after 9/11. It sure wasn't for freedom, democracy, apple pie, or mom and dad back home.

The only reason they died was for the man or woman beside them. They died for their friends.

I'm just not satisfied with that.

Posted by Janice Willis on January 4, 2014 at 8:27 AM · Report this
This is a very interesting read 12 years later. A lot of "reasonable" people held this view back then. They were scared.

@32 He's apologized and stated he was dead wrong many times. In fact, he's barred himself from speaking about wars or national security issues because of it.
Posted by Eckstein on June 12, 2014 at 1:59 AM · Report this

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