I admire Jim Molan for his dynamism and command experience, however I was left scratching my head over his pronouncements regarding the legacy of violence that Iraq suffers from ten years after the invasion. 

When he claimed that 'the violence in Iraq today is far less than during Saddam's time, unless of course you were a member of the 20% Sunni elite oppressing the 60% Shia and 20% Kurds', it was done without reference to any figures on the monthly casualties that Iraq still suffers from as a result of insurgent or political violence

For those who would like some perspective, a quick glance at The Iraq Body Count website provides an insight into the sheer scale of regular violence that doesn't fit into Jim's relativist view. No one can deny the war crimes perpetrated against the Kurds in Halabja or against the Shia in the south during the 1991 uprising by the Ba'thist regime. 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.         

There was however, one statement in particular where I feel Jim displayed a selective view of the nature of violence. 

I was particularly struck by his observation that 'compared to Australia, the violence is appalling but by Middle East and Iraqi standards, one may arrive at a different judgment.' What appalls me about this claim (besides Jim's obvious lack of understanding regarding the Middle East) is his relativist approach to violence and consequent blithe assumption that somehow the Middle East is inherently more violent than the rest of the world. 

How does Jim view African standards of violence? Would he argue that events in Somalia, Rwanda, Biafra and countless other appalling acts of ethnic violence carried out over the years are accepted by Africans as just part of the natural fabric of the region? And how would Jim measure 'European' standards, knowing that Europeans have spawned two world wars, given birth to national socialism and communism and ended the century with years of sectarian savagery in the former Yugoslavia? Was the Indonesian decimation of the communists in the 1960s or the Khmer Rouge pogrom of the 1970s absolutely appalling, or only relatively appalling (by Asian standards). And how does the Argentinian 'dirty war' of the 1970s rate according to Latin American standards?

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.

Photo by Flickr user The US Army.