Ack*%&!!: You might recall I recently used Ralph Nader’s simplistic foreign policy views as a straw man for my argument that it’s high time for the Left (and the rest of us) to pursue a little complexity and consistency in our foreign policy criticism. Then, looking on a Metafilter thread, a guy (actually Fred Lapides) quoted some recent Ralph from a Salon Premium interview, noting that it was “about the most concrete thing he did say”:
"We need to have a prolonged and detailed debate on foreign policy so we reorient our policies [to face] the post-Soviet era. [We need] to side with the millions and millions of workers and peasants for a change, instead of dictators." Dammit, Ralph, that’s exactly what I’m talking about! Can you please, please, please update your vocabulary to reflect that the year 1989 has, indeed, come and gone (taking with it – thankfully – much of John Reed’s discredited thesaurus)? Can you cut it, already, with the “workers and peasants” crap? This is the exact same stuff I heard nearly every day for two months last year (well, some days he wouldn’t talk about foreign policy at all, except as a component of withdrawing from all international trade treaties). In fact, speaking of pre-1989 vocabulary, I remember when a representative of Vicente Fox’s newly elected (pro-business) party in Mexico made a surprise visit to a Ralph press conference in San Antonio, whereupon Citizen Nader stammered for a while and then told her that he hoped Fox would usher in “agraria reforma.”
Look, it’s not that I’m against agrarian reform, or supporting humans (regardless of whether they wear colorful scarves on their head) vs. dictators. Fine. Let’s talk about how you’re gonna do that, and who you mean by “dictators,” and what you have in mind for supporting the noble savages with the bad luck to live under them. I don’t want to hear you one day criticizing the U.S. for “supporting dictators” by giving their people humanitarian aid (such as $43 million in food to Afghan farmers), then the next day criticizing the U.S. for “ignoring poverty in the third world.” It’s inconsistent, and a man with Ralph’s vaunted intellect (hey, I voted for the guy!) ought to be able to come up with something a little more complex. But I doubt he will – he’s not an “America-hater,” as some might have it (he shares a lot of classic son-of-immigrants patriotism, and his historical heroes are Jefferson, Lincoln & such), but he is absolutely consumed with an ideological conviction that capital-C Corporations, if left to their own devices, would basically reimpose slavery, and fight against all that is good in the world. Like any ideology, Ralph’s takes up precious room in his noggin, leaving little space for new information or the ability to be convinced otherwise. Also – last little point about Ralph, since I know him a little – I have discovered, in reading way too much Noam Chomsky lately, that whole phrases of Nader’s admittedly limited foreign policy utterings on the stump were cut and pasted directly from Chomsky, much in the way Ralph’s economic language was openly borrowed from Dean Baker.
Leaving aside for the moment any comment about Chomsky’s veracity, it seems clear that many on the Left have leaned on the guy as their go-to expert on foreign policy. And since part of Chomsky’s mystique is that he’s one of the only “dissenters” out there courageous enough to tell the Truth, it follows that his readers would be more inclined to limit their other foreign policy readings to Chomsky-approved commentators and reporters (Edward Said, Robert Fisk, et al). To my inexperienced eyes, Said seems like a raving chump, Fisk a pretty knowledgeable reporter … but what’s important here, is that there are a lot of very smart people out there who have allowed their source material to be narrowed, leading (I believe) to surprisingly ideological and frequently wrong-headed views on foreign policy. I don’t claim to be an expert on anything, but I can talk pretty confidently about Central Europe from 1990-98, and especially the expansion of NATO and U.S. involvement in the Balkans (both of which I wrote and edited about extensively). And in those cases where my limited knowledge has brushed up against the party line of the Chomskyite Left’s foreign policy views, I have been appalled. For example, I’ve received more than a dozen e-mails from people quoting Chomsky while citing Kosovo as yet another example of empire-extending, militaryindustrialcomplex bloodlust on the part of a hypocritical U.S. This is so wrong, words are hard to come by. (To be an equal opportunity Left-basher, let me also say that Christopher Hitchens is chock full of shit when he implies – as he did in “No One Left To Lie To,” that Clinton’s expansion of NATO was A) wrong, and B) done primarily to “furnish a sales market for those in ‘the contractor community’”). Such explanations (especially Chomsky’s) deny even the existence of Wilsonian diplomacy, or Vaclav Havel’s forceful arguments & access to Clinton’s ear, or of the sea change in U.S. policy that came about when a child of the Munich sellout (Madeleine Albright) took the reigns of the State Department. It also seems, to my ears, almost oblivious to how the horrifying Balkan slaughter of 1991-94 damaged the collective psyches of diplomats and citizens of West Europe and America. For starters, that period exposed just how not-ready-for-prime-time the idea of collective European defense was, which was yet another argument for expanding NATO.
Whoops! I’m supposed to be writing a column about something else, not writing column-length screeds about other stuff, for free. Well, nearly free, now that I got my new pay-bucket.
10/13/2001 03:21:11 PM
Do They Hate Us for What We Do, or What We Are?: An important basic question, one that divides the camps neatly. The new Economist comes out strongly for the latter interpretation:
Militant Islam despises the West not for what it does but for what it is. If American “imperialism” were the principal bone of contention, why should the United States be so much more despised than the Soviet Union ever was, or than Russia still is, despite the fact that Russia rules over millions of Muslims who would rather not be its subjects? Europe, not America, you might argue, had “imperial” ambitions in the Middle East even after independent states had been created in the region: America crushed those ideas by humiliating Britain and France during the Suez crisis of 1956. Israel notwithstanding, America's supposed crimes of foreign policy in the region are utterly incommensurate with the hatred directed against it.
The truth is, America is despised mainly for its success; for the appealing and, critics would say, corrupting alternative it presents to a traditional Islamic way of life; and for the humiliation which many Muslims feel when they consider the comparative failure, in material terms, of their once-mighty civilisation. It helps Arab governments no doubt to blame that failure on outsiders. Plenty of western intellectuals are happy to agree that the economic plight of North Africa and the Middle East is more to do with American oppression than with its real, domestic, causes.
10/13/2001 11:51:25 AM
The Left’s Free Speech B.S.: Lefty-baiter Peter Beinart of The New Republic gives a round-up of academics who’ve been punished for their non-anti-American opinions since Sept. 11, and concludes:
But patriotism didn't cost Charles Fairbanks his job. He lost his job because of identity politics paranoia. In other words, he lost his job because of the culture of the American left. And his case reminds us that when the left condemns the war against terrorism for threatening free speech, its real motive may not be devotion to free speech at all. Its real motive may simply be hostility to the war against terrorism. […]
These attacks on free speech also continue an ugly tradition -- the tradition of speech codes and ideological witch-hunts that has stained university life over the past two decades. In academia, the precinct in which it holds the most sway, the left's record on free speech was not good before September 11 and it has not been good since September 11. The main difference is that, since September 11, the specter of censorship has become a way to discredit the war against terrorism, so some on the left have appropriated the free speech rhetoric that until last month they generally eschewed.
10/13/2001 11:44:23 AM
Why the Hell Didn’t the FBI Notify Media Mailrooms? Jeff Jarvis brings up a good point:
These idiots knew that there was an attack on the media in Florida and then in New York and they didn't warn media companies. They said on Friday that the attack on NBC was not connected to the attack on American Media. Bull! Anthrax is the connection. Duh. Now add the fact that the letters to NBC and the NY Times came from Florida. Double duh. They said -- in a press conference Friday with the knucklehead head of the New York FBI office -- that they didn't warn media companies because they didn't know until today that the NBC case was anthrax. Don't buy it. Why did the doctor treating Brokaw's assistant just happen to prescribe the one antibiotic associated with anthrax: Cipro? The NBC victim has been in treatment for more than 10 days and all that time, no other media companies, no other poor, underpaid schmucks in media mailrooms have been warned. Damn the FBI! They waste their time putting out nonspecific, panic-inducing, unhelpful warnings like last night's "Skyfall" alert (below) but when they have a specific and helpful warning to give -- i.e., that media companies are being targeted by the first attack of biochemical warfare in America -- they don't say a damned word. Stupid and dangerous, that's our FBI and Justice Department. Am I being oversensitive because this is my industry? You bet your sweet ass I am! As for the attacks themselves, I agree with InstaPundit’s Glenn Reynolds that the media and the government are needlessly fomenting fear by repeating, endlessly, “Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!” I’m not panicking, except when you keep broadcasting playoff games on cable networks Adelphia won’t show me. I did, however, get a kick out of Tom Brokaw last night (for the first time ever?) for making this comment about his assistant being poisoned:
This is unfair and outrageous and maddening beyond my ability to express in socially acceptable terms.
10/13/2001 11:28:50 AM
Two Seattle Lefties Lose Patience With ‘Peace Movement’: Arts writer Bradley Steinbacher of The Stranger takes the “Seattle Coalition” of anti-globo-war kids to task:
Trotting out the exact same chants, posters, and public speakers last seen at Gulf War protests certainly isn't the best idea. Operation Enduring Freedom (ugh) is not Operation Desert Storm (eesh) -- it's something completely different, more WWII than Vietnam. Yet when George W. Bush called for war in the days after the September 11 attacks, and Congress agreed, and 90 percent of the American people agreed, the Left responded with... what? A series of Vietnam-protest-era marches larded with Gulf-War-era rhetoric and WTO-vintage puppets. The only thing missing from the demonstration I watched were the sea turtles. Is it any wonder that no one is paying attention? Meanwhile, over at the Seattle Times, Lance Dickie gives the “peace movement” a sharp-tongued lecture about its “desperate need for new material”:
Like generals fighting the last war, peace activists who use old templates of protests after a murderous assault on 6,000 innocent civilians will quickly be judged irrelevant. And ignored.
An exquisite example of nothing to say was a placard at a Seattle rally that read: "Stop violence everywhere."
All that was missing were three more signs: "End Disease," "No More Hunger" and "Go M's." That nicely covers a spectrum of sentiments — and they could carpool. […]
The peace movement has to rethink and gain control of its message.
Any rhetoric that hints of an excuse, rationalization or multi-layered, nuanced understanding for religious extremists to kill on a massive scale will exile well-intended people to the fringes.
America suffered an atrocity at the hands of madmen not the slightest bit interested in giving peace a chance. Flying airliners into buildings is not a political science exercise to be parsed out and deconstructed.
I know this is terribly rude and indecorous for Seattle, but tell the black-clad anarchist-types to stay home. Their masks are cowardly and offensive, especially mixed in with courageous people who express strong beliefs in emotional times.
The slightest temptation to blame America for this attack, based on what happened in Vietnam, El Salvador, the Brazilian rain forest or on a factory floor in Indonesia means losing most of your audience. […]
Facile recitations of past U.S. military involvement tend to omit Bosnia and Kosovo. If America, and European allies, are ripe for criticism in defense of those Muslim minorities, it is for averting their eyes for too long.
U.S. bombing raids, and international ground troops, ended a decade of genocide against Muslims, not that anyone noticed.
10/12/2001 06:38:32 PM
Sept. 11 as Bootleg Chinese Entertainments: I’m late on this and there’s no link, but the Oct. 15 issue of The New Yorker features a jaw-dropper by Peter Hessler about how he bought three different versions of the World Trade Center bombings at DVD stores in Wenzhou, China, which is one of those dynamic coastal cities The Economist loves to talk about. The videodisks have dramatic titles (such as “The Century’s Greatest Catastrophe”), are displayed between bootlegs of “Jurassic Park” and “Planet of the Apes,” and are a surreal pastiche of news footage, stolen music and snippets from other movies.
Like many Chinese bootlegs, the back cover had tried for an air of authenticity with a false credit line composed of random Hollywood names and studios: Tom Hanks, Columbia Pictures, Jerry Bruckheimer, Ving Rhames, Touchstone Pictures. A small box noted that the film was rated R, for violence and language. The video combined footage taken from ABC News with Chinese commentary and American movie soundtracks that had been dubbed in at key moments. Gunfire and explosions rang out when the second plane hit the World Trade Center. The theme from “Jaws” accompanied the collapse of the north tower, which was shown in slow motion. […] The other main things we learn are that the Chinese immediately compared the incident to the accidental U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade (which killed three, after which we apologized profusely), and that many of them in this go-go export town thought the whole massacre thing was just great.
The collapse of the towers [in “Surprise Attack on America”] was follwed by a scene from “Godzilla” in which the monster lays waste the rest of Manhattan; this abruptly segued to a somber President Bush giving a press briefing, which merged into a bombing sequence from “Pearl Harbor.” Later, the narrator cited historical acts of terrorism, ranging from the Serbian assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand to the activities of the P.L.O. “Terrorists are not happy with superpowers like America,” the narrator said. “There are many reasons for their dissatisfaction, and the most important one is that the powerful nations push their principles on other countries.” The film went on to describe the aftermath of the 1998 attacks on United States embassies in Africa. America’s retaliation – the unsuccessful bombing raid in Afghanistan – was illustrated by a glimpse of missiles whizzing over San Francisco Bay: a scene from “The Rock.”
10/12/2001 06:17:20 PM
Final Pics From Only Photographer Who Died at WTC: Bill Biggart’s last six photographs can be seen alongside this MSNBC story about him. Devastating. (Via PhotoDude.)
10/12/2001 05:50:59 PM
Equal Opportunity Humor: I oppose its politics, but this profane comic strip sure made me laugh (via Tony).
10/12/2001 11:55:29 AM
Rev. Tony Preaches About Courage: There is only one religious man I know who can stiffen your spine and lift your spirits by folding Barbies into suggestive positions, committing one of the weirdest typos in memory, and quoting extensively from the great philosopher Mickey Rivers. The Cliffnotes version: “i dont think that i was put here to get blown up by strangers, i think i was put here to get a car from strangers.”
10/12/2001 11:44:30 AM
Second French Journalist Arrested by Taliban: Aziz Zemouri of Le Figaro Magazine has it lucky – he was handed over to Pakistani authorities after the fanatics arrested him, and is being held in Pakistan. His colleague Michel Peyrard of Paris Match wasn’t so lucky – after sneaking into the country veiled from head to toe, Peyrard and his two Pakistani comrades were arrested as a spies earlier this week (an offense punishable by death), and then paraded through the streets of Jalalabad, where the townspeople pelted them with stones, according to France Info. Such medieval savagery apparently wasn’t enough for International Federation of Journalists General Secretary Aidan White to resist an opportunity for moral equivalence:
"Once again, journalists are being bullied and harassed by all sides in a conflict that calls for professionalism and independence from media - not propaganda and censorship.” No, they’re being arrested, stoned and charged with the death penalty on one side, and encouraged by the other side to not show Bert Laden footage (which, for the record, I think is foolish) while being denied access to war information. Different kind of bullying, mate.
10/12/2001 11:13:30 AM
Scott Ritter: “The Bioterror Road Doesn’t Lead to Iraq”: The feisty former U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq warns us against jumping to any conclusions about Saddam’s hand in any chemical warfare:
The alleged meeting in Prague creates the additional specter of Iraq as a state sponsor of terror and makes talk of a renewed bombing campaign against Iraq suddenly appear to be more imminent than conceptual.
With its military poorly trained and equipped, its economy in tatters and once-vaunted weapons of mass destruction largely dismantled by U.N. weapons inspectors, Iraq today represents a threat to no one.
10/12/2001 10:43:46 AM
Kumbaya Watch: The bully boys at the National Review have been running this humorously named feature skewering “the latest in foolish commentary” from such popular targets as Straw Gal Barbara Kingsolver, allegedly pro-Taliban feminists, and Edward Said. Speaking of dummy-baiting, The New Republic’s latest Idiocy Watch is here, smacking the Village Voice around.
10/12/2001 10:31:46 AM
Whoops! I Did a Tip-Jar! Well, all the other warbloggers were doing it. … Strangely, the idea for creating this little help-the-freeloading-freelancer-pay-his-buddy-Os-for-hosting-his-site-for-free deal came last night, then I woke up to find Ken Layne had thought the exact same thing, and actually done something about it. So, naturally, I whined until he did it for me, too. That means maybe I can buy him an extra drink or two (since he also designed my whole site from scratch), and have some dosh left over for Ben Sullivan (hooked me up to Blogger), Jeff Solomon (built Emmanuelle’s computer, fixes everything all the time), and everyone else whose kindness I routinely abuse. Thanks, everybody!
10/11/2001 11:27:04 PM
“In the war for Muslim public opinion, we've become pacifists.”: The Sept. 11 massacre has introduced me to several good writers I had never heard of before. One of my new favorites is William Saletan of Slate, which I now check daily instead of monthly. Yesterday, Saletan criticized the Bush Administration for not refuting the less outrageous criticisms by Osama Bert Laden:
Bush's account of what motivates Bin Laden and other anti-American terrorists has always been simplistic. "They hate our freedoms," he told Congress. "They want to drive Israel out of the Middle East. They want to drive Christians and Jews out of vast regions of Asia and Africa." This account is true but dangerously selective. It omits other, less radical concerns that are widely shared in the Muslim world. […]
Americans may find [Bert Laden’s] presentation ludicrous, but many Arabs and Muslims in Asia and Africa don't. They're steeped in tales and images of Palestinian suffering at Israeli hands. They've been told in mosques about treacherous hypocrites throughout history who have falsely claimed to represent Islam. Bin Laden's message tugs at them. They suspect he's right that the United States objects to terrorism only when it's practiced by Muslims. They're sympathetic to the idea that, in the words of one Lebanese Christian, the United States shouldn't be "comfortable" while Palestinians suffer.
What is Bush saying in response to these arguments? Nothing. […]
That won't cut it. There's a strong, substantive case to be made against Bin Laden's message, and Bush isn't making it. Bush could explain that the sanctions on Iraq allow Saddam Hussein to buy food and medicine but that Saddam chooses to let Iraqi children starve. He could point out that Israeli-Palestinian violence is mutual, that the United States has criticized transgressions on both sides, and that murdering American civilians antagonizes the only country capable of persuading Israel to accept a Palestinian state. He could acknowledge the misfortunes of many Muslims while explaining that they don't justify the deliberate killing of civilians. He could outline important differences between the context of Sept. 11 and the context of the atomic bombs that ended World War II.
Most important, Bush could drive wedges between Bin Laden and the Muslims he purports to represent. He could point out that Bin Laden, who accuses Arab regimes of paying lip service to Palestinian aspirations, has only lately and opportunistically embraced those aspirations. He could quote the Palestinian Authority's information minister, who has said Bin Laden's terrorism "is not the way to solve our problems." […]
He could enlist a respected Muslim cleric to explain how Bin Laden twists the Quran to suit his purposes. He could give Muslims pause by reminding them that Bin Laden's message calls on them "to destroy America" and to wage war against five billion "infidels."
10/11/2001 02:56:27 PM
More on Professor Jensen: My dear comrade Charlie Hornberger shares my morbid fascination with “journalism professor” Robert Jensen. This morning he sent me an e-mail link to this February 1999 interview with Jensen, in which the professor says "I sort of came into political consciousness in a sense in '91." Charlie’s comment: “Which means that our favorite professor ‘woke up,’ politically speaking, when he was 32 years old. Nice work, Bob. From this we can also infer that Bob managed to sleep through the Iran-Contra affair when he was 27. Good Christ.” Charlie, I think, is 32, and he’s been awake a loooooooooong time. Here’s another ridiculous snippet from the interview, offering key insight into the mindset of the ideologically warped:
When you're a mainstream journalist, you're conditioned not to be political. You're sort of immersed in the politics of your local town or whatever you're covering, but you stay strangely apolitical. All through my 20s, I was like that. I was a journalist. I had opinions, but I didn't see any role for myself beyond being a writer. And then I went to graduate school and studied, among other things, feminism. And feminism politicized me and made me understand that the work is in the public arena, it's political, it's engaged, and it's got to be activist. Once I figured that out around questions of gender, then the rest of it just unfolded. It was like, OK, there's race questions, there's labor questions, there's foreign policy questions, and they're all of a similar dimension and you've got to resist these sort of unjust systems. Basically what I figured out was that we live amid an incredible number of illegitimate structures of authority. Gender structures of authority, all sorts of things. Once I figured that out, it sort of unfolded rather naturally. Charlie also uncovered this classic Jensen column, entitled "The Morally Lazy White Middle Class." Here’s an excerpt:
U.S. middle class, particularly the white middle class, is probably the single biggest impediment to justice the world has ever known. This man, ladies and gentleman, teaches “critical thinking.” Charlie’s comment: “You cannot say that he does not mean what he is saying. The best you can say is that he does not even KNOW what he is saying.”
10/11/2001 02:19:02 PM
With Friends Like These…: My friend Amy Langfield, who lives in New York City, was in her hometown of Bakersfield Sept. 11 visiting her grandmother. She had a flight to Newark Sept. 12, but eventually opted for a Greyhound. Sixty-nine hours later, after losing her luggage, going to Omaha twice and nearly being abandoned several times, she got back home, when the real horror began. “I tried for a long time not to cry,” she writes, “but when I started, couldn't stop.” Go read her article. Catherine Seipp, another talented friend, wrote a hilarious and oddly true column arguing that what the Osamamites of the world really hate about America is Gilligan’s Island – and with reason. Meanwhile Ken Layne, perhaps still feeling drunk and happy and mean from this Monday’s Tsar show (which featured the immortal Jeff Whalen lyric “Mohammed is just all right/but he never got you high), gives a nice sum-up of friends, weirdness, America and the Taliban:
Something weird is happening in this country, and it's not just Anthrax and suicide hijackers. The rational people on the Right and Left are finding -- surprise! -- that we have very much in common. We like it here, and we like the world. We like writing, we like stirring up some trouble, we like being alive and free to do what we want, even if that freedom can leave us unemployed now and then. We like to make stupid jokes, we like to insult public figures, and we like to bitch about our government and the cops and the IRS. But if some medieval nut sandwich wants to Tread On Me, I will gladly stand up with Joe Farah and Andrew Sullivan and Al Giordano and Tony Pierce and G.W. Bush and Amy Langfield and Matt Drudge and Matt Welch and Maureen Dowd and Chris Rock and Tom Petty and Kobe Bryant and Heather Havrilesky and Jeff Whalen and we will smite any motherfuckers who want to blow up the world.
10/11/2001 11:54:01 AM
Behind Dubya’s Speech – a Fascinating Blow-by-Blow Account: Terrific NY Times magazine behind-the-scenes deal about Bush’s “discarded lies” speech in front of the joint session of Congress. Maybe I’m in a good mood, but the account of the preparation, and the mere fact that such an account could be recreated so thoroughly and succinctly, makes me feel upbeat about the country.
Gerson, Scully, McConnell and Hughes sat down in Hughes's office on Wednesday at 11 a.m. They grouped around Hughes's computer. In front of her was a little plaque quoting Churchill: “I was not the lion, but it fell to me to give the lion's roar.” New material kept coming in. Vice President Dick Cheney sent up a short text with McConnell defining the new cabinet position, director of homeland security. Hughes felt that the speech didn't make the point clearly enough about America's respect for Muslim Americans. The president's rush visit to a mosque had gotten a good response on Monday; it was important to highlight that theme. Hughes changed the phrase “Tonight I also have a message for Muslims in America” to “I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith.” She helped write the sentence “The United States respects the people of Afghanistan.” Hughes was taking the speech out of marble and making it concrete. She added “I ask you to live your lives and hug your children.” Rove stopped by; as a result of his input, the speechwriters added the line “I know many citizens have fears tonight, and I ask you to be calm and resolute.” Rice's deputy, Stephen Hadley, who had to worry about more terrorism, suggested reminding people that there might be more terrorism to come. “Even in the face of a continuing threat” was added to the sentence. .
All week, the president worked on the speech at night in the residence. He likes his speeches to make a point and for the point to be clear. He hates redundancies. He took a course in American oratory at Yale and remembers how a speech divides into an introduction, main body, peroration. (He once annotated a speech with phrases like “tugs at heartstrings” and “emotional call to arms.”) Bush writes his notes with a black Sharpie pen. His edits tend to simplify. He is a parer. “Bush favors active verbs and short sentences,” Rove said.
10/11/2001 11:24:54 AM
New Column From Me Alert: It’s about “why they call it realpolitik,” or how we all need to formulate a more complicated foreign policy than the often contradictory aims of “not supporting dictators” and “ending poverty” – especially if, like Ralph Nader, your list of unworthy regimes includes India and Mexico.
10/11/2001 10:15:33 AM
Straw Man of the Day: It’s Robert Jensen, the University of Texas journalism professor I wrote about way back when, and his co-columnist Rahul Mahajan of the “National Board of Peace Action.” Both Orwell-quoting Pacifists belong to the “Nowar Collective,” and their anti-war writings frequently appear on the Lefty sites ZNet, CommonDreams.org and CounterPunch. Their latest offensive column starts off with four sharp left-hooks to the jaw of logic:
A war that is supposed to help feed the desperate people of Afghanistan will in fact help starve them. They go in further detail, which I will quote below, but note straight off the ideological tools of Omniscience and False Supposition – somehow, Jensen and Mahajan just know that the war “will in fact help starve” Afghans (irregardless of a half-billion in emergency humanitarian aid, or how the future will compare to the already-dire refugee crisis that the brutal and corrupt Taliban provoked pre-Sept. 11). They just know the U.S. will be in “far greater danger” of terrorist attacks, irregardless of whether the world’s most notorious terrorist organization is broken apart, or whether hostile regimes now think twice about harboring or supporting terrorists, or whether an energized global coalition can confront and reduce the conditions (and people) that cause terrorism. And it goes without saying they are privy to inside information about the administration’s real motives, even though they totally botch what “the majority of the American people believe.” Here’s a hint – it’s more about punishment and prevention, than “anger and desire for revenge.” Let’s hear a bit more of this nonsense:
A war supposedly brought on by Taliban intransigence was actually provoked by our own government.
A war that the majority of the American people believe is about their grief, anger and desire for revenge is really about the cold-blooded calculations of a small elite seeking to extend its power.
And a war that is supposed to make us safer has put us in far greater danger by increasing the likelihood of further terrorist attacks.
Our undeclared war on Afghanistan is the culmination of a decade of U.S. aggression with a humanitarian façade. […] George Bush said we are not at war with the Afghan people -- just as we were not at war with the Iraqi people or the Serbian people. 1. I assume they really mean to say that U.S. actions in the former Yugoslavia were a key part of a “decade” of “aggression with a humanitarian façade.” If we were so itchin’ to aggress or whatever, why the hell did we do nothing while Serbs and Croats massacred Bosnians and each other from 1991-94? Could it be – perish the thought! – that the U.S. actually prefers not to go to war? Also, I assume they are implying that it would be more “just” to have let Slobodan Milosevic carry on nationalist-socialist wars of conquest and genocide, than to bring a tentative peace to the region through limited force, and help send Slobo to the Hague while the battered Balkan states experiment with democracy. In which case, I suggest they go read that Orwell passage about Pacifists and Fascists. 2. They apparently believe that if the Taliban would have handed over Bin Laden and his lieutenants, we would have gone to war anyway. If our “elite” is so mad for war, why, pray tell, are we not currently pulverizing Iraq, Syria, North Korea and Burma? 3. If it is inappropriate to respond militarily against a regime that knowingly shelters an organization that has declared war and committed horrendous acts of war against the United States, when is it appropriate?
Military analysts suggest that the timing of the strikes had to do with the weather. Another possible interpretation is that the Taliban’s recently-expressed willingness to negotiate posed too great a danger that peace might break out. The Orwellian use of the term “diplomacy” to describe the consistent U.S. policy of no negotiations -- accept our peremptory demands or else -- helps to mask the fact that the administration always intended to launch this war.
The same tactic was used against Serbia; at the Rambouillet negotiations in March 1999, demands were pitched just high enough that the Serbian government could not go along.
In this case, the Taliban’s offer to detain bin Laden and try him before an Islamic court, while unacceptable, was a serious initial negotiating position and would have merited a serious counteroffer.
The administration has many reasons for this war: Huh? Wasn’t Vietnam about the flawed and bloody Cold-War era “domino theory,” and wouldn’t “imperial credibility” imply an action that makes an empire’s far-flung subjects respect the center of power? I didn’t realize we had so many colonies in Central Asia…. As for war being motivated by wanting to push a “radical right-wing domestic agenda,” well, Jensen and his left-wing bag-holders will be pleased to know they are using the exact same language as the right-wing militia nutbags did whenever Bill Clinton so much as farted. Thank God none of these lunatics are within barking distance of power and influence.
The policy of imperial credibility, carried to such destructive extremes in Vietnam. […]
The oil and natural gas of central Asia, the next Middle East. […]
The potential to push a radical right-wing domestic agenda.
The American jihad may yet be matched by a widely expanded Islamic one. Ah, there’s a rhetorical dishonesty worth ending on! There is no American holy war, jackasses – we wouldn’t have bombed your precious Serbs to save our Muslim buddies if that were the case, now would we? This, incidentally, is what your critics mean by “America-haters.” People so twisted with rage at every real and imagined past U.S. sin, that no scrap of evidence to the contrary will ever be accepted as anything but propaganda. It is horrifying to imagine these craven fools trying to teach “journalism” to anyone.
10/10/2001 05:33:17 PM
10/10/2001 03:15:28 PM
Whine: Sure is a shame, with traffic hitting all-time highs every day, that Blogger hasn't worked almost at all the last 48 hours....
10/10/2001 01:51:35 PM
Another Batch of Warblogs: I’m totally late on this one, but University of Tennessee law professor/Righty columnist Glenn Reynolds runs a cracking good blog called InstaPundit.Com, and was kind enough to link to my Michael Moore-Straw Man post of the other day. Software programmer Steven Den Beste publishes a fairly promiscuous warblog, complete with goofy “stardates” and his sensible essays. Atlanta-based freelance photographer Reid Stott runs a great blog called PhotoDude, which is a clever selection of 5-10 interesting and relevant quotes per day. Martin Roberts, who I think is the same guy who teaches media studies at the New School, has one called WTC-filter. There’s this weird but potentially interesting site called openDemocracy Strands, which seems like a kind of scruffier online version of the New York Review of Books (I found it doing a search for the estimable Central European journalist/historian Timothy Garton Ash, who has a post-Sept. 11 essay there). Alain Breilatt is a thoughtful Chicago-based Republican and Mormon “software guy with a business focus,” who was kind enough to wish me luck in our rat fatwa. Raegan Kelly is a sort-of blogger/diarist who probably would describe herself as a progressive, and watching her process the Chomsky-Hitchens Left-Liberal split makes for fascinating reading (and not just because she references me!). Software designer Ned Gulley runs one weblog called Paracelsus, and another more essay-oriented thing called The Star Chamber. Again, these were mostly produced through the magic of referral logs; for another quality batch, read this previous post, and I’ll round up some more in a few days.
10/10/2001 01:48:10 PM
Pre-War Wisdom From The Economist: I shoulda linked to it earlier, but Friday’s Economist is filled with good stuff, little of which is available online. The best might be a graphic of two identically sized photographs of anti-U.S. bombing rallies, side by side. One is a colorful rainbow of a scene from Berkeley or Eugene, with the usual students and hippies raising Black-power fists and carrying signs saying “Promote the peace” and “Stop the cycle of violence,” and “Efforts for social justice unite us all.” The other is a mob of yelling, wild-eyed Arabs foisting posters of Osama bin Laden and signs saying “We are even prepare to conquer Ameriaca.” For those who would condemn America’s “total support for Israel,” there is also a three-page mini-survey that details the actual historical record. Here’s just a snippet from the must-read article:
There is a myth that American policy in the Middle East has been hijacked by AIPAC, the mighty Jewish lobby in Washington. But presidents beat foreign-policy lobbies, if they can be bothered to try. When AIPAC tried to stop Mr Reagan from selling AWACS aircraft to the Saudis, the president won handily. In 1989, James Baker, George Bush senior’s secretary of state, went to AIPAC’s annual convention and denounced Mr Shamir’s belief that Israel should hold on to the West Bank and Gaza. In 1991 he brushed off AIPAC’s objections when America threatened to withhold loan guarantees if Israel continued to expand its settlements. It should be mentioned that The Economist is urging the U.S. to push Israel into withdrawing from the occupied territories and forging a peace with a new Palestinian state. Likewise, the newspaper is in favor of (at the least) drastically reforming sanctions against Iraq, but here is its flip comment on the Iraqi-babies question (I’m in the process of finding what I’m sure is a more thorough survey from the last year or two):
The true cause of those deaths is Saddam. Although sanctions contribute to his country's impoverishment, it is he who has chosen to restrict the distribution of food and medicine that is permitted by them, and facilitated by an “oil-for-food” programme, both directly and by siphoning off some of the resources for himself. Nevertheless, the truth is that sanctions have failed, on two counts. They have failed to bring down the Iraqi dictator. And they have allowed him to win his own propaganda war, by associating America with dying children. There are, now, more than a half-dozen post-bombing articles and columns up at the Economist website, despite the weekly’s Friday print date. They are most definitely worth a look.
10/10/2001 12:20:10 PM
Warbloggers to the Rescue! Thomas Nephew of Newsrack takes a healthy swing at the Iraqi-babies conundrum (that being, how many babies are dying there because of U.S. sanctions, and what are the alternatives?) It’s chock full of good data and links, which I will soon steal. I’ll give away the conclusion here, but it’s worth going there to see how he arrived at it:
There is surely more for me to learn about this issue. But it seems far from an open and shut case that sanctions per se are solely or even principally responsible for Iraqi suffering. It seems more appropriate to place the responsibility with Iraqi leadership, given its track record of military adventurism, corruption, and domestic repression.
10/10/2001 10:52:56 AM
A Modest Proposal for George Soros: You want to make democracy work, good buddy? How about giving Ev a million dollars & establishing an endowment of sorts that ensures Blogger (or whatever blogging device you prefer) spreads to the corners of the globe, has servers the size of the Sears Tower and NEVER SHUTS DOWN, not even for a second. Seriously, I may not have much perspective, but weblogs during these last four weeks have made the best ad hoc publications I've seen, and I know many people have found intellectual comfort, stimulation and guidance in these silly little things.
10/9/2001 11:45:59 PM
Why the Delay: Sorry, trouble with Blogger all day. Also, have been trying to write for a living, instead of blogging for sanity. Good news on the rat front -- seems we're 98% sure he fled the apartment through a heating vent, and is barred permanently by our newly sealed borders. The bad news is, there is an attic above us full of vermin, their foodstuffs, and their feces. Will see how the slumlords respond. OK, let's see if this works. And thanks to Ken Layne for creating little linky-bloggy friends at the end of each post.
10/9/2001 08:38:41 PM
Another F***ing Earthquake: My wife never felt an earthquake the first 42 months she lived in Southern California. This morning, she felt her third of the last four weeks. It was teeny – 2.5, fer chrissakes – but when quakes are shallow (this one was only 2.3 miles deep) and when their epicenter is in YOUR OWNED DAMNED NEIGHBORHOOD, you tend to feel it.
10/9/2001 12:14:01 PM
Bin Laden’s Hatred of Andalucia-Style Assimilation and Tolerance: Ken Layne, channeling Virginia Postrel, breaks down this weird bit Osama opened his fascist little speech with: “Let the whole world know that we shall never accept that the tragedy of Andalucia would be repeated in Palestine. We cannot accept that Palestine will become Jewish.” Turns out, he’s condemning the decadence and decay of the very same Moorish Islam culture from five centuries back that we all admire for its tolerance and accomplishments – because he thinks, fundamentalist-style, that that was the very weakness which eroded resolve in the face of the Crusades.
See, bin Laden isn't solely concerned with U.S. forces based in Saudi Arabia and the Israel-Palestinian problem. He's still pissed off about the Middle Ages. He's blowing up skyscrapers in New York City because the Muslims got greedy and lazy in Spain and lost their conquered territory 500 years ago.
10/8/2001 07:39:53 PM
Straw Man of the Day It’s Michael Moore! In the broadest sarcasm possible, Mr. Flint proves what Noam Chomsky meant by “Of course, he does not mean what he is saying, once again.” Item A:
NOW we have resolution. NOW we know the ending -- the bombing to smithereens of a country so advanced it has, to date, laid a total of 18 miles of railroad tracks throughout the entire country! Actually, there were 31 targets the first night and 15 the second, which – if struck – will pretty much put to an end the initial wave of bombing, according to the warmongers at National Public Radio. Also, in case he missed it, Tony Blair has been telling everyone who’ll listen that “This military plan has been put together mindful of our determination to do all we humanly can to avoid civilian casualties.” Must be “bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age,” eh, Mike?
4. Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Orrin Hatch Will All Be Fighting This War for Us! These are all honorable men, men of their word, men who would not expect someone else to fight their battles for them. They have all called for war, revenge, blood -- and, by God, it is blood I want them to have! Now that we are at war, let us insist that those who have cried the loudest for the killing be the first to go and do just that! This argument, blurted often, is on equal intellectual footing as “since you’re a Pacifist, why don’t you go live under the Taliban?” Reminds me of my editor & dear friend Chris suggesting an inconsistency with my alleged warmongering & the fact that A) I don’t follow football, and B) I’m a wuss around rats. Let me rephrase Moore’s new law: since he’s apparently in favor of mandatory conscription as opposed to a private army (of poor minorities), let him give us the first 20 clap push-ups in the mud. We are a country fortunate and successful enough to enjoy specialization. Hence, I hire the Rat Man, and do the work I’m best at, instead of being forced during childhood to learn de-Ratting and shooting an M-16, while letting my useful “talents” go undeveloped.
6. Better a Quickie War Than the Permanent War. Orwell warned us about this one. Big Brother, in order to control the population, knew that it was necessary for the people to always believe they were in a state of siege, that the enemy was getting closer and closer, and that the war would take a very long time. Italics mine. The rules of bad sarcasm apparently allow for the complete omniscience of politicians’ motives, despite said politicians’ many statements to the contrary. Even John Ashcroft – no friend of mine – has been giving daily lip service to the concept of not sacrificing civil liberties to terrorist fear (even, admittedly, while fomenting fear and asking for some minor abridgements of said rights). To say that Bush’s motive for a long war is to – finally! – ruin all our rights … well, he does not mean what he is saying, once again.
That is EXACTLY what George W. Bush said in his speech to Congress, and the reason he said it is because he and his buddies want us all in such a state of fear and panic that we would gladly give up the cherished freedoms that our fathers and those before them fought and died for.
Either way, it will end. The good guys will win. And, if George II is anything like George I, then the bad guy will win, too, getting to live and go on doing what he enjoys doing (what were we, like, 40 miles from Baghdad?) while we continue to bomb the innocents (540,000 Iraqi children killed by U.S. in last ten years from bombs and sanctions). This one’s nifty. Note how Moore can be both anti-war, and yet critical that the Gulf War didn’t go far enough! And, as I mentioned in a previous post, I welcome all URLs to actual studies of the sanctions-babies stats, and I will transform them into a column & a position sometime soon. All in all, Moore's column is such a Straw Man that even the Metafilter kids mostly agree with me.
10/8/2001 04:50:48 PM
Maass Searches for the Koran’s Suicide-Heaven Loophole in Pakistan: Finally talked the other day to my dear friend and comrade Joel Brand, who spent much of the ‘90s dodging bullets in Sarajevo, bombs in Chechnya, and child laborer-sewn soccer balls in Pakistan. He should be writing about all this, but he’s a new father and would-be Internet mogul, so he’s sitting this one out in Santa Monica. Until I coax him out of retirement, please keep seeking out his pal Peter Maass, who wrote this interesting bit on Friday:
Over tea and sweets, the Quranic discussion began. Paradise is explained quite vividly in suras (or chapters) 55 and 56 of the Quran, which note that those who enter paradise will enjoy "abundant fruits, unforbidden, never-ending." There will be "gushing fountains" and everyone "shall recline on jeweled couches face to face, and there shall wait on them immortal youths with bowls and ewers and a cup of purest wine."
Wine? Islam forbids alcohol, but only in the earthly life. In paradise, alcohol is no problem at all. It is available not simply for the asking, but for the mere thinking. If you think you want a glass of wine, or anything at all, you shall have it. And that is not the only item forbidden in this life yet plentiful in paradise.
"Therein are bashful virgins whom neither man nor jinnee will have touched before ... virgins as fair as corals and rubies," states sura 55. A few lines later, we are reminded of "virgins chaste and fair ... they shall recline on green cushions and fine carpets."
When I asked professor ul Islam, who has a doctorate from Leeds University, what the usefulness of these virgins might be for a male resident of paradise, he patted my forearm in a friendly way and said, "You will know when you get there." His laughter was abundant; I got the joke.
10/8/2001 01:00:52 PM
Horror Round-up: Woke up, took a look at Ken Layne’s site … good God. At least 114 die in a Milan plane collision, 13 people hospitalized in Florida after two families receive mysterious white powder, anthrax detected on a co-worker and at the tabloid offices of the guy who died in South Florida, nine killed when a helicopter carrying U.N. officials is shot down over the breakaway Abkhazia region of Georgia, Pakistani police open fire on demonstrators who burn a U.N. building in Quetta, Palestinian suicide bomber kills one Israeli, and so on.
10/8/2001 09:22:11 AM
What a Press Conference! There have been a few notable moments of statesmanship since the Sept. 11 massacre – Giuliani in the first week, Dubya’s speech to Congress, Tony Blair’s fantastic work at the party convention a few days back. But I was never more transfixed than I was last night, watching CNN play a (mostly) uninterrupted press conference by President Pervez Musharraf. The guy came off as smart, well-read, more forthcoming than Donald Rumsfeld … yet definitely a military leader who took his country over in a coup (he stressed he’s a soldier, not a politician), who wouldn’t shy away from a fight with India. It was terrific, too, to hear the questions, in various accents of English, by news organizations from Egypt, United Arab Emirates, India, France, the UK, U.S., Turkey, etc. You could tell that he’d probably cross some lines in order to suppress domestic opinion and influence a pro-Pashtun government in Afghanistan, but I feel more comfortable doing business with this man than most anyone in the Middle East.
10/8/2001 08:49:29 AM
Idiocy Watch: That's the name of a feature at the New Republic that mirrors Andrew Sullivan's Sontag Awards and Timothy Noah's Retract This, Please feature at Slate. I will call mine Straw Man Watch, in honor of a frequent criticism. Why pick on fools? Because their bad ideas have resonance in the U.S. and Western Europe, and their hobbled logic can no longer be considered an amusement.
10/7/2001 07:11:25 PM
Keep Shooting Those Stingers, Mr. Taliban! The Taliban army is reportedly shooting their U.S.-donated anti-aircraft Stinger missiles at incoming Cruise missiles – which they have no prayer of hitting. Also, whenever a Stinger successfully hits one of our many cheap, unmanned spy planes (the only aircraft they’ll likely bring down), that just means we know exactly where that Stinger was shot from … and can bomb accordingly in under a minute. My military guesses of the moment (stemming largely from conversations with my warhawk defense-industry father): we’ll bomb every physical strategic target (air bases, munitions stockpiles, etc.) today, using smart bombs shot mostly by stealth aircraft; carpet-bomb known terrorist/Taliban camps with B-52s, then wait until the targets flee to their caves … when we’ll unleash some brand new cluster bomb deals that are designed to penetrate things like Iraqi bunkers and Afghani caves. Then, too, we’ll bust out the new stealth attack helicopters for targeted bombing and support of Special Forces, and then use the cleared airspace to drop tons of food on (hopefully) heavily policed refugee camps. There are reports that 8,000 Taliban troops are attempting to mass along the Uzbekistan border … unless they’re planning to flee, this is a very bad idea for them. We have the region covered with satellites that are better, by an order of magnitude, than the satellites above Iraq in 1991, so any mass gathering of known troops is going to be a slaughterhouse. Let’s hope there is no ruthless gunning down of obviously defecting enemy soldiers, as there was occasionally in Desert Storm. One last random note: this is the first time, probably since World War II, when the U.S. armed forces are fundamentally motivated. I wonder, not really knowing, what effect that will have on their performance.
10/7/2001 03:57:09 PM
”Freedoms Not in Jeopardy”: So says public policy professor James Q. Wilson in today’s L.A. Times, in a column that patiently picks through the various post-Sept. 11 security proposals, and concludes:
Though new laws need careful scrutiny, what is impressive is that the most terrible attack on American soil that has ever occurred has not unleashed a wave of officially ignored (or worse, officially endorsed) hate activity. It has instead brought forth an effort to fix problems in law enforcement that should have been fixed long ago.
10/7/2001 02:57:16 PM
The Roots and Branches of Religious Fundamentalism in Islam and the West: Sensible Andrew Sullivan today in the New York Times magazine, talking about how Islam hasn’t yet gone through the painful experience of dealing with its own religious fanatacism yet, unlike the bloodstained crusaders of the West. Interesting article, arguing that this is a religious war, and delving into the similarities between fundamentalists of all faiths, and Nazis and Commies.
10/7/2001 01:46:03 PM
More on Responsibility: A follow-up to the Mark Steyn-Salman Rushdie argument about who is “responsible” for the Sept. 11 attacks, with some obligatory Kingsolver-strawmanning, and an unsuccessful attempt at coining a phrase (“counter-tribalism”), by the National Review’s John O’Sullivan. Brought to my attention by a yahoo anti-immigration group’s e-mail (speaking of which, this certainly has been the biggest shot in the arm to the border-sealers since Pete Wilson).
10/7/2001 01:30:37 PM
In Case We Weren’t Shaky Enough: Came into the apartment this morning, heard about the bombing campaign, and had just finished looking around for any dead rat, when the apartment was rocked by a three-second earthquake. It was small – 2.9 – but it was shallow, and it was centered less than a mile from where I sit. That’s the second house-shaking quake centered in the greater Hollywood area during the last four weeks.
10/7/2001 01:10:57 PM
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