Iraq, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, And The Couch Potato’s Burden:
Centrist Attack On The Pro-War Position
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 2/25/05
concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.’
- Frederick Douglass
The Boy Who Cried Wolf 2)
The Couch Potato’s Burden
3) Talking Points Against The War
The Couch Potato’s Burden
horrible, among the worst of all human actions, yet there are times it is just,
called for, and necessary. In American history the Union cause against the
Confederacy was just, ennobled by the drive against slavery. So were the Allies
in World War II, against Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, and Fascism. However, not
many wars can claim to be relatively clear cut as those two. There are Southern
apologists who cling to the myth ‘State’s Rights’ caused for the
Rebellion, and those who mitigate Axis aggression by citing the harsh Treaty of
Versailles as ultimate catalyst.
Those claims are easily seen through as the ‘State’s Rights’ the South started war over were the rights to slavery, not local county election minutiae. In this regard, the Right Wing attempt to gloss over slavery as the cause of the Civil War is alarmingly like disingenuous Left Wingers who claim to be Pro-Choice, yet find it difficult to say the word abortion. As a moderate and centrist I have no difficulty stating the Civil War was fought over slavery and I am Pro-Abortion. As for mitigating Axis aggression, while I agree there was blame to be spread around, the bulk falls in Axis laps, lest one seek first causes all the way back to the Big Bang (or whatever preceded that, if that was!).
I argue the war in Iraq is not justified by the reasons given for war, its poor conduct, and re-igniting one of the worst elements of past American history- the paternalistic, racist White Man’s Burden, noxious progeny of the Manifest Destiny ideal to justify American continental imperialism. I argue the basis of this policy, worse than merely being racist, is delusional- clinically psychotic, guided and suckled by an utter break from reality.
Let me be up front: I have never gone to war, and would be 4F due to legal blindness. However, I have been in hand-to-hand combat, the most rudimentary form of war, as a teenaged city street gangster. I have seen people maimed and killed up close. Those for the war effort have, by and large, like me, never gone to war, yet lack the real visceral understanding of the organized and sanctioned murder war is, even its miniaturized simulacrum of gang warfare. I am a middle aged, married, heterosexual, white male; a religious agnostic from poor working class immigrant roots and in over three decades of work have soared to the lower middle class. My father died a sixth grade dropout, my mother the only in my family who completed college. I am a poet, critic, and writer of assorted stripes who has crafted one of the most popular poetry and literature websites, Cosmoetica, despite being non-profit and unaligned with any noxious arts organizations.
Politically, I am a moderate, ex-Democrat, and political independent. In the last three Presidential elections I voted for Ralph Nader, because Democrats betrayed the working class and became a party bereft of ideas, and lacking courage. While the Republican Party has many ills- homophobia, racist tokenism, an unlimited ability to prostitute itself to Wall Street- no one can accuse them of lacking ideas (most bad and aimed at igniting a second Gilded Age), nor of standing up for them. They may be big, bad wolves, but they know what they are. Democrats are shivering lambs, and cowardice- more than bigotry, murder, or incest- is the lone human trait globally reviled. Yet, I put the blame for where the country is in the laps of the cowardly and hypocritical electorate, not politicians. Politics has always been, and will always be, amongst the most base human endeavors, for it consists of a few elitists exercising power over the generally benighted masses, through assented deceit. I do not shrink from the term ‘benighted’, nor buy into the political platitude of ‘the American public’s wisdom’. Were that true Madison Avenue could not have thrived. I acknowledge showman P.T. Barnum as the shrewdest, most honest observer of populist American ignorance with his immortal apothegm, ‘There’s a sucker born every minute.’ We live in a boobocracy. Doubt that? Look at the hausfrau zombies, welfare perverts, and clueless losers on Oprah, Jerry Springer, and Judge Judy.
Acknowledging Lowest Common Denominator self-interest has slowed down the wheels of progress from time immemorial, I also, sadly, acknowledge democracy, or republicanism, are the best forms of government yet devised. Somehow, this seems to bespeak our specific lack, for I can imagine advanced extraterrestrial societies snickering at our primitivism, and haughtiness over it. There is something retrogressive about the current state of nation-states, yet the only likely successor to this form of society in the next century or two might be corpostates; yet that is too scary to contemplate. While democracy is a noble goal, as I am a true civil libertarian (not a corporate shill from the Libertarian Party), who is pro-just about every conceivable right from gun ownership and polygamy to abortion and gay marriage, and all betwixt, I am not sold on the idea all societies (human or not) will inevitably choose this path. This is not an endorsement of non-democracies, merely recognition of historical facts.
I support a nation’s right to self-defense, sometimes preemptively, and was initially a hesitant supporter of the Iraqi war effort, because, given the President’s track record of deceit- the 2000 Election, although I realize his crooks were merely better than Gore’s- i.e.- he stole the election fair and square, and incompetence- 9/11’s three thousand dead, especially now knowing within five days of taking office Richard Clarke and the FAA warned the Administration of Al Quaida, only to be marginalized, the infamous 8/01 PDB, the unfinished mess in Afghanistan that has left it a narco-state, Asia’s answer to Colombia.
I knew Saddam Hussein had been sold technology for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in the 1980s, by Ronald Reagan’s Administration, when he was a ‘good dictator’, opposing ‘evil dictator’ Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran. WMDs were not an issue to us when used on Iraqi civilians (the Kurds), nor Iranian soldiers in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. I knew France and Russia had sold Iraq WMD technology more recently. It seemed a no-brainer he had WMDs, and while I doubted he would use it in anything other than a defensive capacity after the Gulf War, the fact he had it and showed a willingness to use it seemed a supportable rationale to oust Saddam. It also seemed plausible the claims Saddam was seeking uranium from all over the world were true, and while I thought then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice’s invocation of ‘mushroom clouds’ over America was borderline hysterical, given her zero credibility post-9/11, you could never know, it’s better to be safe than sorry, etc. Also, I, like many Americans after 9/11, had lingering suspicions Saddam had at least a thumb nail, if not hand, in that.
Add in it was the United Nations, noted bastion of waste, fraud, sloth, and rabid anti-Americanism, telling us they could de-fang Saddam, well, I was not in a mood to trust those folks with American security either. Then came the greatest propaganda campaign of the post-World War II era. For months leading up to the Iraq War’s start, the American public was told, over and over, we had proof of WMDs- the most emphasized piece of agitprop. It was directly stated and hinted at many times by the President, Vice-President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Rice, and members of the military and intelligence communities. The clincher was State Secretary Colin Powell’s near-Adlai Stevenson moment at the UN, bringing forth photographs ‘proving’ Saddam had WMDs, as surely as the Cubans, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, were building nuclear missile silos. It is a measure of the continuing deceptions by the pro-warriors, and the MTV era ease with which the public forgets, that the agitprop of 2002-03 has been dismissed by Right Wingers as rearguard Left Wing revisionism.
This is a direct, outrageous assault on truth, and has only recently been re-countered by the confirmation hearings on Rice for State Secretary, and the unearthing of her histrionic invocations of doomsday unless we went to war against Iraq. Yet, I fell for it, along with many cautious skeptics, with the proviso, if wrong we would acknowledge it. History proves our intelligence was wrong. There were no WMDs, and surprise, surprise- the UN inspections, ongoing until the war- were actually working! Saddam had been de-fanged years earlier, and was bluffing. Why he would do so, and risk war? The answer is obvious, as journalist James Campion states in Manifest Destiny Made Easier Through Modern Chemistry:
People paid good money to practice journalism still possess the stones to ask why the hell Hussein kept refusing to reveal he had no weapons, even with the threat of US aggression. The answer is simple. Either lie to the UN or risk letting the Iranians know he was a paper tiger and take him out. Americans seem to care about women and children and hospitals and taking prisoners. This is of little concern to Iranians. It was a fair trade off. Hussein knew, as the CIA, that if it were the Iranians pouring over the border, the grand poobah’s head would have been on a spike, instead of getting a lice exam on CNN.
toppling Saddam, we could have avoided the mess we are in had we not allowed
looting to go on, set up quick elections, and backed an independent Kurdistan.
Then, problems hit- Saddam was missing for months, Shia-Sunni tensions rose, America’s occupation looked less like a liberation, insurgencies rose. There was ultra-protection afforded Iraqi oil fields, while American military commissaries went unprotected, and scandalous tortures at Abu Ghraib prison- prompting the question of which was worse, the torture, or the hubris to think it could be gotten away with, as it was photographed?
The rise of the blogosphere, due to the 2004 Presidential Election, gave the President a whole new area of fawning acolytes willing to disseminate pro-war agitprop, with a rallying cry against the supposedly anti-Bush Mainstream Media (MSM), even though all the television networks, Washington Post, New York Times, and other ‘liberal media’ could not run quickly enough to get into bed with the Administration’s deceits; the term ‘embedded media’ becoming one of the most apt and detestable terms to spring from the war. It is notable Abu Ghraib only came to light for an American soldier whistleblower, not ‘hard journalism’ by the media. I have long warned against the conservative media bias, but it outdid itself, hoodwinking those already in power into thinking those out of power were oppressing and misinforming the public, even as it supported their actions overwhelmingly. Embedding necessarily destroys objectivity for uncritical adulation, akin to the Stockholm Syndrome, occurs whenever one commiserates with others. The myth of journalistic objectivity was shown to be just that, as it became an excuse to refrain from real reportage. Of course, the MSM does not care for facts, only image, the patina of celebrity, which Lowest Common Denominator masses have pop culturally embraced. Their problem is not bias, but its opposite, anomy- lack of focus. Image cheaply fills time. This slide began with JFK, continued through Reagan and Clinton (the only Democrat since JFK to understand this), and hit new heights under Bush.
As for the actual war? Although Bush declared Mission Accomplished! a little more than a month after the war’s start, it became obvious he miscalculated by not sending enough troops, against the advice of generals, in favor of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. We lost sight of our goals in the Afghan War, as Osama bin Laden, three and a half years post-9/11, is nowhere near being caught. We toppled the Taliban, which protected Al Quaida, from power, but as manpower and resources were diverted to Iraq, Afghanistan veered from the path we hoped. Taliban elements reformed and are waging guerilla warfare, while tribal warlords the Taliban displaced reassumed local power, despite the US-backed puppet government of Hamid Karzai, as Afghanistan has become the major world poppy/heroin maker.
Then, more setbacks in Iraq- whole cities ‘liberated’, at a cost between ten and twenty thousand to one hundred thousand Iraqi lives, the bulk innocents. There have been between ten and twenty thousand American injured, and closing in on fifteen hundred dead. Many casualties could have been minimized or avoided had money been spent on properly equipping American vehicles with armor, and American soldiers with protective gear. In the year and a half between 9/11 and the war Rumsfeld, in near-infinite arrogance, never thought it necessary to properly equip American vehicles, for the war would be over in a heartbeat, like the Gulf War. The difference was that was not a war of occupation, but of limited aims. Then came the back door draft as thousands of National Guardsman and other military combatants sought to return to civilian life after their terms of service were up, only to be told the government was invoking obscure clauses to keep them enlisted against their will. There were mini-scandals over measly death benefits for survivors, and lack of proper medical care for the wounded. Perhaps worst of all, was the Bush Administration’s craven attempts to hide the increasing American body count with flag draped coffins arriving home under cover of darkness, as if the dead bore shame. Even in Vietnam there was recognition of the costs to our actions.
That is not the case now, part of the growing psychosis of pro-warriors- this split from the reality of what is going on has led us to this point in history, as well where we can go from here. Do not get me wrong- I have ‘conservative’ opinions on many things, although I would argue they are pragmatic; being pro-death penalty, anti-gun control, pro-balanced budget, and would decimate all but the most effective government programs, which bleed this nation of wealth in a variety of pork barrel schemes that have demonstrably failed. It is the Right Wing, in further severance from reality, that has foisted the great domestic deceit of our time- the Social Security crisis, even as it is the most successful government program of the last century
I also denounce the spineless and cowardly Left Wing, unfortunately recently embodied by disgraced, fraudulent, Colorado University professor Ward Churchill, a relic from the 1960s Communist radicalism, and Native American poseur, who proclaimed the people who died on 9/11 were ‘little Eichmann’s’, presumably because they were capitalists. I recall, right after 9/11, having an email argument with another repugnant Left Wing artiste type who also claimed on 9/11 ‘the chickens came home to roost’, even being incapable of his own filth, needing to channel Malcolm X. I lambasted his stupidity, and asked what café waitron, or secretary, ever oppressed an Arab or Moslem?
But, if the cowardly, anomic Left is bad, the deceitful, psychotic Right is worse, for they hold power, and their delusions are getting people killed in large numbers. I have always favored competence over ideology, but this Administration embodies the worst aspects of both those ideals- marrying a slate of incompetent careerist bureaucrats (evidence of which is that we now know 9/11 was a preventable occurrence) with a Manifest Destiny-like zeal that combines the worst of the White Man’s Burden with the worst of Christian Apocalysm, admixed with a missionary fervor to ostensibly ‘spread democracy’, yet never pausing to ask three fundamental questions:
1) What form of democracy are we speaking of? American democracy- which still has yet to fully enfranchise black voters? European socialist democracy- with all its waste? Latin American Banana Republicanism? Dictated democracies like those in Africa- including Egypt, which has had elections for a century, yet no truly free elections, lest they would vote for a theocracy overnight? Apartheid democracy, as in Israel, or sham democracies- in Russia and former Soviet states?
2) What price are we willing to pay for it? Not just endebting future generations, but in casualties- be they a crippled generation of men, or in body count- is 5,000 enough? 25,000? 50,000? Not to mention the dead Iraqis. Add in the loss in American trust and prestige. Are we willing to democratize the Moslem world if it heralds a long slide off center of the world stage?
3) What does this war really have to do with getting Osama bin Laden, and the supposed War on Terror? Do we really want to conduct an endless war that resembles the lost, and swiftly forgotten, War on Drugs, or the decades-long Indian Wars of the 19th Century? Will we recognize our role as Ugly American exploiters, and the impact decades of our mainly oil-based exploitation had in fostering this hatred that surpasses even that of the Yankee Go Home! movements of 20th Century Latin America? And will we recognize there are other ways to combat than waving the Big Stick, and that few terrorists are fat- meaning food and healthcare may be better ways to win friends than cozying up to dictators?
I do not
accuse the lay pro-warriors of lack of patriotism, nor malign motives, merely
gullibility, and immaturity, in their inability to admit error- first in going
to war, then the conduct of the war, in Iraq, as well an inability to see the
consequences of their actions and how it will impact the world’s future. I am
not anti-war in general, just anti-this misguided effort, a bad war, with the
potential to outstrip the horrid folly of the Vietnam War. I recognize while it
was President George W. Bush that led us into this mess, all his predecessors-
from Richard Nixon on, share blame, for we would not be there had our nation
weaned itself from our oil addiction after the 1973 Arab Oil Crisis.
I will touch on the role of oil in this conflict later, but want to end this portion of the essay by setting up the rest of the argument against the war in Iraq.
1) We blundered into this war because of thirty years of false analogies of all US military actions to our failure in Vietnam.
2) This Boy Who Cried Wolf Syndrome led us to ignore real parallels between both wars, which led us to this point.
3) Iraq is a diversion from the real War on Terror, and its outcome will likely do more damage than good, as it already has.
4) The Iraq War let loose the worst elements of the American political soul redux, such as racist, reactionary, retrogressive revanchism, Manifest Destiny, the Ugly American stereotype, and the White Man’s Burden- in a new form, the Couch Potato’s Burden.
5) The reasons given for the Iraq War were not true, vastly overstated, and the revisionism of the Right Wing to deny WMDs were the major, and only make or break, reason for war, are false.
6) I hope this essay can become a template to help argue the Anti-War cause against the incessant Orwellian revisionism and lies that are fundaments needed to propagate war, regardless of whether your opposition is based in conservative or liberal politics, or mere pragmatism and a rejection of deceit and delusion, as mine is. I offer specific talking points, often apolitical, and provide sloganeering hooks to win converts.
Unfortunately, the need to speak out against this war grows with each day, as more and more Americans are dying for no justifiable reason. The time has long passed, in our Balkanized Age, where a single figure, like newsman Walter Cronkite, could stand up and declare a war, like Vietnam, a failure, and immediately impact the American public opinion. Still, I hope this essay will be a palliative for the cause of sanity, rightness, and restored American dignity.
One of the
most interesting things I have noticed in the pro-war position is the fanatical
denial of any parallels in the current war to the Vietnam War. One would
believe, reading pro-war blogs, or watching pro-war tv shows, that the
liberals/Leftists/traitors/Un-Americans are doing nothing BUT
comparing the two wars. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This is not to
say such parallels have not been drawn, but they have usually been sparse
and hazy, and most done in early stages of the war, in very Boy Who Cried
Wolf fashion- only further delaying its true dawning since the early
comparisons were when we were doing relatively well, after Bush declared Mission
Accomplished! It’s as if the pro-warriors see the parallels and are
desperately trying to stave off that dawning in the general populace.
In fact, there has been precious little in way of comparisons, yet gonzo journalist Christopher Hitchens recently reacted to comparisons with his usual gusto. Yet, the parallels exist, are manifold and manifest- not so much in ‘the enemy’ but in our conduct and deceptions in this war. As Pogo might have said, in regards to both wars- ‘We have met the enemy, and he is us!’ Despite that, there have been few comparisons and the major reason is the Boy Who Cried Wolf Syndrome.
In the decades since Vietnam, nearly every American military action has been greeted with the ghosts of that failure. ‘This could be another Vietnam’, ‘bogged down’, and ‘quagmire’, among the top words and phrases repeated in articles and newscasts covering those later military actions. Yet, none of them- from the smallest, our invasion of Grenada, to the largest, the Gulf War, were remotely like Vietnam- not in cost, death, length, nor outcome. Our confidence was high, with a sense of redawning American might. But, it should also be noted, despite occasional lapses, those campaigns, whether or not you agreed with them, had rings of truth; if not always fully, enough to dispel legitimate comparisons to the deceits that corrupted the Johnson and Nixon Administrations’ conduct of the Vietnam War.
A new generation, not scarred by Vietnam and Watergate, was apt to trust the government again, and think this new war would be like the other mini-wars. After all, we seemingly cleaned up Afghanistan rather easily, so Iraq, while a little harder, would still be a cakewalk, especially once Saddam Hussein was toppled. Did not our conduct and planning of the war bespeak that triumphalism? Vietnam was no more relevant than the Civil War to this generation. And there had been so many faux Vietnams the past three decades most folk simply did, and still do, not take the idea seriously, despite alarming evidence to the contrary.
After all, El Salvador was not another Vietnam. Nor was Nicaragua. Little Grenada- a nation that any moderately sized street gang from the Bronx could have taken over? Panama? Recall, Manuel Noriega was another dictator on our payroll (literally) who spurned us. Haiti? How about the Old World? The Gulf War? Somalia? The Balkans? And on the media Boy cried Wolf. People grew inured and the irresponsibility of the media has its share of the blame for the narcotized dismissive grins of, ‘Vietnam! Yeah, right!’ The hyperactive video game age is not one where long memories serve well- Vietnam is farther removed from this generation than the Civil War was from the World War II generation, despite being only a third of the time’s difference in real chronology. However, people over the age of fifty have no such Santayanan excuse.
So, ignorance of the past, due to the Boy Who Cried Wolf Syndrome, is one reason we uncritically accepted this war’s premises. Another is this war has been tied to the War on Terror and the hunt for Osama bin Laden- i.e.- the long shadow of 9/11 has given Bush political capital and trust Johnson and Nixon could only fantasize of. Although I give Hitchens plaudits for his forays into areas few media types dare touch- such as his exposure of Mother Teresa as The Ghoul Of Calcutta- when he claims there are no parallels between Iraq and Vietnam he is flat wrong.
In fact, the parallels are eerie and growing with time- so much so the joke making the rounds currently, the only difference between Vietnam and Iraq is George W. Bush had a plan to get out of Vietnam, may turn out, unfortunately, to not be so funny. Note that I have highly condensed the parallels down to eight, yet could easily have stretched them into dozens. This will be important in comparison to the Administration’s stated reasons for war in Iraq, which I will deconstruct later.
1) Military Error: plain old human error.
a) Military hubris: In both conflicts swift victory was ‘assured’. In Iraq victory was declared in little over a month, yet nearly two years on we are nowhere near real victory. Our might- greater firepower in Vietnam than all of World War II, and Iraq’s ‘Shock and Awe’ would carry the day. But, our hubris allowed our soldiers to invade Iraq in far too few numbers, with far too little protection and support. This occurred while Colin Powell was State Secretary- sadly ironic, for it violated The Powell Doctrine he crafted as his lesson learned from Vietnam: not enough troops, no clear mission, no consensus support, and no exit strategy. In Vietnam we also thought, early on, we we were winning, and would win easily.
b) Quagmire logic: This the result of military hubris, evidenced by both wars’ supporters. It is known as the hook, that as soon as you let yourself get hooked onto a losing proposition you find you cannot get off easily, so the fallacy says ‘send more and more’, except this leads to the logic that ends Night Of The Living Dead- ‘another one for the fire, boys!’ The hook in Iraq, for many, was supporting the invasion to get rid of Saddam, which morphed into supporting the occupation to ‘bring democracy’, and, when things didn’t go as planned, morphed into supporting crushing ‘opposition’, which meant killing innocents, manifold more than died in 9/11, and on and on, all justifying it as ‘noble and humanitarian’. There are the appeals to machismo and shame- ‘we cannot cut and run’, ‘we cannot show weakness’, and ‘don’t let the dead have died in vain’, but they are fey in comparison to likely alternatives- a long occupational war that fuels more insurgents from former moderates, with many more dead troops and civilians, an increased chance of terrorist attack domestically, bankrupting our nation which could lead to domestic problems unforeseen, as well as a decline of America as a superpower. Yet, appealing to machismo and shame shows how bankrupt support of the war is. Many still support the war only because they fear the consequences of leaving, not because they see anything positive that can come of the war. Although they prolonged the Vietnam War unnecessarily, even Nixon and Kissinger- masters of quagmire logic- finally simply left, cutting their political losses. We should follow suit, but sooner, not later, before an Iraqi ‘Tet Offensive’ turns the hook further, for we will someday have to leave, and the circumstances later are not as likely to be as good, relatively speaking, as now.
c) War conduct: Quagmires arise because we forsake General William Tecumseh Sherman’s ideal all wars should be total- brutal and short as possible, ensuring minimal casualties on your side, while giving the enemy pause before ever warring again- for pussyfooting around. In Vietnam we were afraid all out war would draw the Soviets or Red Chinese into the war. In Iraq we are afraid all out war, with its body count and sundered mosques, would turn the Moslem world against us. Thus, we sink in against vastly militarily inferior enemies. Ironically, as pure military strategy an Operation: Rolling Thunder would be far more effective in the Iraqi desert than in the Vietnamese jungles. Note: this point is not a contradiction of other points. I am not endorsing policy, merely showing similarities.
d) Tactical stupidity: In Iraq interim Iraqi Administrator Paul Bremer disbanded the conquered Iraqi Army, providing disgruntled, penniless fighters the terrorists could recruit and/or contract services from, while in Vietnam the US policy of hamlet pacification provided a pool of countless survivors from which the NVA and Vietcong could recruit from. There is growing consensus that, like Vietnam, this war is being waged incompetently.
e) No empathy: In both wars’ early stages empathy for ‘the enemy’ was nearly non-existent. The NVA and VC were ‘Godless Communists’, the Iraqi insurgents ‘Evil Terrorists’. This mindset can lead to Abu Ghraib or Rolling Thunder. The enemy must be dehumanized. Worse than a lack of empathy for the enemy, is the lack of empathy for innocents killed by the enemy and our forces. Basement estimates for Iraqi war dead are ten to twenty thousand while a hundred thousand is the top estimate. Yet, to read the Right Wing bloggers you would not think any of this occurred. In The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara, a 2003 Academy Award winning documentary by Errol Morris, McNamara makes a cogent point that the reason we were able to avert nuclear disaster in 1962 was JFK empathized with Khrushchev and the Soviets over the missile dilemma. LBJ and Nixon were incapable of empathy for the Vietnamese, and Bush and the pro-warriors likewise cannot empathize with anyone nor anything, save their tunnel vision.
f) Torture tactics: The result of no empathy. The American public was shocked over last year’s Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal, but the question of which shock was bigger- the fact that the US employs torture, as have all countries since time immemorial, during war, despite the Geneva Convention, or that its practitioners were arrogant and dumb enough to document it? Worse, it is still being whispered that torture continues, at a much lower profile, despite its discredited effectiveness in gaining good intelligence. Of course, torture was regularly applied during the Vietnam War by the South Vietnamese and CIA during Operation: Phoenix. And this does not even deal with atrocities inflicted by mercenaries, under our aegis, such as this NBC report on the company Custer Battles.
g) Retributive frustration: The stated reason we went into Vietnam was to avenge an attack in the Gulf of Tonkin, not to mention our frustration with not being able to topple Fidel Castro. In Iraq, Bush saw he failed to smoke out Osama bin Laden, so turned toward a target he knew the location of, one who had tried to assassinate his father.
h) Incompetent intelligence: As well as corrupt. The CIA and military failed miserably to properly intell the Vietnam War- from the bogus Gulf of Tonkin incident, daily press briefings laden with distortions and lies, repeated, failed CIA attempts to assassinate Ho Chi Minh, to the shock of the Tet Offensive. Iraq has been a Swiss cheese of intell problems- from the failure to properly assess the existence of WMDs, failing to project needed personnel and materiel, failing (in Afghanistan) to capture Osama bin Laden, letting tons of munitions slip from their control, to failing to protect military commissaries. Iraq has been so poorly run any other President would likely have long ago fired his Defense Secretary. Wars like this prove assassination is a viable option to war- but to surgically assassinate intelligence must be excellent. Ours was not.
War Fog: complexities of war are subject to the law of unintended
consequences, especially if presuppositions are in error.
a) Relative Size: Iraq is a little war, so far, compared with Vietnam. But, relative to the size of our military, and percentage of forces in Iraq, the wars are comparable, for the military was larger during the Cold War.
b) Expanded war: The reason for no exit strategy may be, as in Vietnam, a growing sense among pro-warriors one nation may not be enough. We are rumbling about going into Iran, to knock out nuclear capabilities, or Syria, to go after phantom WMDs and Baathists thought to be ferrying men and weapons for the insurgency. Expansion may be declared inevitable, as was ‘going after the Commies’ in Laos and Cambodia. The aftermath of that decision led to the Killing Fields of Pol Pot.
c) Frontless/Occupation: Except for the Indian Wars, the Philippines War, and the Vietnam War, all of our wars have been conventional, most were reactive wars against aggression, including the Gulf War. Iraq is a non-conventional, frontless, guerilla war, like Vietnam, as well an occupational war, after ‘supposed’ aggression in the Gulf of Tonkin Incident.
d) Theater war: While many argue the war in Iraq is a diversion and enervation from the real War on Terror, there is little doubt Vietnam and Iraq were viewed by their American enactors as mere theaters in larger campaigns. Vietnam, along with Korea, were hot theaters in the Cold War, while Iraq has been hinted at being merely the second theater, after Afghanistan, in the War on Terror, with Iran, Syria, and North Korea possible future theaters. An argument can be made that the difference is we were reactors in Vietnam, and provocateurs in Iraq.
e) Domino Theory: A cousin to theater war. This was the Cold War theory Communist aggression should be countered everywhere and at all costs, lest country after country fall to totalitarianism. History has shown the claim to be dubious, as the rejection of communist groups like The Shining Path in Peru, the regressivist failure of Cuba, the grass roots formation of counter-movements like Solidarity, the Soviet failure in Afghanistan, and the drift away from Communism in post-war Vietnam have shown much could be achieved with smarter, less-involved opposition, at far lesser costs, and without America’s help. In some circles, after the release of former Soviet documents, the collapse of the Soviet Empire is thought to have been delayed by twenty years by the Vietnam War and Reagan military buildup, in rote Domino opposition, for it allowed hard line militarists to counter reform agents that sought to unleash glasnost and perestroika years earlier than Mikhail Gorbachev. The folly of the Domino Theory is explored in the brilliant The Fog of War, one of the few films of the last century that will still be relevant in an eon, and should be required in all history classes. McNamara admits the idea was a false premise in Vietnam. In similar fashion, in Iraq, one new Domino Theory is proposed- instead of America being domino stoppers we are the domino pushers of democracy. Yet, a second Domino Theory claims Islamic Extremism must be stopped in Iraq, lest it become a second Iran, that will topple other governments across the Moslem world. The problem with that is by removing Saddam we set that very second Domino Theory in motion, for as bad as the Baathists were, they were rabidly anti-theocratic. Our invasion may have galvanized large segments of radical Islam in nations that are, on paper, our allies. Are we really prepared to invade nuclear Pakistan- where great sympathies for Al Quaida lie- were that to fall in an Islamic revolution?
Global domination: A cousin to the Domino Theory. We are told
Islamic Fundamentalists/Extremists/Islamofascists/Terrorists are a global
threat, as was Communism, bent on destroying Western Civilization. While there
is truth in these claims, insofar as stated aims, there is a huge difference in
the strength and ability of ‘the enemy’ in carrying those threats out.
Communism was a serious threat to world democracy and liberty, but even it, at
its height, controlled only a quarter of the world. Islamic Extremism rules in
only a few minor nations. It isn’t a threat at the level of the Soviets, nor
Nazis, rather the last gasps of fanaticism in the Moslem world that resents
being dragged into McWorld, like the youth in Iran who, less than a
quarter-century after the imposition of theocracy, resent and openly rebel
against their masters. The conflation of these criminal terrorists with
industrial state dictatorships with global aims, the Communists or the Fascists
(the Three Axis Powers of World War II), is patently absurd, and an illustration
of the desperation of the current Administration to give its war relevance.
George Bush and Tony Blair are not world figures on a par with FDR nor JFK nor
Winston Churchill, nor were Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein world threats on
an order of Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler. They would have been minor bandit
irritants in the Cold War. Big Times have a historic tendency to call out Big
Leaders and George Bush is manifestly a Small Leader for Small Times. Proof of
this comes from the fact of Bush’s near-constant missteps post-9/11. Hailed a
great leader after 9/11, I ask what did he do that no other President would not
have done? The real test of his leadership came in the failure to properly war
plan, or avoid war, between 9/11 and the start of the war. Also, consider if you
told the public, right after 9/11, that three and a half years later we would
not have captured Osama bin Laden, and started an unnecessary war with a nation
that had no involvement in 9/11. 98+% of the public would declare the President
an unqualified failure. That he is not is testament to the great agitprop, dull
electorate, and complicity of the MSM in shilling the war.
Compare his leadership to the well-documented skills of JFK during the mere thirteen days of the Cuban Missile Crisis- the closest the globe has yet to come to extinction, and imagine Bush as President then. Would any of us be here? 9/11 was not the start of World War III, as some feared, rather the first post-millennial death knell of Islam, and, indeed all organized religion in its long slide to irrelevance. 9/11 wasn’t a declaration of war on the West, but a paroxysmic admission of defeat.
g) No Exit: In Vietnam we went for years before a strategy emerged- ‘Peace, with honor’, then ‘Vietnamization’, and finally, ‘Get outta Dodge!’ This war has not even had that- no Marshall Plan for after the war was thought needed before the war, and still there is no exit strategy.
3) Political stupidity: political folly’s hand in war.
a) Orwellian deceit: Mainly euphemizing agitprop and historical revisionism. In Vietnam we were out ‘to win hearts and minds’. In Iraq we will be ‘welcomed as liberators’. In Vietnam victory was always a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, even as the tunnel lengthened and light dimmed. In Iraq success is always near, as we’ve ‘turned a corner’. The problem is every third corner turned heads us back to square one. ‘Vietnamization’ of the war becomes the ‘brave new Iraqi Army’. The destruction of towns and cities in Vietnam was ‘pacification’, while in Iraq it is ‘liberation’, with Najaf and Fallujah what Hue, My Lai, and Danang were to Vietnam. There was the State of the Union ‘moment’ when an Iraqi woman hugged an American mother whose son had been killed in Fallujah, only to have many on the Left point out her past’s not being what was claimed, which along with revelations of conservative columnists on the White House payroll, further bolsters their ideas the government may be funding many of the pro-war Iraqi blog sites, many claimed by the Left to not even be in Iraq. There is the denial of the wars’ starts and history. In Vietnam blame was shifted from Johnson to Kennedy to Eisenhower to the French. In Iraq the war was about WMDs, then not- just a laundry list of minor complaints (which I will deal with later). There is also demonizing political opposition. LBJ and Nixon claimed dissent undermined the military and encouraged the enemy. Bush recently went further, stating drawing analogies between Vietnam and Iraq does what dissent did then.
b) Big Brother: Manifestly a corollary of Orwellian deceit. In Vietnam it was J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI and the CIA, along with Nixon’s infamous ‘Enemies List’. Today it is the overreach of the Patriot Act. For those who claim unwarranted searches or seizures of library records could happen, but have not, I counter if employed as successfully as the Patriot Act claims is needed for National Security, there is no way a good citizen could know, until wrongly accused. If you counter the government was doing this all along, a credible argument, then the Patriot Act is still a disaster, in its revelation of possible counter-tactics any terrorists would need be wary of.
c) Callow Presidents: Johnson and Bush were ‘accidental’ Presidents. Both had little foreign policy experience, or interest in it, and Bush no war experience, while both relied on a small coterie of experts. Both were plagued with a paranoia the powers that be were out to get them- LBJ from Kennedy holdovers, Bush from ‘East Coast Elitists’. Both had ambitious domestic agendas that were compromised by their wars.
d) Presidential deceit: A corollary of Orwellian deceit. In Vietnam the Gulf of Tonkin incident, now admitted by former Johnson Administration officials as most likely never occurring, was the pretense for our entry into Vietnam. In Iraq fallacious claims of WMDs, Saddam’s ties to Al Quaida, poor intelligence, and a will to believe only information that reinforced pre-existing biases, led Bush to engage us in Iraq. Although pro-warriors will claim this is not true I will show below it is. The truth is we would never have gotten into Iraq absent the debunked claims of WMDs- other reasons were too few, too weak, thus the priority of the WMD claim.
e) Fear Mongering: A corollary to Orwellian deceit. Presidents playing off fears of conquest. During Vietnam there were variations of ‘a Red under every bed’ and LBJ declaiming if Reds weren’t stopped in Vietnam they’d be in Hawaii, then San Francisco, while Bush declares terrorists could be everywhere, but must be confronted in Iraq, lest strike New York, St. Louis, or Los Angeles, thus justifying the ultimate Boy Who Cried Wolf game- the color coded Terror Alert System, which has been ignored since the third or fourth time it was raised to paisley.
4) Domestic problems: domestic reasons a senseless war is engaged.
a) Silent majority: Both wars started with broad support by the oft-invoked ‘silent majority’ of the American public, but recent polls show Bush’s approval ratings are slipping each month, as did Johnson’s and Nixon’s. In Vietnam the ‘silent majority’ of support slowly became the ‘vocal majority’ against the war.
b) Cowardly opposition: In respect to opposition parties. The Republicans in the 1960s, especially after LBJ’s landslide over Goldwater, were scared of being seen as unpatriotic in opposing Communism, while the Democrats, after consecutive narrow losses by two terrible candidates, are still wavering on opposing the war. Republicans in the 1960s never got to the point where they condemned the war because they took the Presidency in 1968. It remains to be seen what Democrats will do- stand on principle and speak out against the war, or do so only when they sense the tide has turned. John Kerrey stated had he won the 2004 election he would have stayed the course, become the Democratic Nixon to Bush’s GOP LBJ.
c) Saturation war: Vietnam was the first war that was broadcast daily via television, thus intimating the American public to war on a scale never before known. In Iraq there is not only television, but live updates on blogs, 24/7 cable media outlets, and satellite and webcasting. There is a major difference, however- in Vietnam the MSM was comparatively free of censorship, while this war has embedded the MSM, as the Administration has co-opted of a large section of the blogosphere as a ‘see no evil’ peanut gallery. Fortunately, where the MSM has failed there has been the rise of many online blogs and ‘independent’ media outlets that have independently reported the war without the government’s aegis/grip, and certain MSM, the press corps, the Washington Post and New York Times, have started becoming more critical, where their electronic counterparts have still not shown spine, thus earning them the wrath of the Right Wing as ‘traitors’.
5) Miscellaneous reasons:
Sham elections: The recent elections on 1/30/05 were hailed with
an instant agitprop icon- the purple-inked thumb- as indisputable proof of
American rectitude. Yet, many trumpeted claims- a peaceful day (only 24 dead-
and dismissively sneered at by pro-war bloggers), 70+% turnout, and celebrating
voters- rang hollow. Reality set in- it was one of the most violent days yet-
with 60+ people dead (including a downed British airplane), voter turnout below
60% (58% of 8.5 million registered voters), with many precincts never opening,
charges of election fraud (the nearest election observers were in neighboring
countries), thousands of Iraqis protesting disenfranchisement on 2/6/05, not to
mention Sunni boycotts, and slate ballots which most voters knew not who nor
what party was on the ballot, nor what they stood for. The American puppets, the
Iraqi List, finished a distant third, in most places, with Shiite cleric Grand
Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani ’s theocratic party, United Iraqi Alliance,
getting the most, and Kurdish Alliance coming in second. He seems to be
the real winner; it was his fatwa declaring voting a duty that did more to push
for elections than Bush’s initial reluctance to allow voting. The parallels to
Vietnam become obvious looking at this
New York Times piece from 1967:
U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote: Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror by Peter Grose, Special to the New York Times (9/4/1967)
WASHINGTON, Sept. 3– United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam’s presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.
According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.
The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.
A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson’s policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam.
The turnout of 83 per cent was a welcome surprise. The turnout in the 1964 United States Presidential election was 62 per cent.
A question to ask is will we tolerate ‘democracy’ if it results in a Shiite Islamic coalition republic, a distinct possibility- one in which anti-Israeli sentiments are not hidden? Or will there be an ‘incident’ that forces us to depose the government?
b) Military unrest: Absolutely verboten in pro-war corners, but the truth is growing numbers of injured Iraqi war veterans, abandoned to the wayward US healthcare system, denied proper medals, denied other basic rights, along with active resentment among many reservists whose service ended years ago, but subjected to loopholes of the back door draft, have voiced concerns that military personnel safety is not as high a priority as protecting Iraqi oil fields, and their outrage over their treatment. While not nearly at the levels of anti-war veterans movements of Vietnam the potential is there. On a Vietnam timeline the level of military unrest now is greater than it was at the two year mark in Vietnam. All this while Bush says he supports the troops, but cuts their benefits.
c) World doubts: Vietnam was not a heartily endorsed war, as the Korean War had been, by the UN, and American motives were suspect in world opinion from the beginning. Iraq has been almost wholly a dual American-British effort, in stark contrast to the nearly unanimous UN approval of the Gulf War, due mainly to doubts, later proven correct, about the existence of WMDs, and the American corporate power grab for post-invasion contractual booty. The doubts have only continued and grown with the clash between the daily bloodshed and the sunny briefing room optimism, bolstered by claims that are mostly or wholly false. Yet, in a typical tactic, pro-warriors claim France, Germany, and Russia, among other nations, never out and out stated they did not believe Saddam had WMDs, even though their actions did, nor did they deny Saddam was a bad guy- although that was not the point of the war.
d) Ugly Americana: The stereotype of the Ugly American arose in Latin America, due to our government’s, and corporations’, support of dictators through the centuries, and spread across the world throughout the 20th Century- to the Middle East, Africa, Polynesia, and the Orient. In Vietnam it was corporate interests, plus our refusal to decry French colonialism, that earned us that title across Indochina. In Iraq our corporate post-invasion power grab for war spoils (mainly oil) did little to dispel that appearance, as did our indifference to the looting of Iraq’s national treasures. In both wars there was and is almost total denial to see our role as exploiters of less developed nations as a reason for their hatred. Instead, reductively simplistic slogans like ‘They hate freedom!’ predominate. Never is the question asked why it’s so easy to recruit anti-American haters into our enemy’s fold.
e) Spurned tyrants: In Vietnam Ho Chi Minh was a tyrant whom the US had many opportunities to bring under our wing, as we had with Chiang Kai-Shek, the Shah, Ferdinand Marcos, Suharto, and dozens of Latin American despots, for his record of seeking American aid in overthrowing French colonialism dates back to a post-World War I attempt to get President Woodrow Wilson to get Vietnamese recognition as an autonomous colony in the French Empire, to President Harry Truman’s spurning of Ho in the late 1940s. US authorities never fully trusted Ho, nor thought he would be a ‘good little stooge’. With good reason- he spent decades using and frustrating the Soviets and Red Chinese, who knew he was a Nationalist in Communist’s clothing. Our prescience had its toll. In Iraq, Saddam had no problem being under US protection, and even thought he would get a look the other way from us, as President Jimmy Carter did for Suharto, in East Timor, in the 1970s, when he invaded Kuwait. Unfortunately, Kuwait had oil, East Timor didn’t. To extend the analogy further, if one accepts the premise pro-warriors give, that Saddam was indeed tied to Al Quaida, it’s worth noting Osama bin Laden was a CIA-trained operative during the years of the Soviet war in Afghanistan. All three tyrants were spurned by the US at one point or another.
1) Enemy not: The enemy the US thought it was facing in both wars was simply not as reductively simple as first thought. In Vietnam all US opposition was ‘evidence of Communism’, and while true there were die-hard Communists in the NVA and VC it is clear the primary thrusts of your average anti-American Vietnamese was anti-imperialist, pro-nationalist, and civil war. This fundamental misreading of the war has led even former die-hard supporters to admit the war was a costly mistake and diversion in the Cold War. Ho Chi Minh is recognized as having played both sides of the Cold War against the middle to get what he wanted, a Vietnam free from colonialism, and under his thumb. Ho chose perhaps the most apt alias of all time because he was the consummate ‘ho’- willing to sell out to the highest bidder who’d fund his campaigns. Only the Commies bit, and came to regret it when he backstabbed them. Only the deluded Far Right still spouts the debunked mythos Ho was a committed Communist, even though his attempts to sell out to the US are documented. In Iraq a similar misread is going on, as all insurgents are lumped together under the heading terrorist- connoting the Apocalyptic Al Quaida. In truth there is a range of insurgents. There are the Apocalyptics, but also Baathist remains, supported by Sunni splinter groups, Shia and Sunni civil warriors, religious jihadists, foreign elements, anarchists, anti-occupationists, nationalists, and pure mercenaries- Average Mohammads who will sell their services to the highest bidder, while many ex-Baathists were in the officer and managerial ranks, with organizational skills, access to looted money, and perhaps access to munitions our military ‘misplaced’. Add to that, Arab dynasts who secretly will fund Sunni insurgents, and the enemy is no pushover, and every bit as formidable and resilient as in Vietnam.
2) Enemy bad: Our enemy is ‘pure evil’. This demonization is linked to ‘no empathy’. The Communists were worse than the Nazis, and the terrorists/insurgents are worse still. Evil exists in the terrorist camp, but has to be recognized as a nuanced evil- with origins, reasons, and support among many. To fail to recognize that would mean ‘we’ are as unspeakably evil, for how manifold more innocents have we killed in Iraq, which never attacked us, than the terrorists did on 9/11? This rationale leads to the spineless Joe Lieberman Doctrine- ‘any thing we do is good because they’re bad guys’- and the hubris that led to Abi Ghraib.
3) Enemy more: We were not going to win in Vietnam because the North had a near endless source of manpower and materiel from the Soviet Union, and its satellites, that beat us through attrition. The Iraqi insurgents can call on reinforcements from the whole of the Arab and Moslem worlds.
Let me end
with restating I have given over thirty stark and tenable parallels between the
two wars, and, had I gone the route many dialecticians do, could have parsed
them out into over a hundred. The purpose of this all is to dispel the
disingenuous denials of parallels, and show that unlike the many Boy Who
Cried Wolf claims of the past, these are not bogus. Iraq is not yet the
bloodbath Vietnam was, but it has the potential to be, and at similar stages of
the wars we are already in as far, or farther, than Vietnam.
The next time a pro-warrior, or Right Winger pooh-poohs the comparison, simply use this handy Baedeker. To deny the manifold and manifest parallels is for someone to willfully reveal an agenda beyond rationality. Now, it’s time to tackle the motivations behind this current war in Iraq.
2) The Couch Potato’s Burden
Man’s Burden is one of the more noxious terms from America’s past foreign
policies of racist and paternalist colonialism. It was the view non-European
based cultures were child-like- Noble Savages or demonic warriors- in comparison
to white, European cultures. It posited people of European descent, usually
Christian, had an obligation to dominate these cultures until they could mature
into the ‘civilized world’. The WMB had kinship with the earlier Manifest
Destiny. With the Winning of the West, MD was ailing. Fortunately, for
America’s imperial aspirations, the Spanish-American War came along, and after
that a war in the Philippines, won from Spain.
The term came from an 1899 Rudyard Kipling poem, The White Man’s Burden: The United States and The Philippine Islands, published in the February McClure’s magazine. The British Kipling cheered American ascendancy, arguing the US needed to fill the power vacuum created by Spain’s decline. While the poem is simple-minded its poet was not. Kipling has been unfairly tarred as a racist and sexist because of a handful of poems in his oeuvre. In truth, he was a progressive voice, writing many poems in service to or praise of the working class and impoverished, and certainly no sexist, as his great poem The Rival proves. Even his tag as an imperialist is suspect, for half a year after The White Man’s Burden was published a poem called The Old Issue, a stern rebuke of the colonial Boer War, was published. Perhaps the most chilling defense of the WMB came from a great man, Winston Churchill, only proving even people with nobility can simply be flat out wrong. In 1937, at a commission looking into a 1936 slaughter of Palestinians, he said, ‘I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race, a more worldly-wise race, to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.’ I include this to show merely because supporters of this war are wrong, means not they are irredeemable, nor innately evil.
While most people recognize the notion as condescending, racist, and paternalist, it has been re-embraced by the American Right Wing as a guiding light for the Iraq War, although neutering the language to downplay racial aspects, even though a few years ago this ‘nation building’ was seen as verboten. In this Madison Avenued version the WMB redivivus is a noblesse oblige richer nations have- although it is not sharing of wealth that is proposed, rather the installation of governments that favor their WMB patrons. Claims are made certain peoples are not capable of choosing the ‘correct way’ of governance by themselves, and need to be forced, as children, to behave.
Startlingly, this has been trumpeted by Right Wingers and pro-warriors, especially on political talk shows and in the blogosphere- usually by middle aged, middle class, middle brow white men- far more aggressively than the power elite. In response to this the term White Man’s Burden is somewhat outdated, and I have termed this neo-WMB the Couch Potato’s Burden. I first came up with the term arguing with pro-war poliblogger and apologist Dean Esmay. Esmay is merely one of many bloggers I’ve argued with in the last half year. He is a classic Right Wing, pro-war, don’t question the Pentagon sort, who voted for Bush, and devotes much of his blog to relentlessly sunny reports of a school being rebuilt, or the recent election, while skimming over the increasing American death toll, not to mention the innocent Iraqi dead. Nay, do not dare bring that up! He and his ilk are mirror images of Left Wing bloggers who downplay Saddam Hussein’s evil and opposed the war from the get-go, simply because they hated Bush. Both sides are Lowest Common Denominator propagandists, and their credibility suffers for it.
Yet, this is what discourse in this nation has come to- not arguing over the interpretation of facts, but arguing over different sets of facts. The Left and Right live in their own echoic star chambers, where anyone who disagrees is a traitor or slimeball, yet both are equally out of touch with the great masses in the middle. Need proof? I give you Easongate and Gannongate. What? The chances are whether you are reading this piece shortly after its appearance, or decades from now, these two ‘scandals’ will mean little to you, and the names vaguely conjure up ex-pro quarterbacks. But, in the blogosphere, the Right and Left wingnuts are making hay with these tales, and the men they’re named after, Jordan Eason and Jeff Gannon, as if they were as important as the Rosenbergs or Roy Cohn. Eason was the news chief of CNN, who stupidly recently claimed American soldiers were aiming to kill American journalists, wholly without proof, who recently cowardly resigned, and Jeff Gannon was the pseudonym of James Guckert, a Right Wing White House journalist shill implicated in a bizarre gay prostitute online sex scandal.
But, unless you are a blogging addict, these names and their ‘scandals’ are meaningless. Both sides of the blogosphere have demonized these two incidents far out of proportion, as they do most things. Recently, I posted reactions to these two scandals on both Right Wing and Left Wing blogs. I used the exact same phrasings posted into each side’s comments- calling both tales tabloid journalism only bloggers who are out of touch with reality care about. People have been known to have loose lips- Eason didn’t have guts to make a real accusation, nor stand by his comments, while Gannon was merely the latest in a long line of Presidential shills in the media. The blogosphere, to its rare credit, makes it harder to keep such things quiet. Left Wingers railed I missed the point Gannon was a severe threat to the integrity of the media, and evidence of Right Wing perversion of freedom of the press. Right Wingers railed I did not see the liberal bias of Eason perverts the integrity of the media. They made my points about each other and themselves, and the only relevance either story may have is Gannon, and disgraced black conservative journalist shill Armstrong Williams, among others, may bolster Leftist claims many pro-war bloggers in America and Iraq are on the White House and/or CIA payroll.
The Left, emboldened by lack of WMDs, and increasing likelihood their outlook at the start of the war will be proven true, seem almost to gloat when a body count comes in. Not all, but many. By doing so they risk alienating moderates who are sickened by the war, but don’t want to be seen as part of ‘that crowd’. The Right, increasingly desperate and frustrated their initial assumptions and further claims keep missing their targets, have gone even further, with an anger their power is even questioned. Note the terms I have used- Left and Right (with capitals), not liberal and conservative, because they are two different things. The true liberal and conservative opinion on the Iraq war is the same- to never have engaged, albeit for different reasons. The liberal opposes military force against a nation that did not attack us, and the attendant miseries sprung from it, while the conservative agrees with that, and also opposes interfering in other nations’ internal affairs, as well as the financial cost of the war.
Yet, these arguments are pooh-poohed by the pro-war Right, as they have co-opted the fascistic newspeak of the PC Elite Left, and shoved it back down their, and the rest of our, collective craws. In the insulated Right Wing blogosphere, for example, it is ‘inhumane and racist’ to NOT support the war. Yes, that is correct. The illogic unfurls thusly: Saddam Hussein, in thirty-plus years in power murdered and tortured several hundred thousand of his innocent citizens, so we were being humanitarian to topple him, and in less than two years, kill and torture upwards of a hundred thousand Iraqi citizens- the vast majority innocent. If you point out the logical folly of this humanitarian Big Stick leading us through endless wars, and ask why Iraq and not dozens of other equally bad, or worse, regimes, you are scoffed at as isolationist, left behind by history. And do not dare mention o-i-l. As for being racist to NOT support the war- the argument is you don’t believe brown-skinned Arabs deserve or can support democracy, even as it is far more plausible to see racism as the Right’s denial of Arabs as ethical agents, free to choose democracy if they wish. With Saddam gone, our stated mission of regime change done, and elections, why won’t Bush do what LBJ was urged to do by Vermont Senator George Aiken (R), in regard to Vietnam- just declare victory and leave? Well, the US has an ‘obligation’ to help this poor country. They cannot possibly deal with democracy’s vagaries by themselves. Thus the Couch Potato’s Burden rings clarion through the blogosphere! History repeats itself as the original WMB and Vietnam have no lessons to teach the Right. Ironically, the Right often accuses the Left of not learning from the past- usually in regards to communism, but equally applicable to the disasters colonial imperialism wrought. To impugn racism and inhumanity on those who oppose an unjust, factually unsupportable war, and the indiscriminate killing of people in their nation’s name, is to pervert not only dictionary definitions, but all sense of decency and fair play.
This sort of ignorance and backhanded bigotry is fortunately not espoused by all members of the Right, as true conservatives of conscience, tv talk show hosts John McLaughlin and Robert Novak, columnists Charley Reese and Pat Buchanan, and Reagan era Navy Secretary James Webb, among the more well-known, have spoken out vigorously and judiciously against the war, and the damage it can inflict upon America, as well the Patriot Act.
The most fervent has been conservative columnist Paul Craig Roberts, a former Reagan era bureaucrat, who published in and edited for the Wall Street Journal and National Review, for months tilting at windmills regarding the war. Once beloved, he has become a pariah for his attacks on Bush and the war, a continuing series of articles, and many of his former outlets have dropped him. Just a few of his salient conservative points about the Looking Glass world of the pro-war Right:
was a time when I could rant about the ‘liberal
media’ with the best of them. But in recent years I have puzzled over
the precise location of the ‘liberal
Not so long ago I would have identified the liberal media as the New York Times and Washington Post, CNN and the three TV networks, and National Public Radio. But both the Times and the Post fell for the Bush administration’s lies about WMD and supported the US invasion of Iraq. On balance CNN, the networks, and NPR have not made an issue of the Bush administration’s changing explanations for the invasion.
Apparently, Rush Limbaugh and National Review think there is a liberal media because the prison torture scandal could not be suppressed and a cameraman filmed the execution of a wounded Iraqi prisoner by a US Marine.’
‘In the ranks of the new conservatives, however, I
see and experience much hate. It comes to me in violently worded, ignorant and
irrational emails from self-professed conservatives who literally worship George
Bush. Even Christians have fallen into idolatry. There appears to be a large
number of Americans who are prepared to kill anyone for George Bush.
Iraqi War is serving as a great catharsis for multiple conservative
frustrations: job loss, drugs, crime, homosexuals, pornography, female
promiscuity, abortion, restrictions on prayer in public places, Darwinism and
attacks on religion. Liberals are the cause. Liberals are against America.
Anyone against the war is against America and is a liberal. ‘You
are with us or against us.’
the mindset of delusion, and delusion permits of no facts or analysis. Blind
emotion rules. Americans are right and everyone else is wrong. End of the
That, gentle reader, is the full extent of talk radio, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal Editorial page, National Review, the Weekly Standard, and, indeed, of the entire concentrated corporate media where noncontroversy in the interest of advertising revenue rules.’
-November 26, 2004, What Became of Conservatives?
Americans persist in these misconceptions, America will ‘share
the fate of all those who in ages past have looked to war and military power to
fulfill their destiny. We will rob future generations of their rightful
inheritance. We will wreak havoc abroad. We will endanger our security at home.
We will risk the forfeiture of all that we prize.’’
-January 17, 2005, How Americans Were Seduced by War
one of Bush’s neocon puppetmasters, Robert Kagan, approvingly wrote in the
Washington Post on January 23, ‘The
goal of American foreign policy is now to spread democracy, for its own sake,
for reasons that transcend specific threats. In short, Bush has unmoored his
foreign policy from the war on terrorism.’ [A Higher Realism]....Kagan
calls America’s moral crusade against the world ‘the higher realism that Bush now proclaims.’ Gerson declares
that Bush’s ‘methods are deeply
What is realistic about declaring weapons of mass destruction to exist
where they do not exist?
realistic about assigning blame for September 11 where it does not belong?
realistic about destroying a secular state and creating a vast breeding ground
realistic about making Osama bin Laden an Islamic hero and shaking the
foundations of America’s reigning puppets in the Middle East?
realistic about declaring a world crusade in the face of evidence that the US
cannot successfully occupy Baghdad, a city of only 6 million people, much less
Iraq, a country of only 25 million people?
nothing realistic about Bush or any of his advisers. The world has not seen such
delusion since the Children’s Crusade led by a visionary French peasant,
Stephen of Cloyes, marched off to free the Holy Land from the Muslims in the
The children were captured and sold into slavery.’
-January 24, 2005, War Without End—Bush Proclaims Jacobin Crusade
I have disagreements with other of Roberts’ views, but the point is
being anti-war is by no means merely a political stance. Rather, it is a stance
based on rightness, realism, and intellect. Such clarity of thought is rabidly
dismissed online, as one person I argued with, using Roberts’ words, declared,
in all delusive seriousness, ‘People
like Roberts will eventually pay the price for their crime.’ The crime
being racist and inhumane in opposing the war. The quote is not taken out of
context, and all too typical.
Yet, the Right Wing blogosphere will grasp at anything to justify their reasons for warring, just as, had there been WMDs, the Left would have grasped at any straw to deny their existence. My positions were the only reasonable and correct positions to take in regards to the war. To be reluctantly pro-war before the reasons for war evaporated, and avidly anti-war after. These are wholly consistent given what was known at each time. They are the humane positions, to seek to de-fang the possible cause of future victims, and to simply admit error, and not prolong suffering our error caused. Had Bush admitted his error and withdrawn he would have beaten Kerry in a landslide. Simplistic ideology does not suffice- be it the Never Stand Up Left nor the Couch Potato Burdened Right.
To those who say it is dishonorable to leave Iraq I state it is dishonorable to wage war on a nation that did not attack us, based on false premises. To those who claim it is our burden to teach the uncivilized governance I state societies ripen at their own pace, regardless of race or ethnicity, and the Iraqi people have ethical agency and are free to choose whether to work together or civilly war without our paternalistic intervention. If blood need be spilled for democracy, as Jefferson admitted, better it be Iraqi blood by Iraqi hands, lest the mounting American dead’s sacrifice there be purposeless as their elders in Vietnam. Evidence of this notion can be seen in Ukraine, where the masses were ready, willing, and able, to stand up for democracy. They are much farther along the continuum than Iraqis and were freedom to fail there it would be a far greater blow to the democratic ideal than failure in Iraq.
But, many in the pro-war Right simply do not believe the Iraqis, or Arabs, or Moslems, are capable of freely choosing their own form of governance, and you can believe if a theocracy is democratically chosen they would not stand for it. This is why the kinship with the White Man’s Burden exists, why so many middle aged cyber-jockeys who are vicariously living out the computer game fantasies they grew up with in Iraq are more properly purveyors of the Couch Potato’s Burden. It is the simple-minded, hand-down-pants approach of Couch Potatoes- Al Bundy Geopolitics. It is why they give credence to the recent sham election.
While it’s true to say Iraqis, on January 30th, embraced the idea of democracy, this was in no substantive way democracy- where a person makes an informed choice between candidates and positions, and knows of the choices beforehand, not when they walk into the polling place. Here, candidates and parties were mostly unknown and their positions a mystery. I term this sort of election Glory Hole Democracy. Let me explain: as a child I recall gay bars in my poor neighborhood where child prostitutes, mostly runaways to the Big City, who were pals with me and my band of hellacious urchins, were hired to sit behind ‘glory holes’- cutouts in a wall- and fellate anonymous males, mostly gay, some bi and ‘straight’, who would stick their penises through the holes. The ‘customers’ would claim they had no idea they were abusing children and walk away feeling they had a clean conscience, but none could claim, to be ‘intimate’ with their fellaters.
The same is true with this election, as this was no real democracy. Yes, as in an act of prostitution, from a distance, the mechanics are there- but it is not the same thing as ‘making love’ to one you care about. Only deluded propagandists see this as a legitimate thing. Huzzahs for the voters, but shame on the puppeteers who’ve duped the freedom starved into thinking they have done something historic. Their actions are no more democratic than the glory holes were a place of sexual intimacy, and to claim this election was ‘democracy on the march’ has as much credence as the North American Man-Boy Love Association’s claims pedophiles care for their victims.
Yet, not only is democracy in Iraq, as being practiced by the Bush Administration, a sham; the fact is Iraq, as a nation, is a sham. It has no real continuous history, and is a cookie cutter state whose boundaries were carved out during British colonialism’s heyday. This makes the utter neglect of the Kurdish hopes for an independent state so sickening. If freedom were truly on the march we would support a free Kurdistan. But we are not, and neither is the Right Wing, nor pro-warrior crowd. The reason? We don’t want to piss off Turkey, our ally in the area, and the nation we hope can be a wedge force in politically dividing the European Union- thus our support for its entry.
Thus, what it always seems to come down to in the world, of the Couch Potato’s Burden, or beyond- politics, one of the basest of all human affairs: the divvying of power by an elite to orchestrate the masses. One of the big differences, and a huge political advantage, the Iraq War has over the Vietnam War, in America, is a greater percentage of good PR, due to the pro-war blogosphere’s many distortions of American success, which are real, but far fewer than the blogs or mostly still ‘on board’ MSM would have people believe, and wholesale ignorance of our failures, that does not square with the reality laid out by independent American, and non-American, sources. Evidence of this can be seen from how quickly the New York Times and Washington Post were savaged when their war coverage turned from fawning acceptance, to mere critical ambivalence. They were media Rosenbergs. Anything short of absolute cheerleading is considered treasonous.
For example- on Election Day in Iraq there were a couple dozen deaths reported, and the very mention of it had Right Wing polibloggers enraged that a mere twenty-four deaths ‘overshadowed’ the vote of millions, and a 70+% voter turnout. This was definitive proof of the Left’s co-option of the MSM. Yet, I watched all three newscasts that night, and ABC, NBC, and CBS all led off with the ‘successful’ vote, high turnout, bravery of the Iraqi electorate, and great day for freedom, as purple inked fingers were waved as if at a sporting event where a team won a championship, and the naysayers and doubters were portrayed as Neville Chamberlains or delusional Cassandras. It was only after nearly ten minutes of upbeat reportage that the newscasts also mentioned, briefly, there were two dozen dead. In short, the election was ‘an unqualified success’, the terrorists had been shown to be toothless, and a few deaths just sour grapes. In the following days facts came out to dispel those notions. Including dead in a downed British airplane, the death toll nearly tripled (although the US and Iraqi governments refuse to give ‘official’ body counts), attacks on polling places numbered nearly three hundred, election fraud was rampant, as impartial election observers were not allowed to watch, Sunnis mostly boycotted, and the turnout was 58%, likely lower, since the registered voters represented only a portion of age eligible voters not scared off from even registering. It was one of the bloodiest days of the American occupation, and- in light of the claimed 83% who voted in Vietnam, and projections and initial claims- a bit of a failure. Not of the Iraqis, but of the American propaganda machine’s conflict with reality.
This is the very area the pro-war Right Wingers are most ‘challenged’, as they have sipped the Utopian fantasy Kool-Aid that left the Left hung over for decades. Thus, I will now take on the very reasons the US went to war in Iraq and show they are not what they appear, not as many as claimed, and rhetorical sleight of hand. I should also state the structuring of my Vietnam-Iraq parallels was influenced by the bloated reasoning put forth by the White House. I could have easily, using their drawn out rhetorical parsing, numbered my stated parallels at well over a hundred, rather condensing them to eight.
That said, the next time a pro-warrior throws the straw man of, ‘it wasn’t just for WMDs we went to war, there were over a dozen other reasons’, you can use this handy syllabus, below, in rebuttal.
3) Talking Points Against The War
with the pro-war crowd it is important to recall, as in arguing with theists,
they are the ones with the burden of proof for justifying the war. And when they
point to reasons other than WMDs please obliterate their arguments in the
following manner, and/or refer them to this
chronology of official statements. The following rationales for war are
taken, verbatim, and unexpurgated, from the White House’s website, the
10/2/02 document used to justify the war to the nation, and the world. It is
important to note the phrasing and rhetorical tricks used to puff up the
rationales, before I parse them, and that mine seems to be the only direct
assault on the Joint Resolution’s actual words, itself, at least online. In
the section containing the reasons for war, there are twenty-four paragraphs,
twenty-three of them beginning with the word whereas. In legal documents,
especially contracts, and I’ve seen my share, terms as whereas
generally denote new areas of contention resolved or separate points of
agreement, with the break into paragraphs (generally numbered), and ended with a
semi-colon, an easy way of delineating each presumed separate point.
Therefore, to a lay eye, it would seem reasonable that the twenty-three paragraphs beginning with whereas must denote twenty-three separate reasons that the war in Iraq should proceed. That is impressive sounding. But, look at each paragraph:
Whereas in 1990
in response to Iraq’s war of aggression against and illegal occupation of
Kuwait, the United States forged a coalition of nations to liberate Kuwait and
its people in order to defend the national security of the United States and
enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions relating to Iraq;
This is preamble to the
reasons, not a reason, and was dealt with during the Gulf War. Tally: 1
paragraph, 0 reasons for war.
Whereas after the
liberation of Kuwait in 1991, Iraq entered into a United Nations sponsored
cease-fire agreement pursuant to which Iraq unequivocally agreed, among other
things, to eliminate its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs and
the means to deliver and develop them, and to end its support for international
Still preamble, not a reason, but it is notable WMDs appear so early, as a hammer, in the section. It is now known, even though Saddam yanked around the UN for years, their inspections program actually worked! Tally: 2 paragraphs, 0 reasons for war.
efforts of international weapons inspectors, United States intelligence
agencies, and Iraqi defectors led to the discovery that Iraq had large
stockpiles of chemical weapons and a large scale biological weapons program, and
that Iraq had an advanced nuclear weapons development program that was much
closer to producing a nuclear weapon than intelligence reporting had previously
The first reason- wholly debunked. To believe there were WMDs means the first break from reality has occurred. Just Google David Kay, Hans Blix, or Mohammed El Baradai. Tally: 3 paragraphs, 1 reason for war, 1 reason debunked.
Whereas Iraq, in
direct and flagrant violation of the cease-fire, attempted to thwart the efforts
of weapons inspectors to identify and destroy Iraq’s weapons of mass
destruction stockpiles and development capabilities, which finally resulted in
the withdrawal of inspectors from Iraq on October 31, 1998;
The second reason. This is true, but worth noting Saddam gave in, and inspections were going on until the US plans for invasion were a fait accompli. So, while rhetorically the statement is factual, as a reason for war it is iffy. I give it half-legitimacy. Tally: 4 paragraphs, 2 reasons for war, 1½ reasons debunked, ½ a reason true and relevant.
Whereas in 1998
Congress concluded that Iraq’s continuing weapons of mass destruction programs
threatened vital United States interests and international peace and security,
declared Iraq to be in ‘material and unacceptable breach of its international
obligations’ and urged the President ‘to take appropriate action, in
accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to
bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations’ (Public Law
First sleight of hand. This is recapitulation of paragraph 3, not a new reason, with the addendum we recognized Congress and the UN recognized what we claimed in that paragraph. Saying other parties recognized what we claimed does not make its debunking any less. Tally: 5 paragraphs, 2 reasons for war, 1½ reasons debunked, ½ a reason true and relevant.
Whereas Iraq both
poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and
international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in
material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among
other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and
biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability,
and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations;
Really look at this
paragraph. It restates what the earlier paragraphs did, which includes the
debunked conclusions. This is a corollary to the idea terrorists represent as
grave a threat to the world as the Nazis or Soviets. Nazi Germany was one of the
most advanced industrial nations at the time, and part of a true Axis of Evil-
replete with signed documents, while the Soviet Union was the only other
superpower besides the US, and both regimes were eminently able to project
menace across their borders. Iraq was not. Tally: 6 paragraphs, 2 reasons
for war, 1½ reasons debunked, ½ a reason true and relevant.
A quarter through the
twenty-four paragraphs we are on pace for two reasons for war, and neither will
include the WMDs so prominent in the dire warnings of the White House propaganda
machine. Peacocks would be proud of such puffery.
persists in violating resolutions of the United Nations Security Council by
continuing to engage in brutal repression of its civilian population thereby
threatening international peace and security in the region, by refusing to
release, repatriate, or account for non-Iraqi citizens wrongfully detained by
Iraq, including an American serviceman, and by failing to return property
wrongfully seized by Iraq from Kuwait;
This is true. The question
is could such a statement reasonably be applied to other nations? Yes. As
reason for war? Therein the rub. Were other reasons given supported this would
have more weight. As they are not I give this a ½ reason. Tally: 7
paragraphs, 3 reasons for war, 2 reasons debunked, 1 reason true and relevant.
current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its capability and willingness to use
weapons of mass destruction against other nations and its own people;
True, but, this is just
clarification of the prior reason, as this was done over a decade earlier, when
the US looked the other way, and the fact we know the WMD gambit was bogus, this
is added as rhetorical flourish, more specified, to burnish the earlier claim.
But, as that was false, burnishing a lie with a truth becomes a dialectic
tactic, not a truth, nor a reason. Yet, if this is a reason for war, why not war
with Saddam between 1980 and 1990? He was one of our ‘good’ dictators then.
This is how Orwellian newspeak works- couch a lie in a truth, even an irrelevant
truth, at the time of the newspeak, and you will win converts. I am not one of
them- I parse too well. Tally: 8 paragraphs, 3 reasons for war, 2 reasons
debunked, 1 reason true and relevant, 1 reason true but irrelevant. A nice
mathematical progression, though.
current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its continuing hostility toward, and
willingness to attack, the United States, including by attempting in 1993 to
assassinate former President Bush and by firing on many thousands of occasions
on United States and Coalition Armed Forces engaged in enforcing the resolutions
of the United Nations Security Council;
This is true. American planes were sporadically shot at and an assassination attempt on Bush the Elder was tried, but these things happen when you occupy part of a nation. There was never serious military action against the US, and this was mostly past tense as the war neared, for Saddam was capitulating. Note the openness of the phrasing of ‘continuing’ and ‘willingness’, to allow for maximum flexibility in interpreting what they mean. Another nice trick. By this rationale the North would have been justified in attacking the South during Reconstruction, for sporadic pockets of rebellion still existed. It’s a linguistic reason, not a literal one. Tally: 9 paragraphs, 4 reasons for war, 2 reasons debunked, 1 reason true and relevant, 2 reasons true but irrelevant.
of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United
States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on
September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq;
phrasing. While true Al Quaida attacked us, not Iraq, and there were occasional
members in Iraq, the implication of this paragraph is to clearly impute guilt on
Iraq. We know, conclusively, Iraq was in no way, shape, nor form responsible for
9/11. We know there were at least twenty members of Al Quaida in America on
9/11. Does that mean we were culpable in attacking ourselves? This shows the
utter lack of understanding of the way criminals- be they Mafiosi or terrorists-
operate. If Saddam Hussein were Al Capone, who ran a fiefdom, then Osama bin
Laden was John Dillinger. Of course, in similar circles there will be similar
contacts, but that does not imply connection, as Capone and Dillinger were known
to loathe each other, and never worked together, much as Saddam and Osama. This
is the fallacy of the undistributed middle: X worked with Saddam. X worked with
Osama. Therefore Saddam worked with Osama. Not so. Tally: 10 paragraphs,
5 reasons for war, 3 reasons debunked, 1 reason true and relevant, 3 reasons
true but irrelevant. Because this statement is debunked and irrelevant it gets
notches in both columns, making the reason’s realities surpass their number.
continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations,
including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of American citizens;
True, on its face. There
were non-Al Quaida groups Iraq supported, mostly Palestinian splinter groups,
but none operated out of that sphere, nor posed the threat Al Quaida did. This
is a false implication. Tally: 11 paragraphs, 6 reasons for war, 4
reasons debunked, 1 reason true and relevant, 4 reasons true but irrelevant.
Another reason that notches into two columns.
attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001 underscored the gravity of
the threat posed by the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by
international terrorist organizations;
This is true, but a
restatement of the earliest posits about WMDs, and as Iraq did not possess WMDs,
irrelevant. Tally: 12 paragraphs, 6 reasons for war, 4 reasons debunked,
1 reason true and relevant, 4 reasons true but irrelevant.
demonstrated capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction, the
risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those weapons to launch a
surprise attack against the United States or its Armed Forces or provide them to
international terrorists who would do so, and the extreme magnitude of harm that
would result to the United States and its citizens from such an attack, combine
to justify action by the United States to defend itself;
Still just restating
earlier claims about WMDs. Restating a falsehood does not make it truer. Note
this paragraph is longer than the earlier paragraphs, and couches lies (the
possession of WMDs), and assumptions (Iraq had US attack plans) in truths, then
actually, in a Freudian slip, uses the word ‘justify’. Simply put, this is
not a reason. Tally: 13 paragraphs, 6 reasons for war, 4 reasons
debunked, 1 reason true and relevant, 4 reasons true but irrelevant.
Nations Security Council Resolution 678 authorizes the use of all necessary
means to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 660 and subsequent
relevant resolutions and to compel Iraq to cease certain activities that
threaten international peace and security, including the development of weapons
of mass destruction and refusal or obstruction of United Nations weapons
inspections in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687,
repression of its civilian population in violation of United Nations Security
Council Resolution 688, and threatening its neighbors or United Nations
operations in Iraq in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution
This legalese says earlier
justifications and authorizations for possible war still apply, even though the
UN actively sought to prevent this war at the time it was launched. Technically,
much is true, although the WMD lie persists, because the UN’s approach was
working. To go to war on this would be to engage technocratic war. Interesting
fact: current US ‘friends’ are Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Israel, and
Turkey- all have violated UN resolutions and all have been cited for human
rights violations. None have real democracies, another reason for the war post
facto cobbled together when there were no WMDs found. Here are other US
allies that are non-democratic and brutal: Oman, Uzbekistan, Azerbeijan,
Kazakhstan, Egypt, Pakistan, and Kuwait. Were I them I would make sure to stay
in good stead with the US. I weight this paragraph ½ true, but irrelevant.
Amazing, how many different angles and gambits are rhetorically tried in this
document. Tally: 14 paragraphs, 7 reasons for war, 4 reasons debunked, 1
reason true and relevant, 4½ reasons true but irrelevant.
in the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public
Law 102-1) has authorized the President ‘to use United States Armed Forces
pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 678 (1990) in order to
achieve implementation of Security Council Resolutions 660, 661, 662, 664, 665,
666, 667, 669, 670, 674, and 677’;
This makes the prior
paragraph seem Dick & Jane. This is not a reason for war, merely an
explanation, and another recapitulation of prior points, most proven false. Tally:
15 paragraphs, 7 reasons for war, 4 reasons debunked, 1 reason true and
relevant, 4½ reasons true but irrelevant.
December 1991, Congress expressed its sense that it ‘supports the use of all
necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council
Resolution 687 as being consistent with the Authorization of Use of Military
Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102-1),’ that Iraq’s repression of
its civilian population violates United Nations Security Council Resolution 688
and ‘constitutes a continuing threat to the peace, security, and stability of
the Persian Gulf region,’ and that Congress, ‘supports the use of all
necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council
More recapitulation of
prior Congressional and UN approvals, and Iraq’s repression. Nothing new,
certainly not a separate reason. Tally: 16 paragraphs, 7 reasons for war,
4 reasons debunked, 1 reason true and relevant, 4½ reasons true but irrelevant.
Whereas the Iraq
Liberation Act (Public Law 105-338) expressed the sense of Congress that it
should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove from
power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic
government to replace that regime;
More recapitulation- Congress supported unspecified possible actions in the unspecified future for unspecified reasons, now given as regime change, and promotion of democracy. Just a reason- no truth or not involved, but not good enough to go to war, as other reasons have failed, and other regimes were as bad. Tally: 17 paragraphs, 8 reasons for war, 4 reasons debunked, 1 reason true and relevant, 4½ reasons true but irrelevant.
September 12, 2002, President Bush committed the United States to ‘work with
the United Nations Security Council to meet our common challenge’ posed by
Iraq and to ‘work for the necessary resolutions,’ while also making clear
that ‘the Security Council resolutions will be enforced, and the just demands
of peace and security will be met, or action will be unavoidable’;
Again- Iraq is bad, we
gotta do something. Recapitulation, and not applicable as Iraq had
complied prior to the war. Tally: 18 paragraphs, 8 reasons for war, 4
reasons debunked, 1 reason true and relevant, 4½ reasons true but irrelevant.
Three-quarters of the way though and only eight reasons for war, and one
legitimate one (or, rather, two ½ reasons).
United States is determined to prosecute the war on terrorism and Iraq’s
ongoing support for international terrorist groups combined with its development
of weapons of mass destruction in direct violation of its obligations under the
1991 cease-fire and other United Nations Security Council resolutions make clear
that it is in the national security interests of the United States and in
furtherance of the war on terrorism that all relevant United Nations Security
Council resolutions be enforced, including through the use of force if
Has a rhetorical pattern
emerged? Iraq was not involved in 9/11, and the terrorists it affiliated with
were not Al Quaida members. Another redundant restatement. Tally: 19
paragraphs, 8 reasons for war, 4 reasons debunked, 1 reason true and relevant, 4½
reasons true but irrelevant.
has taken steps to pursue vigorously the war on terrorism through the provision
of authorities and funding requested by the President to take the necessary
actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including
those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or
aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 or harbored such
persons or organizations;
More restatement. If I have to point out what, you should never have graduated from elementary school. Tally: 20 paragraphs, 8 reasons for war, 4 reasons debunked, 1 reason true and relevant, 4½ reasons true but irrelevant.
President and Congress are determined to continue to take all appropriate
actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including
those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or
aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored
such persons or organizations;
Acid flashback? An almost direct recapitulation of the prior paragraph. Sententiousness anyone? Tally: 21 paragraphs, 8 reasons for war, 4 reasons debunked, 1 reason true and relevant, 4½ reasons true but irrelevant.
President has authority under the Constitution to take action in order to deter
and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States, as
Congress recognized in the joint resolution on Authorization for Use of Military
Force (Public Law 107-40); and
Legalese, not a reason. Tally:
22 paragraphs, 8 reasons for war, 4 reasons debunked, 1 reason true and
relevant, 4½ reasons true but irrelevant.
Whereas it is in
the national security of the United States to restore international peace and
security to the Persian Gulf region;
How is this a national
security issue, if Iraq was not involved in 9/11? Dare those three little
letters resurface? O-i-l? While not the dominant issue in the war, to
deny it is in the top five is silly. American soldiers have reported oil fields
get far more protection than military commissaries. Why? There is another
related issue to oil- control of the Tigris-Euphrates river basin, and usage of
its waters for irrigation and human consumption. This could lead to food
independence in many of areas which, combined with our refusal to wean ourselves
from oil, could lead to even greater US dependence, as we would need them more
than they would need us. But- national security? Not a reason, especially
since pro-warriors vigorously deny oil’s role in the equation. If they won’t
admit it, they cannot use it as a reason. Tally: 23 paragraphs, 8 reasons
for war, 4 reasons debunked, 1 reason true and relevant, 4½ reasons true but
Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
Not a reason, merely coda to the section that enumerates the justifications for going to war. Now, disagreements over politics, or my assignment of weights, aside, there is no getting around the fact that there are only eight posited reasons for war, or one for every three paragraphs- one of which was WMDs- not the ‘over a dozen other reasons’ the pro-warriors parrot. A cold look at this ‘official’ statement posits these eight reasons, in descending order of listing (and presumed importance/relevance to the pro-war cause):
2) Iraqi post-Gulf War intransigence
3) Iraqi brutality
4) minor and pallid Iraqi retaliations
5) nebulous links to Al Quaida
6) links to other terrorists
7) prior Congressional and UN war approval
8) regime change/promote democracy
WMDs were debunked, which undercuts prior approvals for war, predicated on such.
Links to Al Quaida were false, and other terrorists sponsored were no imminent
threat. Iraqi hostilities were minor and fey. Regime change is an abstraction,
not an imputation of guilt, as the others. That leaves only two reasons of the
eight, and of those two reasons- Iraqi post-Gulf War intransigence, and Iraqi
brutality- each has only partial legitimacy in justifying our aggression. The
intransigence became total capitulation, but we would not accept it, and Iraqi
brutality was no worse than other despotic regimes, and given the number of
Iraqi casualties in the two years since war’s start, arguably no worse, and
perhaps better, than the current situation- in terms of life expectancy.
That’s it, folks. The whole of the White House argument for war! That anti-warriors, be they liberals, conservatives, or moderates, like me, have not shoved this nonsense back in the pro-war crowd’s faces suggests how dominant the delusional mindset has become, where even opponents are silenced by the weakest of opposition. The next time you hear the other ‘reasons’ for the war, hammer them with this, and that WMDs were the first stated reason, and how wan the other reasons were. Twenty-four paragraphs and only two semi-legitimate reasons for war within.
The rest is puffery, a technocrat’s wet dream- a fine print war. For WMDs were clearly put forth in 72 point bold font, while the rest were in 6 point regular font. While not a scientific survey by any means, a quick recent Google search, fairly representative of online and media references to things, as well as that in the blogosphere and chatrooms, netted me this many links for key terms:
Of Mass De struction
Chemical And Biological Weapons
Links To Al Quaeda
Links To Terrorists
versions of terms most cogent, with the highest number of links. For example-
‘Iraqi Links To Al Quaeda’ got 1,120,000 links while ‘Iraqi Links To Al
Quaida’ got only 18,300, so I went with the higher figure. Leaving out
assorted variations on both sides, variants of WMDs, the major reason put forth
got 11,180,000 links out of the 14,378,900 total, or 77.75%, while all the other
reasons combined got about 22.25%. Round it off and say WMDs were about 75% of
the reason put forth for war and most people will agree, regardless of what they
feel now. Clearly, the pro-warriors are being incredibly disingenuous when they
claim there were other reasons for the war, because WMDs, and Condo Rice’s
‘mushroom clouds’ were jammed down our throats, as coverage of her recent
State Secretary confirmation hearings reminded us via the news.
Let me end this section by reiterating the difference in approaches I used in my Vietnam-Iraq parallels vis-à-vis those used by the White House, and their blogging acolytes. I purposely distilled my arguments down to a few talking points- eight, from well over a hundred possible points of minutia while they took eight reasons for war, and tried to puff them up to nearly three times as many. This is important to note; it is the difference between honest argumentation (even if you disagree with me) and blatant propagandizing (which was clearly the White House’s, and their supporters, intent).
If my opinion
the war in Iraq is wrong, and does more harm than good to US interests, is
wrong, what is the downside? None. If the pro-warriors are right, then six
thousand years of history will have to make way for a glorious new paradigm, for
the imposition of one nation’s will on another, no matter how seemingly good
the cause, has never worked. Is this a guarantee of failure? No. But it has
If the pro-warriors are wrong, what is the downside? Years more of war. Thousands, perhaps ultimately millions, more dead in Iraq and beyond? It could be a humanitarian disaster, and some argue it already is; that in two years we have inflicted more suffering than the previous twelve years of Saddam’s strangling his nation by non-compliance with UN resolutions and denial of aid to those who needed it.
What would happen were we to leave Iraq now? Or, pull back to Kurdistan, and support Kurdish independence? We would anger Turkey, the Shias and Sunnis would likely civil war, thousands would die, and one side- likely the Shias- would eventually win, set up a theocratic state, and either be distant or hostile to us. Most of the Moslem world would hate us for the occupation.
What would happen if we plod on in Iraq? More Americans will be maimed and die. Shias will likely take power. A civil war will likely erupt. Thousands will die. We will abandon the Kurdish nationalist cause, please Turkey, and be left with a theocratic state- likely Shiite, that will distance itself from our puppeteering to have legitimacy in the Moslem world, and most will still hate us.
Neither helps us actually capture Osama bin Laden and his followers. I hope I am wrong, but history is a cruel teacher, and hates being ignored. I do not ignore it, and my evolved positions on the war are the only consistent ones with the ‘known’ facts of the time- they were the only ones that sought to do ‘least harm’. Yes, I realize ‘known’ facts now could change, and WMDs may actually be in Syria, but if the burden of proof for war was high before Iraq, it will take far more to convince the once duped.
What of the humanitarian crisis that would ensue if we left? It would be no worse than what is going on now, and will continue with our presence, with the big difference American lives would not be directly involved. Civil wars are like domestic battery cases writ large. You would like to intervene- but unless a participant is willing, and underlying causes addressed, interventions are usually fruitless. Given this, and with an eye to ‘legacy’, Bush should just declare victory and leave. If civil war breaks out Bush can always blame ‘those dang terrorists!’ But foresight is not in his nature- LBJ was trammeled by his testosterone, and Bush by his paternalistic Christian missionary zeal. Neither got that war is not ‘manly’. I recall the Doonesbury comics that had Bush the Elder put his manhood in a ‘blind trust’.
This brings me to ‘the vision thing’ that dogged Bush the Elder. Because he takes actions, Bush the Younger is called a Visionary in comparison to his father. This is not true. Bush is a Fantasist, not a Visionary. Here is the difference: visions have reasonable chances of being fulfilled in set time frames- whether failed visions like Woodrow Wilson’s League Of Nations, fulfilled visions like JFK’s Man on the Moon, or those on drawing boards- like colonizing Mars. A fantasy has little, if no, chance of being fulfilled in a given time frame- like world peace in the foreseeable future, or the discovery of the Loch Ness Monster. Bush wants to see six thousand years of human history change because he wills it, and under the banner of his Christian Fundamentalism. Which is this closer to- vision or fantasy?
Plus, Bush’s acolytes in the blogosphere encourage this psychotic break- actively wanting to be lied to, and engaging the fantasy. Look at how uncritically so many accept anything remotely positive, yet reject any mention of the piling negatives, much less the negatives. While the Left is guilty of this in reverse, it is not nearly to the degree as on the Right, because there is far more fracture and diversity in the anti-war position than the relative monolith of the pro-warriors. Why? Because a blog seemingly gives Joe Average, the Couch Potato, a platform that lifts him out of daily drudgery- marriage, mortgage, car loans, job, etc. Their life is rote, dull, with the realization they are frighteningly average, and inadequate to their dreams. Then, along comes a Holy Cause- told they are part of Big Times, doing Big Things, and if they cheerlead they can claim a part in history. Plus, there are many other Couch Potatoes who will pat him on the back, accept him in into the fraternity of the self-important and out of touch blogosphere- the vanguard of American cultural psychosis, The Boys In The Bubble, or the lumpenmenschen, as my dad would have called them.
Interestingly, Right Wing bloggers are surprisingly hypersensitive, as they ape their ill-chosen enemies on the Left. There are constant assertions of offense taken, even as it is manifest taking offense is always a willful act. Too many bloggers invest their self-worth into opinions, so when a disagreement arises it is taken as an attack on the self, rather than a faulty position. The result is endless ad hominem, distortion, and caricaturization of opinions so one argues not against specifics a reasonable moderate like me will ply, but distorted demonic generalizations that must accompany slimy liberal or evil conservative (again, me, both times). This shatters the notion the blogosphere, unlike MSM, is self-correcting. It is self-delimiting, because each ‘issue’ provides opportunity for a blogger to further bud off, like baby universes, with his cult, unassailable ‘truths’, and shrinkingly exigent delusions, into echoic Lowest Common Denominator star chambers utterly divorced from real world concerns- witness l’affaires Eason and Gannon, and their ‘success’s’ leading to greater rancor, while stories like the Custer Battles atrocities are marginalized- until, some day soon, an Eason or Gannon will strike back, sue big blogs for libel, and a Big Chill will set in.
Yet, the most troubling aspect is how few folk on either side step back objectively and look at facts, because if they did the rationales for war- under Bush or a presumed President Gore- are gone. And here is an important point to consider- I would be against this war if Gore were President. I would have supported it had he, like Bush, trumpeted the WMD card. I would have thought him as deceitful when the truth came out. But, many people in the pro- and anti-war camps would be in exact opposite places had Gore won. Many on Right and Left are hollow mirror images- they do not see shades nor fine print, they lead with their hearts, and minds closed. Under President Gore faux liberals and Leftists would be touting the need to ‘free Iraqis from terror’, with utopian aeries, while faux conservatives and Rightists would be damning ‘nation building’, the bloated budget, and America’s growing body count. Don’t believe me? Look to the UK, where the Leftist Labour Party of Tony Blair are pro-warriors and Conservatives the gutless, anomic opposition.
There are some anti-warriors and Leftists who hate all America stands for, as there are Apocalyptic pro-warriors and Rightists who support ‘freedom’ abroad, but anti-libertarian causes at home. There are Leftists that shamelessly grandstand, such as the disingenuous networking tool that was Poets Against The War. I denuded their senseless rebuke of First Lady Laura Bush- a great friend to the arts. Neither has a grasp of American nor world history in toto, for America has committed atrocities, but so has virtually every other nation, and it is American to be for freedom anywhere, not just in places politically convenient. There are Leftists who are sincere, fear not a ‘real’ win, but a victory of might makes right. I disagree, to a degree, but am wary, and worry over American losses, and possible future wars in Iran or Syria. There are Rightists who are sincere, not ‘in it’ for corporate oil’s greed, but many slavered over profit and war spoils. I do not accuse lay pro-warriors of lack of patriotism, nor malign motives, merely gullibility, and immaturity, in their inability to admit error- in going to war, then conduct of the war, as well an inability to see consequences that can do incalculable, unforeseeable harm to the nation, in ways we cannot see now, but in 2030 will seem inevitable outgrowths of our choices. The integrity of the majority of pro-warriors I do not question, merely the intelligence of their choice. Neither extreme, however, is the majority.
Thus, this piece is not a mere screed, but A Muscular Centrist Attack On The Pro-War Position. It would be just as cogent under a President Gore. Much feeling about the war reflects a person’s feelings about President Bush, not the credits nor demerits of the war. Don’t believe me? Return to the 1990s when Republicans in Congress decried Clinton’s military adventures in the Balkans, Somalia, and Rwanda. Such petty politics are not my concern. The war’s waste and faulty premises are. My position has evolved based upon the known facts at the time, and the facts supporting the war are simply not there, and never were.
You hear it argued other nations said Iraq had WMDs. First, when does other intelligence serve as the basis for American foreign policy? Second, much of that intelligence was regurged from our intelligence communities, and not accepted as reasons for war by many other nations. Pro-warriors claim WMDs are now in Syria, admitting the military had major holes in its ability to secure weapons. That is until you ask, what of those hundreds of tons of munitions a Minnesota tv news crew filmed, which subsequently disappeared? Spin control!
I am tired: of such delusion- willful or not, this war and its lies, seeing faces of young American dead on the Newshour, tales of their lives wasted on CBS News, vets who report more protection given to oil fields than commissaries, talking head pro-warriors (on the Administration’s payroll or not) interviewed, and Freudianly mentioning, ‘Democracy in that part of the world, where the largest reserves of oil and gas are....’ (after all, without oil, Iraq is a warm Mongolia). And, this is not about isolationism, but fraud and waste, and the revanchist Couch Potato’s Burden, which seeks to re-install a US puppet network. President Bush is the Typhoid Mary of geopolitics- not evil, but clueless and deadly. His lack of historical precedent is astounding, although one could argue his advisors’ lack is more shocking.
This should be no surprise, because delusion, or psychosis, is not rational. And psychosis plays a part in the Left. Psychosis and self-deception persists throughout Americana- as any glimpse of top-rated tv show American Idol proves; where horrific singers actually believe they are the next Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, or Josh Groban. This psychosis leads to many Leftists’ refusal to criticize Michael Moore’s deceits or the shrillness of intellectual charlatans like Ward Churchill, because ends justify means, just as many Rightists refuse to criticize Rush Limbaugh’s racism- his recent comments, again, on Philadelphia Eagles black quarterback Donovan McNabb, Ann Coulter’s bile, or the disingenuous agitprop of Dean Esmay.
While I acknowledge free speech is a right, foisted as a reason to war, therefore cannot be hidden behind, for a right simply is (yes, technically a mutually consented fiction- ask an alien conqueror of our ‘human rights’), a fundament existing to defend the offensive- Churchill’s mockery and sneering at three thousand innocent dead Americans, and Esmay’s ignorance of, then sneering at, manifold more innocent dead Iraqis, and their kith in Academia and the blogosphere- it also empowers people to debunk their deceits and vitriol (ask either side for the other’s examples by the hundreds), even as they defend their rights to them. Such is not ameliorated by claims to higher purpose nor truths. But, in fairness, to decry the worst in the other obligates decrying the worst in their own. We can do better. Do not engage in the online nor media demonizing, merely fair criticism.
I believe in American Exceptionalism- but a saner, more realistic form, emphasizing our place as the only nation in human history consistently bettering itself since its inception, not this Christianized Shining City On The Hill bastardization of the Right and pro-warriors, and that Exceptionalism does not preclude such in other nations, as well. This is the strength of secular ethics, the evolved right and wrong recognitions, that comes from within every individual, opposed to non-secular morals, which are creeds cast down from on high, and without. Ethics support individuals doing what they will, as long as pain is not inflicted, and free will respected. Morals damn all sorts of beings, beliefs, and behaviors, because a higher power supposedly decrees it. Yet, there is one indisputable fact of American history that galls the Right. True Liberalism, and its support for civil and human rights, not its fey, shrill, Leftist mutations, has always been right, and won, on every social issue from this nation’s founding: slavery, suffrage, child labor, Jim Crow, unionization, McCarthyism, Civil Rights, ending the Vietnam War, apartheid era South Africa, gay rights. I submit the calls to end this war follows in that tradition, and given the opposition’s view has been wrong on all the aforementioned, and lost, the chances their view being correct now are slim and none.
I urge supporters of the anti-war cause to do whatever they feel best supports the cause- marching, protesting, organizing politically, or writing- the pen is my best tool in this cause’s service. But, never let pro-warriors’ false claims stand. Use this piece to shatter their claims there are no parallels between Iraq and Vietnam. Never let pro-warriors claim war is humane and being against this war racist. It is the burden of the couch potatoes to justify their Couch Potato’s Burden, not yours, and they cannot factually nor humanely do it. Never let pro-warriors kow you into silence when they claim WMDs were not the primary reason for war. When they claim over a dozen other reasons refer them to my dissection of the semiotics of rhetoric. There were eight reasons- only two with partial merit. Argument to the contrary is sciolism, the blogosphere’s staple. I shun such. I have made my case against the war from a common sense centrist stance, shunning the worst in the Left and Right.
Do not despair into thinking this nation is a lost cause. Amelioration is in our national DNA. Forty years ago miscegenation was a crime, now it’s a snooze, and conservatives defend it, claim they were never against it, as they will decades hence of gay marriage. Progress is a helix that spirals upward. Yes, there are downturns, but as long as each downturn is higher than the last, it evidences this nation still works. Jump back in twenty-five year increments and progress is undeniable.
Frederick Douglass said, ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.’ I urge people against the war to demand its end, to demand power, and reclaim American discourse back from the stranglehold extremists of the shrill, gutless Left and psychotic, Neolithic Right have on it. My anti-war stance stands alone, endorses nor rejects any other view, is merely a convergence on a particular point, based upon a clear consideration of fact, not desideratum. This war is antithetical, and anti-pragmatic, to promoting democracy, and thus unethical. Things like the recent release of the Richard Clarke and FAA warnings of Al Quaida in 1/01, the Custer Battles atrocities, and continuing actions by the Administration- hiding American dead, repetitions of demonstrable falsehoods- only weaken American credibility, feeding the worst fears bad things reported about our government usually are borne out as true, in time. And as The Boy Who Cried Wolf Syndrome let us stumble into Iraq, the same syndrome, knowing the Iraq War’s reasons were fallacious, could have profound effect on our brinkmanship with Iran. Suppose they really have nukes, and plans to use them against us? I simply cannot believe a thing my President says. This, the real danger of cultural psychosis- it allows misreading history. We saw the cost of that before, when the lesson learned from World War I, to shun foreign entanglements, led to the appeasement that led to World War II.
I will end with two other voices. The first is Rudyard Kipling, from The White Man’s Burden:
Take up the White Man’s burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.
It is because
of my humanitarian impulses I write, and rue Kipling’s prescience. The second
is from a man who knows war far more intimately than most- its costs, folly,
triumphs, and echoes. Ex-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara said in The Fog Of
War: ‘We are the strongest nation in the world today, and I do not
believe we should ever apply that economic, political or military power
unilaterally. If we’d followed that rule in Vietnam, we wouldn’t have been
there. None of our allies supported us. If we can’t persuade nations with
comparable values of the merit of our cause, we’d better re-examine our
I can only add psychotics cannot look at their actions. Demand more from your government. End the Iraq War. A choice exists- demand they look at it, then act upon it!
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