just one thing I wanna know

1/9/05

Sorry about another political post, but one of the commenters from Friday said I was against the war in Afghanistan and against criticizing Islamo-fascists in general because I believe terrorism to be largely America’s fault anyway. Not that my opinion about this matters much (god knows my vote didn’t), but it’s actually a little simpler than that.

I need to come clean about my own personal response to 9/11, which is on my mind since Tessa and I lay in bed and recapped those awful months last night. I think I was basically fine for the month of September 2001, still jacked up on the “high” that accompanies a war zone, but as the days grew shorter and colder, living in downtown Manhattan got a lot tougher.

By November, I was having small waves of apocalyptic dread; by Christmas, they were tsunamis. The last time I fought with my brother Sean was around New Year’s 2002, when I was filled with rage that anyone could go back to the city and get on with their lives when I was so paralyzed. In January, I stopped eating for two weeks and lost about fifteen pounds. I turned to the internet for solace, figuring that my “research” on terrorists using nukes or biological weapons would edify me, but the more I read, the more I descended into madness.

In February, I checked myself into the Washington Square Institute psych program, and met with two of the worst therapists in the history of psychology. They sat and stared at me, asking no questions, until I couldn’t stand it anymore. As I was broke, and it was free, I guess I got what I paid for.

By March, we were editing the Pink House movie and took a few road trips, which put my devastating anxiety on “pause.” In April of 2002, I made a pact with myself to do two things: a) illegally start taking some of Tessa’s old Celexa pills, and b) keep this blog regularly, which I have done since that day.

But back to the topic at hand. In those early days of my dread, I wanted to blow the Middle East off the face of the fucking map. I felt like they – whoever “they” were – had taken my sanity away, and I wanted them to pay. I hated that I had to live in a world with nuclear weapons that could EVER be used by terrorists, and I told Tessa that no matter what happened with us (we weren’t even engaged yet), there was no way I wanted to bring a child into a world this fucked up.

When Bush started bombing Afghanistan, many New Yorkers were ambivalent. Not in the “couldn’t care” sense, but in the “someone has to pay for this but we can’t take any more death” sense. We knew the blowback, if any, had a really good chance of hitting us again, and we were exhausted, still ravaged by the remains coming up from the steaming ground by Battery Park. My anti-war stance was, in the beginning, fueled by self-protection in a target zone.

Even now, more than three years later, Afghanistan is still a shithole, warlords rule any lands outside of Kabul, the Taliban is regrouping, Mullah Omar and OBL are still at large, and Afghanistan’s biggest export is opium. Nice.

Let’s not even get into the Iraq mess. We can’t see how colossal a fuck-up it is, because we’re living in it, like ants roaming the Great Meteor Crater in Arizona. Maybe some of you conservatives are cool with living in the Dark Ages, but let it be known that a few of us tried to say something.

Eventually, what fueled my hopelessness was the realization there was NO WAY to fully stamp out this kind of terrorism with force. The only way to ensure my family’s survival was to TAKE AWAY the things that made this part of the world furious with us in the first place. America had to stop behaving badly; that’s not some gooey flower-child mantra, it’s the truth.

Deep, deep inside themselves, I think every conservative has a healthy dose of self-loathing, because they know America to have been very, very bad to a lot of the world. They know all the shit we’ve pulled, all the governments we’ve manipulated, all the dioxin we’ve dumped in the ocean, and they sublimate this horror with heavy doses of furious denial, and a two-decade assault on liberals. No wonder they’re more interesting on cable TV, these guys are as conflicted as Shakespearian antagonists.

Okay. Yes, yes, there are a few intractable bad guys in the Middle East, people hell-bent on killing as many Americans as they can, and they need to be taken out. But there aren’t very many of them.

That’s the lie I fell for. The lie of “the enemy” took away almost a year of my life. You conservatives are so fucking sure of yourselves, so convinced you’re right about “how the world really works” and how us liberals can’t accept the threats we now face, and how we blame America first and sympathize with terrorists.

Honestly, I can’t fathom your hubris – it takes a boggling amount of self-delusion to think you can predict our future. I’m a pacifist, as faggy as it sounds. I don’t like killing humans, and I’m humble enough to accept that I can’t know the future. Wars like Afghanistan and Iraq are fought in a way to force the future into our liking, but it never works. Thousands are dying on BOTH sides while you snicker with derision at us clueless lefties, but seriously, I’ve lived in your world for a while now, and I’d like to know what’s so fucking goddamn funny about peace, love and understanding.

0 thoughts on “just one thing I wanna know

  1. Sean

    My guess is that there is a continuum of idealogy about the war and about terrorism, and if you are over the line one one side or the other then you often get misunderstood as a radical. Many people who support Bush’s agenda do so because they *hope* he is right, it isn’t a matter of enormous arrogance. And anyone who thinks American introspection translates into a lack of criticism of foreign terrorism just isn’t thinking.
    A lot of people know that American behavior for the last century is responsible for a lot of hatred of us in the world, it doesn’t mean we believe that the terrorist attacks are justified. We also know that dealing with our enemies requires a subtlety of thought, and positioning ourselves above reproach would go a long way to earning more international respect, and all of that is totally different than a lack of condemnation for the WTC disaster.
    When people write criticisms like the one you cited, they are speaking from the lunatic fringe. It might be one of the reasons you are enjoying this blog less lately, there are tons of people reading it and enjoying it for what it is who don’t comment because they aren’t, y’know, nuts.

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  2. Piglet

    Personally, I was all for plowing up Afghanistan and doing whatever it took to get Bin Laden and any of his higher-up henchlings, and then bringing their heads back to display on pikes near the veterans’ memorial as a warning to future evil terrorist overlords. And I was cheering that war all the way, even as I was telling others what a bad idea it would be to go after Hussein.
    I realize now that George Bush let Bin Laden go on purpose, and will never do anything more about him unless there is another attack and he has to put on another puppet show. Bush and Bin Laden are soul brothers.
    Yeah, our government’s done its share of atrocities in spite of my dissenting voice, but the government is not “America”. America is a culture, and a really good one. And it just won’t do to sit back and get all introspective when others take out their gripe against our government on CIVILIANS. And blue-state civilians at that. Jacques Barzun, hardly a right wing kook, worte that the modern West is the only civilization ever to blame itself for being attacked.
    Touch our shores, you awaken the sleeping giant. That’s all there is to it.

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  3. Tessa

    I was viscerally but not intellectually opposed to attacking Afghanistan.
    I spent some time in both Bosnia and Kosovo and it was clear to me that the international community’s lack of “involvement” in Bosnia (which is to say, an incomprehensibly weak and slow military response) perpetuated untold horrors; while Clinton and Albright’s swift response to Milosevic in Kosovo gave that country a fighting chance to recover from decades of systematic oppression. There is obviously a lot more nuance around those two statements than can be expressed here but suffice to say, I am not totally dovish on war.
    When Ian and I learned a few days before it happened (from our in-the-know war correspondent friend) that bombs were going to be dropped on Afghanistan, I was shaking with reflected fear of September 11th, from the somatic memory of having experienced a devastation. But I was also aware that Clinton would have been in Afghanistan a lot sooner than Bush and that smarter people than me knew that there had to be a strategic and effective response to 9/11. So I accepted it.
    But I couldn’t have been more opposed to Iraq. For the obvious reasons – unprovoked, unilateral, blahblah. And I was devastated the day we actually went into Bagdad but I thought at least they wouldn’t screw it up. It was clear to me that beyond the blood-lust for Hussein, the current administration went there in order to provide a democratic stronghold (or U.S. Puppet. You choose.) in the Middle East and they were going to do it right.
    This is the thing that shocks me. It is not whether or not, or even in some cases, *who* we fight (because Bush was going to get Hussein no matter what opposing logic was in his way), it’s how BADLY we do it.
    We have become a perpetual military embarrassment. And, if the Right is supposed to be good for something isn’t it walking tall and carrying a big stick? But we suck. We’re laughable. We have failed in all measurable military calculations.
    We don’t have Osama Bin Laden; we haven’t built a nation in Iraq nor have we even gotten close; we have incarcerated untold 100s (1000s?) of potentially innocent suspects in flagrant violation of the Geneva convention; we don’t know who sent Anthrax; we had no intel about the subway bombings in Spain. We suck. It’s one thing to be a big bully. It’s another to be big stupid careless idiots.
    I know the Bush administration likes to pride themselves on being just folksy folks without any suspicious high-flown intellectual agenda…but this is a bit extreme. And sadly our futures are being written by people who can’t write.

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  4. oliver

    I agree totally, but to be fair one can intimidate a lot of people by establishing a reputaion for being dumb, rash and seriously able to fuck shit up. So there’s some strategic/diplomatic value there.

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  5. Laurie

    The following is inspired by journal entries written during November and December, 2001 and January, 2002. I hadn’t really seen the correlation to 9/11 until now…
    My husband began traveling a few years into our marriage. It was the first time–even though I was almost 30–that I stayed alone overnight for weeks at a time. I didn’t take to the idea very well because whenever alone I get the egocentric fear that I’m the only person alive and I have to have confirmation that someone else exists. Maybe it stems from hearing one to many sermons about the 2nd coming of Christ during my formative years. Maybe it’s because I’m almost pure Aries and can’t stand the idea of being left out of the action. I can readily quench my fear during the day by looking out windows and seeing children or neighbors. But at night, it’s a little harder to depend on the outside world for reassurance.
    My dearly devoted husband was never really able to wrap his logical, rational brain around the true cause of my misgivings. So he called up the local monitoring company and had the home security system activated. I thought it a waste of $40. But family persuaded me to acknowledge that our neighborhood was

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  6. Kaz

    hi everyone! this is my first time posting to the comments section, and i feel like the kid on the sidelines who’s been watching and waiting to screw up the courage to join the fray…
    i have so many thoughts about what’s written both in the daily entries and the responses. it excites me that there’s active dialogue going on. even if people get bruised in the process. that’s how change happens on the level of tectonic plates shifting. obviously, we won’t have evenings of blue and red campfires and sing-a-longs overnight.
    anyhow, i wanted to share a little story that is my favorite when the issue arises of how to handle terrorism (as i remember it). my mother, who grew up largely in israel, does research for the government. in the 80s, she worked with other scientists on the pros/cons of the whole star wars program. there happened to be a big conference of some sort in israel about anti-terrorist strategies. and she invited some colleagues to her childhood home for dinner.
    they were late. and, when they arrived, one of them was bleeding from a gash in his forehead. some kids, shouting slurs, had thrown bricks from a rooftop. and that’s the kind of entrenched terrorism with which we have to begin. we can’t fight the deep hatred that breed large-scale destruction like 9/11 by building missile shields and such. and the very nature of terrorism means using whatever is at hand (be it bricks or planes) and changing tacks as it makes sense in real time.
    my frustration with this administration is that they won’t take the long term view on how to really protect america and our ideals (or really the long term view on anything). upping security checks at airports is a veritable waste. we’d do better investing energy in reflecting on how to cut out the foundation of hatred, even if it is totally counter-intuitive in the wake of an attack on our country. investing in eduction, sanitation, medical aid, and agriculture in poverty-stricken middle eastern areas would do more for our long-term safety than throwing money away bombing countries that we’ll have to pay to re-build later.
    argh. i know i could ramble on and on, so i’ll stop there…

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  7. Chris

    Last week I said that a “small percentage of Americans” opposed the war in Afghanistan because, “Like Ian, they believe it makes no sense to fight (or even criticize) Islamo-fascist terrorists because whatever harm they inflict on the U.S. is primarily its own fault.” I didn’t say that Ian opposed going into Afghanistan because I had no idea what he believed or espoused at that time on that issue. I try to avoid any pretense to reading minds.
    Today, Ian again says that America has been “very, very bad to a lot of the world” and to prevent being attacked it must “take away the things that made this part of the world furious with us in the first place…stop behaving badly.” To think otherwise is to be deluded. Again, nothing is said about the people who violently attacked us and promise to do so again. Perhaps, by treating them merely as figments of a paranoid imagination, they will lose their power to frighten.
    To Ian, immediately after the 9/11 attacks, the perpetrators were only a vague “they” and he wanted to blow “the Middle East off the face of the fucking map.” Although not a pacifist, my reaction was very different.
    I was sad for months and also afraid of further attacks (and remain so). I already knew of OBL and identified him as the likely perpetrator even while the 9/11 attacks were in progress. In the aftermath, I didn’t want to blow anyone off the map except the people responsible for the attacks.
    Within days, however, I thought through alternatives to adress the longer-term threat posed by political fanatics with an ability to do so much harm on a small budget by using modern technology. I realized that a root problem is the consistently despotic regimes in Arab countries keeping people and the society from developing and evolving combined with the fact that a significant percentage of the people in Arab countries are urbanized and sufficiently affluent to have some education and leisure. In contrast, illiterate rural peasants don’t have the time or means to plan terror attacks. Meanwhile, the despots scapegoat Israel and America for whatever is lacking in their countries.
    By the way, I spent a month working in the Middle East in 1989. I am one of a few non-Muslims to have been on the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca.
    The only long-term solution to this threat, I concluded, was breaking up some of the despotic regimes and introducing increased political freedom and human rights to the people of the Arab world.
    But I never, for one minute, wanted to blow up the Middle East. Does anyone wish to appreciate the irony?
    So when GWB started pursuing a strategy similar to the one I devised while sitting on my couch waiting to go back to work, it isn’t surprising that I tended to support it. In the long run, freedom and human rights makes the world more safe.
    This is not hubristically predicting the future. This is making judgments and assessments based on evidence, lessons from the past, and a commitment to basic morality. That is what our government leaders are supposed to do and, since this is a democracy, it is also my responsibility to think independently and make my own judgments. But if the strategy fails, I’ll change my mind. Some have done nothing but predict failure and then interpret progress, no mater how successful, as failure. Why so strongly committed to America failing?
    As for the “its our fault” strategy, there may be a problem. I am not aware of specific demands made by those who say they will otherwise attack America. Please tell me what demands have been made specifically telling us all the good things we must do and bad things we must stop doing so that Islamo-fascists will not attack us? Who made these demands? Make sure you name each and every one because we don’t want to forget one and get blown up anyway. Once Americans know the terrorist’s demands, we can begin to assess whether we can agree to them or not. Until then, you have not proposed anything.
    I have read bid Laden’s speeches wherein he states that America must be destroyed because we are “infidels” (category includes “zionists” and “crusaders” as well a muslims who cooperate with same) who must be killed, unless we practice his *particular version of Islam.* Are you ready to convert?
    Why is asserting that we’ll be safe from the attacks of Islamo-fascists if we just “take away” unidentified American “things” not hubris-laden prediction?
    Give me a historic example of this pacificst approach working to end an analogous threat (one that is non-democratic, extreme theocratic). Non-violent protest has only worked against western democracies like England (slavery, Ghandi in India) and the U.S. (MLK). Using it against dictators just gets you killed. Unfortunately, the examples are endless.
    “Wars like Afghanistan and Iraq are fought in a way to force the future into our liking, but it never works.” I presume that the above two wars, for reasons so obvious they need not be articulated, have been absolutely proven to be unlike the American Civil War that worked to end slavery and resulted in amendments to the Constitution that worked to guarantee additional cherished freedoms to this day. Or WWII that worked to defeat fascism in Europe and Japan, where levels of freedom and prosperity soared afterward. Or Cold War. Or Bosnia.
    Rather than make factual arguments, there is mind reading: “Deep, deep inside themselves, I think every conservative has a healthy dose of self-loathing.” (Gurrgle, gurgle, gurgle — that’s the sound of a bong, evidently the source of inspiration for the preceding observation). Since the entire argument is premised on the idea that American is quite bad, a better way to support it would be to provide a fair assessment using *evidence* of America’s overall impact on the world — both good and bad — over the years. It would also be fair to compare America to other countries.
    A goal of this blog was to help deal with troubling issues after 9/11. I spend time writing this entry with the intent of helping to foster that goal. I suggest intentionally studying the *positive* aspects of your country and its impact on the world. Moreover, I would try to do so by looking across political, philosophical, regional, and demographic boundaries. Even if I am wrong and America really is 89.3% dioxin, at least you will have figured out where it has done good and where it has not. I strongly suspect that a fair and determined effort would prove therapeutic.

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  8. M

    Thanks for that comment, Chris. It was a pleasure to read and I hope others here take the time to consider what you have written.
    I’ll only add that to any one with any perspective, what our military has accomplished in Afghanistan and Iraq is nothing short of miraclulous. Yet many on the left call it an “embarrassment.”
    Last year, Afghanistan held its first ever free elections (millions of women voted), young girls are going to school, women can walk the streets alone without fear of being beaten, etc. But it doesn’t resemble New Hampshire so it’s a failure. No, not by a long shot.
    In Iraq, we’ve made mistakes and have suffered set backs, but name me a war that’s been mistake-free. In 1944, over 700 soldiers drowned in a single day while training for the D-Day assault. There were many military misjudgement along the way to victory. Iraq is set to hold its own elections this month and you can be sure that the left will attack its legitimacy.
    Saddam was a threat (he refused to cooperate with the inspectors, was shooting at our pilots on a near daily basis, supported terrorists and terror groups, etc.) and a democratic Iraq is in our nation’s interest, as democracy and the prosperity it eventually brings is the best way to address to “root causes” of terrorism. Only time will tell, of course, but it has a great deal better chance at succeeding than flaggelating ourselves over perceived wrongdoing on our part and throwing aid money at the Middle East. That doesn’t work.

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  9. Annie

    Why do people, like M, continue to believe that Saddam Hussein “supported terrorists and terrorist groups”?
    Saddam Hussein, while obviously a leader who saw fit to use extreme violence and torture at any opportunity (warranted or not), was a secularist and the exact opposite, and in fact the enemy, of the abovementioned “Islamofascists.” (By the way, does anyone else find it ironic that Chris makes a pejorative reference to “theocracy”? Facilely setting it in relief to “democracy” and thereby inferring that o holy we of the United States, our government stands ever immune from infection by religious zealots?–hm. Check the current administration).
    At any rate, one could go insane contemplating the deep and wide effectiveness of the B**h administration’s scare tactics. We see over and over in the Comments section of this blog that they have penetrated in some cases all the way into the minds of intelligent people.
    One tries not to go insane. One simply tries.

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  10. badbobusnret

    All the discussion on the GWOT has all of you nervous and full of “negative hubris”. I’ll let you in on a secret, so are us conservatives…..
    even us in the mil-industrial complex.
    “Tactical” mistakes have been made and will continue. Despite our expertise you can’t win every skirmash. They get better at killing, we must be proactive and keep after ’em. There is no other choice. The alternative is an American fortress state with eventual capitulation/accomadation with 8th century fanatics. The wall didn’t work in China and even the Romans fell. How good would your wife look in a burka, Ian?
    Despite your criticism above, you offer ZERO realistic strategies to counter the Apocalyptic Terrorist.
    Please go to http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usmc/ceto/when_devils_walk_the_earth.pdf
    Read it and then, by all means, come up with some solid strategies on how our country and what’s left of western civilization should handle the problem.
    I’d like to read something other than whining about the threat. Collectively you might come up with something. Give us somthing truly actionable, OK?
    B2

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  11. M

    “Why do people, like M, continue to believe that Saddam Hussein ‘supported terrorists and terrorist groups’?”
    Maybe because it’s a fact, Annie.
    “Abdul Rahman Yasin, who was indicted for mixing the chemicals for the bomb used in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which killed six New Yorkers and injured over 1,000. Yasin fled to Baghdad after the attack, where he was given sanctuary and lived for years afterward.
    “Khala Khadar al-Salahat, a top Palestinian deputy to Abu Nidal, who reportedly furnished Libyan agents with the Semtex explosive used to blow up Pan Am Flight 103 in December 1988. The attack killed all 259 passengers, including 189 Americans. Al-Salahat was in Baghdad last April and was taken into custody by U.S. Marines.
    “Abu Nidal, whose terror organization is credited with dozens of attacks that killed over 400 people, including 10 Americans, and wounding 788 more. Nidal lived in Baghdad from 1999 till August 2002, when he was found shot to death in his state-supplied home.
    “Abu Abbas, who masterminded the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship, during which wheelchair-bound American Leon Klinghoffer was pushed over the side to his death. U.S. troops captured Abbas in Baghdad on April 14, 2003. He died in U.S. custody last week.
    “Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who ran an Ansar al-Islam terrorist training camp in northern Iraq and reportedly arranged the October 2002 assassination of U.S. diplomat Lawrence Foley in Jordan. Al Zarqawi is still at large.
    “Ramzi Yousef, who entered the U.S. on an Iraqi passport and was the architect of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing as well as Operation Bojinka, a foiled plot to explode 12 U.S. airliners over the Pacific. Bojinka was later adopted by Yousef’s cousin Khalid Shaikh Mohammed as the blueprint for the Sept. 11 attacks.
    Arrested in Pakistan in 1995, Yousef is currently serving a triple life sentence in Colorado’s Supermax federal lockup.
    “Mahmoud Besharat, the Palestinian businessman who traveled to Baghdad in March 2002 to collect funding from Saddam for the Palestinian Intifada. Besharat and others disbursed the funds in payments of $10,000 to $25,000 to West Bank families of terrorists who died trying to kill Israelis.
    “After Saddam announced his Intifada reward plan, 28 Palestinian homicide bombers killed 211 Israelis in attacks that also killed 12 Americans. A total of 1,209 people were injured.”
    And see here, for Saddams support for international terrorism.
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/iraq/decade/sect5.html

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  12. Annie

    I am supposed to accept “facts” about Saddam Hussein’s terrorist sympathies from the White House’s website? Sorry, M, you’ll have to do better than that.

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  13. M

    This is so typical… I would link to NYT articles relating the same, but they archive their stories after 3 or 4 months and are only accessible through a fee-based system (and not linkable).
    Rather, why don’t you point out what you think is incorrect with what I’ve cited above? These are facts not in dispute (except by you, it appears). I find it greatly amusing that you consider me to be the one who is uninformed.

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  14. Annie

    Perhaps I assumed too quickly that M, by invoking Saddam and theories that he was harboring terrorists, was attempting to assign responsibility for 9/11, indeed perhaps for all terrorism, to Saddam Hussein and Iraq as a whole. That would mean that invading Iraq was the right thing to do. That would mean that the result of the US’s invasion of Iraq means “winning the war on terror.” Isn’t that what M’s point suggests?
    While it might be possible that Saddam’s government made provisional alliances with anti-Western groups (united by their hatred of the US, which was the original topic of this post anyway–why two different groups, one militant Islamic & the other secular, might have similar views of and feelings about the US) to reach short-term goals, this does not answer in any meaningful way the larger question of why terrorism happens and what to do about it.
    M would have us believe that we’re well on our way to “winning the war on terror,” yet half of this country and the entire rest of the world can see what he can’t: that the invasion of Iraq was nothing more than a move to get control of Middle Eastern oil (duh), that this move ITSELF is an example of the outrageous, bullying behavior of this government that Ian mentioned, stomping all over the world as if it deserved to, and finally that our actions now are not only not going to be effective in stemming terrorist acts in the future but will in fact inspire many more.

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  15. M

    Annie:
    Saddam’s support for terrorists and terror groups aren’t mere “theories,” they’re well-documented facts. And while you believe the invasion of Iraq was nothing more than an oil grab, most clear-thinking Americans know better. It’s this kind of talk from the fringe left that has made the Democratic Party a minority in this country, getting smaller and smaller with each passing election (2000, 2002, 2004). Keep it up. It’s working!
    As you point out, I didn’t assign responsibility for 9/11 with Saddam Hussein, but deposing him was the right thing to do. We couldn’t continue to deal with him according to Sept. 10 rules.
    The notion that Iraq was an unnecessary diversion from the Real War on Terrorism, strikes me as rather odd in light of all the criticism heaped on the Bush Administration for not doing enough to prevent the 9/11 attacks. Maybe he should have done more, but I wonder how well an invasion of Afghanistan would have gone over with Democrats before the attacks occurred.
    It’s truly odd to criticize Bush for not connecting the dots with respect to 9/11, while at the same time criticizing him for connecting a very long string of them with respect to Iraq — and actually doing something about it. (Interestingly, Clinton defends Bush on Iraq.)
    Let’s look at what we knew about Saddam before fighting our second war against him and see if any dots appear:
    * He hated the United States no less passionately than did Osama bin Laden
    * He was a regional belligerent (with greater aspirations) who invaded his neighbors and murdered hundreds of thousands of his own people
    * He had and used WMDs
    * He refused to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors to prove that he had destroyed his known WMDs
    * He had ties to terrorist groups, including al Qaeda (not a “collaborating” relationship, but there were ties)
    * He harbored known terrorists
    * He supported international terrorism, monetarily and otherwise
    * He repeatedly violated the ’91 ceasefire agreement
    * He repeatedly fired on US pilots patrolling the no-fly zones (which were keeping him from slaughtering more of his people)
    * He repeatedly violated 17 UN resolutions, including a “final resolution”
    * He tried to assassinate former President George HW Bush
    You can bet that if Saddam had eventually carried out an attack inside the U.S. or funnelled weapons or weapons technology to a terrorist group that did, we would be holding congressional inquiries into why our government didn’t do more to prevent it, just like we did with respect to al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks.
    I find unpersuasive the argument that we should have let the inspection process continue longer. The fact of the matter is that Saddam had many years to comply with UN demands and refused to do so (not even Hans Blix disputes this), and after 9/11 we were no longer willing to accept the risk of waiting it out another 12 years. There comes a time when words either mean something or they don’t.
    What does this mean for other rogue nations? Post-9/11 the bar has been lowered and despots and dictators everywhere should sit up and take notice, as Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi did last year when he gave up his WMD programs and spilled the beans on North Korea and Iran’s nuclear arms trading.

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  16. Annie

    “Post-9/11 the bar has been lowered and despots and dictators everywhere should sit up and take notice.”
    Take notice that the world is owned and operated by the U.S. of America is what is really meant here, isn’t it? This is exactly the attitude that Ian alluded to in his post. We might be #1 now, but if we use common sense we will deduce that it won’t last forever.
    Your comment presupposes that invasion and “war” were/are the only options available to deal with the issue of terrorism. Your comment about “rogue nations” assumes that any nation which is actively opposed to US self-interest is a bad child in need of a smack upside the head. I’m sure you will rejoin with ominous facts about North Korea, et al., and maybe throw in a few more bad facts about Iraq. These are not unimportant issues, it’s just that there are people who believe that there is probably a better, smarter, and more ally-encouraging way of conducting foreign relations than just invading everybody.
    Notice that in your excitement to justify invading Iraq you have continued to ignore the original point: why does the US have such dedicated enemies? And why does the number of them seem to be growing rapidly when in fact most of us living here would like to see it decrease? Your replies are predicated on the idea that getting rid of certain people will solve the problem, and I just don’t think it’s going to be that simple.

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  17. M

    Annie:
    I don’t mean to claim that the world is “owned and operated” by the US, but the fact of the matter is that we are presently its lone superpower and as such we have unique responsibilities. Indeed, as Ian says we must “call for the ball.”
    For more than a century we have possessed the world’s finest navy and we deploy hundreds of ships around the globe to keep and protect shipping lanes, which contributes greatly to the world’s economy. These same ships also project power to protect allies such as Tawain and Japan, to name but two, from aggressors. These are just some of the things they do.
    Together with Great Britain, Australia and other powerful democratic allies we have a responsibility to keep others safe. You may ask: Then why make war when we know — no matter how careful we are — it will kill and injure thousands of innocent people? The answer isn’t an easy one and the reluctance to engage in war is obviously understandable. But there are times when one needs to decide that the benefits of taking military action outweigh the costs; that fewer lives will be lost by acting than not acting.
    It’s a horrible calculation to have to make. When I went through ROTC, I had an instructor who explained very forthrightly how we might have to make decisions knowing that an approximate number of our men would be killed as a result, but in the end, if we were successful in our mission, more lives would be saved. That’s a scary proposition and, fortunately, one I never had to face in the first Gulf War.
    The relevance of all this is that elected civilian officials also have to make those difficult decisions. It will be public, it will be on a large scale, not everyone will agree, mistakes will be made and losses suffered. There will be much second guessing. Careers will be made and lost. That’s how it goes. But doing nothing also has its costs and critics.
    I think I know where you stand and I’ve tried to explain where I’m coming from; I believe Saddam was a threat not only to the region, but to the US and the greater world. I believe that the beachhead of democracy theory is applicable and overdue for the Middle-East. I believe that, in the long run, many lives will have been saved and many more improved by having Saddam Hussein removed from power. (I might also note here that recent polls show that almost 70% of our servicemen and women, the ones putting their lives on the line, also believe in the cause in which they are now engaged in Iraq. Just something for you to think about.)
    When the day comes that we are no longer No. 1, I hope the new guy aspires to our example over the last 90 years. Not perfect, to be sure, but not too damn bad either, all things considered.
    You’ve spun my mention of rogue nations to mean “any nation…opposed to US self-interest.” No, I don’t consider France to be a “rogue nation.” But there are others — North Korea and Iran top the list — that we need to be worried about.
    If President Bush allows Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, I will consider his second term foreign policy a failure on par with Jimmy Carter’s. It’s totally unacceptable for the mullahs to possess an atomic weapon. If they ever do, they will nuke Israel as sure as… well, use your own anecdote, but it’s a near certainty, which is why I don’t think the Israelis will ever let it happen either.
    As for areas in the world where there’s no apparent US interest… I support action in Dafur, as I did Somalia — I was among the first US troops to arrive there in late 1992 — and I would’ve supported it in Rwanda, too, had I known of it at the time.
    In certain parts of the world, when one group of people want to kill another group of people nothing will stop them except force. They don’t want foreign aid or a UN resolution or for the US to do this or that; they want to kill “the other” and it’s usually about tribalism. To stop that kind of killing, marines and soldiers have to be put in harms way, and with that comes all the horrors of war.
    You ask me to address the original point about why the US has such dedicated enemies. Well, why do people hate the Yankees or Blue Devils so much? I agree that there’s a serious problem of anti-Americanism in the world today. Indeed, it’s become quite fashionable in some parts, but I don’t see it as our fault. What I don’t see is any reasonable alternative coming from your side. Do you have any answers to these problems? I’d like to hear them.

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  18. Annie

    M:
    Nowhere did I say that I was uniformly opposed to military action in all circumstances. Darfur, Somalia, and Rwanda are examples where there was no other conscionable choice to make. However, those situations stand out in stark opposition to the invasion of Iraq in two very intimately related ways: one, in the case of Africa we were acting as one with the alliance of practically the entire world, and two, we did not stand to gain anything (other than respect) by lending our miltary power to these causes. Therefore, we were indisputably taking the moral high ground.
    You cannot deny that, despite any reasoning about Saddam being dangerous (the fact that he hated the West and had had intentions of aggression in the past does not seem disputable), at LEAST a MAJORITY of our allies DISAGREED WITH when and how we invaded Iraq. You might remember that our justification for invading Iraq was that it was “an imminent threat” (Powell pointing at crappy aerial picture of tubing), which I (and apparently the rest of the world) would interpret as meaning: He had the capability (weapons and manpower) to seriously harm the US and/or its allies in March of 2003. (NOT that he HAD had weapons in the past –famously nowhere to be seen in 2003–and that he hated America, which to my mind is NOT a justification for preemptive action).
    At this point, it is painfully obvious to the ENTIRE WORLD that Saddam’s Iraq did NOT pose an imminent threat. Even if you can’t accept that as the truth, you MUST be able to see that most nations of the world do–and that is, to my mind, a serious, serious problem. In the world’s eyes we are not standing on any moral high ground, and that simply makes us more enemies. We are in an increasingly vulnerable position because of our invasion of Iraq. We have seriously strained diplomatic relations with just about every nation on the world with our serial rejection of international law and weapons treaties, and Iraq is just another nail in our coffin, because it has made our contemptuous disregard for the opinions and input of the rest of the world finally and unmistakably plain.
    You might rejoin that we’re doing the world a favor by getting rid of Saddam. Well, how come no one’s happy? Does that seem important at all? Doesn’t it seem possible that we might have found a way to work with Europe, Russia, and even other Middle Eastern nations to contain (as we had effectively done in the past) Saddam, eventually removing him if necessary, WITH the cooperation and help of the rest of the world?
    And still, we haven’t addressed the issue of whether or not Saddam’s Iraq was the most serious threat facing the US as far as fostering terrorism. I am utterly unconvinced of that, given that the 9/11 attackers were in no way affiliated with Iraq. Doesn’t THAT seem odd to you?
    Your presupposition is again that attacking/invading nations is the way of dealing with the new threat of terrorism. All I’m saying is, I don’t see it working, in fact I see it having the opposite effect. Iraq is now hugely unstable and violent, and is probably the #1 breeding ground for Islamiscist terrorists. Even if Saddam had isolated alliances with terrorist groups, Iraq wasn’t at that point a huge petri dish for new terrorists. But now that’s exactly what it’s turning into.
    As far as solutions/answers to these problems: Obviously, as you pointed out, plenty of people fault US intelligence etc for not being able to stop 9/11, but it doesn’t seem clear to me at all that if Saddam hadn’t been in power, 9/11 never would have happened. However, it does seem possible that better intelligence could have prevented 9/11. So, my answer would have been (before our ham-fisted military actions) to address the problem through significantly improved intelligence, which is best accomplished through the best tightly coordinated foreign relations.
    Now we’re in a world of shit because no one trusts us because we’ve demonstrated hostile indifference to everyone except our lapdog (Britain) and our own corporate interests. So we’ve lost a lot of ground.
    The next step is very difficult to see. But I believe that we desperately need new leadership (to demonstrate a renewal of alliances) and we need to take a serious step back from further military action. The troops are stretched almost to the breaking point at the moment (which I’ve seen for myself–my cousin’s husband nearly got killed over there a month ago, but survived with three bullets in his arm) and there’s nowhere to go but down. Military recruitment is down (no one wants to join the military when the see soldiers getting killed every day) and I cannot comprehend how we would be able to take a fearsome military stance against Iran when we’re getting are asses whupped next door.
    Finally, the world’s hatred of the US cannot be, to my mind, dismissed as an equivalent to Carolina/Duke rivalry or as fashion. While I take your point that the US has done much to foster trade (and widen certain avenues of prosperity) and to police selected injustices in the world, that’s not all we have done. If you agree that there’s a serious problem of anti-Americanism in the world but have already dismissed it as “not our fault,” I surmise that you don’t accept any criticism of US foreign policy as valid. However, in addition to hogging 1/4 of the world’s natural resources, the US has supported and financed violent dictatorships in many more than one case (Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Argentina, some may argue that Israel fits into this category) and our hypocrisy has not been lost on the rest of the world.
    Isn’t there some wisdom to examining our own role in the world and asking ourselves if we have fallen short of disinterested benevolence?

    Reply
  19. M

    First of all, we’re not “getting our asses whupped” in Iraq. C’mon! Second, military recruitment is not down. It is up across the board in all branches of service except for the National Guard (down about 10%), which makes sense since people who usually join the Guard don’t want to be activated. Retention is also up in each of the four branches of service.
    Another thing, President Bush actually said that we shouldn’t wait until the threat (of Saddam’s Iraq) becomes imminent. Big difference.
    We will just have to disagree on 99% of what we’ve discussed. But thanks for taking the time to engage this debate. I enjoyed reading what you had to say even though I don’t agree with most of it.

    Reply
  20. tony

    Sorry to join this late…M…we are getting our asses whooped in Iraq. My brother just returned from his second tour of duty there. He doesn’t candy coat any of the stuff to me. While most soldiers will give you the standard we’re kickin ass , we’re on a mission statement when asked I know exactly what they are really thinking. The place is a shithole. There are about 10,000 more incidents of being shot at and shooting at people than is reported on the news. No one likes the american presence no matter how hard we try. The US forces don’t give a rats ass anymore, when you get a force that doesn’t give a shit you get mistakes you get killings you get scandels. They don’t feel there is anything being accomplished over there except they get to watch 500lb bombs go off as they drive by them almost everyday. Never mind the daily mortoring of thier camps. My brothers second tour was supposed to go there to engage the people and build a stronger bond. We were sending school supplies and humanitarian goods to my brothers unit so that they could disperse them to the locals. After the 1st month my brother said not to bother, it was a waste and the people didn’t give a shit and didn’t want the help. We have no offense because our military is built to go in kill everything and leave. Sorry but we do not have the training or the troop strength for occupation. They literally sit around waiting to be shot at or blown up. That is what they do day in and day out. What the hell kind of mission is that? I’m just bored of this whole Iraq thing was a just cause. We’ve killed more civilians through our actions than Suddam would have if he was still in power, no wonder they hate us. Just because we did it under the banner of freedom and democracy and ..oh yea weapons of mass destruction. Didn’t the administration go on some kind of media blitz saying that they wouldn’t stop looking for weapons of MD until they were found? They were that confident they existed. Funny Yesterdays top headline was: US halts search for weapons. “They don’t exist” hahah what a joke. My brothers life was put on the line twice and for what? Just answer me WHAT HAVE WE GAINED IN EXCHANGE FOR ALL OUR SERVICE PEOPLES LIVES???????? Was it worth those lives? I sure as hell see nothing worth one damn life. NOT ONE THING.

    Reply

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