Further thoughts on the New Republic essay

“I'm very confused.” says Jonah Goldberg, who then demonstrates his confusion by using incredibly simplistic arguments in which he clearly misunderstands the point of the author's original piece.

An example is in how he misrepresents Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11:

"Moore doubts that Osama was behind 9/11..."

No Jonah, no one on the Left doubts that bin Laden was the main author of 9/11. No one doubts that bin Laden was the guy who arranged the attacks of that day, who saw to it that 19 people were trained in American flight schools to fly planes into buildings and who rejoiced when 3000 Americans died as a result. What Moore and the Left also feel is that the negligence, irresponsibility and dereliction of duty by the Bush Administration is also responsible for 9/11. 9/11 was not a one-man show, it required that responsible US officials not do their jobs.

Is, as Goldberg maintains Moore is claiming, Bush a bigger threat to Americans than bin Laden is? Well, it depends on what exactly one means by that. Is Bush a threat to the life and limbs of Americans? Obviously not. Is Bush a far bigger threat to American liberties and the Constitution than bin Laden could ever hope to be? Of course he is. Bush is in a position to threaten the Constitution, bin Laden is not. Bin Laden's actions may provoke Bush to suspend the Constitution, but Bush has to be to be the one to do that.

Is the Left “confused” about the threat of “Islamo-fascism” and Islamic “totalitarianism”? The terms used demonstrate where the confusion lies. To equate Islamic fundamentalists and their desire to hurt Americans with the threats posed by Fascist Italy, let alone Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union is pathetic. The entire Islamic world, all one billion-plus of them, poses a fraction of the military threat that Nazi Germany did. When one considers that the Islamic world is split up into many nations, believes in several variants of the original message by Mohammed and that the US is really only concerned with violent, stateless Muslims, the argument is absolutely laughable.

Are violent Islamic fundamentalists a problem? Of course they are. Was the government of Afghanistan properly toppled for justifiable reasons? There were a few leftists* who thought that the invasion of Afghanistan was wrong, but their numbers were always small and their arguments never made much headway beyond far-left circles. The claim that MoveOn opposed the invasion is unsubstantiated and people agree with my memory that I don't recall any such opposition.

* I questioned at the time why the US could not accept the Afghan offer to turn over bin Laden in return for proof that bin Laden was behind 9/11. This was more of a quibble than a real argument and I wasn't inspired to attend any demonstrations against Bush's policies until he suggested that America should invade Iraq.

A major problem with the War On Terror (WOT) is that once Afghanistan fell, that was the last state sponsor of terrorism standing that had any desire to harbor or aid anyone who wished to attack the American mainland. Iran and Syria have been accused of supporting terrorists, but it's not clear that these terrorists pose any current threat to the US or that either nation wants to initiate an action that could be traced back to them. Largely, when we discuss the WOT, we're talking about Fourth Generation or Asymmetric warfare.

Goldberg writes:

"all the how-dare-yous and the Iraq's-a-distraction stuff"

His suggestion appears to be that the Iraq War is somehow, in some way, connected to the struggle against al Qaeda. This betrays enormous confusion and suggests that the man has either been hiding in a hole the last three years or that he's in thrall to Bush Administration propaganda. Under President Clinton, it was revealed that American intelligence agencies were collectively spending about $30 billion a year. Obviously, that figure has gone up since 9/11.

Recently, I challenged someone who wrote a letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer to substantiate his claim that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. The letter-writer suggested I was an idiot for not recognizing such an obvious “fact” and proceeded to ramble on about the unsubstantiated charge that Hussein attempted to have the elder George Bush assassinated (Clinton obviously needed to rack up public opinion points at the time and the news media reacted with enthusiasm.), that Hussein paid off the families of Palestinian suicide bombers (Palestinians complain Hussen never came through on that) and that well..Hussein was an evil and rotten and terrible and immoral kind of guy.

If there was a connection between Hussein and 9/11, our vaunted and well-funded intelligence agencies have not been able to find any trace of any such connection in the last three-plus years.

The Iraq War was and remains a distraction from the WOT. The Iraq War is a nationalist struggle to drive American occupation forces out of that country. There have been fighters and jihadists from other countries fighting in Iiraq from the day Baghdad fell and probably before. The brother of a soldier who died in Iraq has claimed that Iranian weapons have been found among the Iraqi resistance. But foreigners have never numbered more than two to five percent of the forces killed in action and/or taken prisoner and the story of the missing weapons of al Qaqaa means that an outside weapons supply isn't really necessary.

So, do us liberals, leftists, etc., have a deep problem with the way the WOT is currently being fought? Yes we do! As terrorism, three-plus years after 9/11, has still not been really defined, America is slated to fight what is an endless struggle. There is simply no end-point that the Bush Administration has defined for us, no way to tell when victory has been achieved. If Americans are being asked to put aside Constitutional protections and put up with the abominations of the Patriot Act and tolerate atrocities like those of Abu Ghraib, then we'll be doing so on a permanent basis. If Americans are to preserve anything resembling democracy, if we are ever going to have freedom and liberty, we must carve out space within the WOT to do so. The Bush Administration has done absolutely nothing whatsoever to reconcile the WOT with democracy in America. A revived and aggressive Democratic Party is one of our very few hopes for ever doing this.

No comments: