Not another one

by Ted on August 11, 2005

Cheers to Eugene Volokh for opening commments on this post. If it weren’t for that decision, I might have simply been appalled by Professor Volokh’s willingness to pass on a vicious smear of war opponents. I would likely have missed how poorly sourced the insinuations about the marital faithfulness of a dead man were. A commenter notes:

Steven Vincent was married for 13 years. His widow posted a touching memorial outside their house, just a few short blocks from me. While I don’t know a thing about their personal lives, the accusation that he was going to divorce her and marry his Iraqi translator is a hell of a thing to say about a dead man, if it turns out to be unfounded.

Jeers for posting it in the first place. Who, may I ask, are all the “Westerners who side with the ‘Iraqi resistance’ against America and its allies”? Generally speaking, the “Iraqi resistance” is killing our troops in the interest of a fundamentalist ideology that liberals find appalling. If our countrymen are actually taking their side as they try to kill coalition troops, that seems like a (conversational, if not legal) accusation of treason. Who are we talking about? Ward Churchill? George Galloway? Michael Moore, for comparing the insurgents to the Minutemen? Some Guy With A Sign Once? Could this vast conspiracy fit into a VW minibus?

Of course, James Taranto carelessly uses this sort of language all the time, and readers know damn well who he’s talking about. It’s not referring to a handful of psychopaths and extremists who hardly need refuting. It’s aimed at opponents of the war in Iraq, who aren’t anti-war, just on the other side. In the past few years, we’ve seen a constant, sickening effort on the part of supporters of the war in Iraq to conflate opposition the war with support for terrorists.

I’ve come to expect this sort of rhetoric from the mainstream conservative media and blogs. I don’t expect it from Eugene Volokh. He has earned the respect and readership of a wide swath of left-leaning readers for his intelligence, his fair-mindedness, and for his ability to express a right-wing viewpoint without displaying contempt for the other side. There are a million places that war opponents can go to get accused of siding against their country. It appears that there’s now one more.

UPDATE: Daniel Davies writes, in the Volokh comments:

DK above is absolutely correct that this post is ignorant as well as unpleasant. The Shi’ite gangs who killed Steven Vincent are not part of “the resistance”; they are operating to institute Iranian-style sharia law under the eyes of the British troops which control (in the loosest sense of “control”) the city of Basra. Furthermore, this fact was the main theme of Vincent’s journalism and his blog. I have no idea how anyone could possibly not know this, unless of course they had never read a word Vincent wrote and did not care about him at all except as a subject for a blog post that might make a useful smear on anti-war opinion.

UPDATE II: Volokh has updated his post to say:

Some people interpreted the OpinionJournal item, and this one, as criticizing all opponents of the Iraq War. That’s an interpretation that’s in the mind of the interpreters—I see no support for it in the text of the post.

The item is quite clearly a criticism of those Westerners who do endorse the Iraqi “resistance,” or at least explain its actions in ways that lessen or eliminate the killers’ culpability (poverty, supposed desire for “self-determination,” supposedly justifiable anger at various American, Israeli, or other Western sins). That’s the group the item identifies. It’s the group against which the item’s argument makes sense. The item doesn’t criticize any broader group of Iraq War opponents.

Fortunately, the group being criticized is not a vast group. So? They’re still worth condemning.

I’ll believe that Volokh meant to criticize a small group. (Although, if that’s all he meant, I have a hard time seeing the point. As a commentor adds: “I condemn Republicans who drink puppy blood with breakfast. Fortunately, this is not a vast group. So? They’re still worth condemning.” We could play this game all day, and how enlightening that would be.)

But I don’t believe it about Taranto. He’s the guy who called Congressional Democrats “The al Qaeda Cheering Section”. He thought it appropriate to title his criticism of the New York Times editorial page “Root, Root, Root for the Bomb Team”. He churns out lines like “we wish (Naomi) Klein well in her efforts to persuade “progressives” actually to embrace an idea of progress rather than serve as apologists for fascism.” I don’t doubt that some of Taranto’s readers read “Westerners who side with the ‘Iraqi resistance’ against America and its allies” and interpreted it narrowly. I also don’t doubt that some interpreted it rather broadly.

This is unrelated, but it’s a funny example of Taranto’s approach to commentary:

Clinton says he messed with Monica “for the worst possible reason: just because I could. I think that’s just about the most morally indefensible reason anybody could have for doing anything.”

Really? “Just because I could” sounds a lot like “Because it’s there.” Does Clinton really mean to suggest that it was “morally indefensible” for George Leigh Mallory to climb Mount Everest? What an outrageous slur against a great explorer.

For God’s sake, won’t someone think of the mountain climbers?

{ 1 trackback }

Wagging fingers | Cosmic Variance
08.14.05 at 2:50 pm

{ 70 comments }

1

Kieran Healy 08.12.05 at 9:14 am

Apparently war opponents are not just siding against the U.S., but actually endorsing racist honor killings, lynchings and the murder of Emmett Till. Thanks for endorsing that, Eugene.

2

FMguru 08.12.05 at 9:20 am

“I don’t expect it from Eugene Volokh.”

Why not? Wasn’t he the one who posted a long article about the personal satisfaction he derived from the thought of his enemies being tortured?

I’m getting a little tired of reading these posts where liberals are let down by conservatives who they thought were reasonable and respectable and intellectually honest* (“Oh, Tacitus, how could you?”). It’s Year Five of the Second Bush Administration – anyone who hasn’t jumped off the Endless War for Empire bandwagon by now by definition isn’t reasonable or respectable. They’re all wingnuts underneath; some are just better at hiding it than others.

*and their converse, the usually-reliable wingnut who breaks formation for a moment to criticise torture or the Iraq quagmire or Bush’s anti-science policy, and so gathers fulsome praise from the liberal blogosphere before falling back into full attack-dog mode. See Andrew Sullivan or that “Baloon Juice” guy.

3

abb1 08.12.05 at 9:29 am

I thought the “Shiite extremists who knew he was intending to marry his Muslim interpreter” who, allegedly, executed the guy – I understand that they were acutally the loyal members of the new US/UK installed government, the new ‘democratic’, ‘purple fingers’ Basra police officers.

Doesn’t it mean, then, that the pro-war, pro-America and its allies, anti-resistance people are are defending the equivalent of the murder of Emmett Till?

This is confusing.

4

nic 08.12.05 at 9:29 am

Do we have an accurate idea why Steven Vincent was killed? The earlier story was that it was to shut him up after a NY Times article he wrote criticising the British for allowing an Islamist takeover of the south and criticising the Basra police for corruption. I also wasn’t aware that he was killed by the “Iraqi resistance”, but thought it was by people affilitated with Basra government.

5

jacob 08.12.05 at 9:51 am

Do we have an accurate idea of who the so-called “Iraqi resistance” are? Can anyone reliable tell us that they are a unified group with discernable political aims? It seems to me that each month we hear a different talking point about them–they’re Baathists who just want to restore Saddam Hussein to power! No, they’re Iranian stooges! No, they’re bin Laden’s stooges! No, they’re petty theives and gangsters! No, they’re Klan members! Is there any sense in a bunch of armchair commentators pontificating about who the “resistance” is since none of us actually know?

6

Cranky Observer 08.12.05 at 10:06 am

I am very sad about this. Not because Ted is correct, which he is. But because the Radicals have tuned this Dolchstoss nonesense to a fine pitch, and it resonates strongly with the average American. The Radicals have set up a “heads-I-win, tails-you lose” argument that no one (even John McCain) can effectively counter. We know what happened the last time this meme got firmly implanted in a superpower’s citizenry. Can the Republicans assure me that they can keep their Radicals under control? I doubt it, myself.

Cranky

7

Sebastian Holsclaw 08.12.05 at 10:20 am

It isn’t nice to accuse dead people of infidelity. But the accusation wasn’t made up for US conservative propaganda purposes (and I don’t totally understand how the charge works anyway). But if I may quote the well-respected at Crooked Timber Middle Eastern expert in a post made 4 days before Eugene’s post you will find the same ‘facts’ in his death being spun into an ugly criticsm of the dead man more in line with Cole’s politics:

Was American journalist Steve Vincent killed in Basra as part of an honor killing? He was romantically involved with his Iraqi interpreter, who was shot 4 times. If her clan thought she was shaming them by appearing to be having an affair outside wedlock with an American male, they might well have decided to end it. In Mediterranean culture, a man’s honor tends to be wrought up with his ability to protect his womenfolk from seduction by strange men. Where a woman of the family sleeps around, it brings enormous shame on her father, brothers and cousins, and it is not unknown for them to kill her. These sentiments and this sort of behavior tend to be rural and to hold among the uneducated, but are not unknown in urban areas. Vincent did not know anything serious about Middle Eastern culture and was aggressive about criticizing what he could see of it on the surface, and if he was behaving in the way the Telegraph article describes, he was acting in an extremely dangerous manner.

Same nasty suggestion of infidelity–different political spin.

8

bob mcmanus 08.12.05 at 10:22 am

With the gleeful torture, this makes strike two. If even Eugene Volokh moves beyond the pale, whatever sane or adult Republicans remain had best start screaming.

If I may perform, oh, just a thought-experiment, some might speculate that the inflammatory speech is preparatory. An attempt to energize and commit the base in expectation of a crisis.

Further scandals and possible indictments would not surprise, and would be divisive but manageable. But liberals, I believe, should at least mentally prepare themselves for what the country, considering the polarization, might look like after an economic crash, a pre-emptive attack on Iran and a geometric war escalation, or another possibly worse domestic terrorist event.

The comity has become brittle.

9

abb1 08.12.05 at 10:25 am

The Radicals have set up a “heads-I-win, tails-you lose” argument that no one (even John McCain) can effectively counter.

FYI:
Politically opportunistic anti-war argument is this: “we don’t have enough troops in Iraq”. You’ve got to become more pro-war than the ‘Radicals’ to be effectively anti-war.

10

Sven 08.12.05 at 10:32 am

Here’s an interview with Lisa Ramaci-Vincent, conducted today, in which she addresses the killers’ probable motivations and the rumors of infidelity.

11

BigMacAttack 08.12.05 at 10:34 am

Wow, so much wrong in so few paragraphs.

I seem to be saying this a lot lately, I guess it needs saying.

If Ted believes what he says -

‘I don’t expect it from Eugene Volokh. He has earned the respect and readership of a wide swath of left-leaning readers for his intelligence, his fair-mindedness, and for his ability to express a right-wing viewpoint without displaying contempt for the other side.’

then his inference from this –

‘Those Westerners who side with the “Iraqi resistance” against America and its allies are defending the equivalent of the murder of Emmett Till.’

that Eugene is smearing all opponents of the war not and not just those Westerners who side with the Iraqi resistance, really says more about Ted’s prejudices than Eugene’s intentions.

Actually even Ted didn’t believe Eugene was fair minded and intelligent, it would require more than creating an imaginary association between Eugene and this James Taranto fellow, to convince anyone not already convinced that all conservatives are the spawn of Satan, to infer anything more than the plain meaning of Eugene’s words.

Some smaller but no less valid criticisms.

As this comments thread will probably soon demonstrate Michael Moore and George Galloway do not exist in vacuum. They have many like minded fans. They are a minority within the community that opposes the war but it would take a fleet of mini-vans to seat all of them.

I am pleased that Ted apparently thinks that Moore is amongst ‘a handful of psychopaths and extremists who hardly need refuting’

I will be e-mailing you Ted, the next time a reputable member of the left like Atrios or a member of CT, not just some nut in a comments thread, plants a big sloppy kiss on Moore. I expect you to get my back and at least agree that Moore is an extremist.

It is also quite clear that Eugene meant rhetorically siding the Iraqi resistance and not actually physically throwing grenades at US troops. Was it really necessary to point out that the two are not the same thing? I guess if you are so feverish, that you can infer that Eugene was talking about all opponents of the war, it would be necessary.

And finally, this is probably terribly inconsistent and hypocritical on my part given my above criticism of Ted. But I will go on step further. Moore and company don’t really think the Iraqi resistance are minute men, any more than the average poster at LGF really wants to turn the ME into a parking lot. Both groups are just loud mouths spouting nonsensical rhetoric. They should be call on their dangerous BS but for the most part when push comes to shove we should concede that it is just BS.

12

Lindsay Beyerstein 08.12.05 at 10:37 am

Reports of Vincent’s marriage plans aren’t just malicious speculation about his “virtue.”

Steve Vincent’s wife knew that he planned to marry his translator for immigration reasons, according to this article in The Telegraph:

Mr Vincent, 49, a former art critic who turned to journalism after witnessing the September 11 attacks, had been married to his American wife for 13 years. She is understood to have been aware of his plans to marry Ms Weidi for visa purposes.

The Scotsman reports that Vincent had already paid a $2500 dowery to his interpreter’s family.

13

Cranky Observer 08.12.05 at 10:41 am

> I will be e-mailing you Ted, the next time a
> reputable member of the left like Atrios or a
> member of CT, not just some nut in a comments
> thread, plants a big sloppy kiss on Moore. I
> expect you to get my back and at least agree
> that Moore is an extremist.
> [...]
> [...] Moore and company don’t really think the
> Iraqi resistance are minute men, any more than
> the average poster at LGF really wants to turn
> the ME into a parking lot. Both groups are just
> loud mouths spouting nonsensical rhetoric. They
> should be call on their dangerous BS but for the
> most part when push comes to shove we should
> concede that it is just BS.

As I said, for the Radicals it is “heads-I-win, tails-you-lose”. Everyone from John Kerry to Howard Dean to Markos is responsible for every word Michael Moore or Noam Chomsky speaks, and must be hammered for it relentlessly. But should anyone dare to point out the overheated rhetoric of the Radical base, well, we need to loosen up and understanding that is just joshing BS for which no one in the Republican party is responsible.

14

helmut 08.12.05 at 10:43 am

See my post on Vincent and relativism at Phronesisaical (http://phronesisaical.blogspot.com/), also taken up at Selves and Others (http://www.selvesandothers.org/).

15

BigMacAttack 08.12.05 at 10:45 am

Sebastian Holdsclaw,

No way! LOL. ROFL.

Cranky and everyone else,

This is quite clearly a case of inverse Dolchstoss nonsense. Where everytime someone says, ‘Could you please pass the butter.’, they get accused of Dolchstoss nonsense. Or I think it is. I am not smart enough to really know what Dolchstoss nonsense is but it does sound like some kind of sinister smear campaign.

At this point sane liberals should be covering their eyes and pretending that Ted didn’t make this post.

16

Matt McGrattan 08.12.05 at 10:51 am

fmguru has it right above.

There’s just no surprise at Volokh writing this, given past form in the Iranian death-by-torture case.

17

BigMacAttack 08.12.05 at 10:52 am

Cranky Observer,

Goodness. It is an outbreak of inverse Dolchstoss nonsense.

I very, very, very clearly said both LGFers and Moorites are just full of BS. I am not sure how you could translate that into heads I win tails you lose. More a pox on all your houses.

I would say –

I don’t think it is right to smear anti-war opponents with not so subtle insinuations of treason -

(Eugene did NOT do that.)

but at this point I am pretty sure someone down thread would just accuse me of smearing anti-war opponents with not so subtle insinuations of treason.

18

Robin 08.12.05 at 11:09 am

“I don’t expect it from Eugene Volokh. He has earned the respect and readership of a wide swath of left-leaning readers for his intelligence, his fair-mindedness, and for his ability to express a right-wing viewpoint without displaying contempt for the other side.”

Volokh, really?

19

Matt 08.12.05 at 11:21 am

Saddly Volokh has been pretty quick with his charges of treason or near treason or a treasonous hatred of America lately. When some Americans were picked up in Iraq by the US troops there and detained for a while, including an Iranian-American film maker, Volkokh was quick to say that it “sounded like the real thing [treason]” and not “just hyperbole”. That was here:

(Volokh on July 6th, in case I’m not able to put in the link. Sorry about that.)

Of course it wasn’t treason, even if true, as Eric Muller pointed out, and a week or so later all of these guys were let go- “just a mistake” or something like that. Volokh never printed a retraction or an update, but was awfully quick to accuse these poor guys of treason. I don’t know how much longer he should deserve his “reasonable” tag except when talking about his area of expertise.

20

Richard Bellamy 08.12.05 at 11:34 am

Volokh now has up a “call for papers” for pro-insurgent quotes.

21

Barry 08.12.05 at 11:35 am

Posted by bob mcmanus:

“With the gleeful torture, this makes strike two. If even Eugene Volokh moves beyond the pale, whatever sane or adult Republicans remain had best start screaming.”

A lot of it is sheer opportunism, IMHO. The current path to power and glory for a law professor lies in sucking up to the GOP now. A little while back there was a post sympathetic to ID by the Non-Volokh. He should know far better, and certainly does.

We’ve seen a lot of supposed libertarians revealed as Republicans, when push comes to shove. Because they always were, or because of opportunism. We just get gulled by superficial reasonableness, and forget that.

22

Brendan 08.12.05 at 11:37 am

God you guys! You are so behind the times! Don’t you know? Nowadays the pro-invasion posse are in favour of the Shi-ite gangs who, amongst other things, murdered Steven Vincent. In fact if you oppose them you’re Islamophobic. Apparently the plan to reconstitute a de facto nouveau (nouvelle?) Persian Empire was the real aim or this glorious crusa…er…war. WMDs? Democracy? That was so last season, darling.

Get with the programme!

23

abb1 08.12.05 at 11:48 am

As a psychopath and extremist, I’d like to ask sensible anti-war liberals to clarify: do they consider the war and occupation unjustified and illegal or only poorly executed?

If it’s the former, doesn’t it render resistance to the occupation a just cause?

If it the latter, why do you call yourself ‘anti-war’?

Thanks.

24

Dan Hardie 08.12.05 at 12:02 pm

I)This angle, or smear, (‘Vincent was killed because of his closeness to and possible affair with his Iraqi translator’) was first aired, that I’m aware of, in the ‘Sunday Times’ of 7th August. Newsflash for hermits living in Himalayan caves: The Sunday Times is owned by a pro-war individual named Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Fox News and keeps the tightest editorial control on all his outlets. This smear was therefore not repeat NOT started by ‘antiwar’ writers.

II)This killing is an embarrassment for the British Government in general and the British Army in particular because a) Vincent was murdered ‘on their watch’ and b) he had just made detailed and angry criticisms of the British administration in Basra, notably that the British were permitting Iraqi police forces to be infiltrated by Shi’ite radicals, who were then killing political opponents- and Vincent himself appears to have been murdered by men in Iraqi police uniform.
Who, then, has a motive to smear the late Steven Vincent? To spell it out for the morons on the Right: the British Government. Given that the Scotsman and the Sunday Times, one anti-war and one pro, have run near-identical stories on Vincent, I would guess that press officers in either (or both) the Ministry of Defence or the Foreign Office have been ‘briefing’ that ‘that dumb Yank was shagging his translator and that’s why he got shot’. That’s how the British Civil Service (and senior military) play things: tough and, if need be, dirty.

25

ckrisz 08.12.05 at 12:14 pm

Can anyone post if Vincent’s wife substantiates the marriage-for-visa allegation written up in the TELEGRAPH?

26

Jim Miller 08.12.05 at 12:30 pm

Could someone find out just how Daniel Davies knows the motives of Vincent’s killers? As far as I know, no one has even been arrested, much less tried and convicted. Since Davies has this information, he should share it with the authorities.

In any case, whatever the motives of Vincent’s killers, this single incident says little about the rightness (or wrongness) of the Bush administration actions in Iraq. (It may say something about the British part of the occupation, but we won’t know even that until we learn more about the killers and their motives.)

BTW, it is possible that Vincent was planning to make a formal marriage to his translator, not because they were conducting an affair but because he thought that it was necessary to get her out of Iraq for her own safety — and it is possible that his wife may have approved of his plan.

27

Iron Lungfish 08.12.05 at 12:36 pm

abb1:

If it’s the former, doesn’t it render resistance to the occupation a just cause?

Ends don’t justify means. Resisting the unlawful occupation of one’s country may be just. Murdering innocents in the name of that resistance is most certainly not.

28

modestproposal 08.12.05 at 12:42 pm

TONY JONES: John Pilger, do you still maintain that the world depends on what you call “the Iraqi resistance” to inflict a military defeat on the coalition forces?

JOHN PILGER: Well, certainly, historically, we’ve always depended on resistances to get rid of occupiers, to get rid of invaders. And what we have in Iraq now is I suppose the equivalent of a kind of Vichy Government being set up. And a resistance is always atrocious, it’s always bloody. It always involves terrorism. . . . Now, I think the situation in Iraq is so dire that unless the United States is defeated there that we’re likely to see an attack on Iran, we’re likely to see an attack on North Korea and all the way down the road it could be even an attack on China within a decade, so I think what happens in Iraq now is incredibly important.

TONY JONES: Can you approve in that context the killing of American, British or Australian troops who are in the occupying forces?

JOHN PILGER: Well yes, they’re legitimate targets. They’re illegally occupying a country. And I would have thought from an Iraqi’s point of view they are legitimate targets, they’d have to be, sure.

29

Sebastian Holsclaw 08.12.05 at 1:04 pm

“I’ll believe that Volokh meant to criticize a small group. (Although, if that’s all he meant, I have a hard time seeing the point. As a commentor adds: “I condemn Republicans who drink puppy blood with breakfast. Fortunately, this is not a vast group. So? They’re still worth condemning.” We could play this game all day, and how enlightening that would be”

Hmmm, consider Volokh’s explanation:

The item is quite clearly a criticism of those Westerners who do endorse the Iraqi “resistance,” or at least explain its actions in ways that lessen or eliminate the killers’ culpability (poverty, supposed desire for “self-determination,” supposedly justifiable anger at various American, Israeli, or other Western sins).

This number is rather larger than “Republicans who drink puppy blood for breakfast”. Fisk for instance is clearly one of these. Galloway is clearly another.

30

abb1 08.12.05 at 1:20 pm

The issue is that the unjust invasion and occupation gave the opponents a just cause; whoever they are: Baathists, Islamists, auto-mechanics, accountants, peasants, psychopaths, extremists – you name it.

Hey, you don’t like it? Don’t invade countries.

That’s just how it is, just like Stalin’s henchmen fighting the Germans in 1941. Where’s the controversy?

31

Steve Burton 08.12.05 at 1:29 pm

(1) Anyone who’s at all interested in this really should listen to the interview with Lisa Ramaci-Vincent, previously linked to by Sven:

HERE

(Windows Media Audio – about 15 minutes in length, download size 7+ MB – right-click and save if you want to be sure of getting the whole thing.)

Steven Vincent’s widow argues, quite plausibly, that her husband was not sexually involved with his translator. But she does not address the suggestion that a marriage of convenience for purposes of obtaining a Visa might have been in the works.

On the whole, I would have to say that the interview tends to support Daniel Davies’ oft expressed opinion that we are in the process of turning Basra over to a crowd of violent and corrupt theocrats.

And Steven Vincent was killed because he was determined to bring this to light.

So two (out of three) points for the anti-warriors on this one.

32

robbo 08.12.05 at 1:35 pm

As a psychopath and extremist, I’d like to ask sensible anti-war liberals to clarify: do they consider the war and occupation unjustified and illegal or only poorly executed?

I’ve long ago accepted the reality that the US maintains a massive military infrastructure and that we have a long history of seeking to police the planet in pursuit of what our rulers deem to be “America’s best interest.” I grudgingly accept that the US military will consistently become involved in overseas wars, police actions, drug eradication efforts, etc. It’s clear to me, however, that some of those actions are a lot better thought out and defensible than others.

Given the reality spelled out above, I generally supported the purpose and objectives of the first Iraq War and the post 9/11 invasion of Afghanistan. But I thought it was apparent from the start that Bush et al. were lying about the rationale for the second Iraq War, and there was much evidence that their post-war planning was insufficient and likely to fail (in terms of achieving what they said they wanted to achieve).

So, to answer your question, I have been opposed because of (a) my basic belief that America is too focused on our own narrowly defined self-interest and too prone to seeking military solutions, (b) the incoherent and dishonest way that Bush and his cronies sold this particular war, particularly conflating Saddam with bin Laden and 9/11, (c) the craven way the Democrats rushed to agree with everything Bush said in the runup to the war, and (d) the incredibly poor planning for post-war Iraq, which seems likely to undercut whatever “good intentions” we might have had.

33

abb1 08.12.05 at 1:46 pm

Robbo, this is not really what I was asking. The question is: to a Martian watching this thru a telescope, does it look like resisting the occupation is a just cause?

34

Steve Burton 08.12.05 at 1:57 pm

(2) (and this is a relatively minor point) – it is just absurd for smart anti-warriors on the left to get their noses out of joint everytime somebody on the right criticizes those who support the insurgency. They (i.e., smart-left-anti-warriors) should instead be thinking, and saying:

“We that have free souls, it touches us not. Let the galled jade wince, our withers are unwrung.”

When, instead, they get all defensive – well, that’s when guys like me really start thinking:

“What? frighted with false fire?”

35

Marcus Stanley 08.12.05 at 2:03 pm

The “supporting the insurgents” thing is a total red herring, pure propaganda, and as soon as you start defending yourself against it you have already conceded the whole debate to the pro-war, pro-occupation side. Put simply, one goal of the insurgency is to end the U.S. military occupation and restore genuine self-determination (not self-determination on U.S. terms) to the nation of Iraq. Therefore anyone who supports these goals can be portrayed as “supporting the insurgency”.

The key, genuine area of debate is whether a U.S. military occupation is the best road to eventually restoring genuine sovereignty to Iraq. The right answer to this question is “no”. Since the current U.S. administration seems unwilling to end the occupation unless they are forced to do so, violence against us is the predictable outcome. It’s tragic, but it would be straightforward enough to end it just by ending the whole stupid occupation mess. Since Bush refuses to do that, whatever is happening over there is on his head, not powerless anti-war types sitting on their couches and supposedly “rooting” for the insurgency.

36

Marcus Stanley 08.12.05 at 2:11 pm

Just to be clear, the stuff abb1 and Pilger are saying above makes sense in its own way too. Just because there is no at present no “right” side in this war doesn’t change the fact that the U.S. is currently on the wrong side. But I’m anti-war in order to defend the interests of the U.S. and the U.S. military, not the interests of some foreign insurgency that (who knows) might well turn out to mismanage the country once it takes over. But genuine U.S. interests demand that we get out of this mess. Changing the subject to “rooting for the insurgency” is as I said a pure propaganda move.

37

robbo 08.12.05 at 2:13 pm

Right, abb1, you just wanted to ask a “heads I win, tails you lose” question. You’re so clever.

38

Steve Burton 08.12.05 at 2:15 pm

marcus: OK, I’ll bite.

What, in your view, constitutes “genuine self-determination?” And what is “genuine sovereignty?”

39

abb1 08.12.05 at 2:28 pm

Robbo, I am not clever; in fact, I am trying to be as thick as I can here. Help me out. I just want a straight answer from a sensible anti-war liberal. Do you think the cause for the war was just? Do you think the cause for the occupation is just? Do you think fighting the occupation is a just cause? That’s all. I hope this is not too much to ask.

40

Marcus Stanley 08.12.05 at 2:33 pm

Steve, I said that was the genuine debate, but I didn’t say it could be conducted on a blog comments thread. One of the things this whole public discussion has shown is how intellectually weak our conceptions of “sovereignty” and “self-determination” are. Especially weak for Iraq since the meaning of Iraq itself as a nation (as opposed to a bunch of loosely confederated ethnic groups) is pretty unclear.

But a short answer would be a government that did a reasonable job of reflecting the will of a majority of its citizens on most issues *and* had the power to control its own territory completely, which obviously includes the ability to ask all U.S. troops to leave Iraqi territory if this was the public desire. I don’t think it is possible for that to happen under U.S. military occupation, for lots of reasons.

I also think that post-U.S. occupation it may take more bloodshed for this outcome to occur, which is very sad but as I said Bush’s fault and not the antiwar movements. If we had genuinely worked with other countries — Iran and Syria in particular, but also Europe etc. — to ease Saddam out of power or arrange for a post-Saddam succession in Iraq then an acceptable sovereign Iraqi government would have been much easier to achieve.

I understand that pro-war pro-occupation types will say that they too share the goal of genuine Iraqi sovereignty, but I think that their actions show pretty thoroughly that that is not the case.

41

Marcus Stanley 08.12.05 at 2:35 pm

“Right, abb1, you just wanted to ask a “heads I win, tails you lose” question.”

Since this is exactly what conservatives are doing when they ask about “supporting the insurgency”, it seems only fair that abb1 gets to answer back in kind.

42

Marcus Stanley 08.12.05 at 2:38 pm

“Right, abb1, you just wanted to ask a “heads I win, tails you lose” question.”

Since this is exactly what people are doing when they ask whether the anti-war movement “supports the insurgency”, it seems only fair that abb1 gets to answer in kind.

43

cs 08.12.05 at 2:46 pm

Ok, I seem to be the only one confused here but I’m completely unclear as to why the rational/irrational pro-war bloggers would want to attack Vincent.

Perhaps I didn’t read enough of his stuff, but from what I read, his position was very pro-war but he felt the Americans/British weren’t doing enough. He was relentless in attacking the terrorists, utterly despised the Islamic power structure taking place, and reviled the growing corruption.

Even the most mouth-breathing LGF’er would agree with the latter three points.

So what’s the problem? Any criticism, even from a fellow traveller, is unacceptable to these people?

44

robbo 08.12.05 at 3:01 pm

If the US was consistent in actively opposing “evil dictators” around the globe I might be more sympathetic to the argument that we were “just” in removing Saddam from power by force. But we aren’t in the least bit consistent, meaning that the justifications given for our invasion are fig-leaves concealing the real reasons. I don’t know the real reasons, and I don’t believe that anyone outside of Bush’s inner sanctum does. So I can’t sign on to the notion that we did what we did in the name of justice.

There’s no way for me to objectively judge whether any given resistance fighter’s cause is “just.” I can imagine various situations in which a reasonable person would be completely justified in either supporting the invaders, joining the resistance, or sitting on the sidelines hoping things work out okay.

I’ll put the question to you — let’s say that Iraqi abb1 had his entire family killed by mistake during shock/awe, or your doors were kicked in and you were held at gunpoint all night by US forces for no reason, or you were tortured for no reason at Abu Ghraib. Would you be justified in resisting?

Alternatively, Saddam killed your whole family, or your sister was killed by her husband’s fundamentalist family for some ridiculous “transgression” of Islamic law. Would you be justified in supporting the occupiers?

Sorry if those aren’t “straight answers” but a straight answer is often an overly simplistic one. That’s why you have to think things out very clearly before taking the extreme action of a “preventive war” in a place like Iraq. Bush I knew as much.

45

Doctor Slack 08.12.05 at 3:12 pm

Alternatively, Saddam killed your whole family, or your sister was killed by her husband’s fundamentalist family for some ridiculous “transgression” of Islamic law. Would you be justified in supporting the occupiers?

In the latter case it wouldn’t make sense, since that would be something that the occupiers rather than Saddam had made possible.

46

Uncle Kvetch 08.12.05 at 3:20 pm

abb1, I’m honest enough to acknowledge that your question makes me more than a little squirmy. I feel that the war is unjust. I feel that the occupation is unjust. So far so good.

Now then…to the extent that the insurgents are “fighting the occupation,” do I feel that this is a just cause? I can’t answer that with the same certitude, since they are doing far more than “fighting the occupation”–a goodly number of them are fighting to replace the occupation with a kind of theocratic fascism in which people like yours truly tend to get strung up or buried alive.

Do I want the US military to “win”? I don’t believe that such a thing is really possible at this point, but even if it were, no, I do not want it to win. An emboldened Bush administration is a far greater danger to far more people in the world than a hobbled, overstretched one.

I realize that “a plague on both their houses” doesn’t really cut it when one is confronted with “Which side are you on?” But it’s pretty much where I find myself, in all honesty.

Your question really made me think about this because I was just contributing numerous examples on another thread of prowar types accusing antiwar types like me of “wanting the US to win.” And while I find the motives of the people making those accusations deplorable, I can also see the point that you’re making–in my own personal case, in some sense, they’re right. I do not want my country to “win” this war.

I would like nothing more than to see a truly independent, sovereign, peaceful and prosperous Iraq. Unfortunately, I don’t think a US “victory” as envisioned by, say, Dick Cheney or Michael Ledeen bears any resemblance to such a result.

47

abb1 08.12.05 at 3:35 pm

Individual scenarios don’t help much here, I’m afraid.

There’s a body of post-WWII laws, declarations and precedents. They assert that an aggressive war is a supreme crime. They assert a right to self-determination. They assert a right of people living under foreign domination to fight for their right to self-determination by all means available to them (I think this is the exact language, or very close).

This is the level where human civilization has evolved at this point, we are in the post-colonial era. You can still bribe and bully foreign leaders and government, you can give money to the opposition, you can sell them arms, but you can’t invade and occupy their countries, that’s taboo.

Once you do invade – you’re a bad guy. They are defending themselves now, they now have a righteous cause, all of them, normal people and insane murderers alike. It’s bad, yes.

48

Donald Johnson 08.12.05 at 3:41 pm

Abb1, it’s quite possible for all the armed factions in a conflict to be morally wrong. Think of organized crime families fighting over turf–I think that’s probably a good analogy for most wars. A truly just war, where one side is mostly in the right, might be a rarity.

In the case of Iraq, I can understand why someone tortured at Abu Ghraib or in some other way harmed by the US might take up arms against the US, but when you look at how the insurgents have been conducting their war it’s hard for me to see that it could be called just, even leaving aside the fact that as an American I refuse to cheer for people shooting at fellow Americans. Of course the same criticism applies even more strongly to the American side, which has probably killed more civilians so far–it’s hard to see how anyone could believe Bush was serious about trying to turn Iraq into a democracy. The US wanted a puppet state with lots of American bases–they probably thought that anything they put in place would be better than Saddam and sanctions and the ordinary Iraqi would be grateful for the improvement, so they didn’t have to do any serious planning.

49

Daniel 08.12.05 at 4:20 pm

Could someone find out just how Daniel Davies knows the motives of Vincent’s killers?

Reading Jim Henley’s site and Vincent’s own

50

abb1 08.12.05 at 4:24 pm

I also refuse to cheer for people shooting at fellow Americans, especially since I suspect that they may be planning to shoot at me too or blow me up in an airplane one day.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t be honest and analyse the situation objectively. What does it have to do with cheering.

51

CM 08.12.05 at 4:27 pm

Being alarmed that Wall Street Journal editorials are horrible is like being alarmed that the mafia kills people.

52

Steve Burton 08.12.05 at 4:37 pm

marcus stanley – thank you for your reply; I sympathize with your doubts about debating this on a blog comments thread.

Still.

I like your formula for genuine self-determination/sovereignty: “a government that did a reasonable job of reflecting the will of a majority of its citizens on most issues and had the power to control its own territory completely.”

But why would anyone believe that such an eventuality would have been more likely without US intervention?

53

CM 08.12.05 at 4:44 pm

When Michael Moore wrote his “minutemen” comment, he wasn’t saying that he predicted the insurgents would win, not that he wanted the insurgents to win, which is a very obvious difference. Has Moore ever said he wanted them to win? How many people on the left have?

I know Michael Moore can be a lightweight sometimes, but he does an important job of making subversive films that connect to the masses. That’s not easy. If he were to vanish, I doubt any liberal blogger or pundit could fulfil the same role. A lot of people who watched Fahrenheit 9/11 will never pick up a copy of The Nation or American Prospect in their entire life. Who is going to educate them? Certainly not ABC, CBS and NBC.

I also think some anti-Moore feelings are caused by the humiliating fact that Moore was right about the Iraq war, whereas quite a few centrists and Democratic hawks were wrong about it. This is not something I can prove, of course, but it is plausible.

54

Uncle Kvetch 08.12.05 at 5:01 pm

I know Michael Moore can be a lightweight sometimes, but he does an important job of making subversive films that connect to the masses.

He does an even more important job of allowing principled-but-timid antiwar types to qualify their views so as to make them palatable to the arbiters of treason: “I’m against the war, but I’m not, y’know, scary like Michael Moore.”

Whether Michael Moore is crazy is irrelevant. Whether he really does “want America to lose” is irrelevant. It’s clear by now that if he didn’t exist, we would have had to invent him.

55

Kevin Donoghue 08.12.05 at 5:06 pm

The case against Moore rests on the fact that “minutemen” has very positive associations for Americans. I think Moore’s point was that King George III would not have agreed. But it seems he was too subtle – not his usual failing.

56

robbo 08.12.05 at 5:16 pm

In the latter case it wouldn’t make sense, since that would be something that the occupiers rather than Saddam had made possible.

Yes, Saddam was basically secular, so I understand your point, but we’ve been in the post-Saddam era for a while now. At this time, one goal of the occupation of Iraq is to discourage extreme interpretations of Sharia law, which many insurgent groups would love to see enshrined in country’s new constitution. That’s what I was trying to get at — sorry if it was unclear.

57

Jim Miller 08.12.05 at 5:24 pm

Daniel Davies says that he learned the motives of Vincent’s killers by “[r]eading Jim Henley’s site and Vincent’s own”. I would like to think that he is joking but fear that he is serious.

May I repeat that — to my knowledge — no one has been arrested for the murder, let alone tried and convicted. And that Vincent made, at least if the news accounts are to be trusted, more than one enemy in Iraq.

So, Mr. Davies, are you joking? If not, have you turned over your knowlege (not speculations) on those motives to the authorities?

58

Marcus Stanley 08.12.05 at 5:38 pm

“But why would anyone believe that such an eventuality would have been more likely without US intervention?”

Um, wow, Steve, lots and lots of reasons. Too many to get hashed out here. I mean, yes, deposing Saddam was a prerequisite to a better government for Iraq. But there were lots of ways to skin that cat, especially if you were willing to delay the transition while keeping Iraq contained militarily. The current resistance movement and civil war was the entirely predictable result of a U.S. invasion under false pretences, clearly conducted without genuine concern for the well-being of the Iraqis in the aftermath. That civil war is a major barrier to effective Iraqi sovereignty today and I believe we are pouring fuel on it by our presence there. We have no credibility with the Iraqi people, people who side too closely with us have no credibility, and the emergence of a powerful force that does have such credibility is critical to the eventual creation of a sovereign government. Not sure how to manage this, we are in a tragic situation here.

59

Sebastian Holsclaw 08.12.05 at 6:37 pm

“But it seems he was too subtle – not his usual failing.”

That is why some of us suspect he was not trying for subtle.

60

soru 08.12.05 at 6:57 pm

but there were lots of ways to skin that catever been overthrown other than by external military intervention.

Two, Iran and Romania, have fallen after firing on demonstrators once, and the army changing sides instead of repeating the operation. The post-war activities of the ba’athist make it clear there was no risk of any such such squeamishness.

soru

61

soru 08.12.05 at 6:59 pm

^^ignore above^^

but there were lots of ways to skin that cat.

Maybe, but no government with the military technology level of Iraq and the willingness to use it repeatedly on its own people has ever been overthrown other than by external military intervention.

Two, Iran and Romania, have fallen after firing on demonstrators once, and the army changing sides instead of repeating the operation. The post-war activities of the ba’athists make it clear there was no risk of any such such squeamishness.

soru

62

Steve 08.12.05 at 7:26 pm

The original comment quoted above from Volokh’s blog (“that’s a hell of a thing to say about a dead man”) was mine.

My point, lest it be lost, is that it’s wrong to suggest that a dead man was having an affair if you have no idea, period. I don’t care if you’re Michael Ledeen, Juan Cole, or anyone in between. The man has a grieving widow who clearly believes otherwise, and people should have a little respect.

The fact that some pro-war types would use this allegation as a way to flog their standard claim that the insurgents are really bad people doesn’t help matters any, particularly because Vincent’s murderers can in no sense be considered part of the “insurgency.” But the allegations themselves are simply inappropriate, regardless of the point one is trying to make by repeating them.

63

gmoke 08.12.05 at 7:30 pm

“Michael Moore, for comparing the insurgents to the Minutemen?”

Was he referring to 1776 or to those guys who want to patrol our borders as immigration vigilantes? A case could be made for both.

64

Brendan 08.13.05 at 4:19 am

‘no government with the military technology level of Iraq and the willingness to use it repeatedly on its own people has ever been overthrown other than by external military intervention.’

So when Christopher Hitchens argues that the Iraqi regime is on the point of collapse you disagree with him?

65

soru 08.13.05 at 6:24 am

So when Christopher Hitchens argues that the Iraqi regime is on the point of collapse you disagree with him?

If he said and meant that, yes. Like North Korea, Iraq, without outside intervention, would almost certainly continue on indefinitely. Look at equivalent historical tyrannies. With military supremacy over the ruled and the will to use it, some of them lasted hundreds or _thousands_ of years.

If he said or meant that, not the regime, but the remaining elements of pre-Iran/Iraq war civil nationalist society, the things that made it anything different from pure Tikriti clan rule, were fading, that the living standards of the people were dropping, then I’d agree with him.

Lower living standards and a smaller middle class make a dictatorial regime more, not less, secure, providing they can survive the transition.

soru

66

Myca 08.13.05 at 12:55 pm

Was he referring to 1776 or to those guys who want to patrol our borders as immigration vigilantes?

Actually, I’m pretty sure it was a reference to the punk band.

Those insurgents do lay down a kickin’ bass line.

—Myca

67

Donald Johnson 08.13.05 at 1:25 pm

Abb1, I think I’ve seen some lefties “cheer” for the insurgents, whether it’s a word you’d use or not. Your comment 47 clarifies your position, but it’s an oversimplification of what’s going on in Iraq, which actually seems to be more of a civil war, with insurgents targeting cvilians and at least some Iraqis wanting the US to stay and kill their enemies for them. International law forbids wars of aggression,–it also forbids terrorist attacks, the use of torture, death squads, etc, which means there’s a clearcut case for saying that all armed factions in this conflict are wrong. Since I’m an American, I’d like to see my fellow citizens bringing Bush up for trial for war crimes–ideally, the Iraqis would try their Sunni killers and Shiite death squads and probably also find a few Kurds who deserve life without parole-the Kurds had their own internal civil war in 1996 and one of the factions called in Saddam’s forces for help, so their leaders aren’t exactly morally pristine either.

68

Brendan 08.14.05 at 1:23 pm

‘ Like North Korea, Iraq, without outside intervention, would almost certainly continue on indefinitely.’

Ah right I think what is being claimed here is becoming clearer (to me at least).

I think you are getting confused between totalitarian regimes (a new socio-political order unique to the 20th century) and Empires (which are as old as civilisation itself). You are quite right. Some Empires did last 1000 years or more (although NONE of them lasted forever….not an uninteresting fact. Even Rome fell).

But totalitarian states (Soviet Russia, Hitler’s Germany, the South American terror regimes, Albania, Romania, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal), which sometimes but not always were imperial powers (this is a very important point: just because you are totalitarian, it does NOT mean that you necessarily pose a threat to your neighbours, altbough of course you might): these states proved themselves to be extraordinarily unstable. Even the longest lasted of them all, the Soviet Union, only lasted seventy years: an eye blink compared to the British or Roman Empires. You must remember that seemingly ‘long lasted’ totalitarian states are incredibly young. China and North Korea are only slightly over fifty years old. Fifty years after the Soviet Union was created was 1968. If anyone had stated then that the Soviet Union was on its last legs, you would have been laughed at, loudly (to the best of my knowledge not one person predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union until the late ‘seventies).

Christopher Hitchens was right. Iraq WAS on the brink of collapse. So is North Korea. It won’t last another thirty years. I seriously doubt if ANY totalitarian state will last longer than the Soviet Union (which had huge advantages which no other totalitarian state in history is likel to have, in terms of natural resources etc. etc.).

69

Jeremy 08.14.05 at 1:29 pm

People don’t cheer for the resistance because they enjoy seeing people killed. They are pleased because a deeply mendaacious government took them into an illegal war to try and subjugate a country. They are pleased because and occupied country is showing incredible resistance and tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds and admire the bravery of young men with AK-47’s attacking US troops who are infinitiely better armed

they understand that acquiescing to a political form of protest would never have worked… Jerry Bremer give the Iraqis a fair deal who are you kidding?

thats why we cheer the resistance… sure they cause civilian casualties but so do US troops… neither is any better than the other

70

soru 08.14.05 at 4:30 pm

And I think you are getting confused between saddam’s rhetoric and politicial background and the actual nature of the Iraqi state, which was not totalitarian, more of a plain old-style tyranny or despotism.

soru

Comments on this entry are closed.