Why do they hate America?

by John Quiggin on November 18, 2005

In the leadup to the Iraq war, we were repeatedly told that anyone who disagreed with the rush to war, or criticised the Bush Administration, was “anti-American”. It now appears that the majority of Americans are anti-American. A string of polls has shown that most Americans now realise that Bush and his Administration lied to get them into the war and that it was a mistake to go to war. The latest, reported in the NYT is this one from the Pew Research Centre.

It has a lot of interesting statistics on the views of Americans in general, and various elite groups. The truly striking figure is Bush’s approval ranking among leading scientists and engineers, drawn from the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. In Aug 2001, it was 30 per cent – not strong but not negligible either. In Oct 2005, it’s fallen to 6 per cent, with 87 per cent disapproving. I’d guess that the scientists in the sample are even more hostile than the engineers (though, obviously, the engineers must be pretty hostile).

It would be interesting to know how much of this hostility relates to specific anti-science policies (stem cells, Intelligent Design and so on) and how much to the Administration’s thoroughgoing embrace of the view that reality is socially constructed, and that the most powerful get to do most of the construction.

{ 110 comments }

1

agm 11.18.05 at 2:35 am

I would bet that those stats are only striking because you are an intellectual. It’s not like the National Academies have sufficient public influence to make them relevant the political discussions that result in such low public approval ratings.

More to the point, I think that what your seeing happen is not a realization that the US was misled into Iraq but rather a demonstration of one of our national sports, kicking people while they are down. And the fact that a lot of science has been politicized — anyone who is/was getting NASA funding is pretty pissed right now, stem cell research is bolloxed, etc.

2

Seth Finkelstein 11.18.05 at 2:40 am

I’d say it’s almost all anti-evolution, stem-cells, etc. The idea “that reality is socially constructed, and that the most powerful get to do most of the construction” is a humanties hot-button. Creationism and religious restriction on research are science hot-buttons.

I’m not purely speculating here. I see this on some techie mailing lists. There’s a pretty deep sense that this administration is dedicated to pleasing religious fanatic’s opposition to science, in way which has a gut-level impact on both sides.

3

Artemis 11.18.05 at 3:03 am

I’m repeatedly told that “we were repeatedly told that anyone who disagreed with the rush to war, or criticized the Bush administration, was ‘anti-American.’” Who, exactly, was saying this — that anyone who criticized the Bush administration was anti-American? What counts as repeatedly? Could you clarify for me?

4

Steve Burton 11.18.05 at 3:32 am

artemis: The answers to your questions are, of course:

(1) nobody was saying it.

(2) not even once = repeatedly.

(3) no, jq cannot clarify – in any sense of the word “clarify” that means anything interestingly different from “obfuscate.”

*But that’s not the point!*

5

Brendan 11.18.05 at 3:53 am

Artemis

the ‘meme’ that to oppose the war is to be ‘anti-American’ or ‘on the other side’ or even a traitor was frequently used by pro-invasion blogs before the war and is still being used by the likes of Glenn Reynolds, as a quick Google search for ‘Instapundit’ and ‘on the other side’ will demonstrate (‘on the other side’ being itself a euphemism for ‘being on the side of Saddam’ or even ‘being on the side of Osama Bin Laden’).

This accusation is sometimes presented in a particularly weaselly way (in order to pretend that ‘that’s not really what we are saying’). For example there might be anguished discussions about whether some anti-invasion commentator is or is not a traitor.

I simply cannot believe, assuming you read a newspaper or look at blogs that you are not aware of this, and assume this is another attempt by the dwindling band of Bushies to rewrite the past, similar to the attempts to prove to us all that ‘everyone believed that Saddam had WMDs’, and ‘Bill Clinton wanted to invade Iraq too’.

6

Bob B 11.18.05 at 3:58 am

“It now appears that the majority of Americans are anti-American.”

Isn’t it terrible? Of course, President Clinton was always a bit suspect:

“The dam has burst. Former president Bill Clinton’s verdict that the war in Iraq was ‘a big mistake’ is echoing around the world.”
http://news.independent.co.uk/world/politics/article327773.ece

But the Wall Street Journal?

“Many adults in the United States are questioning their president’s motives to launch the coalition effort, according to a poll by Hart/McInturff released by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News. 57 per cent of respondents think George W. Bush deliberately misled people to make the case for war with Iraq, up 10 points since June 2004.”
http://www.angus-reid.com/polls/index.cfm/fuseaction/viewItem/itemID/9842

7

john m. 11.18.05 at 4:06 am

I now officially giving up on all of this. #3&4 have finally pushed me over the edge. Practically all the Bush administration did (and especially its supporters at home and overseas) was to equate resistance to the war with being anti-american. It takes a genuinely heroic amount of self delusion to have failed to notice this or contend that it didn’t happen and I made a rule years ago never to engage with crazy people. There’s just no point. After all, you’re either with us or you’re against us.

8

bad Jim 11.18.05 at 4:16 am

If I remember another study correctly, it now appears that fewer of our top scientists approve of Bush than believe in God. These folks clearly have very finely tuned B.S. detectors, which may be one of the qualities which got them elected to the National Academies.

Perhaps it’s less the administration’s attitude towards science that offends them than its attitude towards truth itself.

As hard as it may be to believe now, at the time of the invasion something like half of Americans thought that Iraq was behind the September 11 attacks, so there was, and remains, widespread hostility towards those expressing antiwar sentiments. Imprecations I’ve heard during demonstrations include “Communist!” and “Go back to France!”

9

abb1 11.18.05 at 4:24 am

This is not exactly about ‘the rush to war’, but Josh Marshall has this today:

Rep Geoff Davis (R-KY) today on Rep. Murtha: “I think it’s important to understand the political climate in which these shameful statements have been made. Ayman Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s deputy, as well as Abu Musab Zarqawi, have made it quite clear in their internal propaganda that they cannot win unless they can drive the Americans out. And they know that they can’t do that there, so they’ve brought the battlefield to the halls of Congress. And, frankly, the liberal leadership have put politics ahead of sound, fiscal and national security policy. And what they have done is cooperated with our enemies and are emboldening our enemies.”

10

ajay 11.18.05 at 4:52 am

And the fact that a lot of science has been politicized—anyone who is/was getting NASA funding is pretty pissed right now, stem cell research is bolloxed, etc.

Really? Stem cells, yes, obviously, butI thought NASA was doing OK – its budget was up slightly this year, and they have the new shiny Mars project to run.

11

John Quiggin 11.18.05 at 5:22 am

What brendan and john m. said

Google “anti-american” and see what you come up with. Just for fun, try adding “steve burton”. You’ll find blogs propagating the meme where steve writes or comments, notably Right Reason.

12

VidalJr 11.18.05 at 5:32 am

If 24% of scientists, and a roughly similar portion of the general public were willing to trust BushCo in the first place, but have now changed their minds, are we to conclude that a) one of every four people was a dupe, but is now critically engaged, b) that they were dupes then, and remain dupes now naively following a surge in pessimism, from which they will shortly drop out, to proclaim fealty once again, c) that they were wise to the lies all along, but supported Bush through fear, callousness, etc, and now that the petard is hoist, are abandoning ship, d) they were never undecided regarding Bush’s competence/fitness, but gave him a chance, and are now deciding otherwise, or e) some other explanation?

Of these, a, b and c are characteristic of idiots, zombies and cretins whose opinions are suspect regardless of which side they’re on. If this is the correct explanation of the shift in opinion, one can take small comfort in knowing just what portion of the population are willing dupes/cretins. Only 1 in 4? My faith in humanity may yet survive!

13

VidalJr 11.18.05 at 7:00 am

Oops. Typo: ‘they were never undecided regarding Bush’s competence/fitness’ should read ‘they were undecided’.

While I’m at it, consider this piece in relation to the ways people* think/behave that create new problems, new hostilities, new self-delusions in the process. It might just have some bearing on the question posed above.

* I won’t specify people of a particular nation, as I suspect the behaviour is internationally endemic, so it would be unfair to single out the citizens on one country as being more ignorant and ill-mannered than those of any other.

14

Daryl Cobranchi 11.18.05 at 7:02 am

I just got back from a fairly large scientific meeting. In discussioms with friends I did not hear one kind/supportive word about the Administration. ID played a prominent role in this, no doubt.

Along similar lines, I was heartened to observe a small kiosk in Dulles airport proudly displaying an “I can’t wait for 2008″ t-shirt with a big “W” in the barred circle.

15

Henry 11.18.05 at 7:26 am

Still nothing on Straight Man Steve’s contribution to the “puppy blood”:http://crookedtimber.org/2005/08/13/taking-a-stand/ thread. As Harry said back then – nothing adds better to the savour of the joke than someone repeating insistently that something _just isn’t funny_.

16

Stephen 11.18.05 at 8:24 am

reality is socially constructed, and that the most powerful get to do most of the construction.

That’s funny as an intellectual idea I’d always associated that with a lot of left wing thought. The kind of ‘relativism’ Sokal lampooned in his book Intellectual Impostures.

Personally I think that’s a hobby horse anyone can ride, you have irrational or anti-scientific strands of thought on both left and right.

17

Steve LaBonne 11.18.05 at 9:00 am

Wingnut “patriotism” is of precisely the variety glossed by Dr. Johnson.

18

Hume's Ghost 11.18.05 at 9:02 am

I think the widespread scientific dismay with the Bush administration stems from the fact that the Bush administration is so anti-scientific overall rather than any specific issue (stem cell, ID, etc.) Bush and company selectively confirm reality according to their political ideology – this sort of epistemic methodology should be antithetical to any scientist/skeptic/rational person.

19

soru 11.18.05 at 9:24 am

That’s funny as an intellectual idea I’d always associated that with a lot of left wing thought.

A lot of the Republican intellectuals credit Gramsci as the source of some of their core ideas.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gramsci
In Gramsci’s view, any class that wishes to dominate in modern conditions has to move beyond its own narrow ‘economic-corporate’ interests, to exert intellectual and moral leadership, and to make alliances and compromises with a variety of forces.

They have just replaced the implicit assumption about which class should be providing that leadership.

soru

20

Steve LaBonne 11.18.05 at 9:27 am

What hume’s ghost said, and you can add the general nausea that many, whether they are religious or not, feel at the insistence of those poor “persecuted” fundamentalist Christians on trying to use the government to cram their peculiar theology, and the disgusting bigotry which they deduce from it, down our throats.

21

Uncle Kvetch 11.18.05 at 9:28 am

It takes a genuinely heroic amount of self delusion to have failed to notice this or contend that it didn’t happen and I made a rule years ago never to engage with crazy people.

I don’t believe they’re crazy, John–just desperate. Understandably so, given the fortunes of the Bush administration.

Otherwise, I agree entirely. I actually did a little googling in reaction to Artemis and Steve Burton; “antiwar anti-American” yielded dozens of relevant results that amply demonstrate that they are–sorry, there’s no nicer way to put it–utterly full of shit. I could painstakingly choose the best of the lot and display them here, but as John puts it, there’s just no point.

We are truly well into “Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia” territory here.

22

Nick L 11.18.05 at 9:30 am

That’s funny as an intellectual idea I’d always associated that with a lot of left wing thought. The kind of ‘relativism’ Sokal lampooned in his book Intellectual Impostures.

You are forgetting that Sockal is a left-winger who believes that the relativists have only harmed the real left.

Personally I think that’s a hobby horse anyone can ride, you have irrational or anti-scientific strands of thought on both left and right.

Undoubtedly. Witness for instance, Sociologist Steve Fuller testifying in favour of ID at the Dover Area case. Steve Fuller is a prominent anti-science relativist and left-winger who published the infamous ‘Science wars: who exactly is the enemy?’. But now he appears to be happy collaberating with the religious right.

23

Barry 11.18.05 at 9:42 am

In terms of denying reality: perhaps these scientists have noticed the difference between some left-wingers over in the humanities departments, and the people who are running the country.

24

soru 11.18.05 at 9:45 am

google ‘anti-war anti-american’: 707,000 results
google ‘lizard conspiracy’: 404,000 results

soru

25

roger 11.18.05 at 9:53 am

Huh, so, Iraq is a natural object? And the war there isn’t socially constructed?
I’ll be. What scientists believe this, again?

26

Matt 11.18.05 at 10:05 am

Scientists and engineers have various political opinions, but they generally believe that technical criteria should actually matter in making a decision. The Bushies have made it clear in case after case that only political criteria matter to them.

27

jlw 11.18.05 at 10:34 am

If we are gonna make broad generalizations from this one data point, why not:

Scientists and engineers are expected to look at long-term implications–bridges that last two generations, trends that span centuries–while the actions of the Bush Administration betray the very next-quarter obsession of your typical MBA.

Or,

Scientists and engineers follow current events pretty closely, and as the case for the Bush administration’s incompetence has moved from hints and suspicions to hard, incontrovertable evidence, they have fallen away accordingly.

This game is pretty fun. Let’s put it in boxes and sell it for $19.95 a pop.

28

saurabh 11.18.05 at 11:17 am

jlw’s game does sound like fun, but I’d like to add some empirical observations. In my own field (biology), I have NEVER met a single person who voiced a pro-administration opinion, or indeed anything that couldn’t be described as emphatically left-wing (on an American scale, granted). Whether this is because biologists are nearly uniformly left-wing or because the right-wing minority feels uncomfortable exposing themselves to ridicule, I don’t know, but either way I think it suggests that at least one subset of scientists tends to be left-wing.

29

Jim Miller 11.18.05 at 1:08 pm

Two points: First, the Bush administration has been fairly careful not to call Democrats anti-American. The same is not true of some of his Democratic opponents, including Howard Dean. (And, of course, it is easy to find bloggers on both the left and right in the United States who have made that accusation about their opponents. If I recall correctly, some leftist bloggers went as far as to call the leaking of Valerie Plame’s name, “treason”. I have generally tried to avoid such terms, myself, except in extreme cases, such as George Galloway or Scott Ritter.)

Second, a close reading of the transcript when Bush was asked about teaching intelligent design will show any fair-minded person that Bush evaded the question — four times. Here’s my post on the subject.

And this evasion was not a new position for Bush. He also evaded the question in a written reply to Science magazine. And so did John Kerry, who took a position that was identical to Bush’s.

While Bush was governor of Texas, he had many chances to take a position on teaching intelligent design. To the best of my knowledge, he never did so.

So if, as Professor Quiggin appears to believe, members of the Academy (which is not the same as scientists and engineers) oppose Bush because they believe he favors teaching intelligent design, then they are wrong to do so. (And as scientists and engineers, they should be more careful about coming to conclusions without examining the evidence.)

(BTW, there has been a significant expansion of spending on research while Bush is president. A few of the scientists who criticize Bush for other reasons should acknowledge that. And it would be gratifying if a few of the critics on embryonic stem cell research would admit that Bush is the first president to back that research with federal money.)

30

asg 11.18.05 at 1:22 pm

As other posters have pointed out, it is simply not the case that people who criticize the administration were “repeatedly” accused of anti-Americanism. What really happened was that people who *excuse the actions of the Iraqi “resistance”* were accused by bloggers and others of being anti-American or “on the other side”, which seems to be perfectly fair. Unless there is some logical requirement that anyone critical of the invasion must therefore endorse the actions of the Sunni militias, and there’s no reason to think there is such a requirement, then what we are talking about is two groups of people: administration/war critics, and Sunni terrorist supporters/apologists. These groups overlap but are not coextensive.

Following Brendan’s advice to search on “on the other side site:instapundit.com”, the first few links that come up are:

1. Glenn linking to an article about the anti-globalization movement and its shift towards anti-Americanism. This has nothing to do with the war in Iraq;

2. Some transcription of a John Pilger interview in which Pilger says that American and British troops are legitimate targets for the “resistance”;

3. A link to an article about ANSWER’s founder, with quotes endorsing the actions of Sunni militias;

4. A link to Kos’ now-infamous “Screw them” comment, with a quote from a reader email claiming such sentiments mean Kos is “on the other side”;

5. A link to a description of a “Books not Bombs” march in Sydney, where demonstrators chanted “Saddam’s our mate”.

It seems fairly clear to me that these quotes all clearly refer to people in the second group, and not the first. Attempts to elide the distinction between the two, as with JQ’s post and brendan’s and john m’s comments, are attempts to claim the moral high ground by misleading people about what those who disagree with the anti-war position said about anti-war critics.

31

Michael Bérubé 11.18.05 at 1:40 pm

Jim Miller makes two critical points: first, by saying that “both sides” in the evolution/ID dispute “ought to be properly taught,” George Bush wasn’t actually saying that ID should be taught. You have to listen carefully to the transcript, particularly to the statements Bush made at frequencies above 50,000 cycles per second. Furthermore, in pointing out that the Bush administration has been fairly careful not to call Democrats anti-American. The same is not true of some of his Democratic opponents, including Howard Dean, Mr. Miller usefully reminds us that Dean often called Democrats anti-American.

My only objection to this comment is that Mr. Miller forgot to remark on the fact that Bush never said the words “imminent threat.”

32

abb1 11.18.05 at 1:44 pm

Asg is quite right: every one has to decide whether he/she is American first or human first.

If you are human first, then on occations you’re bound to be anti-American. Pseudo-patriotic scoundrels are correct to point it out, and they’re entitled to express their disapproval.

This, however, has nothing to do with those who disagreed with the rush to war; that wasn’t one of those moments.

33

asg 11.18.05 at 1:49 pm

Good lord, abb1 actually posted something I completely agree with.

34

pdf23ds 11.18.05 at 2:15 pm

John M. said:

It takes a genuinely heroic amount of self delusion to have failed to notice this or contend that it didn’t happen and I made a rule years ago never to engage with crazy people.

Uncle Kvetch said:

I don’t believe they’re crazy, John—just desperate. Understandably so, given the fortunes of the Bush administration.

Otherwise, I agree entirely.

I believe you two have good intentions. But I believe you’re wrong here.

People’s perceptions are so colored by their political views or religious views or worldview or any other form of group identity, that they are really bad at forming accurate impressions of the behavior of people they strongly disagree with. Group identity causes people to start to defend that group irrationally. (Look at the rampant resurgence of extremist conservative American nationalism since 9/11.) They start to get selective in what they remember, and even in what they notice, understand, —even hear— in the first place. It’s a universal tendency in humans; unfortunate, but innate, and best to be actively avoided as much as possible.

When one actually goes out and tries to gather evidence about what’s going on, most of the time one ends up changing one’s viewpoint a lot. One ends up realizing that one’s memory of one’s perceptions are really unreliable. One starts to find out about the selective perception and memory and other human faults. This is why scientists put such a strong emphasis on reproducibility of results, and on strong and reliable study methodology. It’s what makes Orwell’s conception of doublethink in 1984 so plausible. It’s how Eastasia can change to Eurasia in a few minutes in the middle of a political rally.

No one is immune to this.

For you to give up on debate because of this gulf may be understandable—as you’re right that you probably won’t make any progress with a discussion—but it doesn’t make the other side any more crazy than you are, and it doesn’t make you right.

I could get into how to go about talking to them, but this is a comment so I’ll stop here.

35

Seth Finkelstein 11.18.05 at 2:25 pm

jim miller/ #29 – your characterizations are disingenuous. To note a quote from Bush’s conference that says it all:

“Then, I said that, first of all, that decision should be made to local school districts, but I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught.”

This is *exactly* what causes scientists blood to boil. There are NOT “both sides” when it comes to evolution, just like there are not both sides to whether the Earth is round or flat. And it should not be a local decision to teach flat-Earthism in school science class. He doesn’t mean “properly taught” as “Creationism should be taught as an unscientific myth”.

It’s evasive in the sense that he tries to hide the obvious implication, though the questioner did try. But the fact that he doesn’t want to feed raw meat to the base in the middle of a press conference doesn’t mean we have to pretend he’s a vegetarian.

36

Brendan 11.18.05 at 2:29 pm

Well…yes. It depends on what you mean by ‘accusing someone of being on the other side’ or ‘accusing someone of treason’, really doesn’t it?

Look at this doozy from Christopher ‘the weasel’ Hitchens.

The full quote is here before accusations of quoting out of context come up.

Hitchens starts by pointing out that ANSWER etc. have some highly dubious people with some highly dubious views associated with them (which is fair enough). But he then goes on:

‘Some of the leading figures in this “movement,” such as George Galloway and Michael Moore, are obnoxious enough to come right out and say that they support the Baathist-jihadist alliance. Others prefer to declare their sympathy in more surreptitious fashion. The easy way to tell what’s going on is this: Just listen until they start to criticize such gangsters even a little, and then wait a few seconds before the speaker says that, bad as these people are, they were invented or created by the United States. That bad, huh? (You might think that such an accusation—these thugs were cloned by the American empire for God’s sake—would lead to instant condemnation. But if you thought that, gentle reader, you would be wrong.)

The two preferred metaphors are, depending on the speaker, that the Bin-Ladenists are the fish that swim in the water of Muslim discontent or the mosquitoes that rise from the swamp of Muslim discontent. (Quite often, the same images are used in the same harangue.) The “fish in the water” is an old trope, borrowed from Mao’s hoary theory of guerrilla warfare and possessing a certain appeal to comrades who used to pore over the Little Red Book. The mosquitoes are somehow new and hover above the water rather than slip through it. No matter. The toxic nature of the “water” or “swamp” is always the same: American support for Israel. Thus, the existence of the Taliban regime cannot be swamplike, presumably because mosquitoes are born and not made. The huge swamp that was Saddam’s Iraq has only become a swamp since 2003. The organized murder of Muslims by Muslims in Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan is only a logical reaction to the summit of globalizers at Davos. The stoning and veiling of women must be a reaction to Zionism. While the attack on the World Trade Center—well, who needs reminding that chickens, or is it mosquitoes, come home to roost?’

Now: read that second sentence again, and then follow the train of logic. Surely Hitchen’s point is that even though some of the anti-invasion side pretend to be anti-terrorism, they are ‘really’ in favour of it (if that’s not what Hitch the snitch means i don’t know what he means). In fact, the latter part of the first paragraph attempts to claim (I think) that any criticism of the Jihadists is invalid if the speaker then goes on to criticise the US or the UK .

Since by definition any anti-invasion thinker would do this (because…er…that’s the essence of the anti-invasion case) Hitchens is, in effect, claiming that anyone who opposes the war is on the side of the Jihadists and Saddam Hussein and is therefore on the other side.

As I pointed out earlier, this weaselly rhetoric is rife in the pro-invasion side. Few of them have the balls to say ‘if you disagree with George Bush you are a traitor.’ Instead they argue that since (as everyone knows) this is a two way contest between the US and a ‘Ba’athist-Jihadist alliance’, and that a ‘third way position’ is not possible, the if you are not for the US you are by definition on the side of Saddam and Osama Bin Laden. And are therefore a traitor.

(Note that by his emphasis on Israel, Hitchens implies (he lacks, again the balls to actually come out and say it) that if you opposed the invasion you are an anti-semite as well. Again this trope is rife in pro-invasion rhetoric).

37

Hume's Ghost 11.18.05 at 2:32 pm

Well, heck. Since we’ve gone this direction, I’ll take the opportunity to quote Thoreau:

“Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislation? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience. Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice. A common and natural result of an undue respect for law is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder-monkeys, and all, marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart. They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined. Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power?”

38

John Quiggin 11.18.05 at 3:00 pm

Instaundit preferred “objectively pro-Saddam” and “Saddam’s ally”, for example here.

39

soru 11.18.05 at 4:27 pm

if that’s not what Hitch the snitch means i don’t know what he means

Yes, that would appear to be the case.

I certainly don’t always agree with Hitchens, but in that particular quote, he is right on the mark. He describes a particular form of speach, a particular habit of thought, that is, more or less unarguably, held by some people: those who may admit non-US group ‘A’ may be bad, but then go on to say that their badness derives primarily, if not solely, from american causation.

He is quite right to imply that if you see that pattern, especially repeatedly on unrelated topics, then you are dealing with someone who is an obsessive on the topic of america, and so perhaps not to be trusted to be fair-minded.

If you meet someone who always, within 2 sentences at most, brought the topic around to vitamins, how would you describe them?

‘Saddam may have killed lots of people, but that was because he suffered from mood swings, due to not getting enough B12′.

This all says little about those who don’t fit that pattern – the match factor is not ‘criticising US actions’, any more than it would be ‘thinking vitamins are good for you’, but ‘obsession on the topic of american wrongdoing, regardless of context’.

soru

40

abb1 11.18.05 at 4:53 pm

No, it’s not because they are obsessive on the topic of America; that’s simply because they detest hypocrisy of those who habitually demonize official enemies while habitually trumpeting American virtues. That is annoying. So, they are merely trying to compensate, provide much needed balance.

41

Brendan 11.18.05 at 5:16 pm

‘Just listen until they start to criticize such gangsters even a little, and then wait a few seconds before the speaker says that, bad as these people are, they were invented or created by the United States.’

‘Saddam may have killed lots of people, but that was because he suffered from mood swings, due to not getting enough B12’.

Fun game: try and relate what Soru writes to what I write! Most creative entry wins a Porsche!

42

Nicholas Mycroft 11.18.05 at 5:27 pm

Time to write your favorite Democratic Representative. Some backbone is needed.

I was disappointed to see your and your party’s response to Representative Murtha’s speech yesterday. Your politically-motivated hesitation did you no good, and your present waffling about whether to vote for or against his motion resembles the waffling that accompanied the run-up to war. The Democratic leadership is still far too reluctant to align itself with the reality-based community.

Representative Murtha got to the pith of the matter. War is a horror. You do not send soldiers to war without a compelling reason. No such reason motivated the Iraq war. At that time an intelligent, undeluded person could only conclude that such a war was much more likely to do harm than good. So, the leadership of the Bush administration—which, oddly enough, included only one combat veteran—made three unforgivable decisions: to send soldiers to fight a needless war, to invent a compelling reason for doing so, and to ignore (whether it was from incompetence, from a desire for political gain, or from darker motivations is beside the point) the best interests of the nation they were elected to lead.

Democratic fortunes have not improved, as I hope you have noticed, as a result of anything you have done. Rather, they have improved because even a master of representation such as Karl Rove cannot obscure reality forever. “Facts,” as Ronald Reagan once attempted to say, “are stubborn things.” Incompetence and ideological policymaking have been spinning off error after error for five years now, and the resulting blunderous heap has grown so colossal that not even Mr. Rove can convince most people that it does not exist.

Stand by John Murtha. Vote for his resolution. You underestimate the political power of doing what makes sense for this country and its citizens. By doing so, you expose yourself to Mr. Rove, but you align yourself with the future, and against illusions. At times this country prefers illusions, but I do not think that this is one of those times.

43

Pithlord 11.18.05 at 5:41 pm

Has everyone forgotten Karl Rove’s speech earlier this year?

44

Uncle Kvetch 11.18.05 at 5:50 pm

Has everyone forgotten Karl Rove’s speech earlier this year?

No, but quite a few people are willing to pretend they have.

45

engels 11.18.05 at 5:51 pm

Soru – Although I’m reluctant to follow you on this particular wild goose chase: had it been the case that the catastrophe currently unfolding in the Gulf, and many other problems, was caused by world leaders’ vitamin deficiencies, then it would not be the sign of an obsession to point this out. On the other hand, anyone who became defensive and tried to change the subject whenever vitamins were mentioned ought to be treated with the utmost suspicion…

46

Jim Miller 11.18.05 at 5:53 pm

Seth Finkelstein –

And what does “properly taught” mean? What I would it mean by it is that evolution should be presented as the scientific explanation, but that the teacher should acknowledge that some prefer intelligent design. And that some, including many in the Catholic church, if I understand their doctrine, do not see a fundamental contradiction between intelligent design and evolution. (And the same is true for religious leaders of many other churches.)

And I have not seen a single bit of evidence to show that either George W. Bush or John F. Kerry disagrees with what I said above — though both dodged the question when Science magazine asked this.

Seth, try to open your mind on this point. If, for example, George W. Bush had worked to include intelligent design in the Texas curriculum while he was governor, don’t you think you would have heard a story about that by now?

And if there is a difference between the statements by Bush and Kerry, can you point it out to me?

(BTW, for those who like to keep track of such things, Senator McCain did explicitly agree that intelligent design should be taught in schools.)

47

Jim Miller 11.18.05 at 5:55 pm

Sorry. “What I would mean by it”, not “What I would it mean by it”.

48

Steve LaBonne 11.18.05 at 6:09 pm

What I would it mean by it is that evolution should be presented as the scientific explanation, but that the teacher should acknowledge that some prefer intelligent design.
We’re talking about science class here, right? The “preferences” of the scientifically unlettered have no standing in science and consequently no business being discussed in a science class. End of story. To pretend otherwise is to be either an ignoramus or a weasel. Or an ignorant weasel.

49

Brett Bellmore 11.18.05 at 6:30 pm

“A string of polls has shown that most Americans now realise that Bush and his Administration lied to get them into the war and that it was a mistake to go to war. The latest,”

I searched the poll you linked to in vain for any question concerning Bush and his administration lying.

50

Brett Bellmore 11.18.05 at 6:35 pm

I should point out that I’m not asserting that Bush, like most politicians, doesn’t lie. He has, repeatedly, in ways that really piss off conservatives, like the phony numbers on how much his medicaid drug benefit would cost, or whether he’d veto the BCRA. But the poll in question does nothing to establish that Bush’s unpopularity among engineers, (I’m one, and I don’t like him either.) is due to dishonesty, rather than lousy policies.

51

Walt Pohl 11.18.05 at 6:55 pm

When I was maximally pro-war (and I was very pro-war — I argued with my wife, my family, long-time friends, strangers in the streets of Spain, and Daniel Davies), at the time the thing that bothered me the most about being pro-war was how quickly they turned to questioning the patriotism of their opponents. Even if the war turned out to be an incredible success, it wouldn’t have been crazy for people to wonder about the a) veracity, b) motives, or c) competence of the Bush administration.

It’s important that we nip this budding lie, so here are some examples.

How about this quote from Powerline: “Jimmy Carter isn’t just misguided or ill-informed. He’s on the other side”.

Or Instapundit: “If there were an authentic antiwar movement in this country, it wouldn’t have to rely on the services of fringe groups like A.N.S.W.E.R. to provide organization and cadre.”

Right-wing participants in this thread will switch from denying they ever called anti-war people traitors, to calling anti-war people traitors in 3… 2… 1…

52

Artemis 11.18.05 at 8:22 pm

Um, Walt, how exactly does the Instapundit quote fit John Quiggen’s characterization? How, for that matter, does the Powerline quote do so? Quiggen says “we were repeatedly told that *anyone* who disagreed with the rush to war, or criticised the Bush Administration, was ‘anti-American.’” Could you find me some quotations that make precisely that claim — that *anyone* who criticized the Bush administration was anti-American?

And, as I said much earlier, Quiggen might want to define “repeatedly.” I’ve seen some comments suggesting that my skepticism is either ignorant or disingenous because, basically, “everyone knows” that the pro-war side claimed that anyone who criticized Bush was anti-American. If that were the case, someone ought to be able to provide links to, say, ten or twenty examples rather quickly.

53

Uncle Kvetch 11.18.05 at 8:30 pm

I knew this was going to get really fun at some point. Artemis, you’re priceless.

54

Steve Burton 11.18.05 at 8:55 pm

OK, jq – it’s short and curlies time. ‘Cause that’s what I’ve got you by.

You wrote that “if you “Google ‘anti-american’…adding ‘steve burton’…you’ll find blogs propagating the meme ['that to oppose the war is to be "anti-American" or "on the other side" or even a traitor'] where steve writes or comments, notably *Right Reason*…”

So *Right Reason* is a “notable” example of “blogs propagating the meme” in question?

Utterly and shamefully false.

Not once. Not ever. Not even close.

I have posted a full reply at *Right Reason*.

I do not expect an apology. But I, and my very distinguished colleagues at *Right Reason* sure as heck deserve one.

55

fifi 11.18.05 at 9:53 pm

Right Reason is where I learned to appreciate Anne Coulter:

Coulter’s appeal rests on two things, I think, in addition to her intelligence, humor, and looks. First, she says things that others are rarely willing to say. In her talks and in her book Treason, she points out that criticisms of Republican administration foreign policy has sometimes taken anti-American forms. Glenn Reynolds has nicely summarized the point: of some on the left, it’s fair to say, “They’re not anti-war; they’re just on the other side.” Democrats often complain that Republicans question their patriotism; Coulter is one of the only Republicans who actually does so publicly.

56

Walt Pohl 11.18.05 at 9:54 pm

No, they didn’t claim “anyone” who criticized the Iraq war was a traitor, just Jimmy Carter and all participants in anti-war protests. I guess Pat Buchanan is off the hook.

57

Steve Burton 11.18.05 at 10:35 pm

And furthermore: I just Googled “steve burton” + “anti-american” – per jq’s suggestion – and followed up EVERY. SINGLE. LINK.

Result? Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

Once you throw out the soap opera actor and the small-time sportswriter who share my name, there’s not much left except a few links to Right Reason and Crooked Timber. Certainly nothing that even remotely justifies jq’s attempted smear.

So let’s be frank, John (if I may). You obviously didn’t bother to do a moment’s research before you attacked. Perhaps you just assumed that there must be something out there that would come up for anyone who did.

Well, you were wrong.

I hope you appreciate what a fatal mistake that was in the context of the present post.

58

engels 11.18.05 at 10:44 pm

Steve, as fifi says, a post by one Daniel Bonevac on your front page is currently propagating the meme, by enthusiastically citing Anne Coulter and Glenn Reynolds. But don’t let that stop you being outraged…

59

Uncle Kvetch 11.18.05 at 10:54 pm

I just Googled “steve burton” + “anti-american” – per jq’s suggestion – and followed up EVERY. SINGLE. LINK.
Result? Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

Having wisely abandoned “Nobody ever said it,” Steve has moved on to the comfier climes of “I never said it.”

Smart move.

60

baa 11.18.05 at 11:00 pm

Guys, best just to admit that John Quiggin was wrong in describing Steve Burton and Right Reason, and should back down, no? It’s a minor point, not central at all to who is *right* about the war in Iraq or who is correctly charaterizing the tenor or right wing criticism of war opponents. It’s an intellectual honesty moment that costs you nothing. Take it.

61

Walt Pohl 11.18.05 at 11:30 pm

Who gives a fuck what John Quiggin said about Right Reason? I mean really? I doubt Steve Burton’s mom even cares.

62

Steve Burton 11.19.05 at 12:04 am

Mr. walt pohl: evidently, John Quiggin and you both cared enough to post comments about the issue.

He cared enough to make stuff up. You cared enough to resort to obscenity.

My mom, on the other hand, does, indeed, not care.

63

John Quiggin 11.19.05 at 12:27 am

This is, as Walt says, a trivial point, but fifi had no trouble finding the post I meant. The link is
here. It’s a sympathetic description of Ann Coulter, and includes a comment from Steve Burton.

I agree that this post says “some” and, as it now appears, Steve wants to make a big distinction between “some” and “all”. This wasn’t apparent when I posted my comment.

But, as several people have already pointed out, this kind of distinction is just weaselly if you don’t actually exempt any specific group of war opponents from the criticism. Can you find any instance of Coulter, the subject of the post in question, mentioning a specific critic of the war or group of critics as not being traitors? Here’s a more general quote from her

“Whether they are defending the Soviet Union or bleating for Saddam Hussein, liberals are always against America. They are either traitors or idiots, and on the matter of America’s self-preservation, the difference is irrelevant. Fifty years of treason hasn’t slowed them down. “

64

Steve Burton 11.19.05 at 12:29 am

fifi, engels:

Last May 5th, Daniel Bonevac (a philosophy professor at the University of Texas) posted to our site a first-hand account of an appearance at UT by Ann Coulter. He wrote that “in her talks and in her book Treason, she points out that criticisms of Republican administration foreign policy has *sometimes* taken anti-American forms. Glenn Reynolds has nicely summarized the point: of *some* on the left, it’s fair to say, ‘They’re not anti-war; they’re just on the other side.’”

Since the word “Iraq” does not occur in this post, it did not come up in my previous search, so I did not include it on my list. My mistake.

But do you really want to hang your hat on this? Does “sometimes” mean “always?” Does “some” mean “all?” Are these two sentences adequate grounds for claiming that *Right Reason* is a blog that propagates the meme that to oppose the war is to be “anti-American” or “on the other side” or even a traitor?

Seriously?

65

Walt Pohl 11.19.05 at 1:21 am

I just like cursing.

66

Steve Burton 11.19.05 at 1:33 am

jq: I will keep in mind, for future reference, that you consider any attempt to distinguish between “some” and “all” to be “weaselly.”

(Hmmm…how does this work, in practice…*some* Germans are fascists, *all* Germans are fascists…*some* Arabs are terrorists, *all* Arabs are terrorists – whatever, it all comes to the same – and to disagree would be weaselly…Hey! this is fun! and *so* easy! You can check your brain at the door!)

Ah, me. One more debt I owe to the left.

67

DaveC 11.19.05 at 2:14 am

I don’t think that engineers and scientists would give Bush only a 6% approval rating based on the people I know. Perhaps the poll was worded in a leading way and skewed the results.

68

bad Jim 11.19.05 at 2:43 am

This is starting to sound like the tedious arguments over whether Bush, or any other administration spokesman, declared that Iraq was an imminent threat to the United States. They did, but no one was on record using the magical phrase as such. That argument was frustrating to those of us who understand the use/mention distinction, as is this to anyone familiar with logical quantification.

It’s amusing as hell to find war apologists criticizing others for emphatic rhetoric while insisting on their right to repunctuate presidential utterances to mold them nearer to deniability. Dare we call it sophistry?

For what it’s worth, here’s a link calling any opposition to the war unpatriotic. Are memories so short that the the temper of 2003 has been forgotten?

69

abb1 11.19.05 at 3:03 am

Apparently the Feb 7 2003 editorial in The New York Sun had this:

…And there is no reason to doubt that the “anti-war” protesters — we prefer to call them protesters against freeing Iraq — are giving, at the very least, comfort to Saddam Hussein.
[...]
So the New York City police could do worse, in the end, than to allow the protest and send two witnesses along for each participant, with an eye toward preserving at least the possibility of an eventual treason prosecution.

70

abb1 11.19.05 at 3:10 am

Also this piece has examples.

71

john m. 11.19.05 at 3:58 am

#34 You’re wrong. And patronising with it.

All the other comments saying that the anti-Iraq crew were never accused of being anti-american: why does everybody ignore the “You’re either with us or you’re against us” quote? I’m pretty sure it is undisputed by even crazy people and surely serves as a definitive example of the administrations attitude to dissent right at the beginning of the process? Surely the vilification of the French and the Germans stands? Trust me Uncle Kvetch: these people are nutters…Ann Coulter indeed.

72

bad Jim 11.19.05 at 4:24 am

Our host has referred to it as socially constructed reality. Wikipedia explains it thus:

The source of the term is a quotation in an October 17, 2004, New York Times Magazine article by writer Ron Suskind, quoting an unnamed aide to George W. Bush:
The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

No amount of hand-waving, damage control, apologetics or spin will alleviate the general recognition that the United States lied to everyone about the rationale and the urgency of this nasty little war. At this point its defenders are split between anger and denial, with miles to go before they grieve.

73

Mike 11.19.05 at 5:30 am

For going on three years we – the public – have been bombarded by the war opponents with the “Bush lied!” theme in one form or another. Only slightly Ironic considering declaring that Bush lied as if it were an indisputable fact instead of a partisan political opinion/smear is itself totally dishonest. And depending on the motivations behind perpetuating it – allot more egregious than dishonest. To my mind it ranks right up there with “Clinton ran drugs into the US through a small Arkansas airport..” in demonstrating how some poor soul has devolved from politics being philosophical in origin to politics being pathological in origin. (Gotta hand it to the Lefties – never wanting to be out done by the right in anything. And not being content in merely achieving the same amount of deranged asininities the right achieved while afflicted with Clinton derangement syndrome. Hell no! The Left put in the effort and overtime and damn if Bush derangement syndrome doesn’t eclipse CDS as pneumonia would the common cold.) Strong work people. Well done. *Claps enthusiastically*

Anyway – So for 3 years we get this “Bush Lied!” song and dance constantly. And as would be expected when ANYTHING gets repeated ad nauseum.
Repetition begets familiarity begets acceptance begets belief.
Big Lie 101.
So ya gotta understand. When done in that context, claiming the American people are somehow now in your corner is one hell of a howler. There’s a huge degree of difference between what you are, Mr. or Ms peace now, leave Iraq now (and then we’ll all pretend peace and Iraqi civil war are synonymous…right?) And what the rest of us are. Which, in general, amounts to being so worn down by a deliberate campaign of attrition – To the point where you could care less who’s saying what about anything – you just want them all to shut the f*ck up. You’re sick of hearing the apologists, sycophants and narcissists (formerly known as The Left) whine when it was entertainment you thought you paid for when ya bought those tickets to see Pearl Jam. You’re embarrassed and sick of seeing how miserably your tax dollars have been spent on education. When the product of all that money spent is parading around proclaiming Hitler has a contemporary equivalent. And that we elected him president. (Is there anything more frightening than a child/teenager/young adult (same thing) so completely arrogant as to not have the ability to acknowledge its own ignorance? Now imagine the terror struck by an entire parade of them…)

Above all – you’re sick of being reminded everyday that a good many of your neighbors are not the good, kind people you sadly assumed would automatically choose to do right when confronted with the proposition – “Fascism or Freedom?”
Instead you are horrified to discover that you live among quite a few narcissistic sickos. And that they actually – and enthusiastically- advocated a position that would have perpetuated the reign of a fascist mass murderer.
I could go on. But the bottom line is – My feelings and those of many others regarding this war haven’t begun to change as a result of any successful advocacy of the anti war, appeasnik position. Or because anything you said or may have done changed views on Bush. He managed that all on his own by, among other things, not calling BS on so much of the anti Iraq crowds antics along time ago – but instead allowed you and it to fester, spread and become dangerously toxic to the rest of he body. So to speak.
Contrary to any of it being the results of your efforts. It’s in spite of -or better yet – out of spite directed at you and the revolting things you stand for that many started to focus their attentions more at home than abroad.. For many – myself included – its been about coming to grips with just how totally f*cked up things have got to be in this country for it to produce so many people who’d actually advocate such repellant positions as were so often expressed in opposition to liberating Iraq.
I really want Iraq to realize self-governance and the rule of law. I’d love to wake up some morning ten years from now, turn on the radio and listen as the announcer says something about how the biggest political headache they have in Iraq is the eternal problem of politicians and pork. I’d love it – and sincerely hope it happens. Unfortunately, if we in this country don’t get our own house in order, we’re not going to be much help to anyone else..
And by “house in order” I don’t mean the age-old problems that naturally arise when social station & wealth are a product of ones effort and ingenuity. But, for reasons we can and cannot change, not everyone has the ability to achieve equally.
I actually consider them secondary for the time being. At least to the absolute necessity to expose/drag into the daylight, address, repudiate and rid ourselves of the swamps that produce this pseudo intellectual, quasi religious political narcissism that has manifest itself in so many people previously thought of in terms of being liberal. Or democrats. Someone, at one time, to whom I attached the qualities of respect or reason or honesty or all the above.

But now, that same person is considered to be incoherent, dangerous, not totally sane, deranged and reactionary.

In short – many of us aren’t keen to bring the troops home sooner than later because we agree with you appeasniks on any level. Quite the opposite. It’s a desire to do something about you and what has produced things like you that have many focusing attention back home.
We sure as hell can’t spread democratic ideals elsewhere if there are institutions and individuals churning out neo fascist anti democrats right here at home. Who are to Liberal Democracy and America what wahabbists are to Islam and the Saudi Kingdom.
Toxic.

74

abb1 11.19.05 at 6:43 am

You’re one sick puppy, Mike.

If you’re so keen on liberating people abroad – why don’t you just buy yourself a ticket and AK47 and go join some militia over there, like John Walker Lindh? Go and spread whatever you feel like spreading, little napoleon.

75

Seth Finkelstein 11.19.05 at 7:01 am

Jim Miller / #46 – Again, this shows the process. It’s not about postmodernist theories of reality, or even Iraq. It’s about (in part) having to tediously, repeatedly, go through the Creationism FAQ, e.g. :
“Creationism deserves equal time because evolution is only a theory.

But a theory in the scientific sense of the word, meaning that it explains a wide range of phenomena and that there’s lots of data to back it up. Creationism, on the other hand, isn’t even a theory; it’s an assertion. “Equal time” in what? In schools in general, or in science classes? Science classes are suppose to teach science. There are two criteria for this: …”

And John Kerry could say the exact same words as Gorge Bush – word for word, down to the intonation – and it would be fair to interpret it differently, because of the context that Bush is President and Kerry is not, and religious fanatics are part of the “base” for Bush but not for Kerry. So Kerry said it too is not relevant. Or, more precisely, they both need to pander to those who want to put Bible study into science education. But Bush is orders of magnitude more entangled with promoting the general power of right-wing religious interests.

76

Alex Gregory 11.19.05 at 7:26 am

The thing that always astounds me with the American right (as far as one can generalise about the ‘right’ and ‘left’ at all) is the way in which the rest of the planet’s distaste for their views is not at all seen as evidence that they might be wrong.

Personally, if the rest of the world has one opinion and I have another, it at least causes me concern that I might be wrong.

77

soru 11.19.05 at 9:23 am

That is annoying. So, they are merely trying to compensate, provide much needed balance.

Two equal and opposite idiots do not add up to one smart person.

soru

78

abb1 11.19.05 at 9:43 am

Fair enough, anything can be exaggerated to the level of absurdity.

OTOH, whatever it is that takes self-righteousness and phony moral indignation of the official line down a notch – it can’t be all that bad.

79

russell 11.19.05 at 10:42 am

Contra steve burton, I prefer to exhalt Ayn Clouter, who has written the wonderful “Idiocy” and its follow-up “How to talk to a conservative”, who has been famously careful not to engage in provocative and unfair generalizations, except to forcefully drive the point home that some conservative criticisms of the left are idiotic. She may literally say–on countless number of times–that conservatives are idiots, but here at Left Reason we know she actually means to employ existential quantifiers when she utters none.

80

soru 11.19.05 at 10:44 am

had it been the case that the catastrophe currently unfolding in the Gulf, and many other problems, was caused by world leaders’ vitamin deficiencies, then it would not be the sign of an obsession to point this out.

It’s true that there are areas where US policy genuinely is a major factor in what happens, probably the biggest one (outside the invasion of Iraq itself) being the fact that the current rulers of Saudi Arabia would be spending more time with their yachts if it wasn’t for US/UK arms and training. That’s a case where the much-abused term ‘proppped up’ genuinely applies.

But what I am talking about in this particular case is those people who, for example, think the key relevant thing about, say, the Iran/Iraq war is the way the US supplied satellite photos to one or both sides.

Millions of men, thousands of tanks, minefields, suicide squads, chemical weapons, but the core of the narrative is not about them, but some glossy 9″ photos that may or may not have affected the thinking of one or two generals making tactical decisions that would have given one side or the other a marginal advantage.

It’s all rather like that threatened WWII Battle of Britain flick where the hero is an american volunteer…

soru

81

Jim Miller 11.19.05 at 1:24 pm

Seth Finkelstein wrote:

“And John Kerry could say the exact same words as Gorge Bush – word for word, down to the intonation – and it would be fair to interpret it differently, because of the context that Bush is President and Kerry is not, and religious fanatics are part of the “base” for Bush but not for Kerry.”

I rest my case. Seth knows what Bush means, and it does not matter what Bush says, or, more importantly, what Bush does. Neither as governor of Texas nor as president of the United States has Bush done a single thing to encourage the teaching of intelligent design. Nor has he ever said, directly, that he favors teaching intelligent design. But Seth knows, though he does not explain how, since he rejects both Bush’s words and Bush’s deeds, what Bush really believes.

Oh, and one other point. A little bit of thought will show you, Seth, that some “religious fanatics” must have supported Kerry. He probably did much better, for example, with radical Muslims than Bush did — and I could give you more examples if that isn’t enough.

(Though I should add that I would be much slower to use the term, “religious fanatic”, for the same reasons I am slow to call others facists or communists.)

John Quiggin – You introduced an error in the post that many commenters have followed and worsened. Members of the Academy are not equal to “scientists and engineers”, as some would have it, nor even “leading scientists and engineers”, as you originally put it. A little bit of investigation will show you that this group is drawn heavily from academics — who are different from other scientists and engineers in well known ways.

(I have my doubts about Pew survey, since Pew often has trouble with their press releases, which sometimes misrepresent their own data.)

82

luci phyrr 11.19.05 at 3:23 pm

“they actually – and enthusiastically- advocated a position that would have perpetuated the reign of a fascist mass murderer.”

As someone who opposed the war, my position would have resulted in the continuance of Saddam Hussein’s rule. His state was responsible for, say, ~30,000 deaths a year? (random guess, using the 300,000 killed in Shia uprising in 1991, 15 years ago, and adding 10,000/year for good measure. Estimations are sensitive to the time frame considered: anytime more recent than 1991 yields a *much* smaller rate of deaths/year, likely in the 4 digit range, starting it in 1980 to include the Iran/Iraq war yields ~50,000-70,000/year).

Those are pretty much the upper bounds. (Reports of the 300,000 dead in 1991 are probably exagerrated. And blaming all the dead from the Iran/Iraq war on Saddam is a stretch.) Given that there were spikes, average deaths/year isn’t a great measure. I would have been more inclined to support an intervention *during* one of these spikes. Things were relatively calm, and he posed no threat to neighbors.

OTOH, the current US war on Iraq has killed ~100,000 people. Contributed to civil unrest that has destroyed the country and killed innocent men, women and children.

Given that future scenarios should be heavily discounted from uncertainty, IMO, it’s not at all evident that this war has helped anyone. It’s far far more likely that the war has caused much more death and destruction than *not invading*.

(In the best of estimates, I’d guess that a graph of “deaths under a Saddam regime, no invasion” would cross the graph of “deaths from US invasion and civil collapse” about ten years out. That’s under a fairly rosy scenario. It’ll take over twenty years to know.)

But even if life for the Iraqis does get *better* around ten years post-invasion, I’d still believe the war was wrong, and should have been opposed. You don’t gamble with people’s lives. Imminent harm or self-defense are the only justifications for war, and neither applied.

83

luci phyrr 11.19.05 at 3:26 pm

asterisks make bold, but not in preview? doh.

84

Dan Simon 11.19.05 at 3:27 pm

The thing that always astounds me with the American right (as far as one can generalise about the ‘right’ and ‘left’ at all) is the way in which the rest of the planet’s distaste for their views is not at all seen as evidence that they might be wrong.

Personally, if the rest of the world has one opinion and I have another, it at least causes me concern that I might be wrong.

Does this same reasoning characterize your feelings about Jews? Just curious…

85

Alex Gregory 11.19.05 at 3:42 pm

“Does this same reasoning characterize your feelings about Jews? Just curious…”

I’m afraid I don’t understand what you’re suggesting?

86

Brendan 11.19.05 at 4:27 pm

Alex…….I think what Dan was alluding to was the bottom line of the pro-invasion side: not just the belief that if you opposed the invasion of Iraq you are personally responsible for Ba’athism and 9/11, but also that if you opposed the invasion you must be an anti-semite. Didn’t you know that? ‘Everyone’ in the increasingly detached from reality right wing blogosphere knows that…….

87

Brendan 11.19.05 at 4:29 pm

‘ Nor has he ever said, directly, that he favors teaching intelligent design.’

‘President Bush said Monday he believes schools should discuss “intelligent design” alongside evolution when teaching students about the creation of life.’

Also: when he was in Texas, Bush apparently stated that he believed creationism (not ID, creationism) should be taught in schools.

88

Dan Simon 11.19.05 at 9:35 pm

I’m afraid I don’t understand what you’re suggesting?

Well, for thousands of years, the entire world has disagreed vehemently with the Jews about a great many fundamental things, including whether Judaism is a valid and morally tolerable religion, whether the Jewish people are a net benefit or net detriment to the world, and even whether the entire group deserves to continue living. By your reasoning, then, it seems the Jews ought to have simply taken the hint and disappeared off the face of the earth some time during the Middle Ages, to say nothing of sixty years ago–right?

Not that I consider it a bad idea for individuals to take into account the views of others when forming their own opinions, of course. But I believe the analogy breaks down entirely when applied to nations rather than individuals. Indeed, every nation on earth harbors consensus views that make it unique in the world–that’s why we’re not all one nation. And until we’re all sure we’ve hit upon the one true magic formula for perfect nationhood, a little diversity of national belief may not be such a bad thing.

89

Nabakov 11.19.05 at 10:48 pm

Shorter Mike: “The reason the majority of the American people disapprove of Bush and the war is because they don’t like the fact the “left” disapproves of Bush and the war.”

Rabbi Korff couldn’t have put it better.

90

Alex Gregory 11.20.05 at 4:02 am

Dan, perhaps I should make my point clearer.

The fact that a majority thinks that something is true doesn’t make it true. Rather, when you have a large group, none of whom have any kind of priveleged epistemological viewpoint (which is key), then it seems reasonable to suggest that the majority is /more likely/ to be correct than a minority.

Of course there can be reasons why the majority are still wrong – and, I’m sure, often are. And of course, I agree that diversity can be good, to a point.

Compare it to science: That the majority of scientists believe in global warming seems to provide a good presumption in favour of it. Thats not to say that they can’t be wrong, or that there should be no diversity in scientific thought, or that the problem is therefore solved and people can stop studying the issue.

I could spell it all out, but hopefully you can see that what I’ve said does not imply some extreme version of ‘majority rule’ (which in turn might imply some of the dangerous things that you mention): I just think it provides a small incentive for certain groups to just double-check their assumptions once more.

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Emma 11.20.05 at 5:50 am

You know, the hilarious thing about this thread is that no one noticed that as Quiggin is writing in Australia, he might have meant that anti-war protesters in Australia were characterised as anti-American. Which we were, repeatedly and viciously. By the US ambassador, among others, if memory serves. Some of us were and are anti-US government, most of us are not anti-American. All of us ( I would venture to guess) are against our own government’s craven and disgraceful capitulation to every last whim of US governments, even as far as sending Australians into wars in countries that are no concern of ours. This was the aspect that the ‘anti-American’ jibe was meant to obscure, especially in the the press and media owned by that great American, Rupert Murdoch. You’re welcome to him by the way. And guys? It’s not all about you?

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rollo 11.20.05 at 6:33 am

Before the Iraq invasion became a “Mission Accomplished”, while it was still an ongoing event, 7 out of 10 Americans thought Saddam Hussein was connected to 9/11. Connected in a directly-responsible-for-it kind of way. These numbers have subsided, a little.
Finding the people who perpetrated that lie might be kind of hard now, such is the perfection of the dark art of propaganda and subliminal coercion in our time.
But it was done, and done intentionally, and not by “bad intelligence” or incompetence or even simple greed.
The problem seems to be getting the politicians who should be most accountable to say specifically and clearly why it happened. Why they lied.
But then that would mean they’d have to commit publicly to what they can’t possibly admit. So there we are.
The reason the pro-invasion side purport – though never quite overtly – as Brendan says, that “if you opposed the invasion you must be an anti-semite” is many on the anti-invasion/occupation side think the invasion was in some part undertaken to bolster the security of Israel, and anyone critical of Israel is automatically anti-semitic. Ipso facto.
This may help to explain Dan Simon’s bizarre semi-inference to Alex Gregory.
It’s a touchy subject and unfortunately, as things head toward their inevitable conclusion, it only grows more so.

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agm 11.20.05 at 6:33 am

Ok, various scientists and engineers have different reasons for their political views. We are not a monolithic bloc. The National Academies are one of the highest honors bestowed by one’s peers in this country, but that does not make members of the Academies representative of the views of scientists or engineers in United States.

I cannot speak to engineers, as these days I knew many fewer people than I used to, and just as certainly I can’t speak for the other hard/soft sciences, but at least in physics it’s not just the politics of the matter. We’ve watched the administration pick people who would dicker over the next research fusion reactor, we’ve watched NASA research get slashed to pieces, we’ve watched funding not track inflation some years or stay constant in dollar amount. This Mars business — if anyone tells you that putting people on Mars is doable with current or soon-to-be-developed technology, check for you wallet. People may or may not be thinking that it’s only a bit harder than putting the rovers and Global Surveyor and the others there, but it’s not. Nonetheless, NASA has been told that they are doing this, and they have been told that they are developing a new space plane, and goddamn any other expenditures, just get it done. So lots and lots of people have had their grants hit, except that it’s for reasons totally unrelated to the quality and worthiness of their work (space science, nanotech, etc). Real science is being cut to the quick in order to free up resources for something we already know we can’t do.

So, as a physicist, you have your choice of reasons to be pissed off at the Bush administration.

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Brendan 11.20.05 at 8:59 am

Dan Simon’s seemingly bizarre ramblings are worth reading, incidentally, for a insight into the thinking of the ‘unreality based community’. In the above post he apparently turns Alex’s argument on its head and seems to be arguing that the more people disagree with you the more likely you are to be right (or at the very least, the more people disagree with you, the more you should ‘stick to your guns’ and refuse to compromise).

This of course has been an argument used many times in the past: most noticeably by the Afrikaaners in South Africa and Loyalists in Northern Ireland. In all these cases, when you break the argument down into its basics, it’s really nothing more than the old chant of Millwall supporters: ‘Everyone hates us: we don’t care, we don’t care’.

The influence of religion on this world view goes without saying but is far too large a topic to deal with in a short post. Clifford Longley’s ‘Chosen People’ is a good start (Nicely summed up here ).

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Uncle Kvetch 11.20.05 at 9:58 am

it’s really nothing more than the old chant of Millwall supporters: ‘Everyone hates us: we don’t care, we don’t care’.

My first thought was North Korea: Kim Jong-Il could get some mileage out of Dan’s logic, no?

The bigger problem, of course, is the fact that the US still sells its foreign policy on the basis of our (apparently infinite) moral authority. If you really want to take the “Millwall” approach to foreign policy–and there have been more than a few on the Right pushing the old “better to be feared than loved” line since 9/11–that’s one thing. But you’re going to have to drop all the self-serving bullshit about our exquisite (and universal) “values,” lest you end up looking very silly.

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Dan Simon 11.20.05 at 1:36 pm

Alex: Science doesn’t work by “majority rule”, but rather by the scientific method. Since scientists are all using the same method, they tend to achieve consensus around their conclusions. But when they don’t, only a very poor scientist would reach a scientific conclusion in his or her field of expertise based on majority rule rather than direct application of the scientific method to the data at hand.

The same applies even more strongly to moral judgments, for which there is no consensus even on the correct method to use. To a Jew, for example, the billions of people who use Christian teachings or Koranic wisdom as their moral guide are simply not relevant when approaching moral questions. Hence, the fact that almost the entire world thought Jews to be morally depraved monsters for much of their history was–in my view, quite rightly–discounted.

Likewise, Americans are entitled to discount the views of large numbers of other nations when considering the morality of their own foreign policy. Which particular nations to discount will, of course, be a matter of debate, but if America’s moral approach is sufficiently unique–and perhaps it is–then discounting all of them is not necessarily foolish at all.

Uncle Kvetch: North Korea is a poor example–its policies are determined by its dictator, not by its people. As I explained, nations and individuals are not analogous with respect to this issue.

Brendan: You’d already made a fool of yourself by inventing an elaborate misinterpretation of my comments out of whole cloth, and proceeding to berate me for it without pausing to consider that you had no clue what I (let alone you) might have been talking about. I’d have thought you might have been a little more circumspect about misinterpreting my comments a second time….

Rollo: Would you care to explain just how or why a massive American military campaign would be “in some part undertaken to bolster the security of Israel”? I find that claim to be at least somewhat counterintuitive.

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abb1 11.20.05 at 2:08 pm

Both the Jews and Americans are perfectly entitled to discount all 100% of the views of all 100% of the outsiders in regards to their internal Jewish and American affairs – and normally no one outside of each particular cult cares about these things.

The foreign policy/interreligious affairs are, of course, a totally different matter.

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Alex Gregory 11.20.05 at 2:45 pm

“The same applies even more strongly to moral judgments, for which there is no consensus even on the correct method to use.”

It seems to me that there is a fair degree of consensus (or there would be if it actually came up) between non-believers on moral methodology.

Perhaps the problem is in fact the religiousness of America, which causes the lack of humility. I’ve a distaste for both, so its all moot.

However, I don’t think this is the place for a debate on religion and ethics of this scale, so I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree here.

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Dan Simon 11.20.05 at 2:56 pm

The foreign policy/interreligious affairs are, of course, a totally different matter.

I disagree completely. How a nation deals with other nations is as much a moral question as how it conducts its internal affairs. Why would the consensus view of another nation whose moral views have already discounted for one reason or another, suddenly become relevant when a third nation is involved?

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John Quiggin 11.20.05 at 3:01 pm

Emma, you’re quite right that I was drawing on my experience in Australia, where accusations of anti-Americanism were made routinely against anyone who opposed the war.

I did check before writing that the same accusations had also been made in the US debate.

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Walt Pohl 11.20.05 at 3:47 pm

Emma, here’s an actual quotes from John Quiggin’s post: “It now appears that the majority of Americans are anti-American. A string of polls has shown that most Americans now realise that Bush and his Administration lied to get them into the war and that it was a mistake to go to war.” It’s safe to assume that the post is about us when it, you know, talks about us.

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Brendan 11.20.05 at 3:47 pm

I’m going to risk ‘making a fool of myself’ yet again, by pointing out a number of assumptions and (dare I say it) mistakes in Dan Simon’s post. Talk about a glutton for punishment!

‘Hence, the fact that almost the entire world thought Jews to be morally depraved monsters for much of their history was—in my view, quite rightly—discounted.’

Actually, this is false and very obviously false. Most of the world (the Chinese, Japanese etc., all the various people of the Indian sub-continent, most people in South America (not least the indigenous inhabitants), almost all the population of Africa, not to mention almost all ‘indigenous’ peoples over the world) have, throughout the vast majority of their existence on earth, never even HEARD of the Jews, let alone known enough to ‘hate’ them. ((Let’s not forget, that the European invasion of the Americas didn’t even begin until 1492, by which time European Christians had been killing Jews for over a millemium. Africans were unable to taste the wonderful benefits of Christian civilisation until the Europeans started to slaughter them in the 18th and 19th centuries). The fact is, rather than being some weird irrational virus of ‘anti-semitism’ which swept the world for no reason, extreme hatred of Jews was located almost entirely to Western Europe, and was confined almost exclusively to Christians. Again, this was not for some irrational reason but had its roots in the anti-semitism of the New Testament, and was kept alive by the various ideological battles that monotheistic religions tend to fight, and for political reasons (i.e. to have a scapegoat). It’s true that Islam did not have a terribly progressive view of Judaism (as the Koran shows) but it was (until very recently) infinitely more ‘Jew friendly’ than Christianity.

So the analogy breaks down because it is not in fact true that the ‘whole world’ hated the Jews. Dan labours under the misapprehension, widely held amongst his ideological brethren, that the ‘whole world’ consists entirely of white Christian Europeans, Americans and Australians.

Incidentally: ‘To a Jew, for example, the billions of people who use Christian teachings or Koranic wisdom as their moral guide are simply not relevant when approaching moral questions. ‘ is, again, self-evidently false as many (perhaps most, for a religious person) moral issues concern how to deal with people from a different moral/religious world, and so, in practice, Christian and Koranic teaching is highly relevant when approaching (some) moral teachings. This was particularly true of the Jews who, for most of their existence, did not have a homeland and so were dealing with non-Jews every minute of every day.

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Wrong 11.20.05 at 3:56 pm

And, for those who claim not to have seen any attempts by the right to brand anti-war opinion as treason, today in the Washington Post:

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) repeated his call for a withdrawal of troops while Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld warned that words “have effects” on both U.S. troops and the enemy.

[Rumsfeld said] “Put yourself in the shoes of the enemy. The enemy hears a big debate in the United States, and they have to wonder maybe all we have to do is wait and we’ll win. We can’t win militarily. They know that. The battle is here in the United States.”

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Brett Bellmore 11.20.05 at 4:15 pm

“This is starting to sound like the tedious arguments over whether Bush, or any other administration spokesman, declared that Iraq was an imminent threat to the United States. They did, but no one was on record using the magical phrase as such. That argument was frustrating to those of us who understand the use/mention distinction, as is this to anyone familiar with logical quantification.”

The “living Constitution” has metastasized into “living” State of the Union speeches, too, it appears. A President can state that we should attack a nation even though the threat isn’t “imminent”, and that gets interpreted as declaring the threat to BE imminent, to the point where he’s later declared a liar when it turns out it wasn’t.

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engels 11.20.05 at 4:52 pm

Brett – Does it not strike you as even mildly ironic that you brought up Bush’s flouting Article 51 of the UN Charter in order to make your tortured analogy between critics of the administration and “activist judges”? That you can criticise mainstream legal interpretation in the same sentence that you condone ignoring the law altogether?

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Brett Bellmore 11.20.05 at 6:38 pm

Who’s condoning ignoring the law? I’m pointing out that the guy simply did not say that Iraq was an imminent threat, and it’s sophistry to claim otherwise. Did our invasion flout article 51? Donno, you could argue it either way, given pre-existing resolutions and a war which was only suspended, not ended. Hasn’t got much to do with whether Bush asserted Iraq was an imminent threat by saying we shouldn’t wait until it was, though.

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Stephen M (Ethesis) 11.20.05 at 7:31 pm

http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?p=397

takes a different take on this general theme, as to why some people may deserve some things.

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abb1 11.21.05 at 3:31 am

Brett,
a President can state that we should attack a nation even though the threat isn’t imminent, but then this president is advocating an international crime: article 51 only allows for individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations.

Consequently there are two possibilies:
1. Bush argued that Iraq indeed was an imminent threat,
or
2. Bush argued that Iraq wasn’t an imminent threat and that nevertheless the US should attack Iraq thus committing an international crime.

I don’t remember him ever suggesting that he intended to break the international law.

However, I do remember him and his minions suggesting on multiple occasions that Iraq is a grave threat (and, IIRC, the word ‘imminent’ was too mentioned or confirmed by his spokesman).

I think the conclusion is quite obvious.

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Ginger Yellow 11.21.05 at 5:59 am

I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned everybody’s favourite reasonable conservative, Andrew Sullivan. Here’s his reasonable contribution to the prewar debate:

The middle part of the country–the great red zone that voted for Bush–is clearly ready for war. The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead–and may well mount a fifth column.

In case we didn’t get the message, he said it again:

we might as well be aware of the enemy within the West itself – a paralyzing, pseudo-clever, morally nihilist fifth column that will surely ramp up its hatred in the days and months ahead

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Brett Bellmore 11.21.05 at 6:24 pm

Then he was advocating an international crime. Why twist his words to avoid that conclusion?

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