An open letter to Tom Maguire

by Ted on January 20, 2006

Tom,

I hope that you’ll forgive that I didn’t just put this in your comments. I don’t hold you responsible for them (much as I wouldn’t want to be held responsible for everything in our comments), but your commenters scare me.

I really think that you’re off-base here. There are times when the arguments made by virtually any partisan can be shown to be parallel to the rhetoric of some unsavory character. It’s not hard to squint your eyes and find parallels between the rhetoric of Michael Moore, Howard Dean or Ted Barlow and Osama Bin Ladin. Similarly, it wouldn’t be hard to quote Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, or Tom Maguire and find a somewhat similar argument that had been made by David Duke, Timothy McVeigh or… you know. The guy we’re not supposed to mention. (You may remember that during the 90s, Republican congressmen had a habit of making arguments that were similar to the rhetoric of Slobodan Milosevic.)

But so what? There’s simply no way to defend yourself against this, short of just shutting up. There’s no plausible way to make a case against a war without opening yourself to the possibility that the enemy will ever use a similar argument. (Any patriotic rhetoric will be simply excised by an attacking pundit.) There’s no way to oppose social spending without exposing yourself to a comparison some modern-day Scrooge. There’s no way to oppose affirmative action without exposing yourself to comparisons to racists. You don’t enjoy being on the receiving end of this sort of playground logic, so why take such pains to excuse it when the shoe is on the other foot?

People who make the kinds of statements that Chris Matthews made aren’t really making an argument. Rather, they’re just trying to get a little bit of tar onto the partisan they’re criticising. There’s no principle that they’re trying to establish. It’s just a show of contempt.

And it really does little good to bat your eyes and say that the good fella didn’t mean anything by it. You’ve found an angle at which Chris Matthews’ statement can be literally defended. Good for you. Now read your comments and trackbacks. At your blog, one of the most reasonable right-of-center blogs around, your readers have spent the day lamenting what they imagine to be an alliance between al-Qaeda and the American left. They understand the message.

Best,

Ted

{ 82 comments }

1

Atrios 01.20.06 at 5:41 pm

Why bother?

2

Ted 01.20.06 at 5:50 pm

Because I like Tom, and think that he’s better than this.

3

John Emerson 01.20.06 at 5:53 pm

This oughta bring you some fun guests.

4

nick s 01.20.06 at 6:05 pm

At your blog, one of the most reasonable right-of-center blogs around,

Um, no. Maguire is a well-established expert at starting with the conclusion and working his way back to the facts. A well-worked mendacious argument isn’t ‘reasonable’. He must have hundreds of scars from Occam’s Razor.

5

freddie 01.20.06 at 6:11 pm

On her deathbed my grandmother whispered in my young ears: “sonny boychick. Never forget that conservatives spew venom and are viscious. But then on the other hand liberals are bloated with guilt and dogoodism that makes their blood pressure go up. So keep this in mind when you read spewings and you will forever know what has caused either the bile or the gas…or both.” And with that, she closed her eyes and said–no more blogshere for this old Litvak

6

abb1 01.20.06 at 6:18 pm

What exactly is the issue here – that the bad guy stated something obvious? He and Michael Moore and the rest of the world minus a few wingnuts. Yeah, it’s a sensation.

7

abb1 01.20.06 at 6:25 pm

Osama says the skies are blue and clouds are white – Louis Armstrong is a traitor.

8

armando 01.20.06 at 6:25 pm

Read the comments and you find:

To answer this: “Which one do you hate more?” Michael Moore or bin Laden?…tough call.

So this person can’t decide if they hate more a person presumably responsible for the death of thousands in a terrorist attack, or someone expressing political dissent through popular media.

The fact that this kind of hunger for totalitarianism is now unremarkable on the US right should really be a worry.

9

Barry 01.20.06 at 6:33 pm

Ted, why do you think that Tom is better that?
I’ve browsed his comments on the Plame affair, off and on, for a while. It was pretty clear that he started with his conclusion (nothing to see, move along now), and worked back from there. As more information came out, it didn’t stop him one bit.

10

rd 01.20.06 at 6:42 pm

It seems like the real debate ender would be your position, in which it would be impossible to even point out or mention that bin Laden has shifted in his last couple of messages to arguments that just *do* overlap at points with the more extreme domestic war critics. That’s simply a matter of fact. Pointing it out doesn’t necessarily imply that these people share bin Laden’s other beliefs or support terrorism. It is to point out that bin Laden seems to be trying more to play to American audiences, using arguments first made by domestic critics which he apparently believes have traction. That’s an interesting change from his earlier statements which seemed more exclusive to the Muslim world. Discussing it doesn’t make you some sort of facist.

11

neil 01.20.06 at 7:07 pm

Who cares what bin Laden’s message is? Is anybody seriously entertaining negotiating or taking anything seriously? No, didn’t think so. So the only people who care are those who see them as a nice fat tar-brush.

12

Matt Weiner 01.20.06 at 7:13 pm

It is to point out that bin Laden seems to be trying more to play to American audiences, using arguments first made by domestic critics which he apparently believes have traction.

rd, that would be an interesting argument. In fact, I am interested by that prospect, and I don’t think you’re any sort of fascist for bringing it up.

But Tom Maguire (and I share Ted’s assessment of him) isn’t making that argument. I doubt Matthews was making that argument either. I think you’d have to be pretty careful, if you were to make that argument by comparing Osama’s rhetoric to lefty X’s, to make clear that you weren’t arguing “Lefty X is like Osama!” but rather “Osama is addressing Americans rather than exclusively the Muslim world.” Maguire isn’t even trying to thread that needle, as far as I can see.

13

perianwyr 01.20.06 at 7:26 pm

If you didn’t really mind whether the people listening to you were making that more nuanced understanding, you would be free to make that point in that very way and be able to, well, have it both ways depending on what you wanted someone to hear.

14

Dan Simon 01.20.06 at 9:12 pm

There are times when the arguments made by virtually any partisan can be shown to be parallel to the rhetoric of some unsavory character.

But that’s not what’s going on here. Rather, the arguments made by certain partisans about how to deal with a certain unsavory character parallel the rhetoric of that same unsavory character.

When Osama bin Laden ridicules Bush for making a premature victory announcement on an aircraft carrier, or for reading a story about a goat during 9/11—just as many liberals and Democrats have—it doesn’t discredit the liberal/Democratic position, because Osama bin Laden’s awfulness makes his opinion of US presidential photo ops irrelevant, rather than wrong. (Likewise for his critique of American sexual mores, which occasionally parallels that of some conservatives and Republicans.)

Similarly, when he makes factual assertions on matters of partisan dispute, his claims are largely irrelevant. When he compares US torture practices to Saddam Hussein’s—as some liberals and Democrats do, to the consternation of many conservatives and Republicans—what matters is whether the comparison is factually supported, not whether Osama bin Laden happens to have endorsed it. Likewise, when he plays up his own imminent terrorist threat to America—as some conservatives and Republicans do, to the consternation of many liberals and Democrats—what matters is whether the threat is real, not whether he brags about it. His opinion on factual matters is in general untrustworthy, and therefore irrelevant.

But his opinion of how the US should confront and defeat him is much less likely to be irrelevant, since, although it’s not necessarily wrong, there’s strong reason to suspect that it’s at least calculated with his own interest, and not America’s, in mind. Thus, when he advocates American withdrawal from Iraq as the best course of action for America—when America’s presence is in no small part intended to combat the strength of bin Laden’s own organization there—it’s at least plausible to argue that (1) he’s arguing in his own interest, (2) his and America’s interests in that particular conflict are zero-sum, and therefore (3) his public position is highly unlikely to be in America’s interest as well.

So those who sound just like Osama bin Laden on the topic of what to do about Osama bin Laden’s insurgency in Iraq are a little different from those who sound like an arbitrary bad guy speaking on an arbitrary topic. Their position is the one that America’s enemy in war would like America to take with respect to him. That doesn’t make it necessarily wrong, but it certainly deserves its share of suspicion on that basis.

15

nick s 01.20.06 at 9:37 pm

Thus, when he advocates American withdrawal from Iraq as the best course of action for America—-when America’s presence is in no small part intended to combat the strength of bin Laden’s own organization there—-it’s at least plausible to argue that (1) he’s arguing in his own interest, (2) his and America’s interests in that particular conflict are zero-sum, and therefore (3) his public position is highly unlikely to be in America’s interest as well.

And it’s equally plausible that the opposite applies, and that the evil bastard is using reverse psychology. After all, Bush is the best thing Osama might have going for him right now, given the rattling of spears w/r/t Iran.

Actually, given the wingnut response today, it doesn’t seem so implausible now that the speech came out of Karl Rove’s office and was given to Osama to read, rather like the video confessions dictated to hostages like execrable hostage-takers.

16

Ron F 01.20.06 at 9:57 pm

Osama – “Pull troops out of Saudi Arabia”

Bush – “OK, all out

Osama – “Pull troops out of Afghanistan “

Bush – We will reduce troop numbers in Afghanistan.

Osama – “Pull troops out of Iraq”

Bush – “We will reduce troops in Iraq

Does this mean that President Bush is objectively pro-terrorist?

17

Jim Harrison 01.20.06 at 10:45 pm

Are there any right wingers who have decided to cut the crap and admit that they are attempting to revive fascism for a new century? There’s an awful lot of Gentile, Sorel, and Schmitt in what they are saying. Shouldn’t they be true to their roots?

18

Dan Simon 01.21.06 at 2:44 am

Does this mean that President Bush is objectively pro-terrorist?

….Or that the Democrats actually approve of his conduct of the war?

19

Dwilkers 01.21.06 at 7:23 am

“I don’t hold you responsible for them (much as I wouldn’t want to be held responsible for everything in our comments), but your commenters scare me.”

But obviously, by inference, you do.

I take it though that you are comfortable with the comments made here like the one above about conservatives being fascists? Or the one above that misrepresents a tongue-in-cheek response to a troll about hating someone?

“There’s no plausible way to make a case against a war without opening yourself to the possibility that the enemy will ever use a similar argument.”

Well that’s fair. Isn’t it shaming though that OBL uses the most vapid “criticisms” from the left? Seeing OBL trot out garbage like Halliburton, The Pet Goat (you guys knew it wasn’t MY Pet Goat, right?), his neo-con talk, etc? Isn’t that what is really troublesome?

Or maybe you really think this was a war for oil, or to enrich Bush’s buddies, or for Jewish World Domination led by a fascist neo-con cabal.

If it is uncomfortable for someone to be mirroring so that you have to face what you are saying maybe the problem is what you are saying. That it was OBL holding up the mirror only adds drama. If the left in this country doesn’t like OBL parroting their arguments – or doesn’t like the way they sound coming out of his mouth – maybe the left should examine what it is saying rather than complain about people pointing it out.

Look, there are 2 arenas where battles are being fought here, one is the actual war we are involved with, the other is domestic politics. Democrats have conflated the 2 and taken up being against the war in their effort to defeat the president politically. That was a political mistake.

If liberals (or more specifically Dems) were running around talking about how to WIN the war, you probably wouldn’t see OBL quoting them. Instead you have people like Dean saying the war is unwinnable, and the most recent Dem presidential candidate talking about US troops terrorizing Iraqis. Under those circumstances I don’t think its much of a surprise that OBL takes up the Dem’s talking points.

Do you?

Of course, those comments assume that I’m talking to normal liberals and Dems, and not ‘leftists’ of the sort that riot at WTO conferences and burn down car dealerships, etc.

And if JOM’s commenters really do “scare” you, then you really do scare easily.

20

John Emerson 01.21.06 at 9:43 am

Just Dan Simon. Disappointing.

21

Slocum 01.21.06 at 10:34 am

It’s not hard to squint your eyes and find parallels between the rhetoric of Michael Moore, Howard Dean or Ted Barlow and Osama Bin Ladin. Similarly, it wouldn’t be hard to quote Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, or Tom Maguire and find a somewhat similar argument that had been made by David Duke, Timothy McVeigh or… you know.

Well, you don’t have to squint your eyes to find the parallels between Moore, Dean, and Bin Laden, do you–the reason being that Bin Laden has pretty obviously picked up the talking points of the anti-war left and incorporated them into his rhetoric. Is the same true of Limbaugh and David Duke or Timothy McVeigh? Perhaps (though I notice Ted doesn’t offer any examples) — I don’t keep up to date with Limbaugh, and Duke & McVeigh are has-beens (one case, very literally). If we were engaged in a global struggle against an international KKK movement lead by Duke or even if Duke occupied the position in the U.S. that Le Pen does in France, then that would be one thing — but that’s far from the case and the weak, dated examples chosen illustrate that we’re not currently facing substantial threats of that nature.

So, what to make of the fact that Bin Laden has picked up the talking points of anti-war Democrats? Nothing at all? No concern that Bin Laden can incorporate them wholesale into his worldview without any cognitive dissonance? No concern that Bin Laden obviously thinks they advance his own interests?

Could this be ‘reverse psychology’? C’mon — does anybody seriously believe that Bin Laden is using anti-war left arguments for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as a way of trying to make sure that U.S. doesn’t withdraw its forces? Ridiculous. Rather, he’s trying to reinforce those points. The anti-war left says, “Our presence in Iraq is causing the terrorism”, and Bin Laden says, “Yes, yes that’s right–and so we offer a truce if you leave.”

22

Semanticleo 01.21.06 at 10:50 am

Has Tom boarded the ‘Swiftboat’ against
Jack Murtha?

OBL did say we should get out of Iraq.
Does OBL sound like Murtha too?

BTW, Tom, many democratic legislators have
admitted that they too, like Bob Ney,
enjoy a round of golf on occasion.

23

Blar 01.21.06 at 10:50 am

Response #1 to these silly comparisons between bin Laden and the anti-war left:

Osama bin Laden isn’t going to determine how we defend ourselves. Osama bin Laden doesn’t get to decide. The American people decide.

Repeat ad infinitum.

Response #2:

Maybe bin Laden sometimes does parrot the talking points of members of the anti-war left, but at least the anti-war left isn’t parroting bin Laden’s talking points, unlike some people:

Some wonder whether Iraq is a central front in the war on terror. Among the terrorists, there is no debate.

Here are the words of Osama bin Laden: “This third world war is raging” in Iraq. “The whole world is watching this war.” He says it will end in “victory and glory or misery and humiliation.”

The terrorists know that the outcome will leave them emboldened or defeated. So they are waging a campaign of murder and destruction.

24

Lewis Carroll 01.21.06 at 10:54 am

I’m just impressed at Tom’s guts in releasing into the blogosphere an implicit defense of one of the most basic fallacies of logic:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_the_undistributed_middle

25

John Emerson 01.21.06 at 10:58 am

Dan, Slocum, Tom M. — thanks.

I’ve been trying to convince liberals and Democrats for some time that there’s no real reason to try to carry on a rational, civil discussion with Republicans or with people who call themselves conservatives. I’ve been trying to convince people that when you guys talk about cultural civil war, treason, etc., you actually mean it literally. (And oh yes, the Bush libertarians — who understand that the true libertarian sometimes has to suspend habeus corpus.)

Ted Barlow, God bless his heart, has always disagreed. It’s nice to have you guys on my side.

Here are the rules in place: once a president is elected, even with 50.1% of the vote, he has a free hand in foreign policy, including starting wars. Once a war is started, no loyal citizen can oppose it; if anyone opposes it, they can be assumed to be followers of the enemy leader we’re fighting. If the war goes badly, the only possible response is to fight harder and stay longer. Anything else is treason, cowardice, and surrender.

A considerable part of the Democratic party believes most of that too, as does most of the media, so you can take it to the bank.

Now, to me, that ethic seems appropriate to Sparta Rome, or the Mongol empire, but not to the US. But the US is being transformed under my feet as we speak, and I am probably effectively wrong about what America is and will be.

26

california_reality_check 01.21.06 at 11:05 am

Slocum – From what I understand about Muslim tradition it is customary to offer a peaceful solution before you anialate your enemy. In their own way they are trying to be true to their ideals. What bush has never understood is that a ground war against these people won’t work. Ask the Brits and Russians. OBL mentioned that it took 10 years for Russia to leave Afganistan having accomplish nothing but destroying their own economy. See, 10,20,50,100 years is nothing to these people. They just go back in their caves and wait. I think we should pay close attention to what he is saying. Unfortunately, if we were to do that we would either be weak pansy asses or traitors. So, I guess the only solution is to dump another 56k American lives, several more trillion $ and then declare victory. Just like in Vietnam.

27

John Emerson 01.21.06 at 11:08 am

21: Right-wingers never keep up with Limbaugh — barely know who is. He seems to be some new guy on “talk radio”, whatever that is. They say he’s conservative. Do a lot of people listen to that guy? Interesting. I never knew that.

28

abb1 01.21.06 at 11:47 am

No concern that Bin Laden obviously thinks they advance his own interests?

Nah, no concern here; this is just a replay of typical cold-war nonsense. As Studs Terkel would say: suppose bin Laden comes out against cancer – does that mean we should be for more cancer?

29

Walt Pohl 01.21.06 at 12:10 pm

The irony of course is that the only reason we get to hear what Osama thinks on any subject whatsoever is that George Bush let him get away. I notice tat Dan Simon and others are just fine with that, since Osama isn’t their real enemy; we are.

30

california_reality_check 01.21.06 at 12:15 pm

walt – Yes, we chose to let him go. Not worth the effort. I suppose the arguments were partially that he is semi-marginalized. It’s brutal terrain there. Heavy casualties to get him or anyone else.

31

Slocum 01.21.06 at 12:48 pm

21: Right-wingers never keep up with Limbaugh—barely know who is. He seems to be some new guy on “talk radio”, whatever that is. They say he’s conservative. Do a lot of people listen to that guy? Interesting. I never knew that.

Ah, to be conveniently pidgeon holed. I don’t listen to Limbaugh — I think he’s a buffoon. But I noted that Ted didn’t provide any examples of Limbaugh aligning himself with Duke.

Ted brought up the example of Republican congressmen in the 90’s and Kosovo. Yes, they were partisan, isolationist idiots. I voted for Clinton and supported his efforts in Kosovo for the similar reasons that I supported the Gulf War under Bush I, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the intervention in East Timor (and wished there’d been one to support in Rwanda). Not having any party allegience, I’m free to follow consistent principles even as they shift from one party to the other and back again.

32

John Emerson 01.21.06 at 12:55 pm

I think that this is the pigeon-hole I had for you, slocum:

And oh yes, the Bush libertarians—who understand that the true libertarian sometimes has to suspend habeus corpus.

33

Dan Simon 01.21.06 at 1:58 pm

Just Dan Simon. Disappointing.

I’m honored to be singled out in this manner, although I’m baffled as to what I did to deserve it.

I’ve been trying to convince liberals and Democrats for some time that there’s no real reason to try to carry on a rational, civil discussion with Republicans or with people who call themselves conservatives. I’ve been trying to convince people that when you guys talk about cultural civil war, treason, etc., you actually mean it literally. (And oh yes, the Bush libertarians—who understand that the true libertarian sometimes has to suspend habeus corpus.)

A couple of clarifications:

I’m not a Republican. In fact, I’m not even an American.

I do not call myself a conservative. In fact, I consider labels like “liberal” and “conservative” to be placeholder labels for ever-changing coalitions of interest groups, rather than coherent ideological positions. I prefer to form my opinions on important issues independently, without reference to these transient political alignments. And I believe you’ll find my arguments above to be careful, qualified and explicitly non-partisan.

I’m certainly not a libertarian–in fact, I abhor libertarianism.

Here are the rules in place: once a president is elected, even with 50.1% of the vote, he has a free hand in foreign policy, including starting wars. Once a war is started, no loyal citizen can oppose it; if anyone opposes it, they can be assumed to be followers of the enemy leader we’re fighting. If the war goes badly, the only possible response is to fight harder and stay longer. Anything else is treason, cowardice, and surrender.

Clearly, I’m not the one crippled by black-and-white, polarizing partisan blinders….

34

nick s 01.21.06 at 2:30 pm

Could this be ‘reverse psychology’? C’mon—does anybody seriously believe that Bin Laden is using anti-war left arguments for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as a way of trying to make sure that U.S. doesn’t withdraw its forces?

Nice ad populum you got there.

Why not? Iraq is currently draining US resources and military preparedness — I believe that Mr Osama said that he wanted to do that. It foments anger and resentment. It provides the few foreign fighters in Iraq (I mean, apart from the 100k+ foreign fighters who are American) with a new Afghanistan, where Osama himself learned the jihadi thing. Bush’s Iraq policy is the gift that keeps giving.

35

Matt McGrattan 01.21.06 at 3:12 pm

John Emerson, when you say:

“I’ve been trying to convince liberals and Democrats for some time that there’s no real reason to try to carry on a rational, civil discussion with Republicans or with people who call themselves conservatives. I’ve been trying to convince people that when you guys talk about cultural civil war, treason, etc., you actually mean it literally.”

I used to think that was wrong. Now I could not agree more. If there’s anything the last 4 years have shown it is that there is a hard-core of ‘conservatives’ on both sides of the Atlantic with whom it is simply impossible to have any kind of rational debate.

36

Slocum 01.21.06 at 3:45 pm

Why not? Iraq is currently draining US resources and military preparedness—I believe that Mr Osama said that he wanted to do that. It foments anger and resentment. It provides the few foreign fighters in Iraq (I mean, apart from the 100k+ foreign fighters who are American) with a new Afghanistan, where Osama himself learned the jihadi thing. Bush’s Iraq policy is the gift that keeps giving.

Yeah, the 4+ years since 9/11 have been great ones for Bin Laden and Al Queda. Routed in Afghanistan along with their Taliban allies and reduced to hiding in the mountains. Despite repeated bluster, unable to mount even a single additional attack in the U.S. The brutality of the Iraq affiliate under Zarqawi in killing large numbers of Muslim civilians has disgusted so many that Al Queda’s support has been dropping almost everywhere in the Muslim world:

http://www.strategypage.com/dls/articles/20051028203455.asp

The exception was Jordan, and that polling was done shortly before the sick bastards blew up the wedding in Amman. In Iraq, Al Queda’s Sunni allies have gone from boycotting to becoming ever more deeply involved in electoral politics (and are, of course, currently involved in negotiations over a unity government). There are also scattered reports of Iraqi Sunnis turning against and attempting to expel Al Queda’s foreign fighters from their areas.

Somehow, I don’t think all these bullet points were on the slides of Bin Laden’s five-year powerpoint plan in 2001.

37

J. Goard 01.21.06 at 5:50 pm

And oh yes, the Bush libertarians—who understand that the true libertarian sometimes has to suspend habeus corpus.

I call myself a “moderate libertarian”, and loathe Bush personally for being an intellectually unqualified aristocrat. And, yes, there are times to suspend habeas corpus, if and when we are under immediate, widespread attack. (Nor does the simple existence of WMDs in the world constitute a blank check.) The most egregious violator in the last century was of course FDR, and my standard would be much higher than his administration’s or Bush’s. Now Lincoln, I have some sympathy for.

38

abb1 01.21.06 at 6:19 pm

…Al Queda’s support has been dropping almost everywhere in the Muslim world…

It must be this poll here; take a look.

The thing is, though, that Al Queda is not fighting the US to destroy the US. Al Queda is fighting to end US domination over the region they consider ‘theirs’, the Muslim world. Thus those in the US who want to stop imperial overreach (or whatever you want to call it) do indeed share this particular objective with Al Queda, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The Muslim world has to deal with Al Queda and obviously Muslims can do it much better than Messrs. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz.

39

John Emerson 01.21.06 at 8:25 pm

Dan, I certainly was not speaking against polarization, but in favor of it, so what’s your point?

Glad to know that some libertarians are opposing Bush’s civil liberties violations. Most do not.

I just read a piece on Blum, the actual author of the quotation Osama used. His voter registration isn’t given, but like Ward Churchill, he has all the marks of a Chomsky-type post-Democrat.

40

catchy 01.21.06 at 11:23 pm

Blum is a friend of Meteor Blades from dailykos, John. Here’s my take on this issue:

(1) OBL (or whomever) has adopted Farenheit 9/11-type rhetoric. He appears to be making overtures to the US left.

I agree with (1).

(2) OBL wants the US to withdraw from Iraq. He thinks domestic criticism of the Iraqi war from the left works to his advantage.

I grant (2). It’s a reasonable interpretation of his intentions behind the recent taped speech.

(3) Therefore, the left is providing aid and comfort to OBL.

Nope on (3). What OBL thinks is irrelevant. He doesn’t know whether the Iraq war will in the end harm or aid his interests. Whatever else attacking Iraq was, it was a bold move with broad consequences. These consequences far outstrip anything OBL has expertise on.

OBL isn’t hooked up to the insurgency, has never lived in Iraq, and has no privileged perspective on whether the factions in Iraq are likely to accept an externally-imposed government and cooperate w/in that framework, or whether that goal is a pointless waste of US resources.

He’s also not an expert re how the war is going to reverberate across the region. Instead, he’s a fanatic with a warped view of history and his surroundings. For him, the Iraqi war is part and parcel with the 1492 Moore struggle for power in Spain.

Whatever faction of the US OBL judges to be a weakness is fairly irrelevant. Again, OBL is not an expert in forecasting the geo-political consequences of US involvement in Iraq. His views are a curiousity, sure, but really nothing more.

Reps and OBL apparently agree that opposition to the Iraq war weakens America. Bully for you guys for arriving at this alignment in judgment. I didn’t accept this judgment when it was just the Rs making it. My opinion doesn’t change because now the Rs *AND OBL* are making it. Suffice to say that you’re both wrong, and looking to OBL to bolster your position does you no credit.

41

Dan Simon 01.22.06 at 12:57 am

Dan, I certainly was not speaking against polarization, but in favor of it, so what’s your point?

Forgive me–when I read your statement that

Here are the rules in place: once a president is elected, even with 50.1% of the vote, he has a free hand in foreign policy, including starting wars. Once a war is started, no loyal citizen can oppose it; if anyone opposes it, they can be assumed to be followers of the enemy leader we’re fighting. If the war goes badly, the only possible response is to fight harder and stay longer. Anything else is treason, cowardice, and surrender.

I assumed that you did not think that these heavily polarizing “rules in place” were a good thing. Evidently, though, you consider it quite fitting that politics be so polarized. I apologize for the misunderstanding.

42

soru 01.22.06 at 8:22 am

I didn’t accept this judgment when it was just the Rs making it. My opinion doesn’t change because now the Rs AND OBL are making it.

Is that judgement a falsifiable one, something that evidence could show to be wrong?

We are not talking about opposition to wars in general, or to a hypothetical bad war, but this opposition to this war now.

If so, what evidence would you count as causing you to change your beliefs, if this tape, the afghan and iraqi elections, and so on, have not done so?

soru

43

John Emerson 01.22.06 at 8:40 am

Dan, they’re a bad thing, but they’re something we have to deal with as a fact. When the non-partisan moderate say stuff like you just said, and have said before, that tells me that there are no nonpartisan moderates. It was nice of you to try to find cool, rational, non-partisan reasons why my proto-fascist compatriots are more or less right to call us traitors, but it doesn’t change the ball game.

Soru, speaking for myself and not for catchy, I would change my mind about the Iraq war if I came to believe that the new Iraq government was independent and not a puppet, and if I stopped believing that most American money plus whatever oil money there is were disappearing in graft, and if I had evidence that the new Iraq government was able maintain security outside the Green Zone, and if I had any evidence that the Bush administration had got serious about the resonstruction effort and wasn’t just using Iraq as a starter kit for Young Republicans with no work experience.

The two elections are straws in the wind but don’t mean much without the other stuff. The OBL speech really is irrelevant. For people who already had their minds made up in favor of the war, it tells them that they’re right, but it isn’t enough to change someone’s mind/

I have to say I’m getting tired of people saying “OK, up until now this has been a big lie and an incompetent mess, but that’s going to change, and if you don’t believe me about that you love OBL and hate freedom.”

44

soru 01.22.06 at 9:27 am

Nice line – you would change your mind ‘if you came to believe’ various things. That almost makes it seem like you regard the matter as an empirical one, something to be decided by the evidence.

But of course, not quite, as you can simply continue to believe those things despite the evidence. Given the clearly counter-factual nature of some of the things you already believe (‘most’ money disappearing in graft, nowhere outside green zone secure, ‘young Republicans’ still running the operation), I would be interested to find out if you do end up changing your mind if the others become false too.

I have to say I’m getting tired of people saying “OK, up until now this has been a big lie and an incompetent mess, but that’s going to change, and if you don’t believe me about that you love OBL and hate freedom.”

You are aware that is a complete straw man, aren’t you? It is perfectly possible to oppose the war in an irrational and emotional way, leading to predictably bad consequences of the type Juan Cole talks about, without in any way ‘loving OBL’ or ‘hating freedom’. Or do you think good intentions alone spares anyone from responsibility for consequences?

The question is whther or not actions taken will have that result, not the emotional state of those advocating the actions.

soru

45

Matt Weiner 01.22.06 at 10:07 am

soru, you’re defending the claim that opposition to the Iraq war weakens America. That’s an extraordinary thing to say; in most democracies peaceful dissent is considered to strenghten the country, as per Mill’s On Liberty.

And your knockdown case for this argument is that Iraq and Afghanistan have held elections, and that OBL has released a tape calling for the US to leave Iraq? What small beer.

46

John Emerson 01.22.06 at 11:50 am

Yeah, evidence would help, soru. You’re starting to sound New Ageish.

Except for the Kurdish areas (I forgot to mention them! so sue me) as far as I can tell, no one is safe outside the Green Zone. That’s one of the lessons people are drawing from the recent kidnapping of the American reporter, but it isn’t really a new idea to most people. Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman think differently of course. (If the reporter turns out to have been in some way a liberal, I imagine we’ll see peanut gallery gloating if she’s killed, too.)

The other stuff I said wasn’t counterfactual either. There are billions of dollars of unaccounted dollars in Iraq, and there was plenty of graft in what’s accounted for. Many of the hirees in Iraq have none but ideological and family qualifications.

Yes it’s possible to oppose the war in an irrational and emotional way. What’s your point here?

No, people are actually accusing us of loving OBL and hating freedom. It’s not a straw man. That’s what we’re talking about on this thread. (And yeah, you and Dan Simon aren’t saying exactly what the others are saying. You’re just saying that you think that they are, in many respects, right. But they are still the topic of the thread, not you.)

Are you a philosophy or speech major? Law student? What I see in your posts is a lot of what seem to be your favorite argument forms, but with only weak connections to any actuality? Which jibes with your stated indifference to evidence, I suppose.

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abb1 01.22.06 at 12:03 pm

Soru likes elections.

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catchy 01.22.06 at 1:06 pm

_Is that judgement a falsifiable one, something that evidence could show to be wrong?

We are not talking about opposition to wars in general, or to a hypothetical bad war, but this opposition to this war now._

Falsifiable? My argument was that OBL’s opinion on the anti-Iraq war movement is *utterly and entirely irrelevant*, given the specifics of this war, at this time. E.g., a little specific like the fact that the Iraq war has little to do with Al Qaeda and a lot to do with the larger dynamics of the Middle East (and the EU), about which OBL is no expert.

Why conservatives like yourself think you can get some anti-left traction out of OBL’s apparent approval of the anti-war movement is beyond me. OBL’s got some sort of intelligence, sure, but he’s also deranged and has a penchant for placing events into idiosyncratic context. His opinion should be noted, and then tossed in the nearest garbage can. OBL doesn’t have a clue what’s in the best interests of the US, for all the reasons I listed above.

So I can’t see why you think I’ve insulated my position from recalcitrant data, such as to make my position unfalsifiable. Allow me to turn the tables: why do you put any stock in a nutcase such as OBL and his opinion that the anti-war left (note: a war to which he is not a party) is weakening the US?

I’ll play your falsifiability game briefly, though this brings us rather far afield from OBL’s specific contribution. I would reconsider my position if:

* a large majority of Iraqi’s wanted us there. They don’t.

* Their was good reason to think our presence would quell sectrian hatred and help Iraq avoid civil war. There isn’t.

* The price tag for such an operation was much, much less than 1+ trillion, several 10s of k dead, and many more injured. In fact the price tag is growing.

Reverse those three, get rid of the permanent bases and nationalize the oil and you might have a humanitarian operation on your hands vs. a pie-in-the sky hope for a fulcrum of US power in the region.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 01.22.06 at 1:59 pm

“Al Queda is fighting to end US domination over the region they consider ‘theirs’, the Muslim world. Thus those in the US who want to stop imperial overreach (or whatever you want to call it) do indeed share this particular objective with Al Queda, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

There are two major problems with this.

A) His idea of the region they consider ‘theirs’ includes some of Europe.

B) His idea of ‘domination over the region’ includes cultural influences which aren’t going away.

The general temptation and especially sexual freedom that America represents isn’t going away anytime soon. That is a large part of why he attacked the world trade center before the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. He appeals to a failed and continuing failing culture with promises that violence can hurt those who prove the failure.

“soru, you’re defending the claim that opposition to the Iraq war weakens America. That’s an extraordinary thing to say; in most democracies peaceful dissent is considered to strenghten the country, as per Mill’s On Liberty.”

This is a common trope, and I don’t buy it as an overarching principle. Not all forms of peaceful dissent strenghten. Constructive peaceful dissent strenghtens, carping doesn’t. There is a difference and both have been going on. The constructive criticism type is good. The carping isn’t. The Michael Moore film for instance was carping, not constructive.

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soru 01.22.06 at 2:16 pm

Why conservatives like yourself think you can get some anti-left traction out of OBL’s apparent approval of the anti-war movement is beyond me

First thing, I’m no conservative.

Second thing, forget weakened, I think america would be immensely strengthened by the presence of an actual left wing or liberal party, one that had a clue about world history, an idea about the way people outside america lived and thought, and a basic grounding in the knowledge of how and why wars are fought.

What you’ve got is a big gaping hole between John McCain and Michael Moore. How could that hole not be a weakness?

Go check out some facts, like what the last opinion poll in Iraq actually revealed, who is running the current US operations in Iraq, or how many seats insurgent-associated parties actually won. Then think how you can base a policy, a platform, on those realities, not the world as you wish it would be to make your job easier.

soru

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John Emerson 01.22.06 at 2:23 pm

Carping strengthens too, if the thing carped about deserves it. Some stuff is just plain carpworthy crap — for example, almost averything Bush says or does. (Will conservatives EVER admit that they chose a very, very wrong horse to put their money on?)

Regardless of what Osama says, he doesn’t plan to reconquer Spain. From what I’ve seen he wasnt to replace the Saud family in Arabia, and control the Gulf States, Iraq and Iran directly or indirectly. That’s bad enough, but let’s keep fantasy (Osama’s or ours) out of it.

Sebastian, please explain to Pat Robertson that this is a war for sexual freedom. How about this way:

“Osama: in America, once your daughter is 18 she can move out of your house and screw a different guy every day of the year, and there will be NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT! Neener neener!

– And you too, Pat!”

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catchy 01.22.06 at 3:07 pm

I see you’ve moved on from intimating, via rhetorical questions, that the anti-war movement is aiding and abetting OBL:

_No concern that Bin Laden can incorporate them [anti-war talking points] wholesale into his worldview without any cognitive dissonance?_

Now you’re making questionable admonitions:

_Go check out some facts, like what the last opinion poll in Iraq actually revealed_

First, I told you what to make of bin Laden’s incorporation: absolutely nuthin’. And I told you why. You haven’t really responded.

Re opinion polls, last one I saw had:

• 82 per cent are “strongly opposed” to the presence of coalition troops;

• less than one per cent of the population believes coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security;

• 67 per cent of Iraqis feel less secure because of the occupation;

• 43 per cent of Iraqis believe conditions for peace and stability have worsened;

• 72 per cent do not have confidence in the multi-national forces.

http://telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/10/23/wirq23.xml

It’s a few months old, but I doubt things have changed. IIRC, the US enjoyed about 50/50 Iraqi support in summer ’03 and there’s been a steady decline since. Hence the absurdity of any argument that we ought to stay at this point ‘for the Iraqi’s sake’ since they themselves don’t want us.

You’ll have to be more specific about your other complaints re; the results of the recent elections and whose currently running the operations etc. None of your metrics for improvement, I note, have been occasioned by a drop in violent deaths. Feel free to enlighten further, but you appear to be grasping at straws.

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abb1 01.22.06 at 3:15 pm

When did he say he plans to reconquer Spain? I’d like to see the link. And how come Sebastian Holsclaw is more concerned about it than Spanish government?

The general temptation and especially sexual freedom that America represents isn’t going away anytime soon. That is a large part of why he attacked the world trade center before the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

I hate to be the one who breaks it to you, but America is not even close to representing sexual freedom. This is just obvious nonsense.

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catchy 01.22.06 at 4:17 pm

abb1, OBL had this famous quote:

“Let the whole world know that we shall never accept that the tragedy of Andalusia be repeated in Palestine,”

http://www.israelinsider.com/views/articles/views_0162.htm

Not the same as calling for the reconquering of Spain, obviously, but some speculate that this sentiment is linked to the Madrid bombings.

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abb1 01.22.06 at 5:04 pm

Yeah, but that’s the statement abount Israel, not Andalusia.

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soru 01.22.06 at 6:07 pm

Hence the absurdity of any argument that we ought to stay at this point ‘for the Iraqi’s sake’ since they themselves don’t want us.

The telegraph poll has been discussed at length here before – there has never been any supporting data released along with it, in the way you get with other polls, and while perhaps the summary is not innacurate, I think trusting it as a primary source, as opposed to a rumour of what someone said to someone else, is rather foolish.

In any case, a more recent BBC-sponsored all-provinces poll produced rather different results:

http://abcnews.go.com/International/PollVault/story?id=1389228

Specifically, 26 percent of Iraqis say U.S. and other coalition forces should “leave now” and another 19 percent say they should go after the government chosen in this week’s election takes office; that adds to 45 percent. Roughly the other half says coalition forces should remain until security is restored (31 percent), until Iraqi security forces can operate independently (16 percent), or longer (5 percent).

So if you are calling for withdrawl now, according to that poll 75% of Iraqis would disagree.

In my judgement, withdrawl very likely will happen sometime within the next two years. But, the difference between a withdrawl based on a solid military judgement of success in reaching identified goals, and one based an what looks rather like a domestic political panic attack, is similar to the difference between climbing down a cliff and being pushed off it.

soru

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fifi 01.22.06 at 6:31 pm

I think I’ll go with bin Laden and Bush’s prediction: nothing says withdrawl like total defeat.

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John Emerson 01.22.06 at 6:46 pm

But, the difference between a withdrawl based on a solid military judgement of success in reaching identified goals, and one based an what looks rather like a domestic political panic attack, is similar to the difference between climbing down a cliff and being pushed off it.

Bush wil do what he does based on domestic political considerations. This whole argument is about getting ready to blame Democrats if Bush decides to withdraw at a bad time, as seems possible.

Soru pretends to believe that the war is going well and that Bush will do the right thing if allowed to, but everything he’s ever done has been political and opportunistic (except for the whoring and the drinking and the cocaine), and once his Iraq dreams turned sour, he had no idea what to do next there.

But he does know how to use the Iraq war to marginalize his domestic opponents, and that’s what he’s doing.

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Randy Paul 01.22.06 at 8:38 pm

Not all forms of peaceful dissent strenghten. Constructive peaceful dissent strenghtens, carping doesn’t. There is a difference and both have been going on. The constructive criticism type is good. The carping isn’t. The Michael Moore film for instance was carping, not constructive.

Really? Here’s someone from your side of the political aisle:

The durability, self-confidence and security of a government can be measured by its toleration of peaceful dissent.

That was William Safire March 24, 1994 in his column. He was writing about China, but it’s no less relevant to us.

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rollo 01.22.06 at 11:12 pm

Soru’s accurate and detailed statistics on Iraqi approval ratings represent the moral defeat of the anti-war opposition left. There’s no way possible to overcome a force that can conjure numbers like that without having to leave their fortified hotel rooms.
“BBC-sponsored” – that means it was contracted out? But it has that cachet of ubiased integrity from the good old days of BBC intrepidity.
To whom it was contracted we need not bother about. Except that most non-military presence in Iraq now don’t go anywhere that would expose them to, you know, bombs and stuff.
So either the very precise poll numbers are being generated by wishful thinkers in virtual space, or they’re being collected by highly-select individuals out in the very dangerous field of war – like say Blackwater or one of the other fine organizations now deployed in Iraq to further the interests of their paymasters.
Which interests don’t seem to coincide too frequently with the needs of the increasingly desperate Iraqi people themselves.
It’s just that numbers like 26% and 19% and 45% and 31% have such a ring of truth to them; they seem so precise, or something.
You’d have to really know what you were doing to come up with numbers like that. None of this “around” 20% or 30% nonsense.
How could we ever hope to defeat such omniscience?
Maybe with God on our side.
Or was that a different post?

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Anarch 01.23.06 at 3:17 am

soru: I think america would be immensely strengthened by the presence of an actual left wing or liberal party, one that had a clue about world history, an idea about the way people outside america lived and thought, and a basic grounding in the knowledge of how and why wars are fought.

I’ve heard this claim made several dozen times, and every single time I’ve pressed for specifics — every single time, bar none — I’ve found that the person making the claim was completely wrong. Their desire for “an actual left wing or liberal party” existed purely in the abstract; when pressed to describe such a party — what policies it should espouse, how it should dissent or otherwise oppose the existing conservative movement — my respondents invariably ended up describing “an actual left wing or liberal party” that was basically indistinguishable from what anyone else would call “moderate conservatism”. [This was particularly notable on opposition to the Iraq war, where “respectful” dissent seemed limited to arguing over the precise ratio of bombing to boots on the ground, not a questioning of the venture itself.] Part of the problem is (inadvertently?) revealed in the laundry list above; the notion that liberals somehow lack a clue about world history or peoples outside America — particularly risible given that, for the better of 20 years, it was primarily liberals who were concerned about such matters — or the nature of war — where the accusation is much better-founded, though not nearly as cut-and-dried as late-night talk show hosts (or commentary worthy of same) would have you believe — seems to be founded not on our lack of understanding, but rather our disagreement with conservative orthodoxy.

This is pernicious for a number of reasons. First, it implies that there is a single “correct” way to view the world, that somehow if you fail to agree with this orthodoxy (e.g. American Exceptionalism) you haven’t really understood the material in the first place, as if “understanding” were synonymous with “agreement”. Second, this conservative orthodoxy is (deliberately, near as I can tell) primarily driven by ideological concerns with factuality massaged, spun or outright altered to preserve the ideology instead of letting the facts inform one’s understanding. [American Exceptionalism is particularly vulnerable to this sort of thing.] Third — and this, ultimately, is the most damaging — is that it reduces to that primitive form of post-modernism that seems to have infect the right-wing of late, where all concerns about fact and the like devolve into accusations of politics and ideology, thereby delegitimizing the very notion of “legitimate disagreement” while maintaining lip-service towards its ideal.

While the usual disclaimers about liberals and left-wingers doing the same thing is valid to a degree, I suppose, this particular strand of intellectual… immaturity, I suppose? is most commonly (or at least perniciously) found on the right, particularly in positions of power, e.g. the Administration, Congress, etc. It’s bad for the country in more ways than one, it needs to stop, and the best way for that to happen IMO is for right-wingers to realize that while liberal/progressive/Democratic opposition to Bush et al. may not be effective, it’s both legitimate and proper. Otherwise, what we’re seeing is the equivalent of the tepid support for free-speech-as-long-as-I-agree-with-it: a hollow shell of an ideal rotting away from within.

So, to cut a long story short, while I hope that the opinion expressed above is genuine — and while I have no doubt that you believe it geunine — I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m not convinced.

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abb1 01.23.06 at 4:14 am

…presence of an actual left wing or liberal party…

There’s hardly anything in common between ‘left-wing’ and ‘liberal’.

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soru 01.23.06 at 6:45 am

So either the very precise poll numbers are being generated by wishful thinkers in virtual space, or they’re being collected by highly-select individuals out in the very dangerous field of war – like say Blackwater or one of the other fine organizations now deployed in Iraq to further the interests of their paymasters.

I think in the face of that I can simply rest my case. Ignorance like that cannot be accidental, noone gets to be that stupid without being systematically self-deluding.

Go read the provided link on how the survey was actually done, and start to think what you are missing about the overall picture.

Or, you could continue to stew in your self-reinforcing belief that all of Iraq is a violent hell-hole, and so any information, any reports, coming out of it and saying otherwise are self-refuting.

If so, I hope your eventual collision with the material world isn’t too disturbing for you.

soru

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soru 01.23.06 at 6:59 am

Their desire for “an actual left wing or liberal party” existed purely in the abstract; when pressed to describe such a party—what policies it should espouse, how it should dissent or otherwise oppose the existing conservative movement—my respondents invariably ended up describing “an actual left wing or liberal party” that was basically indistinguishable from what anyone else would call “moderate conservatism”.

Free universal health care, national minimum wage, wealth redistribution through taxation, the outlawing of all forms of paid political advertising, the founding of a second-generation Kyoto regime, security handled through a credible system of international law that reflected the world realities of 2006 not 1945, want me to continue?

In short, you are wrong about the contents of my head. Given that fact, are you prepared to consider the possibility that you are wrong about some other things too?

soru

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abb1 01.23.06 at 7:10 am

‘Liberal’, then, not ‘left-wing’. There’s already actual liberal party in the US, it’s called ‘Democratic party’.

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armando 01.23.06 at 9:57 am

Free universal health care, national minimum wage, wealth redistribution through taxation, the outlawing of all forms of paid political advertising, the founding of a second-generation Kyoto regime, security handled through a credible system of international law that reflected the world realities of 2006 not 1945, want me to continue?

Its funny, because in most of Europe these positions would easily be held by someone who might plausibly be called a moderate conservative. The only real exception is the “outlawing of all forms of paid political advertising” which, depending what you mean, probably isn’t a view held by very many people on the left.

Still, soru’s most important question remains what would convince us on the left to see the war as legitimate? What would convince those of us that never believed there were any WMD that the failure to find those was an honest mistake? What would convince us that the complete disinterest in assessing what appear to be enormous Iraqi casualties stems only from compassionate humanitarianism? What would finally win us round to the idea that rendition, indefinite detention and torture are essential in this fight for freedom? Or that the millions of dollars “earned” by US companies was all for the Iraqis own good?

I really don’t know.

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John Emerson 01.23.06 at 10:41 am

Soru, you can declare victory and go home if you want to. But the information I get is that Iraq isn’t safe for anyone outside the Green Zone and the Kurdish areas, not even for Iraqis.

Here’s are some of the results of Soru’s poll, which he says clinches his case:

Fewer than half, 46 percent, say the country is better off now than it was before the war. And half of Iraqis now say it was wrong for U.S.-led forces to invade in spring 2003, up from 39 percent in 2004.

The number of Iraqis who say things are going well in their country overall is just 44 percent, far fewer than the 71 percent who say their own lives are going well. Fifty-two percent instead say the country is doing badly.

There’s other evidence of the United States’ increasing unpopularity: Two-thirds now oppose the presence of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq, 14 points higher than in February 2004. Nearly six in 10 disapprove of how the United States has operated in Iraq since the war, and most of them disapprove strongly. And nearly half of Iraqis would like to see U.S. forces leave soon.

Specifically, 26 percent of Iraqis say U.S. and other coalition forces should “leave now” and another 19 percent say they should go after the government chosen in this week’s election takes office; that adds to 45 percent…..

Similarly, while Iraqis’ positive ratings of their lives overall look stable (71 percent today versus 70 percent in 2004), beneath those overall numbers is a 21-point improvement in Shiite areas — and a 26-point decline in the outlook in Sunni provinces.

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J Thomas 01.23.06 at 11:59 am

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/12_12_05_iraq_data.pdf

Soros, here’s the actual poll.

Check questions 31 and 32.

Q31 – Since the war, how do you feel about the way in which the United States and other Coalition Forces have carried out their responsibilities in Iraq?

Base = All respondents who heard of the Coalition Forces (Q19)
Have they done … Count %
A very good job 164 9.6
Quite a good job 454 26.6
Quite a bad job 322 18.8
A very bad job 679 39.8
I do not know enough about it 47 2.7
I prefer not to answer this question 41 2.4
Total 1707 100.0

Q32 – Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose the presence of Coalition Forces in Iraq?
Base = All respondents who heard of the Coalition Forces (Q19)
Count %
Strongly support 218 12.8
Somewhat support 330 19.4
Somewhat oppose 355 20.8
Strongly oppose 746 43.7
Difficult to say 58 3.4
Total 1707 100.0

58% say we’ve done a bad job, 36% say we’ve done a good job.

64% oppose our presence, 32% support our presence.

Consider question 38. The people who think security has improved mention coalition forces 1st or 2nd about 5% of the time. We come in 8th on the list, where Don’t Know/NA comes in third.

But the ones who think security has deteriorated attribute it to coalition forces 33% of the time, we’re the first on that list.

Getting US forces out of iraq is one of the top three priorities for 25% of the sample, we came in fifth after regaining security, rebuilding infrastructure, establishing a stable national government, and getting a decent living for most iraqis. It ranked above rebuilding the economy, increasing oil production, rebuilding education, etc. (Q14A)

Q10 — What would be the worst thing that could happen to Iraq in the next 12 months? The occupation not leaving came in fourth, ahead of Division of the Country, No government, Current situation continues, No services, etc.

You interpreted Q32 to say that 51% of iraqis don’t want us to leave soon. But the way it went, 45% said we should leave when the government is in place (that should be by April at the latest). Another 31% said we should stay until security is restored. You figure that will be a long time, but maybe they think it will be pretty quick. Another 15% thinks we should stay until their security forces can act independently. Again you figure that’s a long time, but they likely expect it to be very soon. If we include those with the get-out iraqis instead of the stay-put iraqis, it’s 91% that want us out pretty quick. Which way should it get interpreted? I dunno, but the other questions I quoted look less ambiguous than that one.

Incidentally, Q22 is interesting in itself.

When they asked people about political actions they have done, might do, or would never do, 65% said they’d never join a political party. 64% said they’d never take action like demonstrating. And 22% told the polsters they’d never talk with other people about politics!

These are people who’ve lived a long time with secret police. Two thirds of them say they oppose the presence of coalition forces. Only 4.3% say that getting us out of iraq is no priority at all. (Q14B) Rather like the Q33 4.5% who said we should stay forever or leave eventually. These are likely to be the ones who still don’t trust pollsters not to turn them in to the secret police. On the other hand, some of them might be kurds.

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Anarch 01.23.06 at 2:47 pm

In short, you are wrong about the contents of my head. Given that fact, are you prepared to consider the possibility that you are wrong about some other things too?

First, I said that I wasn’t convinced that your desire for a liberal/left-wing party was genuine, in that you’d actually want the existence of a party with the traits that you subsequently described. Being able to describe such a party in the abstract isn’t at all the same thing — which was the entire point of my post, come to think of it — so no, rattling off a laundry-list of policy positions doesn’t accomplish much.

Second, of course I’m wrong about some things. That’s a vacuous claim at best. Whether I’m wrong about things that pertain to this particular matter is a completely different question, and one that you’ve not yet begun to address in any meaningful way. Of course, should you wish to recant your errant nonsense about how liberals and left-wingers have no understanding of history or of foreigners and foreign countries or of the rationales behind war — which is, to be generous, BS — this could all change. And who knows? I might be convinced that what you profess to desire is actually what you want.

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soru 01.23.06 at 8:14 pm

. You figure that will be a long time, but maybe they think it will be pretty quick. Another 15% thinks we should stay until their security forces can act independently. Again you figure that’s a long time, but they likely expect it to be very soon.

Actually, I would expect that to be relatively quickly, starting this year if nothing unexpected happens.

Militarily (i.e. as a matter of counter-insurgency, see other posts on this blog for a primer) the war is won, has been for over a year ever since Sadr failed to organise a unified national resistance movement.

The only requirement is to successfully get out in a way that avoids turning that victory into a defeat.

This means a voluntary, planned withdrawl, not one forced by domestic political pressure, or one that looks like it was.

If we include those with the get-out iraqis instead of the stay-put iraqis, it’s 91% that want us out pretty quick.

Except if you dont have insider info, you don’t the faintest idea what the actual questions in the other poll were – as we have shown, the same question and answers can be reported as 75% for or 91% against. This makes them pretty worthless.

soru

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John Emerson 01.23.06 at 8:34 pm

Where do you get your certitude from, Soru? Your own link gave you very weak support, or none, or less than none. Large areas of Iraq seem it be under theocratic Shia control. In what way is this progress worth sacrificing do much for?

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abb1 01.24.06 at 2:01 am

But elections, what about the elections…

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soru 01.24.06 at 6:43 am

In what way is this progress worth sacrificing do much

I am not in any way claiming it was worth it, at least from an US point of view, merely making an argument about what the best way to proceed is now.

In my view, a lot of people have been asking the wrong question: ‘was al qaeda involved with saddam, was al qaeda present in iraq’?

Phrasing things that way seems to have confused both sides, as the ambiguous and vague ties that seem to have existed don’t really provide a moral justification for anything, but do seem to have had a big pragmatic effect on the tactics and effectiveness of the insurgency.

I would say the right way to frame this question in the present circumstance is: ‘can al qaeda be defeated in Iraq?’

soru

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John Emerson 01.24.06 at 7:17 am

I don’t think that that’s the best way to frame the question, but the answer is probably “no”. Al Qaeda is in Iraq opportunistically, and they will go somewhere else if Iraq stops being fun for them. (The Iraqis will have to stay, of course.)

It sounds as though you are still pushing a version of the flypaper theory, but I think that the US is more tied down in Iraq now than al Qaeda is.

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soru 01.24.06 at 8:57 am

I guess there are two relevant views on al qaeda.

One is that if you kill or capture the people, the idea will still exist, and inspire a new generation to new acts of violence.

The other is that if you defeat the idea, the people will still exist, may still manage to huddle somewhere in some obscure cave.

Pick which view you prefer.

soru

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J Thomas 01.24.06 at 10:53 am

“Militarily (i.e. as a matter of counter-insurgency, see other posts on this blog for a primer) the war is won, has been for over a year ever since Sadr failed to organise a unified national resistance movement.”

Militarily, the war was completely won in the first three weeks. End of story. Sadr was irrelevant, he said he wanted us to withdraw, and we said we were going to kill him or put him in Abu Ghraib. The conflict with Al Sadr was a war of choice for us. We didn’t need to fight him at all, and it hurt us to do it — despite our military “victory” which Sistani interrupted.

If we had announced that we did intend to withdraw, but we wanted to leave things orderly and it would take as long as a year, then Al Sadr wouldn’t have had much support for military action and the whole resistance would have been dramatically weakened. But Bush refused to say anything like that. Withdrawal was not the plan. Bush had no intention of withdrawing at all. Various americans pointed out that we hadn’t withdrawn from germany yet and there was no reason to think we’d ever, ever withdraw from iraq.

About the time of the Sistani-imposed truce with Al Sadr, various military guys claimed that Bremer started it, that they didn’t make the decisions. But they had been pretty enthusiastic in their kill-or-capture operations against Al Sadr, If they’d shirked on that a little, Bremer wouldn’t have found out.

“The only requirement is to successfully get out in a way that avoids turning that victory into a defeat.”

Well, yes. Getting out without a defeat would be very very nice. That ought to be the goal now, and I think if we do it carefully it’s possible.

“This means a voluntary, planned withdrawl, not one forced by domestic political pressure, or one that looks like it was.”

Sure, but what’s the evidence that we’re planning one? What I see being planned is a reduction in forces — one demanded by our military manpower crisis. Scheduled before the November elections this year. I have no real clue what the Bush administration is planning beyond that, and neither do you.

If it happens that we aren’t actually planning a withdrawal but only an occupation with fewer troops, then the chance of a successful withdrawal is small.

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soru 01.24.06 at 12:48 pm

Militarily, the war was completely won in the first three weeks.

Completely agree.

It’s just that later, with Sadr and Fallujah, it was very nearly lost again, and only recovered from by a bit of luck, and a lot of blood and sweat.

It’s perfectly possible for a similar screw-up to happen again. Here’s hoping it doesn’t.

Various americans pointed out that we hadn’t withdrawn from germany yet and there was no reason to think we’d ever, ever withdraw from iraq.

But that’s just playing with semantics, and in a rather dangerous way. There may happen to be US troops in germany, but it is not _occupied_, there is very little about german society that would change if the troops there left.

Palestine on the other hand, is still genuinely occupied after 30+ years, and you can’t make the same claim.

Anyone who has visited both countries will know that claiming they are the same is a flat out lie. But, not everyone in the world has visited both places, they may just look at a map of where troops are and think ‘what is the difference?’

And that’s a major fuel for the part of the insurgency that is not ba’athist or jihadist. Making that claim, knowing it to be a lie and knowing the likely consequences, is a pretty despicable act.

soru

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J Thomas 01.24.06 at 2:31 pm

Soru, by the usual way of thinking, “withdraw” means we get our troops out of the country.

Bush had no intention of doing that back in those days which seem so long ago. He may have no intention of doing it now.

“Except if you dont have insider info, you don’t the faintest idea what the actual questions in the other poll were – as we have shown, the same question and answers can be reported as 75% for or 91% against. This makes them pretty worthless.”

Ignore the poll where you don’t know what the questions were. The question you quoted can be interpreted as 55% for or 91% against. But look at the other questions on the poll. They want security, and they don’t trust the USA at all to get it for them. They don’t trust the USA to do reconstruction. They get scared when they see US forces and try to avoid them. (It really doesn’t matter whether they avoid us because they’re afraid we’ll kill them, or avoid us because they think we attract fire.)

A large minority of the iraqi representative Assembly has signed a demand that US forces pull out. It would be interesting to see how many of the native iraqi representatives have signed it compared to expatriate representatives. But it’s hard to get much information out of iraq.

Anyway, this particular poll does not seem worthless at all to me, though it was done back in November. But as usual with polls you have to be careful what conclusions to draw from it. They didn’t ask the question “How many years should US forces stay in iraq”. They certainly didn’t ask how many years US forces should continue to occupy iraq. Officially we aren’t occupying iraq any more, we handed off sovereignty to Allawi a long time ago. Just, the iraqi military takes its orders from us, and we do whatever we want, we can’t be tried in iraqi courts and our contractors can’t be tried in any court, that sort of thing. There’s a subtle legal distinction between what we’re doing and occupation. Since we can’t say we’re occupying the country, we can’t make the distinction between what israel does in palestine versus what the USA does in germany. We can’t promise we’ll stop occupying them and just stay in our bases. It turns into a question of stay or go.

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soru 01.24.06 at 4:46 pm

He may have no intention of doing it now.

While that’s possible:

1. Bremer is writing his memoirs.

2. Sadr is serving in the assembly

3. Sistani is saying nothing on the issue.

So I think that’s something that can be classified as a minor risk at best.

We can’t promise we’ll stop occupying them and just stay in our bases. It turns into a question of stay or go.

Very likely true. There is (post-Fallujah) no real likelihood of the US retaining bases in Iraq in peacetime, and bases + an ongoing war isn’t a net gain for anyone.

soru

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Anarch 01.25.06 at 1:40 am

I would say the right way to frame this question in the present circumstance is: ‘can al qaeda be defeated in Iraq?’

Not to the Iraqis, it’s not.

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J Thomas 01.25.06 at 9:50 am

“I would say the right way to frame this question in the present circumstance is: ‘can al qaeda be defeated in Iraq?’”

Not to the Iraqis, it’s not.

The “correct” frame depends on the particular spin you want to put in it, right?

And the spin you put on it depends on your goals.

I have the goal of getting our army safely out of iraq, where we are doing nobody any good. (With the possible exception of kurdistan where they seem to like us. We appear to be their only possible ally except for israel, russia, and china, and they might want us to stay there. My mnain concern about keeping bases there is that they are landlocked and our supplies would have to go through potentially-hostile territory or through potentially-hostile airspace, namely through syria, turkey, iran, or iraq. However, it’s possible that one of the goals for the coming attack on iran is to get a seaport for kurdistan, which would settle that objection, if it succeeded.)

At the moment, nobody gets to decide on withdrawal except Bush. And he can get all the political advantage he needs by a small redeployment. After the elections, he can do anything he wants for 2 years that doesn’t get him impeached. I don’t know what he intends and neither do you.

The only thing I can do toward my goal of getting the troops successfully disengaged from iraq is to work toward getting Bush impeached. I don’t think that discussing iraq on blogs will have much effect about that. Bloggers have mostly made up their minds.

So my main purpose in posting here is to be able to look back later and say I Told You So.

I don’t knowk what Soru’s purpose is for his spin. He might quite likely have no worse intention than reducing his anxiety level.

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John Emerson 01.25.06 at 2:40 pm

Militarily, the war was completely won in the first three weeks.

I think that Saddam’s forces planned exactly what we’re seeing, having learned from the first Gulf War that their formal military was useless and helpless. So I don’t think that we won much.

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