Saturday, January 21, 2006

Bush and bin Laden

I work in lower Manhattan, in the shadow of the World Trade Center, which, thanks to al Qaeda, is now just a metaphor.

Not a day goes by when I don't have to confront the memory of that awful morning, and I never board a subway without wondering if I am seconds away from death, like the poor innocents in London and Madrid.

Conservatives sometimes accuse liberals of forgetting about 9/11. As if. I wish I could.

No, if anyone has forgotten about 9/11, it's the Bush administration. Oh sure, they mention it all the time, but they talk about it as if it were a single moment where history changed course. Nothing changed that day, not really. That's the real lesson of September 11: there are realities in this world to which America has largely chosen to remain blind.

Four and a half years after that unspeakable atrocity, Osama bin Laden -- who by all accounts has been in poor health all this time -- remains at large, popping up on the radar every once in a while when he releases one of his perverted public service announcements. Of all the outrages of this outrageous administration, by far the worst was Bush's diversion of crucial military resources away from al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan in favor of a political experiment in Iraq. They treated it like a garden, thinking all they had to do was pull out the weeds and then democracy would bloom overnight. It didn't seem to occur to them that the soil needed preparation, that the seeds needed water and nutrients that were no longer present in the badly husbanded earth. Concerns that the American variety of democracy might not be suited to that particular climate were dismissed out of hand.

How do Bush supporters reconcile their fealty to the White House with the incontrovertible fact that he has not concentrated on bin Laden? Whatever you think of Michael Moore and his propagandizing tactics, he did not invent the video footage of Bush saying he doesn't give bin Laden much thought. Why does this not enrage conservatives, who trot out 9/11 at every opportunity to justify every curtailing of democracy at home, ostensibly in the name of promoting it abroad? "They hate our freedom," Bush says of al Qaeda, as he eavesdrops on our phonecalls and reads our emails and sues to obtain our internet search records.

Conservatives probably hail bin Laden's most recent statements about public opinion polls in the U.S. as vindication for their assertion that criticism of the war on Iraq provides comfort to the enemy. But they are just as mistaken as he is. He thinks the polls are sinking because Americans are beginning to realize that he is right and Bush is wrong. In fact, every time bin Laden pops up, we are reminded that Priority #1 remains Mission Unaccomplished.

Dick Cheney recently argued that the only way to defeat the terrorists is to destroy them, but he doesn't understand how to do that and he doesn't understand how present policy makes it worse. He prefers to perpetuate our tactic of bomb first, find out who we killed later. Apparently if we miss a few times and slaughter a wedding party, or if we happen to kill a few women, children and bystanders along with a couple of the apparently thousands of al Qaeda Number Two's that that is somehow acceptable and forgivable in the grand scheme of The War on Terrorism. But it is exactly this callous attitude, which has by Bush's own recent public estimation resulted in 30,000 Iraqi deaths, that feeds the anger against us.

The way to destroy a terrorist is the same way you destroy a politician: erode his public support. For us, that means taking a hard look at what we've done in that region of the world, and how sometimes our best intentions backfire. That means admitting, once and for all, that Ronald Reagan was Saddam Hussein's patron. This means admitting that we have had business relationships with corrupt and oppressive governments. It means admitting that our dependence on the natural resources of the middle east has enriched tyrants and fundamentalists. It means admitting that we declared war on Iraq based on false accusations and that George Bush intends to leave Iraq with his promises to its people unfulfilled, even as he accuses political opponents of wanting to "cut and run."

Once we can do that, we can move forward and become a positive force for change in that region. Once we recognize that violence begets violence, and we take a look at the needs of the Arab world we can begin to address them in a constructive way. The best way to make friends is to be a friend. Friendship is based on mutual respect, but Bush doesn't understand that respect can only be earned through integrity, it cannot be won at gunpoint.

Bush and bin Laden are cut from the same cloth. The truth stares them in the face, but they see only their personal agendas. Both believe that God is pleased by, or at least not concerned with, the slaughter of innocents. Both believe that the end justifies the means. Both derive their power from fear, which they manufacture for mass consumption through lies and propaganda. Both believe that war leads to peace.

Both are wrong.


little-cicero said...

"The way to destroy a terrorist is the same way you destroy a politician: erode his public support."

This is what we are doing in Iraq. You may not forget about 9-11, but I think you are forgetting about the conditions surrounding terrorists as they committed those acts. Remember, Afghanistan was an oppressive Taliban-run rathole similar to the rest of the Middle East. The only way to make political change was through violence. By enstating a democracy in both Afghanistan and Iraq, we have changed the manner in which business is done in the Middle East. As soon as American troops leave Iraq, there will be a new invention in the region known as the "Muslim Democracy" wherein you may make change through non-violent means. Keep in mind that a democracy has never existed in the Middle East besides Israel until Afghanistan, but Afghanistan being in a less central position, Iraq, which is symbolically and geographically the pivotal point in the Middle East, serves as a model of freedom and prosperity to begin to counter the philosophy of hate, oppression and revolt against capitalism that exists today in the region. So while you seem concerned with the political backing of terror, there can be no talk of politics until the entire region can be called free.

I have another point, but I'll let you respond to this one first.

Jess said...

l-c: Until the entire region can be called free? That's a simplistic approach to the Middle East, preached from a position of ignorance about the history of the region and ignorance of the belief systems of the people who populate it. Imposing Western systems didn't work for the British and it won't work for us. Also, are you expecting us to continue invading other Middle Eastern countries and forcing democracy on them until "the entire region" has been changed?

North Korea and Iran are developing nuclear weapons, and we have an Administration that lacks the credibility to quickly rally an international response. We have a President who can't even pronounce the word nuclear.

Andy is right that there are millions of people sympathetic to Bin Laden because we have walked all over them. I don't know that Andy and I would take the same approach to repairing what we've done, but the unjustified killing of citizens of a foreign country should not be taken lightly. We had no valid basis for attacking Iraq, a country that never attacked us (and whose dictator we did support--Andy's 100% correct about that). We also took our eye off the ball. Bin Laden remains free because the Administration had things it wanted to do more, instead of protecting us from al Qaeda.

Maybe if they'd attacked Houston instead of New York, then Bush could focus on bringing the responsible parties to justice.

One last thing. If you're not offended by the actions of this Administration, particularly the admissions of illegal wiretaps, then you're un-American and unpatriotic. The Founding Fathers would be appalled at this power grab. It's the act of a monarch and disgustingly counter to the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Shame on this Administration and anyone who seeks to justify its unpatriotic actions.

little-cicero said...

I would call it "simplistic" and unenlightened to say that democracy is a thing of the West. The notion upon which this country was built is that liberty is a right to which we are all endowed, and being that democracy is the only way in which liberty is insured to all, it is not unreasonable to "force" it on a people who have never been allowed to know of it. Considering the staggering voter turnout in Iraqi and Afghan elections, your impression that democracy was forced is not based in reality.

As for Iran and North Korea, we have to be sensitive in dealing with these forces, because 1. They both probably already have nuclear capabilities and 2. They both have strongly anti-American populations, Iran having a stronger galvanization of theopolitical consensus because of its Shiite makeup (a Shiite insurgency would be much worse than an ununited Sunnite insurgency)

There may be many people sympathetic to Bin Laden as a result of our efforts, but what we know by measure is that the millions of Iraqis who are voting are showing more millions that democracy is not only a thing of the decadent infidels, but something for all of mankind.

To your accusations, I should note that I have never accused an opponent of lack of patriotism or unAmericanism, though you have done this to me. I find it both offensive and detracting from the integrity of the debate, which is a good one. There have been no domestic wiretaps by this administration. They are wiretaps of international phonecalls, though wiretaps have been done between American recievers since the beginning of telephone communications, applied to Communist and Mob communicating parties, so this is not a power grab, it is a step down from the more aggresive actions of the past. I think you ought to take a cool shower, because, while I enjoy heated debate, yours is too hot to be considered civil and polite.

Anonymous said...

The Bush Administration seems to be pretty good at smear campaigns and character assassinations. Maybe they should use those "weapons of mass distruction."

Andy said...

Anonymous: I'm not sure anything can be said about bin Laden or al Qaeda that could make them look any worse. Sadly, even though he lives in a cave, he's better informed and more well-read on current events than our President.

L-C: an oppressive Taliban-run rathole similar to the rest of the Middle East ? Not exactly. Pakistan is run by a secular military dictator and is purportedly one of our allies even though he refuses to have free elections, has done nothing to punish A.Q. Khan (who sold nuclear technology to North Korea, Libya, probably Iran, and God knows who else), and, oh yeah, bin Laden is probably in his turf. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are hereditary monarchies of widely varying degrees of fanaticism. Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt are more or less democracies, kind of, as are the United Arab Emirates, which are a constitutional federation of people who own oil. (See Texas, Legislature of.) So in terms of government, no, the Taliban or groups like it do not run the entire Middle East.

This could easily be a post all on its own, but I think western-style democracy is uniquely a product of the Enlightenment. That is not to say we couldn't see legitimate democracy in the Arab world, but I believe it has to be organic. The philosophers of the 1700s wanted to take power out of the hands of the few and believed in the equality of mankind, and an enormous part of that was cutting the religious influence out of government. I think the major players in the middle east are still out for power; if the Iraqis genuinely wanted REAL democracy, the Kurds and the Shiites wouldn't be working so hard to cut the minority Sunnis out of the deal. Their political parties are not divided along ideological lines, they are divided by sect and ethnicity. That's a recipe for war. The problem with the "democracies" in Egypt, Syria and Iran is that the opposition is so stomped on that elections aren't worthy of the name. It's not clear that Iraq isn't headed in the same direction.

Democracy is not a virus that spreads easily, unfortunately. In order to survive, it has to be truly, widely desired. Real democracy is also not just simple majority rule as determined by popular vote, it is the rule of law which limits the power of the majority and protects the rights of minorities.

K-Lyn said...

"Respect cannot be won at gunpoint"

Can you make me a bumpersticker that says that?

Just popped over from Quinn the Brain's blog. While I can't get my brain to work well enough on a Monday morning to join in the discussion coherently I just wanted to say "good post!".

djraindog said...

A few points for little-cicero's attention:
1) Democracy IS, in fact, basically a "Western" concept, particularly the way the Framers designed OURS, which is and was pretty unique and amazing.
2) You know that old adage, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink"? The same applies to liberty. True liberty cannot be "forced" upon anyone; the two concepts are basically antithetical.
3) If we'd been paying attention to the real issues threatening the safety of the world, we'd have Osama in custody, we'd have supplanted Kim Jong-Il's regime in North Korea, and we wouldn't have the problems we have in the Middle East now, because we wouldn't have meddled in the their affaira under Reagan in the fashion that we did, but that's neither here nor there. Der Führer Shrub has not been "sensitive" in dealing with ANYTHING, least of all foreign affairs; this entire paragraph in your comment is composed of baseless and irrelevant supposition. I'd wager that the people of North Korea would like the U.S. a hell of a lot better if we did something about removing their government, which they know is evil and corrupt but are powerless to resist.
4) I understand that because your definition of "patriotism" involves the blind following of one's elected leaders and unquestioning, unfaltering loyalty to whatever they say in the guise of love of country, warts and all (Add to your reading list Wilfred Owen's poem "Dulce et Decorum Est"), you feel stung that Jess called you "unpatriotic". His feeling for the word is different from yours. I concur with him, however, that your indefatigable desire to be a "yes man" for the current administration is rather un-American. The Founding Fathers WOULD, in fact, be appalled at this administration's gutting of their intentions and its dissembling to and withholding information from its constituents.
5) "There have been no domestic wiretaps by this administration." WHAT?! If you actually believe this, you are incomprehensibly naive. Part of the problem with this administration is that we don't really KNOW what they are doing, because they outright refuse to tell us! The specific problem with the Shrubbery's wiretaps, which you apparently fail to comprehend, is that they begin and remain WITHOUT WARRANTS, which is illegal; law enforcement officials are required to obtain warrants to do this sort of thing (Thank God!), though in exigent cases, they may wait up to (and I believe, sometimes beyond) 72 hours before doing so. That's not an unreasonable burden, considering how very easy it is to phone a sympathetic judge and get a warrant. (And what's wrong with being a Communist? Perhaps you should change your moniker to "Little Mr. McCarthy" or "Little-Witch-Hunter". I, for record, am an Old-School Conservative, who believes the government's duty is to protect and serve its citizenry in as non-invasive a fashion as possible; that means I object to the liberals who want to legislate a rejection of your "morality" just as much as I abhor your party's attempts to legislate your "values".) As to your accusations of name-calling (which you seem to do a lot -- are you a victim of bullies at school?), I assure you, nothing Jess said was uncivil or impolite; that's just more whining from you, and your call for him to "take a cool shower" is out-of-line and childish.

Nathan said...

Good post Andy, I especially appreciate your supposition that political erosion, like geological erosion, will wash the terrorist ethos into the sea like sands of grain on a beach in a winter storm. A lot better than bash their heads in 'till they yell uncle.

I, too, am appalled at the civilian casualties in Iraq. 30,000 people! Just think about that. That's 10 times more than died in the WTC attacks. Every one of those 30,000 people had a mother, a father or children. Each was an entity, and each, more or less, was loved by others.

Let's say each innocent Iraqi we killed was loved deeply by 4 people (one spouse, two kids, and a sibling). That's 120,000 able-bodied, pissed-off Iraqis who have gone through the stages of denial and are now entering the anger stage. Let's say just 1% are angry enough to kill. That's 1,200 new insurgents. How can this administration possibly have miscalculated this fact?

Let's consider the repercussions of this fact in our country. How many of our soldiers returning home have accidentaly killed an innocent man, woman or child? How will they deal with that? Who will help them and who will they blame?

Perhaps Bush should revisit the texts of the 17th century and play a little catch up...

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee."

John Donne
Devotions upon
Emergent Occasions, no. 17

SailRacer said...

Not only did you touch me in the spot that commutes through the World Trade Center every day (path station). You made me look up a word, Fealty.

Right on, brotherman. I think you've hit the nail right on the head. Nothing changed, but Bush has used it for a catalyst. It is a catalyst not only for Iraq, but a larger war (based on fear as Michael Moore aptly says) against terror of all kinds. In fact, it is a war OF terror, not against terror.

This war has caused the administration to seek broad executive power subverting the constitution. When the administration cannot gain such power legitimately, it steals it.

This Saturday, in the wiretap meeting held by Rep. Conyers, a Georgetown U. Constitutional Law Professor put it best. He said, and I paraphrase: America is not hurt worst by its enemies; America is hurt worse by herself when she is afraid.

The Bush administration has fed off the fears of good Americans to build a military infrastructure to protect our oil interests against "terrorists" who the American oil/money machine has terrorized for many decades.

little-cicero said...

To Andy, I never said that all of the middle east is like Taliban-run Afghanistan, I said most of the Middle East is similar in nature. It is simply not democratic with the exception of Lebanon and Israel, and now Afghanistan and Iraq. That it is crucial that we continue our association with Pakistan for reasons of avoiding alienation visa vis the Indio-Pakistan Crisis does not make its people any less worthy of democracy, but chances are better that Pakistanis will want democracy when they see Iraqis with democracy.

Though democracy was a product of Greek revival and the Enlightenment, the rights to which the human race was endowed has remained the same for all times. It is the insurance of those rights that is crucial, and the only way to ensure them is through democracy. I don't think Shiites and Kurds are trying to cut Sunnites out on the deal, they are simply the nation's majority, and in fact, have taken measures to ensure Sunnite participation.

"Democracy is not a virus that spreads easily, unfortunately. In order to survive, it has to be truly, widely desired."
I agree completely, but Arabs will never be attracted to democratic ideals when the only democracies around them are those of infidels. Not to be cliche, but this is what makes the Iraq republic the Middle Eastern seed of democracy.

Aethlos said...

LOVE the piece... gave you mad props on my site, linked to this piece...even made a fancy button. i love it when you wow me.

little-cicero said...

To DJRainDog,
1) I agree completely, but it is the only way to secure our basic human rights, which are not granted by the Enlightenment, they are granted by God, or nature if Jefferson likes. Were there a different method of securing said rights, I would support them too.
2)Saddam Hussein harldy left room for a choice between tyranny and democracy, but after seeing the voter turnout, it is apparent that Iraqis like democracy a whole lot more than Americans. The only ones who would prefer Saddam's regime were those with cozy positions in the regime, who are not worth our consideration as few and pathetic as they are.

3) You seem to be getting into the oracular, if I may present the realistic, North Korea has nuclear weapons and relations with global superpower China, and its people have in large part been brainwashed to believe that their poverty is a phase of Communism and that their leader has good intentions. Libya and Lebanon are examples of revolutions which were likely to have been inspired by our regime change in Iraq.

4) I define patriotism as love of country, not the administration, the country. This includes support of troops. That time in our history at which our Democratic Senators were voting to take any possible lengths to remove Saddam from power was a good time to disagree with the administration, but now we must decide what is best for the troops and what is best to see that their efforts were not in vain. I am not a yes man for the administration, you see there is such a thing as people who concur with the Presidents views occasionally. It is like the collision of two asteroids in the depths of space, but occassionally, there is a genuine aggreement of philosophies, which is why I would have voted for the President for a second term. I have not accused Jess or anyone else of allegiance to the left, we just disagree on the matter.

5)"they may wait up to (and I believe, sometimes beyond) 72 hours before doing so." Has it ever occurred to your enlightened, free-thinking mind that after 72 hours the terrorists may be done with their telephone conversation. Realistically, we must react quickly to suspected terrorists speaking with other suspected terrorists outside the country. These are calls from US phones to phones outside of the country, which according to legal classification are no different than outside of country to outside of country calls- they are international. Thus wiretapping of these connections are international wiretappings, not domestic. If there was wiretapping from Cleveland to Talahasee, I would protest it, but there is no evidence of this except for Mob or Communist agent related applications.
"If you're not offended by the actions of this Administration, particularly the admissions of illegal wiretaps, then you're un-American and unpatriotic." That is McCarthyism, especially since there is no evidence that Bush has committed any domestic wiretaps. If we consider our opponents un-Patriotic, we may as well not even discuss politics, because these McCarthyesque accusations are anti-democratic. That is why I'm whining about them, DJRainDog, and that is why I thought that Jess needed to cool down. If I ever had a debate partner call an opponent unPatriotic, I would feel the impulse to punch them in the stomach. As for your being a classical conservative, I believe and sympathize with you, but there are certain moments when the government must protect human rights foremost and answer to the law afterwards (and it is imperative that it does answer to the law via Congressional and Court inquiries). I am, in this respect, a John Wayne Conservative.

Andy said...

LC, you're implying I put words in your mouth, but literally I cut and pasted your own comment. You made a generalization that is factually untrue, and not even generally true. I never, ever implied that Pakistanis were unworthy of democracy; I merely pointed out that they have a military strongman in charge who took power through a coup and who promised to voluntarily step down in favor of open elections and then, gee, wouldn't you know, he just conveniently keeps finding ways not to do that. I'm also not saying we shouldn't try to be his friend; but I think friendship to Bush means you turn a blind eye to the illegal and immoral things your friends are doing (*cough* Tom DeLay). A real friend would say, "Hey Perez/Putin/King Fahd, we need to talk."

Pakistanis will want democracy when they see Iraq with one? Actually Pakistan has had a (relatively) democratic form of government since its creation in 1949. Yeah, there've been a few military coups and occasionally the prime minister dissolves the assembly, but for most of its history it's been essentially a representative form of government. It was a pretty good democracy, actually, until Musharraf overthrew the prime minister in 1999 and installed himself President, a title which he retains today. So, I fail utterly to see why you think the Pakistanis need to be inspired to democracy by Iraq.

Democracy, as it stands in Iraq, is hardly inspirational, with the sole exception of the brave, hardy souls who risk their lives to participate in the elections. Still, as I have pointed out, an election does not a democracy make. (If it did, Al Gore would be in his second term, right?)

I also never implied that Arab citizens aren't entitled to democratic civil rights; in fact, that's exactly the problem: the people who retain the power at the moment aren't willing to dilute their influence in the name of equality. The Kurds and Shiites have absolutely attempted to curb Sunni government participation; it took the United States and the U.N. to personally intervene in the drafts of the Constitution and say, "Hey guys, this is bogus." Some democracy, when the rest of the world is editing it for you.

Infidels? Do you know what that word means in the middle east? It means "non Muslim." Uhhhh, the only government ruler in the middle east whom other prominent Arabs regarded as an infidel would have been Saddam Hussein, who was famously moderate in his religious views. The secular government we are installing in Iraq is being derided by the fundamentalists as a puppet regime of "the Infidels" -- meaning US, silly.

I know you want desperately to believe that Bush and the U.S. are over there doing the right thing for the right reasons, but if you're going to make these arguments, you've got to become better schooled in realpolitik.

little-cicero said...

I did not mean to say that you said Pakistanis were unworthy of democracy, I just thought you were getting at an inconsistancy in my argument. Obviously, even we haven't the resources (besides nuclear arms) to sove all injustices in the world, this was my point. Bush has talked with Putin, though I don't know if he's attempted such intervention with the other two you mention. I actually forgot that Pakistan is a pretty faithful democracy (and just now it comes back to me that they were among the first to elect a woman to prime minister), forgive me, but I misunderstood your bringing up Pakistan. I'd appreciate if you forgot I mentioned it.

"Democracy, as it stands in Iraq, is hardly inspirational, with the sole exception of the brave, hardy souls who risk their lives to participate in the elections." are you kidding me! 70% approval ratings are pretty inspirational, and ought not be ignored.

As for Shiites and Sunnis, there is no curbing of Sunni voting to speak of because there is no need for it. The Sunni are in the minority, and only a minority of the minority voted, so I don't think any one is concerned with curbing them. The US has just made efforts to be sure that they are represented to the point of appeasment. Basically, election fraud is a myth of the minority.

"The secular government we are installing in Iraq is being derided by the fundamentalists as a puppet regime of "the Infidels" -- meaning US, silly." When we leave Iraq in about 12 years, will it still be a puppet regime. The government is already asking for less US involvement, so I'd say we're on the right path.

My Pakistan blunder aside, which again I apologize for, I think I am educated enough to make this argument:

Humankind is endowed to basic human rights, but we do not always know it. The Iraqi people, upon the eventual US withdrawal, will be a people who have aknowledged and sought to protect these rights. Whereas before Iraq was in place, the people of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman, etc. would have thought true democracy to be only for the decadent Western nations, Iraq being the very heart of the Middle East, these nations will have a truly democratic, Shiite majority government wherein theocratic elements of Islamic law can coexist with democratic elements of civil law.

Andy said...

L-C: just a couple of points. Your optimism I'm sure is sincere and it's really quite touching. However, you're making predictions for the future of a significant portion of the globe, even though you know demonstrably little about the history, cultures and politics of the middle east. There are tensions there which stretch back centuries, and "democracy" isn't going to just make them disappear.

When I say democracy is a "cultural" thing, I don't mean it's a "white/European" thing. You seem to be always implying that I am some sort of racist for thinking democracy won't work in the middle east. What I mean is, democracy, I believe, is the greatest product of the Enlightenment. Now, the Enlightenment followed the Renaissance. I'm not saying they have to follow the exact pattern of development experienced by the western world, but I think it is that collective developmental process that leads to healthy democracy. The Arab world is largely still a medieval, feudal society. Even the countries there that have representative forms of government are controlled by the same powerful families that have ruled there for centuries. You point to Afghanistan as a "new" democracy, but Karzai's authority barely extends outside of Kabul. Tribal warlords still run the rest of the country. They are a long way from western-style democracy.

Third, the democratic example they are supposed to be looking at is not Iraq, but the United States, right? Aren't we supposedly the best, the ultimate democracy? Isn't that why it's "our" job to liberate the middle east and not someone else's? So how inspirational is it that we flouted international law to launch a war of aggression against an unarmed country based on false accusations, led by a President who was installed by a court even though he demonstrably received fewer votes than his competitor? As Jesus might say, we need to remove the plank from our own eye before we go taking the specks out of others'.

epicurist said...

Recommended reading by Aethlos, I was pleasantly blown away by the post and even more so by the Comments.

"I think western-style democracy is uniquely a product of the Enlightenment. That is not to say we couldn't see legitimate democracy in the Arab world, but I believe it has to be organic." - I couldn't concurr with you more. Democracy in the Middle East could take eons to reach, it simply isn't some sort of explosive chemical reaction. The U.S and other "Western " cultures are prime examples of having taken hundreds of years to get to where we are, and yet, despite having attained democracy, it is still a struggle to ensure constitutional rights are protected (ie., wiretapping, etc)

There is little else for me to say at this time, but I hope you don't mind if I reference this post. This was truly a BRILLIANT post!!

Lily@LoseTheNoose said...

Came via Aethlos, and appreciate the post and comment thread.
"there are realities in this world to which America has largely chosen to remain blind" is an understatement, and it remains so.

St. Dickeybird said...

No insightful comment here, just 'Well Said!'

From Little America, formerly known as Canada.

djraindog said...


1. Your point is? The statements are lovely, but irrelevant to what I was saying. (Andy clarifies me in his references to the origins and development of democracy.)

2. I don't disagree, but we had bigger fish to fry, and Shrub had simply decided to pursue his own misguided agenda, from which NO ONE, apparently, can steer him.

3. North Korea wouldn't have nuclear weapons if we'd intervened as we should have when we should have. I'm not going into details here & now because I don't have time. I WILL say, though, that your presuppositions about the mindset of the North Korean people is both without foundation and insulting to them. Recent happenings in Libya are, more than anything else, just a case of Qadhafi being wily and trying to stay out of the cross-hairs of a regime (Herr Shrub's) that shoots widely and wildly. And Lebanon, you would know if you knew any Lebanese folks or if you did your homework before spouting-off, has been brewing for quite awhile. (That's a VERY complicated situation that I won't attempt to summarise here. Go do some research.)

4. I support the troops more than you can know; I have friends who were over there. (That'd be why I never would've sent them where they are, so ill-equipped as they were, in the first place.) I also, occasionally, support the left. And when given the choice between GWB and...well...most anyone else? I'll take the latter option. The man is a combination of the things which terrify me most: evil and stupid. And frankly, I'm more and more inclined to believe he IS one of the anti-Christs. But this isn't the place to discuss that.

5. You fail to understand the law. Andy clarifies what I said in his most recent post. The wiretap can be functioning and in place for 72 hours BEFORE a warrant is required. Surveillance is fine, as long as you're planning on pursuing a warrant. If you don't get the warrant, you either drop the surveillance or concede that any information you glean is ill-gotten gains, which you cannot use, and risk prosecution yourself. The president should be impeached, and this is only one of MANY reasons why. He's done FAR worse than cheat on his wife and lie about it. Further, you obviously lack any understanding of McCarthyism; again, go do your homework. When people reference that odious little man, it's usually not about saying that someone who disagrees with you is unpatriotic; the situation was much more specific than that, and the methodology was far more outrageous and nauseous.

Finally, yes, it is the job of the government to protect human rights. This government aggressively fails to do so, not only on foreign soil, but most egregiously, on our own, as well.

St. Dickeybird said...

DJRaindog: You called Bush evil and stupid. You forgot powerful. That's the worst part of it.

Aethlos said...

[flash forward] I rattle the NYT at some lawyer across the breakfast table: "Of course I read it, and I was reading Andy YEARS AGO when he was an opera star with a blog!"

little-cicero said...

"Democracy IS, in fact, basically a "Western" concept," I agree, democracy is a western concept, but it is the only way to protect a UNIVERSAL human right, which is the right to be free. Th question, then should be other than whether we should be able to take out a tyrant and free millions, it should be when and where, as you believe should be done in Iran or North Korea.

2. Going into Iran and Korea would have been not only less influential insofar as the spread of democracy is concerned, but an insane threat to the welfare of the troops, since projectively (sans prediction of unpredictable insurgency)these missions would have been much more costly than Iraq.

3. "Recent happenings in Libya are, more than anything else, just a case of Qadhafi being wily and trying to stay out of the cross-hairs of a regime (Herr Shrub's) that shoots widely and wildly." My point exactly. Because of our actions in Iraq, tyrants will forever think twice to abuse their subjects. Remember the immediate release of Iran hostages when Reagon was elected. The tougher a US president is, the safer the world is. That is not to say that either Libya or Lebanon were directly associated with Bush's actions, but sensitive Presidents are not necessarily better presidents. To say that Korea didn't have nuclear weapons before the Iraq war is as unfounded as my assumption that the Korean people would favor Western regime change.

4. I believe that you support the troops, but protest to a war as it is winding down is not showing it, rather it contradicts your support. You believe that Bush is evil, but you would have gone into Iran (which has more oil and a more intimidating landscape and military opposition) or North Korea (with a large army, relations with China, and nuclear technology) If Bush simply took a choice which was different from yours, perhaps he's not so evil, perhaps you simply disagree with him.

I apologize. I misread Andy's comment. In this case, then, I am on your side. Left or right aside, I value civil liberties and prioritize that they are not breached. This is why I visit a liberal blog, to hear what I would not hear on conservative blogs. I have no impressive understanding of the law, just common sense, but that's another story (posted on my blog)

I know that McCarthyism goes into guilt by association and other techniques of accusation, but mainly he was saying that those who are sympathetic to Communism are not Patriotic, which is often the case.

Let's carry the domestic spying discussion over to the most recent post.

little-cicero said...

I know demonstrably little about affairs in the Middle East? I can stand your other arguments, but after my little tiff with Sam Rocha, I can't stand much more of this say I know nothing instead of saying where I'm wrong crap.

First of all, I did know that Pakistan was a democracy, I was simply reacting to what I understood as your argument without looking back on prior knowledge (as I said, I just afterwards remembered that they were the first to elect a woman as prime minister), but still, Pakistan could use some democratic reforms. I do understand that the factional tensions between Sunnis and Shiites are complicated, but remember that, as we saw in the Enlightenment, not only violence but also religious extremism fell out of fashion as a means of changing political circumstances. Of course I am optimistic, but there is a basis in history. That this region has not yet experienced an Enlightenment revealing basic human rights just shows a pre-Enlightenment Europe, wherein religious extremism and factional warfare was commonplace, but were quelled after democracy finally took root.

If you thought me to be implying you as a rascist, I sincerely apologize, and I agree that: "What I mean is, democracy, I believe, is the greatest product of the Enlightenment." You are right that a Rennaissance would be constructive in bringing the region back to the wisdom (and sanity) of many hundreds of years ago, but the factional tensions which you yourself aknowledge, as well as the widespread oppression in the region, prevent such progress from occuring as neccessary. It is necessary, therefore, to spread elements of Western thought to supplement this Renaissance. This has happened in some measure, through the oil industry, diplomacy and the relationship between the Iraqi government and the US leadership.

You have a valid point, that the current value system in the region is not conducive to democracy, but along with democracy and capitalism goes American values. Keep in mind that, though Japan's value system was once one which preached that human life is only of worth when it is honorable. After McCarthy's stay in Japan, and the establishment of a democracy in place of the imperial system, the Japanese adopted a measure of Judeo-Christian, or American Values, which preach rather that life is valuable according to one's morality.

"Third, the democratic example they are supposed to be looking at is not Iraq, but the United States, right?" Out of pride and spite, I will echo your words, Andy, and say that you have a lack of understanding of my position, and history, politics, etc. The United States is the ultimate democracy, but realistically will not be a model of people who think us to be pigs, infidels, decadent, etc. Iraq is not just a brother, but is historically the heart of the region. It is the cradle of civilization, Mesopotamia, the kingdom of Babylon and home of the Caananites. Where the Iraq (which is no longer a Sunni nation) goes, so will the region. For this, we have defied the nations which established oil contracts with Iraq before voting no. Do not suppose that the US is the imperialist and those who resisted our actions were the just might presume that we are right and they are wrong.

Andy said...

LC, I don't even know where to begin, but I'll try.

You started off by saying the entire region was a Taliban-controlled rathole, then you said Pakistanis would want democracy if they could only see a glimpse of it next door (way the hell the other side of Afghanistan and Iran), and now you apparently are conceding that Pakistan is a democracy even though I just got through explaining that it ISN'T a democracy; it USED to be, until our "ally" in the "War on Terror," Perez Musharraf, overthrew the president in a military coup. Yet despite my having to correct you at every turn, I am supposed to regard your predictions for the region has having some reasonable basis in fact. Okay, why the hell not? (Oh, modern-day Iraq is not the "home of the Canaanites." Canaan existed in what is today nothern Israel, Lebanon, and Syria.)

Where the Iraq (which is no longer a Sunni nation) goes, so will the region. You have absolutely no legitimate basis for saying that. Furthermore, Iraq (which, must be added, isn't a "real" country anyway, it was created by the British in the 1920's) has always had a Sunni minority, it's just that through the Baathist regime they took over control of the country. But -- and other people can correct me here because I'm not certain of this -- I'm pretty confident that overall the Sunnis are the majority sect of Islam. The only other nation that is predominately Shiite is Iran. How comfortable are you with the idea of Iraq becoming the ideological ally of Iran? Hmm?

And wow, as far as Japan goes, you are just so wrong, it's amazing.

Point the first: there was a clear and decisive American victory over Japan. Will we ever have that in Iraq? Hell no. Point the second: Japan is an ethnically homogenous society. It has had issues of class and social status, but its internal divisions have never been defined by religion or ethnicity. Point the third: Japan was a country that was actually quite fond of an eager to adopt much of western culture and ideas. The Japanese waged a war to expand their empire and dominate Asia essentially for power and profit, not because they believed they were locked in a classic struggle between the forces of good and evil and fighting under the banner of their approving God. Point the fourth: you don't know much about Buddhism, do you?

Anyway, clearly this could go on forever. I think you're very bright and I really appreciate your visits and commentary, but it will help your arguments tremendously (many of them have merit!) if you don't couch them in assertions which are instantly disprovable. I am crossing my fingers that you get accepted to a college that is diverse and places rigorous academic demands on you, not because I think you'll be corrupted into a liberal, but because you really need to be held to a higher standard.

little-cicero said...

I DID NOT SAY the whole region was a Taliban controlled rathole. Gosh this is getting frustrating. I said it resembled the Taliban controlled rathole that was once Afghanistan, which, whether you accept it or not, is better off with benevolent and accepted tribal leaders than with the Taliban.

No, I clarified, Pakistan, I said, IS technically a democracy (the name is Prime Minister Musharraf!) though it could use democratic reforms. It is certainly not a noble nation, but it is an ally in the war on terror, and without its cooperation, much of the war would be impossible. I was not listening to you well, and you were not listening to me, as is apparent, but that is what I said in correcting myself. A military coup
does not a dictator make, sometimes they are for the better! I hope that you aren't trying to discredit me Andy, because I know you're better than that. Oh, and the Amorite tribe of Caana did occupy the region west of the Euphrates, but I could have chosen a more regional inhabitant.

That was my point, that Iraq is now a Shiite nation as its majority indicates, but the point of mentioning this is that the Shiites of the region would more respect a Shiite nation than a nation ruled by Sunnis. This helps to avoid alienation with clerics and such complications with being led by the Sunni minority. By the way, the majority of the middle east, with the exceptions of outskirts, is shi'a populated, but I will not deride you for your false pretenses.

On Japan, I'm amazingly wrong, am I?

I find your first point irrelevant, in that those fighting us in Iraq are not the ones that we are trying to make democratic and functional people. They are foreign terrorists hell-bent on killing Americans and Iraqi traitors, and they are simply target practice for the Iraqi Army as far as politics are concerned.

"It has had issues of class and social status, but its internal divisions have never been defined by religion or ethnicity." are you kidding! The Boshido code was the cause of more suicides along with torture and killings (though really it had many noble peacetime attributes) than many other such systems, and it's dilution by American values is the greatest thing that ever happened in Japan, though the retention of some of its peaceful values would be better for the nation. As for your understanding of the Japanese reasons for power, it is flawed in that the Japanese were after world domination, not profit. They believed that they were superior to the decadent people of the west and the inferior Chinese races. They believed that, since Western nations followed codes of retreat and surrender, that they were automatically of less human value.

I appreciate your sentiments, but I wish that you would give me a chance and really listen to my statements before writing them off as misinformed. On Pakistan, for example, we basically had the same understanding of their democratic status throughout this debate...but I should have done research to solidify my understanding. I understand that such a misunderstanding (which was the only time I could be called downright wrong)is not acceptable in your perception of me, but that was the only time such a misstep occurred, and I hope you can forgive, and for Gosh's sake forget that I made this silly mistake.

In any case, I would like for you all to take me on as if I were an adult. Obviously you are not pulling punches, but what worries me is that you would dismiss an argument because of my youthful inexperience. I hope this post encourages you to reevaluate my statements and see how some that you dismissed as unfounded were in fact at least arguably or remotely truthful.

little-cicero said...

"'an oppressive Taliban-run rathole similar to the rest of the Middle East ?'" This remark had nothing to do with Pakistan. It was depicting the Middle East as resembling Afghanistan before it's liberation from the oppressing body. It inspired you to say this about Pakistan:

"Not exactly. Pakistan is run by a secular military dictator and is purportedly one of our allies even though he refuses to have free elections,"

To which I answered:

"That it is crucial that we continue our association with Pakistan for reasons...does not make its people any less worthy of democracy, but chances are better that Pakistanis will want democracy when they see Iraqis with democracy."

to which you responded

"I never, ever implied that Pakistanis were unworthy of democracy; I merely pointed out that they have a military strongman in charge who took power through a coup and who promised to voluntarily step down in favor of open elections and then,"
and added:
"So, I fail utterly to see why you think the Pakistanis need to be inspired to democracy by Iraq."

(You contradicted yourself in first saying that Musharoff was anti-democratic and then saying you failed to see why I thought Pakistanis needed inspiration for democracy.)

to which I responded

"I actually forgot that Pakistan **is** a pretty faithful democracy (and just now it comes back to me that they were among the first to elect a woman to prime minister), forgive me, but I misunderstood your bringing up Pakistan"

I apologized here, after saying that Pakistan IS a faithful democracy. As you can see by the reference to a long ago female PM, WAS was intended. This is true, Pakistan has been a democracy, whether it has always been faitful is doubtful.

The point is, I never meant to bring Pakistan into this. As far as I'm concerned, they are in Western Asia, and are an important part of the war on terror, but as far as peace in the Middle East, I never brought them up. You did. To say that this miscommunication concerning the level of democracy in Pakistan is demonstrative of my ignorance is libel, though, as I said, I am no expert. What I intended to argue has been accurate.

djraindog said...

My head already hurts enough from the hangover, little-cicero, so I'm refraining from banging it on my desk, but oh, you make me wish I could. The more you write, the more it becomes apparent how much you do not know. I will leave your arguments with Andy between you and Andy, because he's totally capable of representing the facts, but I do want to echo his sentiment that I hope you're accepted into a college that is diverse and places rigorous academic demands on you, because you've obviously got a brain, and with more education and information, you'd be able to use it more precisely and incisively.

I'm just going to clarify a few things, and then I'm leaving this thread.

I don't think democracy is the "only way to protect...the right to be free", but we're just going to have to agree to disagree on that one.

I didn't say I thought we should "[go] into Iran and Korea". I do think that addressing the situation in North Korea was significantly more pressing at the time when we launched the Iraq war, and I think it actually wouldn't have been as costly at that time as the Iraq war has been, but there, my assumptions are as baseless as yours.

"The tougher a US president is, the safer the world is." False. Read the last part of Andy's original post. The U.S. is, comparatively speaking, quite a young nation, and to the detriment of the world, we often demonstrate our lack of aged wisdom in the way we behave. It is not our job to be the world police, and we should stop acting like it is. The American way isn't the only way, and frankly, it's not always the right way, either. Go live somewhere else for awhile, and maybe you'll gain perspective and a basis for comparison. (Thank you for admitting that Libya and Lebanon were not necessarily directly associated with Bush's actions.)

I'm not just protesting the war as it is "winding down", as you put it; I've opposed it all along, as have many others. Bush's invasion of Iraq (UNDER FALSE PRETENSES -- Here's the problem: There was no imminent threat from Saddam to the U.S. or to the world, and we knew this; there IS demonstrably an imminent threat from North Korea to the world, and we know this, as well.) is not the foremost reason why I believe he is evil. This is not the place for that discussion, though; I will merely refer you to Matthew VII:15. (Do you know what it is without having to look it up?)

How many communists do you know? You have no basis for saying they're unpatriotic. It is entirely possible that they love their country but would have it function differently. In any case, my point had nothing to do with communism, nor with guilt by association, but rather with "witch-hunting".

I'm done here, I hope.

Knottyboy said...

Another voice of reason. God you said a mouthful hon. I'm glad to see the gay community has a brain and can see through this fog into what truly needs to happen. Communication, appologies and renewed friendships is the only way to disolve this once and for all.

Greg the Surly said...

Andy: Thank you.

Trickish Knave said...

This is an extremely long thread and this post will probably be lost because of LC's exhaustiveness but I have to make a few comments.

It is sad that OBL panders to the liberals in this country knowing that they will side with him. He is rallying the enemies within, and I use that term loosely as a military stratagem.

I love a strong debate with you, Andy, and we have had many, but the 'Let's say we're sorry and be friends with them' strategy, although in theory sounds great, will never, IMO, pan out. This isn't a dispute between neighbors over whose dog is shitting in whose yard.

I, like you, have done my homework in this topic. Although my support for Bush has waned and see that he has done some shady shit over the years there is still no doubt in my mind that we should have invaded Iraq.

Saddam was a despotic asshole who gassed/raped/tortured his own people and these facts cannot be denied. However, we should have had a better strategy than the tactics you talked about in this post and subsequent replies.

OBL is a very smart man and people who think these terrorists are poor, uneducated and desperate people are fooling only themselves. OBL knows exactly what he's doing from whatever cave he is hiding in. But, it seems I have gotten off topic, he cannot be bargained with. I take these exerpts from his own message to support my claim:

These governments prevent our people from establishing the Islamic Shariah, using violence and lies to do so."

"(v) The removal of these governments is an obligation upon us, and a necessary step to free the Ummah, to make the Shariah the supreme law and to regain Palestine. And our fight against these governments is not separate from out fight against you."

"(1) The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam."

Infidels bad, Islam good? Sorry OBL, if I treat my wife like the Koran's admonishment says, I'll be paying child support and eating out of KFC garbage bins.

"(a) We call you to be a people of manners, principles, honour, and purity; to reject the immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling's, and trading with interest. "

No need to expound on this.

"(i) You are the nation who, rather than ruling by the Shariah of Allah in its Constitution and Laws, choose to invent your own laws as you will and desire. You separate religion from your policies, contradicting the pure nature which affirms Absolute Authority to the Lord and your Creator. You flee from the embarrassing question posed to you: How is it possible for Allah the Almighty to create His creation, grant them power over all the creatures and land, grant them all the amenities of life, and then deny them that which they are most in need of: knowledge of the laws which govern their lives? "

So, if OBL had his way, Christians aren't supposed to use thier Bible?

"(xi) You have destroyed nature with your industrial waste and gases more than any other nation in history. Despite this, you refuse to sign the Kyoto agreement so that you can secure the profit of your greedy companies and*industries"

No wonder treehuggers like OBL- he's an environmentalist too!

This doesn't sound like a guy who will be friends with us just because we pull out our people from Arab lands. By his own words he wants much more than that.

little-cicero said...

Sorry to Trickish Knave, I've had trouble being concise this week. Intelligent comment.

I just have to close off with this: We can all use more knowledge, especially myself, in order to make educated conclusions. American Values are the best values in my humble opinion (though they are being diluted by pop culture) and communism is inherently unpatriotic in that its aim is for global manifestation, which would not allow for nationalism (which explains the Great Leap Forward). There is evil in the world, and the United States is good (though not always right) and has the power to eliminate evil, as well as the responsibility. Without a tough US president, there is free reign on oppression and abuse of citizens.

Aside from that, thank you for your clarifications, and for the rigorous, if exhaustive debate, and I hope that my grammar was to your liking (Smiley Face)

djraindog said...

It is difficult, little-cicero, to imagine that the U.S., "has the power to eliminate evil, as well as the responsibility" when the nation has elected to its helm two of the most evil men currently inhabiting the planet. (When I get back to posting to my own 'blog, rather than commenting on Andy's, perhaps I'll elaborate; for most folks, though, I wouldn't need to.) This nation would do well to heed Matthew VII:3-5. (As I think on the "celebrities" with whom this society seems so obsessed, I'd expand that to verse 6, as well.)

little-cicero said...

I have a very long reply to this. Why don't you start a post and alert me when you have done so. I'll probably write my own post now, thank you for the inspiration!

This is why other conservative bloggers never get any new ideas: They never talk to those with whom they disagree!

You might consider that the Gospel definition of hypocrisy and the modern definition, as they seem to differ greatly. The modern hypocrisy is more aimed at those with high moral standards, saying "If you say that this is good and you do this, then you are a hypocrite," but the Gospel gives a much better definition, which is, "Do not criticize the minor flaw of another when you yourself have much greater flaws(beam being much larger than a speck)" So you make the call: Which has the speck and which has the beam? Iraq or the United States?

Kard said...

Hi Andy,

I was just reading through this entire entry, including the comments. I'm very impressed that your points are backed up with very valid reasoning and research (which you have obviously so done). But you said this in the quote below, so I'll just like to add that...

"But -- and other people can correct me here because I'm not certain of this -- I'm pretty confident that overall the Sunnis are the majority sect of Islam."

I'm quite confident to say that the majority in Iraq are Shiites, majority in Iran is Sunni. However, most of us in South East Asia, particularly in Singapore and Malaysia are Shi'a (Syia) and (correct me if I'm wrong) but I think the Shi'a are the biggest sect in Islam.

With regards to the Islamic law, the Shariah, it is stated that the Islamic law (Shariah) applies to countries that have Islam as the state religion. From what I do know, Islam as a religion, do preach religious tolerance and acceptance. There are some countries where most of the population are muslims, do not practice Shariah Law. I believe it is not stated anywhere in the Quran that the Shariah Law -must- be exacted and used as legislation. Historically, the Shariah Law is implemented and used due to a lack of a proper form of legislation.

Shariah Law, as far as it's concerned, did mention the word "infidel". Religiously, in a historical and theocratic manner of speaking, this word was only meant for the prophets to use. Not us, the followers.

That's to shed some light on it, but I'm sure a lot of fundamentalists would stone me to death for saying that.

But Andy, this is a great post.

Andy said...

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Andy said...

Additional correcton: I was wrong when I said Iran was the only other country with a Shiite majority. Bahrain and Yemen are also mostly-Shiite.

Kard said...

I did ask him to be sure of what he said. He was confident about it but only after I posted the comment that he mentioned that perhaps southeast asia. Bleah. Your post was read by my bf and me. So it wasn't my comments alone. So yep, I'm wrong on the biggest sect part but I didn't say that you're wrong about the Shiite being the largest group in Iraq.

I've bookmarked your blog so I can read it again sometime :)

As to my views on your religion, uh... I have nothing in opposition to your religion.

With regards to a particular foreign policy, I sincerely think that the issue with OBL needs more attention, though I'm not sure how your country will do it. I'm sorry I can't exactly comment because I shun war in the first place even though, in some circumstances, it might be necessary.

If I have any comments to add, I'll post too. And if you have anything to ask, just ask ahead. More than welcome to answer if the knowledge is within me.

Kard said...

Additional comment: I'm neither saying that war is a must to wage or a must to avoid. I'm just making a general statement that though I shun wars in the first place, I do understand that sometimes there is a need for it, based upon circumstances.

So that's why the later statement "not sure how your country will do it".