A reply to Brian Tiemann

Granted, the following are largely facetious questions from Brian Tiemann (who I consider a decent human being and an honorable man), but given that they do outline his sincere view of "leftists" and that I am genuinely unsure of how broad a brush that word is in his estimation, I'm going to make a completely serious attempt to answer them in good faith.

Did the Bush administration incompetently ignore warnings of terrorist threats prior to 9/11—or did CIA or Mossad agents perpetrate the attacks in an act of globally-reaching calculated conspiracy for imperial conquest?

The CIA and Mossad had nothing to do with 9-11. The Bush Administration did however largely relegate the threat of terrorism to the back-burner, focusing instead on Cold-War-derived foreign policy and defense priorities instead, such as ballistic missile defense. This is largely because of the pre-existing biases of the administration's top officials, including Richard Cheney and Condoleeza Rice, whose entire careers were spent within that context, as well as the "neo-cons" such as Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and Perle, whose nuevo-imperialist vision was cultured in think-tanks such as the Project for a New American Century and the American Enterprise Institute during the interregnum of the Clinton Administration (the famous letter to President Clinton and the infamous Powerpoint Presentation make for good background material).

Note BTW that the neocons' broad statement of principles is largely aligned with my own - where I disagree with them is in the principles left unstated - 1. whether or not promoting freedom abroad can be done through solely military and unilateral means, imposed from without rather than nurtured from within, and 2. whether a "free" country made so by our super-power should be free enough to dissent from sharing our interests.

Did we invade Iraq on information we knew was false, in order to grab Iraqi oil and contracts for Halliburton—or were we honestly but gullibly snookered into an unjust war against an innocent, defenseless country by Ahmed Chalabi's con game?

Oil is cheaper to buy than to invade for or drill for - which puts both the war-for-oil AND the ANWR-ex-machine canards to rest. The current oil market is proof - war inflates the price and draws down the global economy. And as long as Saudi Arabia controls one-fourth of the global reserves, there isn't any country, not even Iraq, that can really make a dent on oil prices. However Saudi Arabia's interest is to NOT let oil prices get too high, which is why they are cooperating with Bush and trying to bring prices down by both increasing short-term production and signaling long-term increases in capacity as well (to affect the futures market, which affects the price at the pump far more).

Let's take a tangent to point out that this speech from the OPEC secretary general (and a separate analysis here) also puts to rest the whole euro-rationale that is also somewhat fashionable.

Why did we wage war on Iraq, then? Deposing Saddam Hussein was to the self-interest of Ahmad Chalabi, and also fit with the long-term ideolgical foreign policy of the neocon policymakers, whose ideas were rejected by former President Bush, I might add. The confluence of interests, coupled with the political capital of 9-11, allowed the invasion to happen, and it was indeed a foregone conclusion. As even the President's supporters such as William Kristol are beginning to recognize, the President's role in the decision has been largely symbolic and aloof - Bush is not a strong leader and his policies are largely delivered to him as set-pieces by his inner circle of advisers. Given that said circle consists of warring factions, there is a definite aspect of schizophrenia to the Administration's policymaking as well.

Committed supporters of Bush tend to take a rosier view, ascribing the lack of leadership to the fog of war or some deeper plan yet to be revealed. Fair enough. However, Bush's the rhetoric of Bush's foreign policy speech was astoundingly divorced from reality, or even basic fact-checking - and the link I provided is not one I expect comitted supporters of Bush to really make an effort to wade through without looking for a minor tangential point to seize upon, "fisk", and declare the entire analysis invalid upon. Stalemate.

Is the Iraq war a distraction from the real War on Terror, which is still taking place in Afghanistan and elsewhere and must instead be given top priority—or is the terrorist threat a trumped-up farce so overblown that the words "al Qaeda" make you wave your hands around and put your voice into that low-pitched "duh" voice and go OoooOOooh, al Qaeda!?

The war on Iraq was a distraction, and has seriously undermined the War on Terror. In so doing, it has become a situation that should we suffer failure (like in Falluja), the War on Terror itself would be further damaged. In that sense, yes the two are linked - only because we made it so. Had we not invaded Iraq, then we would be in a better position. I do not share Bush's (flip-flopped) view that Osama bin Laden is "not a priority". Critical resources and personnel for hunting bin Laden were pulled from Afghanistan and sent to Iraq. And capturing Saddam Hussein did not make America any safer.

However, the war on Terror is indeed being used a a pretext for domestic fear-mongering. You don't hear much about the terror threat level anymore - it wasn't even raised this week despite the grave warnings of imminent potential attacks inside the US. The ultimate goal is to create a Spain-inspired narrative whereby voting against Bush is akin to voting for terrorists.

The terrorist threat is real, and 9-11 was a failure to respond to that threat. The War on Iraq is a failure to respond to the threat. The only way in which Bush seems to be acknowledging the threat is to use it cynically for re-election.

Were the dozens of countries who went to war with us in Iraq fooled and bribed and coerced—or are they in it for the imperialistic conquest like us?

Actually, we have one ally, Britain, which is sending significant troop levels. All other countries represented are largely symbolic and minor contributions and we are paying for all of it. The contrast with the coalition in the first Gulf War is a stark one - especially since Kerry's foreign policy proposals now reflect those of the former President Bush as well.

We are not in this for imperialistic conquest, but for imperialistic control - read the PNAC's statement of goals and letters on their website to see exactly why we are in this. They have a better understanding of why we are in Iraq than Bush does.

Are Muslims in the US the targets of hysterical, McCarthyist-style witch-hunts, complete with pogroms and lynchings—or is the government being so reluctant to pursue an effective, targeted antiterrorism campaign within our borders as to cast doubt on its desire to fight terror at all?

Muslims are not the target of witch-hunts, and the situation is far from dire. But there is a rising tide of hate against muslims that Brian, who loaded his gun the day after 9-11 in case it was needed to protect his muslim neighbor, should recognize. It will get worse before it gets better. I think the example of the Jews suggests that a rising tide of hatred should be alarming well before it reaches actual systematic status.

I have no idea what Brian is getting at with the domestic campaign thing with regard to the Muslim comunity. Perhaps he thinks it was wrong for the FBI to apologize to Mr. Mayfield? I think that with the Patriot Act in place, and the executive branch asserting the power to detain non-citizens indefinitely and revoking the rights of citizens without trial, that it's ridiculous for anyone to claim that the Administration is hamstrung in its ability to fight terror domestically. If anything the government has used the opportunity afforded it by the need for domestic counter-terrorism to make a grab for more discretion than it should be allowed. And it wants to keep that power rather than let it expire.

Was the 2000 election rigged to produce a Bush win (somehow, after a clear dead heat everywhere but Florida)—or is the American populace too stupid and/or evil not to vote for Bush through honest polling?

The 2000 election was decided in Florida, where the voter rolls had been purged of supposed felons but were later found to have been innocent. Since the targets of these purges were largely black, statistically the impact affected Gore worse than Bush. Also, counting the overvotes later, it's clear that Gore carried the state handily. However, by teh rules of the election, Bush won, and I have priased Election 2000 and it's outcome. The real argument is whether Bush united the country under his leadership given the tenous legal margin by which he derived victory. He failed to do so, until 9-11. Afer 9-11, he had many of us "leftists" on board, and eager to be inspired. Since then we have been let down. This is the one thing I fault Bush for the most.

Is the fact that Bush didn't scramble fighter jets as soon as he heard that the 9/11 planes were in the air indicative that he was in on it all along—or was he just too stupid to realize something big was happening, and thought the book he was reading to those third-graders was more fun anyway?

Bush was not in on it all along, the very idea is ludicrous. However, he did not really understand what was happenning and did not really take effective charge that day. The official records and accounts of that day reveal disturbing delays and decisions - as well as contradictions - which reflect poorly on Bush's resolve that day. However, that day is not relevant to this day - 9-11 is over and I do not fault Bush in any way for it, I fault Bush for what he has done since.

Is bringing our troops home the only way to "support" the poor dears—or is it "patriotic" to "support the troops when they frag their commanding officers"?

You can support our troops by demanding that their sacrifice be recognized and honored rather than hidden away and papered over, you can support our troops by expecting that the Republican majority in Congress sacrifice some of their beloved tax cust for the rich in order to properly supply the troops with body armor and equipment they need, you can support our troops by insisting that their sacrifice be invoked for just causes and not at the whim of a small cabal of civilian advisors and an Iraqi con-man with ties to Iran.

The frag-commanding-officers comment is really too mean-spirited and defamatory to even warrant a response.

Is the June 30th sovereignty turnover date a sham that we have no intention of sticking to—or is the war's leadership so incompetent that it doesn't even realize the date is unrealistic?

Yes, it is a sham. The war's leadership is well-aware of this fact, but most of the media is so incompetent that they don't bother to report the truth of the matter. The date is not unrealistic - Sistani and Brahimi both have offerred true proposals for sovereignity that could be achieved, but the decisions ultimately rest with the Administration which is opposed to giving true financial or electoral control to the will of the Iraqi people, preferring the smaller and more-influenceable pool of the Iraqi unelected council.

Is Bush a devious, mad liar with designs on global dictatorship—or a bumbling, babbling idiot who can't tie his shoelaces?

neither. He is a weak leader who is not in control of his Administration, who is largely a symbolic leader with no attention to the neccessary detail of administration and policy that his father and his predecessor did and that President John Kerry will demonstrate.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Wow, this Blogger comment thing is pretty cool. That said, there *was* a sign carried at one of the many, many protests in the run up to the war that said "We support our troops when they shoot their officers." It's a horrible sentiment, yes, and almost certainly a tiny, tiny minority of those in the anti-war movement, but, much as I'd like to believe that it's a complete strawman, such sentiments are out there.