Well, Glenn has put his foot in it this time. See also here. Has there ever been a better demonstration of Instapundit blogospheric hegemony than the recent flap about whether Democratic politicians (and those who oppose the war, generally) are patriotic or are acting in an unpatriotic way? Here’s the bit that, I suppose, started the furor:
BUSH SLAMS HISTORICAL REVISIONISTS ON THE WAR: About time. Jeff Goldstein has more.
And read earlier posts on this subject here and here. Also here.
[And if you’re coming in on a link from elsewhere, be sure to read this later post].
The White House needs to go on the offensive here in a big way — and Bush needs to be very plain that this is all about Democratic politicans pandering to the antiwar base, that it’s deeply dishonest, and that it hurts our troops abroad.
And yes, he should question their patriotism. Because they’re acting unpatriotically.
And, Dean, we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this. The context of the discussion is pretty clear: this war, these politicians, this administration. Raking up old scores about prior administrations, other politicians, and other wars may be true and and are definitely effective in changing the subject but they’re not relevant. At best red herrings and at worst tu quoque fallacies.
I haven’t weighed in on this topic because I don’t happen to think that most of those opposing the war are unpatriotic. I do think that their means are poorly suited to their ends and discussing that will constitute most of the remainder of this post.
I think, however, that Senate Democrats who voted in favor of authorizing the invasion of Iraq and who are now trying to explain their way out of that vote are skating on very thin ice. I think that the preponderance of evidence suggests that the Administration presented the best possible case it could to the Senate for doing what it was convinced was the right thing to do under the circumstances. Subsequent revelations and events may have called the wisdom of that conviction or the details of the case into question but those are all afterthoughts.
Lying has two components: the material of the lie must be untrue and there must be an intent to deceive by telling an untruth. I have yet to see convincing evidence that President Bush knew that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. I doubt that he could have since as best as I can determine we still don’t know for certain whether Saddam Hussein had a few weapons of mass destruction or huge stockpiles which have vanished or active plans for developing them or none at all. It was said four years ago and it’s still true: absence of proof is not proof of absence.
And I haven’t seen convincing evidence that the President intended to deceive the Senate or the American people. I avidly dislike the Bush lied slogan. It’s stupid. And I really believe that it’s shorthand for I detest Bush and all his works which is much less stupid but doesn’t fit on a placard as well.
But I believe that those Senators are on thin ice because they didn’t exercise due diligence in anticipation of the vote and, apparently, made a political calculation to vote Yes. They’re adults and should be willing to take their medicine. If they’re putting political ambition or party loyalty ahead of love of country (in all probability they’ve conflated them), then, yes, they are unpatriotic.
This might be an appropriate time to re-state my own position on the war: I opposed the war in anticipation but I believe that once we had invaded and removed the detestable Saddam Hussein government we were legally, morally, and strategically required to create an environment in which a decent, stable one would replace it.
Prudence requires that we adapt means suitable to that end. Other countries do not understand the degree of openness and self-criticism which we routinely engage in here. We have needed to be much more circumspect in the tone and content of criticism lest it be misunderstood as confusion and weakness. And we shouldn’t demoralize our troops in the field with loose talk. If you are absolutely unable to give open, enthusiastic support to the troops and their mission (which are indivisible), silence is the best recourse. Now. When are boys and girls in the military are out of harms way there will be lots of time for open and even bitter and angry debate.
There are many different strains of thought among those who oppose the war in Iraq and the administration. Some are patiotic. Some are not. For some it’s impossible to determine. Here are a few of those positions.
Those who advocate an immediate withdrawal from Iraq may be patriotic or unpatriotic. If they want to withdraw from Iraq immediately to bring the troops out of harm’s way and don’t give a damn about the consequences, they are patriotic but immoral (and, perhaps, misguided). If they want to withdraw immediately because of the consequences which include the civil war and reprisals which no one can doubt would accelerate in Iraq, a weakening of the American position abroad, and the encouragement it would give to those who wish us ill, they are both unpatriotic and immoral.
Some advocate what I’ll call the Juan Cole plan. The Cole plan is to withdraw Coalition forces from the major Iraqi cities. If most of the insurgency is acting to get the Americans out of Iraq and if the Iraqi police and national guard are capable of subduing the remainder of the insurgency that would attack Iraqis in the cities, this would serve to draw the fire of the insurgency away from innocent Iraqi people. It would make targets of the Coalition forces in Iraq but direct confrontation between the insurgency and our forces is what we want. IMO this position is both patriotic and moral. However, I think it’s mistaken. I think that most of the insurgency either want to restore the status quo ante or a Taliban-style government which is what they’ve done everywhere in Iraq where they’ve actually established control. They’ll keep attacking the Iraqi people whether we’re in the cities or not and withdrawal from the cities will put us at a tactical disadvantage.
Those who want to substitute American forces with UN or NATO forces are deluded but they’re not unpatriotic. They’re deluded because neither the UN nor NATO wants anything to do with Iraq.
Those who don’t want to anything different from what’s being done in Iraq but merely want a Democratic administration to be doing it are just rearguing the 2004 election and, as I have said, are on thin ice. I’m a Democrat but not a highly partisan one and I don’t think it’s self-evident that anything done by a Democrat is ipso facto better than the same thing done by a Republican. That comes very close to substituting the welfare of the party for the welfare of the country and, if so, is unpatriotic.
Are there people who don’t want to change the course in Iraq because it might hurt President Bush or the Republican Party politically? If so, they would be unpatriotic, too.
I’ve tried to be as fair and even-handed as I possibly could in this post. If I’ve misrepresented anything please notify me and, if I’m convinced, I’ll correct it. If you can delineate other positions that I haven’t noted here, point them out and I’ll add them to the mix.
You should focus on what Reynolds was actually saying in your quote, not in what you project him as saying. Here is the quote: Bush needs to be very plain that this is all about Democratic politicans pandering to the antiwar base, that it’s deeply dishonest, and that it hurts our troops abroad.
And yes, he should question their patriotism. Because they’re acting unpatriotically.
He is referring to democratic politicians pandering to the antiwar base.
By that, he is referring to the politicians who are broadcasting the “Bush lied” and “the Iraq war is immoral” and otherwise broadcasting a message to the troops that what they are doing is wrong, futile, counterproductive, and likely to end up like Viet Nam. In other words, those who are encouraging the terrorist arabs and discouraging the coalition troops and the pro-democracy arabs.
Yes, Ron, that’s why I included that precise quote (with a little additional context) and addressed it, as well. I’ve expanded on the thought a bit.
And note that I take considerable pains to list how and why Democratic Senators (in particular) are on thin ice in their criticisms.
The amusing thing that may have escaped Reynolds and other right wing bloggers, is that accusing these people of being unpatriotic is not an insult to them. They generally despise the concept of patriotism. Calling them patriots would be a far worse insult, in their minds. The only problem they have with being depicted accurately, is that the voting public might take a contrary view toward politicians who were openly anti-american. Thus the faux indignation at being called unpatriotic. Amusing.
For all the whining about being lied to, I wonder if there’s something else more fundamental at play here. By insisting that they were misled into war, they are separating themselves from its consequences. Clearly they want to detach themselves from any moral responsibility over US casualties and losses suffered by the Iraqi people. But are they also separating themselves from the other results of the war?
If going to war was based on a lie, then the removal a blood-thirty tyrant, the liberation of millions, the birth of democracy in the Middle East were all based on a lie, and therefore regrettable? For all their rhetoric supporting democratic principles, human rights, and universal freedoms, their follow-thru seek to avoid confrontation or risk in any form. In my neck of the woods, we call that cowardice. Much of the criticism of the war is just a mask for intellectual dishonesty and self-indulgent moralizing without cost. They’re worse than unpatriotic. They’re unprincipled and hypocrites of the highest order. May history quickly forget them!
he is referring to the politicians who are broadcasting the “Bush lied” and “the Iraq war is immoral” and otherwise broadcasting a message to the troops that what they are doing is wrong, futile, counterproductive, and likely to end up like Viet Nam.
You comment suggests that the Iraq War is not immoral, and please, do you really think that Bush is honest? So your argument is paper thin, and arbitrary…. you think the Iraq War is immoral, yet it is NOT unpatriotic to oppose it!
It’s all MORE to do with impatience and expediency, dismantling the Hussein regime can bring good things to the world, but I have NO qualms, NO problems, NO questions to anyone opposing the war…so those that want to claim that you’re unpatriotic or an enemy, are being childish, selfish, impatient, and just plain STUPID.
If you have conviction and wisdom, you can ACCEPT the other side, be a grown-up and understand how to live with opposition. If you can’t, you’re a tyrant of your own miserable world.
I don’t believe the Bush Administration lied when it claimed Saddam Hussein had WMD. But I do believe they lied. Frequently.
1. They lied when they exagerated the relationship of Saddam Hussein to Al Queda. Yes, one existed – no, it was not significant or collaborative.
2. They lied when they warned of nuclear WMD.
3. They lied by exaggerating the urgency of the threat to the United States.
4. They lied each time they re-stated uncertain intelligence in certain terms. “We know where the WMD are.” – Rumsfeld
5. They lied when they tried to tie Saddam Hussein to 9/11.
When an Administration (any Administration, not just this one) sells something, untruths will inevitable be told – both intentionally and unintentionally. Those who believe that the Bush Administration is somehow an exception to this natural order of things need to make a convincing argument as to why that should be the case. I haven’t heard one yet.
There’s a useful delineation that avoids generalization.
It’s odd how it always applies only to others, though, but when people apply it to us, they’re missing the huge and necessary distinctions to be made. I just don’t know why that is.
Gary, perhaps it is because you people totally lack insight into your own thought processes.
LawrenceB unintentionally lies, and lies frequently, when he exaggerates the lies told by the Bush administration.
johnnyr’s comment is totally incoherent. he/she desperately needs an editor if he/she intends to continue commenting.
And where is that king-twit loonsberry? He’s always good for a bit of color commentary.
“For all their rhetoric supporting democratic principles, human rights, and universal freedoms, their follow-thru seek to avoid confrontation or risk in any form. In my neck of the woods, we call that cowardice.”
Indeed. In your neck of the woods, people who boldly champion war while taking all actions possible to avoid risking their own life and limbs are the heroes.
Please go to milblogging.com and ask for their opinions. Please.
One other position I can think of:
They want more troops, and even more aggressive action, in order to passify all of Iraq. Only then, they believe, can Americans safely come home.
Otherwise, I think you offer an insightfull, well thought analysis of various positions.
And it’s obvious that some people don’t read to well.
“my own position on the war: I opposed the war in anticipation but I believe that once we had invaded and removed the detestable Saddam Hussein government we were legally, morally, and strategically required to create an environment in which a decent, stable one would replace it.”
Seems clear enough to me. We inherited the mess, and now must do our best to “fix” it.
Yes, Ron, many who would think of themselves as Transnational Progressives would indeed be insulted at being called a patriot. It seems such a low, common virtue that even peasants could have. It can’t be a good value if it doesn’t require a subscription to NYTRB to acquire.
Still, there are others who would very much like to see themselves as patriotic — union Democrats and Roosevelt Democrats, for openers. I see them as voters of habit who have ceased to think things through rather than unpatriotic.
The third group, which has some definition of patriotism that I don’t recognize, but keeps getting insulted even when no one’s insulting them, suggests an analogy: If a young man kept insisting, unprompted and a propos of nothing “I am not gay. How dare you question my masculinity? You must be gay yourself to call me that. I’m completely straight,” wouldn’t you begin to wonder who he was trying to convince? And further, what it was that he disliked about gay people to consider identification with them an insult?
The most reprehensible conduct I’ve seen to date lies in the middle management of the CIA.
Just today the LA Times had an expose about “Curveball”, the primary source on bio weapons, who was being managed by the Germans. Germany is now claiming they warned the CIA that his info was suspect. Why they’re telling us now, three years after the fact, is a bit troubling. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence also found that some in the CIA had doubts about Curveball. One transport route he described would have gone right through a wall, for example.
But, like anything else which contradicted the Saddam-WMD conventional wisdwom, it was ignored. So George Tenet, the CIA’s director was kept in the dark about these doubts. Colin Powell relied on him on the eve of his U.N. presentation. The President was told it was a “slam dunk”. Apparently, these middle managers were afraid to reveal just how thin their evidence was. If they had told the truth: “We don’t know what Saddam is doing on WMD”, we probably still would have removed Saddam and wouldn’t have this black eye.
Worse has been how these managers reacted afterward. They started leaking information about how these warnings were ignored, trying to shift the blame onto the President. There is, of course, no way to check out any of these accusations from anonymous sources regarding classified matters.
While the CIA was hiding these doubts, they still approved every word of every speech by the President. If you read the Senate Committee’s report, in the chapter concerning Joe Wilson, it details the process by which Presidential speeches are reviewed by all intelligence agencies and any suspect language is taken out.
The President, therefore, did not say anything that wasn’t the consensus view of the Intelligence community. If he was lying, if he knew Saddam didn’t have WMD stockpiles, it would be very interesting to know where he could have gotten that information.
The President did not imply Saddam was behind 9-11. He said the opposite: “Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans — this time armed by Saddam Hussein” clearly ruling out that the 9-11 hijackers were tied to Saddam. In fact, right after 9-11 a large majority of Americans thought Saddam was involved in 9-11. By the start of the war, this had dwindled to a minority. That is the opposite of what the President has been accused of doing.
The 2003 State of the Union Address really put us on the path to war. Everything that came after was repetition or amplification of that speech. Looking back at it is interesting. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/01/20030128-23.html There were a lot more questions than accusations. Lots of quotes from UN reports. Most of the charges against Saddam were that he “hadn’t accounted” for materials he admitted producing. 30,000 chemical weapons shells, nerve agent precursors, etc. Even the war resolution enacted by Congress emphasized Saddam’s non-compliance with treaties, inspections, etc. WMD were there, but certainly not the only charge.
I recall getting into numerous discussion about “pre-emption” in the run-up to the war. I think those of us supporting intervention talked about the justification of pre-emption quite a lot.
Apparently we were mistaken in that memory. We are assured by our betters that everything hinged on WMD, and to think otherwise is to be a sycophantic Bush supporter.
Funny, though. Google agrees with me that those conversations occurred.
There is constructive criticism and there is criticism which aids the enemy. One may oppose the war and attempt to persuade others with reason, logic and the truth. However I have not seen anything other than wild posturing from the anti war crowd-War for oil, Jews, etc. On the fringes we see the Saddam wasn’t a threat and had no ties to terrorism despite all evidence to the contrary.
There is no reasoning with such people. Yet when such opposition encourages the other side to continue a struggle what can one describe it as except as unpatriotic. If Americans are maimed and killed through such opposition I find it difficult to count myself among those who find such opposition laudible or patriotic.
Dissent is not license nor is it divorced from responsibility. I wonder what the emembers of the Vietnamese community have to say about the Vietnam anti war community effect on the war.
If there is a lesson to be learned it is that a declaration of war should have been obtained so that such dissent could have been treated for what it is during wartime.