Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Friday, December 30, 2005

This Never Gets Old…

This Never Gets Old…
© 2005 Ross Williams

Facts are neutral things. The sky is blue; clouds are white; rain is wet; snow is cold. These impart absolutely no partisan agenda. It's only when you get into politics does the sky turn pink, clouds magenta, rain becomes dry and snow tepid.[1]

Yes, we’re doing Iraq again.

I've had a series of recent conversations with Iraq protesters, regrouped and on the hunt, who have decided that Up is Down and 2+2=6.5. I laughed; I stood gape-jawed; and, because such displays of Extreme History Makeover are just so farcical, I laughed again.

The New and Improved History goes something like this:

1] Iraq never attacked the US[2]

2] Iraq never "seriously threatened to attack" the US

3] Really, all the claims that Iraq was "bad" are grossly exaggerated; all the mass graves? from the Iran-Iraq war – even those which pre- and post-date it, and besides, the Kurds were gassed by Iran

4] Cease-fires can't be unilaterally enforced; and the US has never done so, especially with regard to Iraq

5] Even though Hussein was an odious tyrant[3], we don't go around deposing odious tyrants, ever

and the clincher, from a self-described Liberal Democrat: 6] Come to think of it, Clinton's Desert Fox operation in 1998 really was a Blue Dress War.[4]

Add these to the standard canards of:
illegal war
permission is required to enforce cease-fires
Iraq never supported terrorism
even if Iraq supported terrorism, they didn’t support al Qaida, so that changes everything
the nations which supported al Qaida are our “friends”
so why aren’t we fighting them
…and you come away drunk with delusion. No wonder many of these people think Up is Down.

Where do you start with folks so intent on deceiving themselves? “Oh, Bush lied to us!!!” And you’re going to make it all better by lying to yourselves? How does that work?

Yes, Bush played politics. Bush played politics on war to a nation full of people who mostly do not understand war, or the diplomacy behind it. It is understandable that these people, ignorant of war and diplomacy, believed the politics they were fed; it is even further understandable that these people got frustrated and outraged once learning that they were politicked by a politician.

But none of that leads inevitably to the solution of: let us now lie to ourselves and invent our own fantasy world to make up for being duped into living the politician’s fantasy.

The opposite of fantasy is not more fantasy.[5]

Bush played politics. Wow! Stop the presses!

Bush played politics; millions of non-experts fooled. What are the odds?!

Non-experts fight politics with more politics. You don’t say!

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the hypocrisy involved. Politics is the process of ruling through expedient lies. Millions of people hate being lied to so much that they respond by lying right back. I’ve got kids, they do that too; children of all ages do. Even voting-age children. Here’s my foolish idealism slipping out: I consider such childish and petulant nanny-booing to be beneath the honor and dignity of adults in America. Silly, silly me.

But we’re still left with millions of militarily non-expert voters righteously indignant that they were politicked by a politician, calling that politician a liar for playing politics, and they’re politicking right back. And – get this – they’re doing it in the interest of “honesty”. It’s almost enough to make the truly honest turn hermit.[6]

Almost. This honest man doesn’t turn tail. So here we go again[7]:

Iraq never attacked the US. Patently false. Iraq attacked US aircraft patrolling the No-Fly Zones on an average of 4 to 5 times per year between 1991 and 2002. Under international protocol, a nation’s warships and warplanes are sovereign parts of that nation, no matter where they are on the planet; ditto a nation’s diplomatic missions.[8]

Iraq attacked our aircraft[9] by actually shooting at our planes – they always missed – hence they attacked the US. Iraq also attacked the US by locking their integrated targeting radar onto our aircraft. This is the radar that is connected directly to their surface-to-air missiles. Essentially, they pointed a gun at us. Ask a cop what the standard procedure is when someone points a gun at him. He doesn’t ask if it’s loaded; he shoots.

We shot. We hit.

But now we get to the subtext: we shouldn’t have been there in the first place because our job isn’t to be the world’s policeman. What can I tell you? I largely agree with that opinion. But my agreement with an opinion doesn’t alter the factual reality: we are the world’s policeman. Whenever there’s a squabble between two nations, to whom does the world usually turn to make sure they stop squabbling? The US of A.

The US was implored by The World Community® to stick around Korea after the truce there – we’ve been there over 50 years and can’t leave. We are continually asked to go and “keep the peace” in Haiti; we’ve come and gone so often that we no longer bother with Change of Address cards, we’ve rented a Post Office box; and we’re there once again. We were asked, separately, to referee the Serb-Bosnian truce [for the UN] and the Serb-Kosovo truce [for NATO]; we’re still there as well. And we were asked in 1991 to provide the main muscle in the UN’s “containment” of Iraq following the 1991Gulf War cease-fire. The way it was shaping up, we would have been babysitting Iraq for 50 years as well.

Whether we should be the world’s policeman or not, the fact is: we are. Pretending otherwise is dishonest.

…which leads to the subtext under the subtext: the No-Fly Zones are illegal, and we had no right to impose them. Remember when the UN asked us to be the main military force in the Iraqi containment? We gave conditions: one condition was a Northern No-Fly, another was a Southern No-Fly. The UN Security Council – including France and Syria, by the way – voted on that and approved it. We didn’t “impose” No-Fly zones; we said that we’d babysit Iraq only if there were No-Fly Zones, and the UN wanted us to guard Iraq so much that the UN imposed them.

Iraq never seriously threatened to attack the US. This is qualitative. It’s a judgment call. What do you consider “seriously”? besides actually shooting at our military, of course. In 1993 al Qaida declared war on the US. The US, for all intents and purposes, laughed. Who the hell was this “Al Qaida” anyway? Izzat short for “Albert”? “Alvin”?

Turns out it was just one of dozens of groups of hotheads sore because Iraq lost a war and the UN required someone to babysit. The US was the babysitter, and we sat in Saudi Arabia, home of Mecca, which is like a mecca to Muslims.[10]

Iraq did threaten the US. As did al Qaida in 1993. Even Bill Clinton declared that ignoring Iraq’s threats after 9-11 would have been irresponsible. He did not go so far as to state that addressing those threats required a full-scale invasion of Iraq, though. He strongly suggested a more moderate military response.

“Moderate”, to Clinton, from all the evidence to be culled from his two terms, would very likely have been to fling cruise missiles at one of the many Hussein palaces, and then run off to hide behind the bushes[11]. But perhaps, if left to conventional military minds, something both moderate and effective might have been thunk up.

All the claims that Iraq was bad are grossly exaggerated. Compared to what and according to whom? There isn’t a single human rights group in the world – including the UN, which now boasts Cuba and Libya on its oversight committee – which considered claims of Iraq’s tortures, gassings and disappearings to be “exaggerated” in 2003. Not one. The most conservative estimate of Iraqis killed by Hussein for sport was 500,000, and they topped out at 2 million. Those estimates are now coming down to the range of 100,000 to 250,000, with a few tens of thousands found.

There isn’t a single one of those organizations which is dismissing the mass graves as Iran-Iraq war casualties, or the gassed Kurds as Iranian action. The Iranian connection to the gassed Kurds originated entirely within the US anti-war movement citing speculation-as-fact for its evidence. Fragments of metal found at the gassed Kurd cites had markings which the US, among other nations and including France, Russia, China and Germany, puts on its military shells – a stray letter here, a common symbol there. Iran had Shah-era US shells.

Now, jump with me to the conclusions they leap to: Even though dozens of nations have these specific markings on its shells, only American shells could possibly have been used, because it is convenient for them to believe so; because it is convenient to believe they were American shells, they obviously came from Iran. Ergo, Iran gassed the Kurds.

The obvious problems with this theory are the hundreds of Kurdish survivors who named the Iraqi soldiers who gassed them; Iraq was known to have had Russian chemical weapons and French, German, Russian and Chinese shell casings [mostly French] – which used the same markings that were found. Even if they were US shells, they could just as easily have come from Turkey, which also had US shells as well as a severe dislike of the Kurds. But in the final analysis, it is simply fun and easy to pile onto Iran today, which is the most plausible reason for the American war protesters doing so.

The UN dislikes Iran; the European Union dislikes Iran. American war protesters have spent the last three years parroting both the UN and the EU, and they’ve adopted the UN/EU worldview: the US is always wrong, Iraq is blameless, and Iran is bad. Hence, the shell casings which had markings to be found on any number of nations’ artillery shells have been winnowed, through craven desire, to be American shells used by Iran.

How convenient.

The US has never unilaterally enforced the Gulf War cease-fire. This is simply preposterous. The US has unilaterally – that is, by itself and on its own – enforced the Gulf War cease-fire dozens of times between 1991 and 2002. There is only one cease-fire enforcement which was not unilateral, and that was in March of 2003 when the US, the UK, Australia, Poland, Spain, Italy and a handful of other nations invaded.

The largest number of unilateral cease-fire enforcement incidents ordered by a US President was ordered by Bill Clinton. Clinton was president for 8 of the 12 years of the UN’s Iraqi containment operation, so it would stand to reason he’d have the most cause – and therefore the most opportunity. He did. He used it. Often.

Even though Hussein was an odious tyrant, we never go around deposing odious tyrants. Sure we do. And we have for years and years and years. Crack a history book.

We deposed odious tyrants trying to re-rule Texas in the 1840s, thus permitting Texas to remain independent of Mexico as well as liberating other Mexican territories – possibly not coincidentally.

We deposed the odious Spanish tyrants ruling Cuba and the Philippines in 1898.

We deposed an odious Hitler and an odious Tojo in the 1940s.

We deposed the odious Noriega in 1989 and the odious Cuban usurper to the Grenadan throne a few years before.

We deposed the odious Slobo Milosovic who was tyrannizing the upstart and quarrelsome Kosovs in 1999.

We deposed the odious Taliban in 2001.

And we deposed the odious Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The US has a long and storied history of deposing odious tyrants. So much so, in fact, that it’s become trivially easy for us. Time was, the deposition of an odious tyrant took months of warfare and years of occupation. The US was never big on occupation, so we would normally settle on depose-only. The exception was the Philippines, which took years of war to completely wrest from Spanish colonial hands, and then decades more to wrest from local odious-wanna-bes. It’s not a coincidence that Douglas Macarthur was in Manila in December of 1941 with a few thousand US soldiers and vowed to return after being evicted by the Japanese.

If the criticism is that we don’t depose all odious tyrants, then that is indeed a fact. We don’t depose all odious tyrants. We’d be deposing day and night if we were to try, and 90% of the world would end up deposed. And thereupon pissed off. For odious is in the mind of the beholder, and that which we find odious may not be odious to others, and is certainly not odious to those we claim are.

The Taliban undoubtedly considered itself the model of moral rectitude, wanting only what was good for all its subjects – which is to say, strict obedience to Sharia and strict islamic punishments for disobedience. How much more moral can you get than beheading adulterous women? I mean, really; it’s a slam-dunk.

Saddam Hussein, odious ex-tyrant that he is, on those days he actually goes to his own trial, is shouting at the top of his lungs that it is the United States and its zionist puppeteers who are odious and not himself. Iraq, being blameless and all, he must be right. Right?

Slobo made a post-odious career out of shouting at his trial, only with him it was not merely the US which was odious, it was all of NATO. How dare the odious NATOists interrupt his non-odious, neo-Titoist obliteration of ethnic minorities?

But the critics are right. We don’t depose all odious tyrants, so therefore the critics conclude that we shouldn’t depose any, and especially not the one we just deposed. Well, happy day! we’ve finally struck honest difference of opinion, as opposed to the intellectual land mines of false “facts”. Not deposing certain odious tyrants can be national suicide,[12] while deposing other odious tyrants can be for bald-faced and rapacious self-interest[13] as well as for noble high-mindedness[14], or anything in between. But before the honest discussion of opinion differences can occur, an acceptance of fact must be met.

The most pertinent source of fact for discussions relating to history is from History itself. And History dictates that nations who can do so will depose certain odious tyrants and not others. The US will never depose all odious tyrants. Just those who piss us off. Which makes us no different from any other nation at any other time in history who had the ability to depose odious tyrants.

Clinton's Desert Fox operation in 1998 really was a Blue Dress War. This baffled me. I’m used to partisan dopes chasing their own tails in circular logic, and I’m used to seeing political winds reversing course over the span of a few generations – today’s liberals become tomorrow’s conservatives – but this is truly a first for me. A partisan dope has gotten so confused that he’s taken to chasing his current ideological opponent’s tail in order to rationalize his current fantasy.

As near as I can figure, this is how it goes:
1] It is critical to believe that the US could not take unilateral action against Iraq[15]; the allowance for unilateral action means that the US might have been allowed to invade Iraq irrespective of the claims made by Bush. Hence, argue against all legitimizations for unilateral action.
2] Clinton took notorious unilateral action against Iraq in late 1998. The Clinton Administration claimed the action was in response to Iraq refusing to guarantee the safety of UN weapons inspectors as required by the cease fire, and allowing those inspectors to be threatened, harassed and assaulted while in Iraq, thus causing the UN to vacate Iraq. Many Republicans claimed that the operation was a “wag the dog” diversion from Clinton’s domestic problems – namely, he was being impeached.[16]
3] There isn’t an American Liberal Democrat alive who did not support Clinton’s Desert Fox campaign at the time it was occurring. The common top-of-the-lung statements made were: Iraq violated the rules; the bombing has nothing to do with the impeachment; you’re just jealous of Clinton, you neo-con.

Contrast that with today. Someone who claims to be a Liberal Democrat is denying everything Liberal Democrats believed only seven short years ago: Clinton was not allowed to engage Iraq for something as trivial as the cease-fire-violating expulsion of the UN, therefore it was a “wag the dog” and the Republicans were right – in 1998.[17]

He’s either not a Liberal Democrat, in which case he’s lying. Or he’s dishonestly changing his story to cover his current beliefs, in which case he’s lying again, but to himself mostly. Politics make strange bedfellows, and this guy’s in bed with the memory of the folks who impeached his beloved Clinton because he hates Bush more than Clinton’s impeachment.


In the end, it’s better to stick to facts. Facts will sometimes be used to prop up policies you don’t like. Just as often, though, the same facts can be used to argue against those disliked policies. Inventing facts is an anti-intellectual shortcut. What happens when you take the shortcut to supporting your notions is that, like these people, you come away looking and sounding like an idiot.

[1] Don’t laugh; listening to many of our Global Warmers, snow has gotten much warmer and rain considerably drier.
[2] a common factual error, and not new; just reinvigorated. Reinvented, if you will.
[3] this was offered by a different person than proposed that Hussein was really not bad at all
[4] a Blue Dress played a particularly prominent role in Clinton’s impeachment, and Desert Fox was sardonically known, in certain circles, as the Blue Dress War – alright, I called it that to whomever I spoke with
[5] unless it is. In the world of the blind, the one-eyed man is thought insane by popular opinion. But I’m used to it by now.
[6] Diogenes, meet Thoreau
[7] Diogenes, meet Sisyphus
[8] Iran attacked the US in 1979 when they allowed their citizens to invade the US embassy and detain the US diplomatic staff. Carter could have started military action… Real military action; not Desert One.
[9] Iraq also attacked Great Britain a few times, too, and they responded as we did.
[10] Go figure
[11] …or behind the Bushes, perhaps…
[12] Ref. WWII’s Hitler and Tojo
[13] Ref. Mexican-American War
[14] Ref. Kosov campaign and Grenada
[15] Never mind that the action – i.e., the invasion of Iraq by upward of a dozen nations – was not unilateral; this is my best interpretation of his thinking process, such as it may be, and I am obliged to use his terms.
[16] The Iraqi expulsion of the UN and the Articles of Impeachment coincided most serendipitously from a cosmic irony perspective
[17] Partisan Politics Rule #17: the other party is only right in the past


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