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April 15, 2004

Well said. Mark Kleiman, meet Josh Marshall.

I was thinking of inquiring, myself, on exactly what moral authority we ought to be lecturing Spaniards about how to comport themselves. But Marshall gets more to the point. [02:35 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Well said.:

Anna FDD ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 05:15 PM:

The headlines are made by other news here - and people are wondering how come the Japanese get freed and the Italians get killed. The Italian hostage family, btw, got the news from the TV. While the Foreign Minister saw it fit to remain seated on a live talk show instead of, say, go back to his office and make the phone call first and personally. He seems to have mistaken TV for reality: he said with a hurt expression that it seemed more important to him to face the TV viewers than to "hide in a cushy office".

It seems that on the video Al Jazeera says it's too crude to air the guy tried to get his hood off and screams defiantly "Look, this is how an Italian dies." Poor kid. He was a baker's son, and apparently needed money to get married, which is why he ended up in Iraq.

Mark Kleiman ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 05:19 PM:

Who's lecturing? I was hoping, and found my hopes justified.

This story is worth attending to because splitting off Europe from the U.S. is obviously an al-Qaeda objective, and not obviously infeasible. Undeniably, there is a strand of European opinion that thinks that Islamist terrorism is a problem due to Israeli and American policies, and that if Europe disowned those policies it could free itself from danger.

It's good news that the European governments aren't playing. And those Americans who have spent the past three years coming up with inventive new insults directed at Europeans ought to acknowledge that.

A Alexander Stella ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 06:43 PM:

Gotta admit. Being of Italian descent, I was uplifted by whoever tattled on al-Jazeera. So far as I'm concerned, whatever foreign governments decide is whatever they decide.

Maybe, we'll elect a president who'll decide to delivr a sensible and "actionable" state of the union.

I'd like you to consider reading the text for a "state of the union" address that I believe is imperative for this country of ours. To get to it, all you need do is click on the below enclosed U.R.L

http://www.bcvoice.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=205


By the way, the proprietors of the www.BCVoice.com website have provided a couple ways for you to leave your comments.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 06:49 PM:

The louder Europe is in spurring this inane offer, the more shame and discomfort the rancid right will feel.

Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 07:33 PM:

We oughtn't be lecturing them. But many on the American right have been lecturing them, and saying dumb things about appeasement, and now we have, at the very least, a clear-cut case to point to: Osama bin Laden offered to let Europeans appease him, and a whole lot of European governments instantly declined. I don't suppose this will convince anyone who regards the EU as a collection of Vichy regimes, but it clears the air.

Why, Marshall asked, is CNN acting as if the public is made up of circus idiots? Well, the public isn't made up of circus idiots, but there are an amazing number of circus idiots who write op-ed columns.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 08:17 PM:

The louder Europe is in spurring this inane offer, the more shame and discomfort the rancid right will feel

Nah.

I'm sure they'll find some way to fit it into their world view.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 10:30 PM:

I'm quite happy to see Europe give al Qaeda the finger, but with all due respect to the frequently insightful Mark Kleiman, I found his initial suggestion that the Spanish--still reeling from their own grief--have a particular obligation to cater to American geopolitical convenience to be just a bit much to take.

My basic take is that quite a few European countries, definitely including Spain, have been enduring (and fighting back against) violent terrorism for years before 9/11. The way Americans talk about those countries and their people as if they have something to prove to us on that issue is simply insufferable. Where the hell were we when their people were being butchered by "terrorism"? Paying a heck of a lot less attention than Europe paid to America in our hour of grief, I'll tell you that.

Yes, it's nice that the newly-elected Spanish socialist government told al Qaeda to stuff it. But they did it for themselves, and rightly so. They don't owe us squat. As Jim Henley has observed, once upon a time part of "conservative" wisdom was the realization that other countries also have conservatives. Nobody seems to remember that any more. Over here in the United States of Reality Distortion Zone, it's now all about us.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 11:30 PM:

Three months before 9/11, Patrick was wandering around London with Avedon Carol and Rob Hansen. After a while, he became aware that something had been bothering him. "Are there no wastebaskets in London?" he said.

"Bombs," Rob said succinctly.

In London, you never get asked to check your backpack. The occasional public notice tells you to please not leave parcels lying around, and report any unattended parcels you happen to notice.

Rob and Avedon live a couple of miles or so from the site of the Docklands bomb explosion of 1996, but it still shook their house. The Harrods bomb of late 1983 was smaller, but particularly memorable because it went off in the landmark department store a week before Christmas. There've been dozens of major terrorist actions since then. They live with this stuff all the time. Lots of countries do. They all have policies that assume it's a constant possibility.

I think it's embarrassingly naive to think the European states' reaction must necessarily be interpreted as their refusal to be split from the United States. Osama bin Laden is neither a head of state nor an official in any recognized government. He's a much-hunted international terrorist whose word is not to be relied on, whose movement isn't big on law or justice, and whose base of operations got blown to smithereenies a while back. Why should any of those European governments legitimize him by making a truce with him? Power treats with power. Josh Marshall is right to call bin Laden's announcement a publicity stunt.

I swear, if the Versailles Treaty negotiations were held tomorrow, we'd give the farm away all over again. Do you suppose we're ever going to get the hang of this international relations thing?

...

Anna, I was truly sorry to hear about that unfortunate young man -- and what a startlingly traditional thing for him to have said! It was brave of him, but I'd rather nobody ever had to be brave like that.

bryan ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 12:38 AM:

well since I spend about half of time thinking that OBL is a paid agent of the Bushies, who has been ferried into hiding at some cushy resort and makes statements when it looks like it will benefit his employers, and who will be declared dead about a month before the election and some lookalike corpse delivered up...

hey, c'mon don't look at me like that - you know it makes sense.

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 12:59 AM:

"I swear, if the Versailles Treaty negotiations were held tomorrow, we'd give the farm away all over again"

Teresa, which aspect of the Versailles Treaty were you referring to? In my history lessons we mainly heard about how:
   a) the penalties on Germany were something that, in various ways, gave rise to some of the economic and mental conditions that helped the rise of fascism & start WW II;
   b) it was the first time Australia had been noticed much in international diplomacy.
(Tho' as we boasted last year in our Centennial of Women's Suffrage {womens'?} the women of lagging nations like USA or UK used Oz & NZ as sucessful examples during their 20+ further years of struggle for The Vote.)

I don't know how US historians view their country's part in it, or its consquences.

Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 03:44 AM:

Mark Kleiman: "Who's lecturing? I was hoping, and found my hopes justified." "It's good news that the European governments aren't playing."

If you ever thought there was the slightest possibility we would, then you don't know us at all.

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 05:21 AM:

Mark, do you understand why "I hope you're not going to beat up your wife now" is almost as insulting a question as the classic version?

Scott Martens ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 07:45 AM:

Mark - I commented on your piece on A Fistful of Euros. I'm not trying to be critical of you either, but there was never any prospect of this truce happening under any circumstances. It's not a matter of European honour or right to criticism. Continents don't have honour, nor do nations. There are totally cynical reasons for never having thought once, much less twice, about whether it might be better to agree to it.

I think the grand mistake was to respond to this so-called offer at all, but then, I think it was a mistake to think of this conflict as a war with soldiers and guns in the first place. Simply letting Bin Laden act like an enemy sovereign with the power to make peace hands him a meaningful victory.

Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 08:36 AM:

Yeah, I guess Rob Hansen cuts right to the point. Of course this was going to be the reaction. The only reason that anyone could believe otherwise is an overdose on "Old Europe" chest-beating, and it's pretty sad that some people in the US actually need positive evidence. But they do.

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 10:02 AM:

Some years back, following bombings by Algerians, Chris & I were in Paris in their Spring.

Audibly, though, it was Autumn. Everywhere in busy public places drifts of rustling rubbish blew about in the breeze, just like fallen leaves. It was a real feature, & a lasting memory of the place.

Although the government had greatly expanded streetcleaning by cute little green machines & green-clad men with green plastic-fibre brooms, it could not replace the garbage bins removed or sealed off by metal plates because of the bombings. And for some reason, not enough people were prepared to not drop their garbage.

Rat-running our way through the Metro passages we'd run into the armed guards, which in those days was a shock to Australians. Then there was the little back street where we suddenly turned a corner and saw a fully-armed, machine-gun holding (Umm, with respect to the armaments experts, Chris held more of that info than I do. Could have been automatic carbine or summat. Ask me about plants.) bandolier-wearing uniformed soldier. He was outside Air Algeria - or whatever its name really was.

It was noticeable that our offical tour of Ireland went nowhere near or north of the border of Eire ... and I tried not to be too paranoid in London, having read the autobiography of the head of the bomb defusing squad (grr it's annoying being away from my books).

It was all a reminder that Australia, like the USA, felt very far away and protected from that kind of violence

Derek James ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 10:10 AM:

If you ever thought there was the slightest possibility we would, then you don't know us at all.

Gosh, yes. How could anybody think such a thing...?

A sampling of comments from Europeans on bin Laden's "truce", from the BBC site. Most repudiate the stunt, but there are quite a few of these, too many to ignore:

Why be so stubborn and not negotiate with him? We have a golden opportunity to make peace then why not seize it. If a terrorist can wish for peace so can we civilized people too.
Saqib Ali, Denmark

To all the people here who talk about signs of "weakness" and the like, take a step back from your offensive, take a nap, maybe some coffee and relax. Then start thinking. The Man says "Stop spilling our blood so we can Stop spilling Your Blood". I really don't know if a more simpler statement can be made. Seize the moment.
Mohammed I, Birmingham, UK

It is amazing how easily all the war fanatics on both sides of the Atlantic reject simple truths! How easily they forget that it is Americans, Israelis and some European governments, against the wish of their voters, that invaded Arab territory and not the other way round. Shame on our new Western "civilisation"!
Theo, Athens, Greece

Why not? He asks to "stop attacking Muslims" and this should be done anyway.
Robert, Warszawa

As a British Muslim, I have no wish to see terrorist atrocities perpetrated by al-Qaeda anywhere in the UK, either on my beloved friends and family, or on anyone else. So, if British intelligence agencies can negotiate a truce, I can walk safely in London once again.
Hasna Fateh, London, United Kingdom

If the offer proves to be authentic, then Europe should consider it. It turns out that the "hatred against the Western world" is really a hatred against the US and their allies.
Dominic van der Zypen, Berne, Switzerland

Absolutely. This is an American "war" (their words!) and anything to remove the threat of terrorism from Europe should be welcomed.
Al, Bristol, England

NelC ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 10:17 AM:

It's an interesting thing: Blair and Blunkett have been trying to periodically raise public awareness (or stoke the fires of public paranoia) by warning us all that it's inevitable that AQ will strike in Britain at some point. But the general reaction is, "Yeah, so?"

Not apathy, you understand, so much as a grim recognition that it's nothing new. The PIRA have been bombing the British mainland since the 70's, as Teresa says. We've been fighting terrorism for decades; when the American president suddenly declares war on terror, we're like "Where have you been, mate?" [For extra marks reparse the proceeding using the words Algerians & France, ETA & Spain, RAF (Red Army Faction) & Germany, etc, etc.]

What's such a crying shame is when the US administration ignores this wealth of experience, including how to occupy and secure a country where the populace is at best a mixture of fanatically supportive and militantly hostile. It's not as though we speak a foreign language over here. Not quite.

Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 11:22 AM:

Al Qaeda's publicity stunt aside, isn't it the case that Europe should be separating itself from the USA, or at least the incompetent, dangerous junta that is currently running it?

A friend left last week on a trip to Europe. Debbie told her it would be a good idea for her to wear or display a peace symbol, to show that not all Americans were behind the Bush gang. I immediately chimed in: "Not a peace symbol; a maple leaf."

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 11:25 AM:

Epacris, one of the reasons for the founding of the Council on Foreign Relations was a general sense among America's power elite, in the immediate aftermath of WWI, that they needed to get up to speed on this "foreign affairs" stuff. The provinciality of pre-Great War America, its insulation from the power politics of Europe, can scarcely be overstated.

I suspect that's what Teresa was referring to.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 12:21 PM:

Epacris, "women's" was correct.

This has been a message from your local Grammar Gods. Go thou and do likewise.

Mark Kleiman ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 12:28 PM:

I hope all of those who have been scolding me for my rudeness and/or condescending to my ignorance will read Derek James's comment. I expressed the hope that European governments would rush to disabuse bin Laden of the notion that they could be chivvied into making a separate peace with him. They did so. Good.

If I couldn't say that without first offering an abject apology for being a citizen of the United States, too bad. The sensible opposite of "America is wonderful and the rest of the world sucks" is not "The rest of the world is wonderful and America sucks." Read Orwell on "negative nationalism."

J.Scott Barnard ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 12:34 PM:

...as if the Europeans would come out in public and say "We surrender!". I agree with Marshall, the more we and the media ignore pathetic messages from UBL, the better to marginalize him.

Reimer Behrends ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 01:32 PM:

Mark, no offense, but while I didn't consider your article rude, my first reaction to it was an unqualified "huh?" Maybe it is because I grew up in the Germany of the 70s, with RAF (Red Army Faction) terrorism being a constant concern, but if there is one thing that I've always considered axiomatic in politics, it is that our governments do not make deals with terrorists. Of course, for every crackpot idea there will be some individuals who actually advocate it (as illustrated by Derek's examples), but that doesn't say anything about governments.

Hamilton Lovecraft ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 05:36 PM:

A friend left last week on a trip to Europe. Debbie told her it would be a good idea for her to wear or display a peace symbol, to show that not all Americans were behind the Bush gang. I immediately chimed in: "Not a peace symbol; a maple leaf."

I think the peace symbol next to an american flag would send the better message (or the old peace-sign-on-the-blue-field modification of the american flag), though possibly not the easier message for your friend to back up.

To all the Europeans who might have felt insulted by Kleiman's post - I can't speak for the man, but I suspect that he said it because he simply doesn't want the American rightist ass-napkins who, e.g., called the Spanish vote a "capitulation" to Al-Q, to have any more ammunition.

I don't think he thought you'd try and accept the "truce"; I think he thought you'd ignore the offer until after Instapundit or USS Clueless or Bird Dog had a chance to soapbox with it.

It wasn't about you, it was about us, and I'm very sorry that this is the situation we find ourselves in. Give us a few more months.

MD² ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 10:11 PM:

Intelligent on Bin Laden's part, I'd say: he makes an empty proposition he knows the european leaders can't, and won't, accept, and by way of this he may manage to both allow a diabolization of those who refused the peace he offered, deepening that bipolar illusion of a worldview he needs to best serve his interests, and he also further imposes himself as the symbolic leader of a contestation movement he barely represents in reality, or only as a peripheral element at best.

Also, I fear Ms Hayden is right: seeing in these refusals a desire not to be separated from the United States is utopian at best and (self ?)manipulative at worse. Although I must say I'd love an effective reunification of all parties, for efficency's sake ; it is well needed if we are to make anything good out of the mess we're in... and, well, I guess I myself must be an utopian at heart.

Also, if I my ask, thinking of Mr Kleiman's original post, why is it that us french people always seem to be put slightly apart (not that, as a people, we don't enjoy it, I confess, but still) ?

natasha ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2004, 05:04 AM:

Mark - "This story is worth attending to because splitting off Europe from the U.S. is obviously an al-Qaeda objective, and not obviously infeasible. Undeniably, there is a strand of European opinion that thinks that Islamist terrorism is a problem due to Israeli and American policies, and that if Europe disowned those policies it could free itself from danger."

What astonished me is the implication that EU governments could think that Al Qaida is empowered to bargain on behalf of all Arabs and Muslims. Or that there is any current sense in which they could be interchangeable with Palestinians or the broad Iraqi public. Even Bin Laden must have known their response in advance. The man only *lives* in a cave, doesn't mean he was raised in one.

Yes, those governments may believe that current events in Israel and Iraq contribute to an environment where terrorism flourishes, but what has that got to do with an opportunistic 'holy' warrior like Bin Laden? It's like suggesting that governments should stop tracking down serial killers because they implement social programs that reduce the likelihood of future crime.

The 'truce' statement would be in keeping with his policy overall of trying to benefit from western actions, and overreactions, that go over badly in the Arab world. And he just made it more politically difficult for Europe to argue as a moderating counterpoint to our cowboy 'diplomacy.'

Bin Laden would probably like nothing better than to declare all-out war on every insufficiently muslim country out there. But he needs a lot more pissed off people for that to be feasible, and provoking Europeans into stances for which they could be demonized would only help.

And as far as what Derek James posted, so what. Let's just hope Arab opinion makers aren't quoting freeper comments to wavering neighbors as a representative sample of US opinion. If they find and translate that wellspring of bigoted chest-thumping, Bin Laden could retire his recording career for good.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2004, 08:17 AM:

I expressed the hope that European governments would rush to disabuse bin Laden of the notion that they could be chivvied into making a separate peace with him. They did so. Good.

If I couldn't say that without first offering an abject apology for being a citizen of the United States, too bad. The sensible opposite of "America is wonderful and the rest of the world sucks" is not "The rest of the world is wonderful and America sucks."

On the other hand, the sensible opposite of Europe giving up decades of standing firm in the face of terrorism is not supporting the american policies that got us into this mess.

Perhaps that was the presumption people were objecting to.

Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2004, 11:50 AM:

MD2: "Also, if I my ask, thinking of Mr Kleiman's original post, why is it that us french people always seem to be put slightly apart (not that, as a people, we don't enjoy it, I confess, but still)?"

I think Americans have a bit of an inferiority complex. We think an English accent sounds "educated", and we think the French are more "cultured" than we are. Then, there's a long history of English humor poking fun at the French (for example, the French knights in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail").

As a result, some Americans have decided that the French are now the one ethnic group that it's acceptable to put down. There's also the fact that in the last two major military situations that the US and the French were both involved in (WWII and Vietnam), the French didn't do particularly well. Never mind that the US didn't do so well in Vietnam either; all the more reason to distract attention from that fact by mocking French military machismo.

Also, in most of the US, I don't think there are large communities of French descent, in the same way there are sizable Polish-American, German-American, Italian-American, Irish-American, etc. communities.

adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2004, 12:47 PM:

Well, there are French Candadians in the northeast--Kerouac was one--but I guess a community of francophone is not the same thing as a community of French descent.

Close, though.

Mark Kleiman ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2004, 01:46 PM:

France was listed apart for two reasons: anti-French prejudice (which I ranted against at length a year ago) has been more prominent in America than prejudice against other Europeans , and because the first link didn't mention France but the second did.

I hope that clears up any misunderstanding.

But while I'm commenting: Am I the only one who things that for a citizen of the United States to pretend to be something else in order to avoid political arguments is profoundly disgraceful behavior? If we think it absurd and disgusting for the right wing to criticize Frenchpeople for the behavior of the French government towards the tyranny of Saddam Hussein (behavior which, in all conscience, was actually pretty disgraceful), then why should we acquiesce in, rather than confronting, anti-American prejudice among Europeans?

Alter S. Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2004, 02:12 PM:

Reimer said:

. . .I grew up in the Germany of the 70s, with RAF (Red Army Faction) terrorism being a constant concern, but if there is one thing that I've always considered axiomatic in politics, it is that our governments do not make deals with terrorists. . .

Given that you were growing up in Germany of the 70s, I can only assume that you're aware that in 1972, there were Olympics in Munich? Which, as far as I know, is part of Germany? Further, I can only assume that you're aware that there was some sort of hostage thing that went on at those Olympics?

Now, here comes the tricky part. After the German counter-terrorist forces managed to get all the hostages killed, and capture a certain number of the terrorists involved, what do you think happened to those terrorists?

I'll give you a hint: they were released after about eight weeks. You see, there was a Lufthansa jet, which was, coincidentally enough, only carrying Lufthansa employees and terrorists that got hijacked.

Whether you believe that there wasn't any negotiation that took place before the plane was taken, I find it rather hard to imagine that you believe that there wasn't negotation with the terrorists after the plane was taken, and that the releases were coincidental.

While generalizing from Germany of the 70s to all of Europe of the 00s is clearly problematic, given that it seems clear that the plane was hijacked with prior German approval, I could easily believe Germany of the 70s would have been happy to take Bin Laden up on his offer.

Naomi Libicki ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2004, 02:19 PM:

Then, there's a long history of English humor poking fun at the French (for example, the French knights in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail").

When I saw Henry V in New York last summer, the French jokes (that is, the jokes at the expense of the French, not the jokes in French) consistently got the most laughs.

That's our treasured cultural heritage, that is.

MD² ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2004, 07:58 PM:

Mr Kleiman, sorry if it was taken the wrong way, it was just a shameless attempt at wallowing in attention, and well, a sort of joke... I'm no good at this seems.

Speaking of anti-US prejudice among Europeans, well, what can I say, the problem is all too real. Just an hour ago I had a quarrel with, of all people, my parents because they just wouldn't admit their view on the subject was not only a mish-mash of easy clichés which couldn't withstand the confrontation whith facts, but also an insult to intelligence in general... After re-reading Orwell's "Notes on Nationalism", following your advice, I can only say I felt very depressed. It's strange the way things have developed here, the speed at wich the post 9/11 general love tuned upside down on the old hatred substratum. Not that the thing became universal, but it's certainly become general, polluting a lot of venues that had been doing good, or at least benn going smooth, until then.
Another reason for which I resent the neocons' policies. And the political situation in my own country, which is not really helping, let's face it.

Mr Leader, about Vietnam... Well, we hadn't done that much better in Indochine just before... Don't know if I have to, or even can, add "thankfully".

Can't believe I had forgotten about Henry V ! Will have to go at the library tomorrow.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2004, 09:12 PM:

Mark Kleiman wrote:

I expressed the hope that European governments would rush to disabuse bin Laden of the notion that they could be chivvied into making a separate peace with him. They did so. Good.
I don't want to get into a long exchange of but-you-saids, but this really isn't a fair representation of what you originally said. Far from merely hoping that "European governments" would reject Al Qaeda's offer of a "truce," you were at pains to suggest that the new Spanish government (the "Spanish socialists," you were careful to call them) had some particular obligation to do so first.

It's hard to escape the conclusion that you feel this way because the new Spanish government's first act was to announce that it will be scaling back its participation in the occupation of Iraq.

Basically where I'm taking issue is with your assumptions about who is and isn't credible on what issues, and who owes what kind of special pleading to whom. A few days earlier, for instance, in recommending the Iraqi blogger who writes as "Riverbend," you noted that she "has been strongly critical of the war and of the occupation, so take what she says with the appropriate quantity of NaCl," a kind of caution I don't see you frequently dealing out with your many links to various enthusiasts of our Iraq venture.

I'm reminded of Atrios's recent observation that a large part of how we got ourselves into the current insane dilemma in Iraq is that a significant number of supposed "liberals" let themselves be buffaloed into a kind of moderate "grown-up" hawkishness, a position that makes much more sense as an emotional strategy in the deep psychic politics of early 2003 than it does as a response to any facts discernable, then or now, on the ground. As Atrios notes, this "provided the pro-war media an easy excuse to completely marginalize all anti-war opinion." But the real problem is that, as he observes:

Even now many of these same people still cling to the conceit that because they were previously for the war they now have a greater degree of credibility on this issue. Well, sorry, you were wrong. There were people who were right. Let them talk for a change.
What Atrios said. Riverbend is right. The new Spanish government is right. The American occupation of Iraq is a nightmare. Having been opposed to it doesn't make you some kind of extremist crazy who has to beg to be taken seriously. The people who waffled and trimmed and came up with imaginative scenarios that depended on the White House and the Pentagon being commanded by thoughtful, dynamic progressive geniuses were wrong and while many of them are friends of mine, or people for whom I have high regard, it's now they who need to make a special case to have their opinion taken seriously, not the "Spanish socialists" and not a middle-class secular urban Iraqi woman who fourteen months ago could walk around Baghdad with her head uncovered and now has to spend most of her time hiding behind drawn curtains.

Oh, and:

If I couldn't say that without first offering an abject apology for being a citizen of the United States, too bad.
Of course, nobody demanded any such thing.

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2004, 09:41 PM:

and not a middle-class secular urban Iraqi woman who fourteen months ago could walk around Baghdad with her head uncovered and now has to spend most of her time hiding behind drawn curtains.

But by that you don't mean you think Iraq was better under Saddam Hussein, I take it.

Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2004, 10:50 PM:

John Farrell asks PNH (who mentions how now Iraqi women must cover their heads, and/or hide):

But by that you don't mean you think Iraq was better under Saddam Hussein, I take it.

Well, if one measures better-off solely by the likelihood that you'd be disappeared by standing in the public square and shouting "Saddam Hussein is a murderous fiend who should be punished for his crimes," then yes Iraq is better off.

However, there are a large number of murderous fiends, petty thugs, and other unpleasant entities rising in his place.

Nicholas Kristoff reported back in May of 2003 that Basra had been turned into a wholy owned subsidiary of Iran, as the British let the formerly oppressed religious majority threaten store owners with death if they continued to sell liquor, and beat women who did not cover their heads.

I'm not so sure about this better off thing. I don't think woman in Basra feels safe going into the public square and shouting that they aren't going to cover their heads to satisfy a bunch of sock puppets from Tehran, much less going outside without being covered from head to toe.

I don't know what possessed either Bush or Blair to ignore that the Baath Party would be rapidly replaced by Islamic Fundamentalists.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2004, 11:13 PM:

"But by that you don't mean you think Iraq was better under Saddam Hussein, I take it."

No, I don't mean that.

Also, I don't think Russia was better off under Stalin, or England was better off under Cromwell, or the Byzantine Empire was better off under the later Paleologos.

Strangely enough, though, I think Riverbend has a point when she notes that, while she could once walk the streets in safety, now she's probably going to spend the rest of her life hiding from theocratic thugs who want her to conceal herself in a bag.

Does her life matter? Is it worth two shits? Oh, but never mind that, it's much more important that we stop for our regular every-five-minutes collective expression of political correctness. Of Course It's Good That Saddam Is Gone. Gosh, I feel better! Down with Emmanuel Goldstein! We love Big Brother!

Who cares what happens to some dumb broad, anyway. Say, are you sure you're sufficiently glad that Saddam is gone, Citizen? You don't look too sure. I'm sure the Ministry would be interested to hear about the sort of ambivalence you seem to be displaying, Citizen. Don't You Know There's A War On? It sure would be nice if the Spanish Socialists jumped exactly this high, just to reassure us that they're on our side, Citizen. Since as we know it's all about us.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2004, 11:40 PM:

But by that you don't mean you think Iraq was better under Saddam Hussein, I take it.

And I take it that you don't mean that Riverbend having to fear for her life because she chooses not to cover her hair is all right.

Iraq faces many possible futures, and Hussein or not Hussein doesn't cover it, not even if spread very thin. There are a large variety of oppressions, governmental systems, economic systems, and social systems which could happen, now. For whatever reason, the US is currently hip-deep in this mess, and cannot avoid affecting the outcome somewhat. It is not enough, and was never enough, to remove Hussein from power. A strong Islamic state with oppression of freedom of religion, of women, and terrible human rights abuses is not a good thing, and the argument that "it's better than Hussein" is both debatable and stupid. While we still can, why aren't we working towards what we said we wanted, a modern democracy in the Middle East? Why should we settle for something only slightly better than Hussein? I mean, if all we're looking for is something better than that, it means that we'll be happy with almost anything. I'm not real pleased to settle for so little when we spent so much.

Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2004, 12:27 AM:

Some people in Iraq are better off than they were under Hussein, some are worse off. Some are dead.

"You can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs."

But that doesn't excuse going into the kitchen and tossing a basket of eggs into the air, and then saying "hey, I was trying to make an omelette".

And when your four year old, who's done that sort of thing before, says "I want to make an omelette", you don't say "yeah, an omelette would taste good" and stay in the other room while he goes into the kitchen.

Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2004, 03:15 AM:

Maybe some of us are just a little fucking sick of hearing "But Saddam was a bad guy!" trotted out in place of actual answers to the cold, hard, bitter questions of how to best un-fuck the situation Bush's PR stunt war has forced on many millions of people.

No, surely, we don't believe that Iraq was better under Saddam. We got the memo about him being a bad man and all; in fact, President Bush reminded us of that fact during the White House Press Corps Kindergarten Visitation Hour we saw on TV last week.

Noble intentions and star-spangled abstracts be fucked; there's a situation on the ground that needs pragmatic solutions NOW, and we're still dealing with this "But Saddam was a bad guy!" horseshit, as though all the evil in Iraq was magically bound up in Saddam's corporeal form and only liberals couldn't see his glowing red eyes.

So what's the current balance of collective misery in Iraq right now? Saddam's gone, true, but most of the grimy-souled little tools that ran his torture chambers and updated his Rolodexes are still at large, waiting for a spot in whatever government eventually survives to take them in. Large portions of the country are smoldering or already aflame with a dozen different flavors of ethnic, religious, and nationalistic unrest.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where kicking a vile man and his brats out of power can still leave the people of his country unequivocally screwed over. That's reality; disaster is a very distinct possibility when reality is completely ignored in favor of Beautiful Theory.

If the general state of terror and bloodshed in the post-Saddam era comes to equal or exceed that of Saddam's rule, what have we fucking accomplished?

Apparently, it's currently unpatriotic to expect actual results and genuine accountability from a crew of symbol-fucking crooks who'd rather protect America from porn and head shops than, say, dirty bombs in container ships. Apparently, this aggravates some of us, and that of course must mean that we don't think Saddam was a bad man.

Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2004, 06:32 AM:

Beautiful. Bravo.....

A nuanced, thoughtful opinion doesn't mean, "Choose A or B" and it doesn't let the other side control all the terms of the debate.

I'm going to sip my coffee and bask in the knowledge that there are a few sane people left on the planet. Unfortunately, there's precious little evidence of this fact in most of the everyday world.

Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2004, 08:29 AM:

Mark Kleiman evidently thinks that Derek James has made a point by citing a handful of comments ('too many to ignore') on the BBC site urging acceptance of OBL's little ploy. The statistical validity of this can be left as an exercise for the reader, but I want to identify it as one of the moves in the Political Correctness of the Right (henceforth PCR): to dredge up comments at a site, signs at a demonstration, faces in the crowd, and pretend to believe that they are somehow representative and that if not instantly repudiated and denounced can be taken as endorsed. In this case, that they give anyone the slightest reason to think that the governments and peoples of Europe might, just might, hanker to cut a deal with a fanatic in a cave.

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2004, 11:52 AM:

And I take it that you don't mean that Riverbend having to fear for her life because she chooses not to cover her hair is all right.

Indeed not. Which is why I said "I take it" and not, "Jesus Christ, how could you possibly imply..."

If "I take it" smacks of right wing PC, then I owe Patrick an apology for my tone.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2004, 06:59 PM:

John, no apology necessary. It's just that anything that even remotely smacks of a demand that we agree that Saddam Was Bad has gotten to be a real sore point with some of us.

Many of whom were observing that Saddam Was Bad back when the Reagan Administration was treating him as an important customer and quasi-ally.

TomB ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2004, 08:06 PM:

Political Correctness of the Right (henceforth PCR)

...where you add the enzyme, heat things up to get the strands to split, cool it down and you've doubled the population. Repeat until the DNA has multipled to the quantity you want.

Works for me.

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2004, 09:48 PM:

It's just that anything that even remotely smacks of a demand that we agree that Saddam Was Bad has gotten to be a real sore point with some of us.

Understood. I'm sure the book has yet to be written on the total carnage caused by the "Yeah, he's a bastard, but he's our bastard" school of foreign policy.

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2004, 09:55 PM:

If Saddam was so bad, then, of course, the great crime was when Bush I didn't end the regime in 1991.

The reasons to not have invade Iraq are legion. The fact that, you know, the guy who built the orginzation that has managed to actually kill US Citizens on US Soil is still at large, and they're still pulling off attacks, is the biggest one.

How many Americans in America has Saddam killed?

How many Spaniards in Spain has Saddam killed?

The only analogy I have is this: It is as if after Pearl Harbor, America declares war against Peru.

Mark ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2004, 10:33 PM:

Change Peru to Spain, perhaps?

Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2004, 10:49 PM:

Either Argentina or Spain would probably work, in that both of them, while not actually being relevant to the matter, could have been made to appear involved, sort of, if you squinted at them just right, and didn't care about any kind of honesty in your arguments.

Although Peru did have some ties to Japan, come to think of it.

Reimer Behrends ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2004, 11:01 AM:

Alter S. Reiss wrote: Given that you were growing up in Germany of the 70s, I can only assume that you're aware that in 1972, there were Olympics in Munich? Which, as far as I know, is part of Germany? Further, I can only assume that you're aware that there was some sort of hostage thing that went on at those Olympics?

I am well aware of the Munich massacre, how the German authorities were caught with their pants down, and how the German police (not a counter-terrorism unit, which Germany didn't have at the time) in a stunning displace of incompetence bungled the operation. I also know how the German government let itself be blackmailed into releasing the three surviving terrorists. And I could also add how terrorists were released as a result of the Peter Lorenz kidnapping in February 1975.

The thing is, these occurrences were not the result of a standing policy of how to deal with terrorists, but happened because of inexperience and ignorance. It was those very events that led in 1973 to the creation of the GSG-9, the German counter-terrorism unit, with the aid of the British SAS and the Israeli Sayeret Matkal, and ultimately to a matching counter-terrorism policy. The results of this policy were seen in April 1975 in Stockholm and in October 1977 in Mogadishu, when the German government categorically refused to consider the terrorists' demands and had a kidnapped plane stormed, respectively. This general policy was summarized by the social democratic chancellor Helmut Schmidt in the brief statement: "One does not negotiate with terrorists."

Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2004, 01:23 PM:

Mere decades after WWII, Alberto Fujimori was
running Peru. Coincidence? You decide.

Derek James ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2004, 05:42 PM:

Ken MacLeod writes: Mark Kleiman evidently thinks that Derek James has made a point by citing a handful of comments ('too many to ignore') on the BBC site urging acceptance of OBL's little ploy. The statistical validity of this can be left as an exercise for the reader, but I want to identify it as one of the moves in the Political Correctness of the Right (henceforth PCR): to dredge up comments at a site, signs at a demonstration, faces in the crowd, and pretend to believe that they are somehow representative and that if not instantly repudiated and denounced can be taken as endorsed.

It seems reasonable to assume that the BBC, being a fairly reputable news source, didn't make the quotations up, and tried to do a reasonable job of presenting a cross-section of received opinion. Maybe those assumptions are flawed. After all, you're right that it wasn't a scientifically-rigorous poll. It does seem to suggest that Kleiman's remarks weren't completely out of left field.

But leaping to the conclusion that anyone who disagrees with you is automatically a lackey of the Right, and then painting them with that broad brush, is a pretty weak-minded backlash.

Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2004, 06:49 PM:

How are the comments of some random persons on a bbc website at all relevant to what the governments of France, Spain and other European countries may do, hmm?

By this logic the little green fascists are reason enough to preemptively bomb the US back into the stone age.

Only a not very bright person, or someone desperate to score a point would think this proved anything.

Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2004, 02:18 AM:

By this logic the little green fascists are reason enough to preemptively bomb the US back into the stone age.

I dunno; on the few occasions I've found myself wandering around in those territories, I might have agreed that it would be a fair trade. I felt as though calling in an air strike on my own position would be a worthwhile sacrifice.

Somewhere on the luminiferous ethernet, every bitter cynic of the human condition, from Bierce to Mencken to Twain, are reading that shit and saying, with a mixture of vindication and regret, "See! I told you that they can't be trusted with opposable thumbs and the gift of language."