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February 23, 2004

Disinformation
Posted by Teresa at 06:00 AM *

My sister, Erica Barber, forwarded me a pass-along she’d gotten in her e-mail, adding, “I’m sure you can do a better (and faster) job of responding to this than I can. The generalizations are appalling.”

I wrote back: “These are not honest errors. Anyone who knows enough history to write this letter in the first place necessarily knows that the claims it’s making are false. This is deliberate deception. … What’s equally disturbing is that it’s a piece of professional copywriting.”

And so it is: slick, confident, focused, and impersonal, as anonymous as a doorknob that’s been wiped clean of fingerprints. There are no hesitations, no intrusions of personal voice, no traces of specific issues or locations or circumstances. I don’t know how much time you’ve spent staring at high-priced ad copy (less than I have, if you’re lucky), but the stuff is surprisingly hard to write. It’s not a natural style. It has to convey emotion without evidencing the kinds of distortion in the text that strong emotions produce.

Obviously, then, I’d love to know who wrote this and sent it out into the world. I don’t believe for a moment that it started life as a letter to the editor. What I do know about it is that it’s cynical. As I said to my sister, if you know enough history to write the thing, you know its claims are false. What I infer is that its creators view their target audience, not as fellow citizens, nor as brothers in arms, but as a bunch of suckers.

No matter what political views you hold, a person who’d write such a letter is not on your side. Want to give me a hand annotating this? I’ll start. Forgive me if I run a bit long on its rhetorical construction.
Bush Stacks Up Well The following appeared in the local paper as a letter to the editor.
Which local paper, in response to what?
Please forward to all on your list as this will put things in perspective:
I believe that’s meant to give you the idea that the piece is merely a corrective response to some unspecified attack on the truth that’s taken place Out There Somewhere. It isn’t, of course.
Liberals …
A heavily-funded years-long nationwide campaign has been devoted to poisoning the word “liberal”. The result is that “liberal” can now be used to condemn something without requiring that the writer spell out what these evil liberals’ position is, or why they’ve taken it. And why is this necessary? Because when you (that’s all of you: greetings, readers!) are polled on the the actual issues and policies involved, you frequently agree with them, or at least can see the sense in them.

This has worked so well that they now use “liberal” to denounce centrist policies and traditional practices. Once you’ve gone to that much work to wire a button, you might as well keep pressing it.

But I digress.

To speak more directly to the pass-along itself, liberals are hardly the only ones who think Bush shouldn’t have started the war. People all over the U.S. political spectrum hold that opinion. So do the majority of what used to be our overseas allies, friends, and well-wishers. The administration has squandered a century or more of global good will, accumulated via innumerable good deeds and good examples.
… claim President Bush shouldn’t have started this war. They complain about his prosecution of it. One liberal recently claimed Bush was the worst president in U.S. history.
Again, which liberal, where? It would be very odd for a normal citizen to write an entire piece in response to something, but never identify the thing it’s in response to. That goes double for letters to the editor, which are presumed to be responses to stuff that’s appeared in that publication.

Also, note that while only the initial statement, “Bush was the worst president in U.S. history,” is specifically attributed to A. Liberal, it’s followed by a laundry list of loose claims about the Bush administration.

Finally, while I have seen Bush described that way, his conduct of the war was hardly the only malfeasance mentioned.
Let’s clear up one point: We didn’t start the war on terror. Try to remember, it was started by terrorists on 9/11.
We were not attacked by Saddam Hussein or his minions on 9/11. We were attacked by al Qaeda guys, a group of Saudis (mostly) based in Afghanistan. Bush & Co.’s response on that day was to start trying to figure out how to pin it on Saddam Hussein, whom they already wanted to have a war with.
Let’s look at the “worst” president and mismanagement claims. FDR led us into World War II. Germany never attacked us: Japan did. From 1941-1945, 450,000 lives were lost, an average of 112,500 per year.
Germany declared war on us shortly after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

As for direct attacks, on 31 October 1941 a German sub attacked and sank the Reuben James in the North Atlantic. You can look it up. There’s even a song.

But here now, I’ll stop. I’m hogging on all the fun.
Truman finished that war and started one in Korea, North Korea never attacked us. From 1950-1953, 55,000 lives were lost,an average of 18,333 per year.

John F. Kennedy started the Vietnam conflict in 1962. Vietnam never attacked us. Johnson turned Vietnam into a quagmire. From 1965-1975, 58,000 lives were lost, an average of 5,800 per year.

Clinton went to war in Bosnia without UN or French consent. Bosnia never attacked us. He was offered Osama bin Laden’s head on a platter three times by Sudan and did nothing. Osama has attacked us on multiple occasions.

In the two years since terrorists attacked us, President Bush has liberated two countries, crushed the Taliban, crippled al-Qaida. Put nuclear inspectors in Libya, Iran and North Korea without firing a shot, and captured a terrorist who slaughtered 300,000 of his own people.

We lost 600 soldiers, an average of 300 a year. Bush did all this abroad while not allowing another terrorist attack at home. Worst president in history? Come on!
Have at it, guys.
Comments on Disinformation:
#1 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 02:10 PM:

I confess I know very little history, even recent history (Vietnam, Korea, etc).

And yet, I KNOW that letter is distorted.

I'm sending this page to my journalist friend. She'll have far more informed comments to make, I'm sure.

But meanwhile . . .

We 'liberated' 2 countries? By forcing OUR way of governing down their throats? That's considered liberating these days?

Well, no wonder 'liberal' is a dirty word. It IS 'liberate's' close relative.

Please tell me most voters aren't actually swallowing these distortions. Please tell me there's some hope of America electing someone sane into office next term.

But my gut tells me that, for every wacko who writes this propaganda, there are several thousand OTHER wackos who believe it wholeheartedly.

*sigh*

It's not too late to move to Canada, I suppose.

#2 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 02:28 PM:

Well, we could start with the outright lies; there are no significant nuclear inspections in North Korea (thanks to Republican breaking of the agreement Carter worked out for Clinton in 1994) and this morning's paper confirms that the Taliban is remarkably uncrushed -- something about one of the CIA's pets going over to them....

And what can they point to as Sudan having offered bin Laden's head on a platter to Clinton? (And if there were such an offer and he'd taken it, how soon would Republicans have been asking how he dared to deal with an Islamic government that was crushing its Christian citizens (even if most of the rebels are animists)?)

#3 ::: Bacchus ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 02:34 PM:

"On 31 October 1941 a German sub attacked and sank the Reuben James in the North Atlantic. You can look it up. There’s even a song."

By Woodie Guthrie, and quite a rousing one, if you like that sort of thing, which I do:

Have you heard of a ship called the good Reuben James
Manned by hard fighting men both of honor and fame?
She flew the Stars and Stripes of the land of the free
But tonight she's in her grave at the bottom of the sea.
CHORUS:
Tell me what were their names, tell me what were their names,
Did you have a friend on the good Reuben James?

One hundred men were drowned in that dark watery grave
When that good ship went down only forty-four were saved.
'Twas the last day of October we saved the forty-four
From the cold icy waters off that cold Iceland shore.

It was there in the dark of that uncertain night
That we watched for the U-boats and waited for a fight.
Then a whine and a rock and a great explosion roared
And they laid the Reuben James on that cold ocean floor.

Now tonight there are lights in our country so bright
In the farms and in the cities they are telling of the fight.
And now our mighty battleships will steam the bounding main
And remember the name of that good Reuben James.


#4 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 02:43 PM:

I used to get really ticked off when I'd get letters like these. I'd check Snopes, and forward any references I'd find there back to the sender.

I still get ticked off, but I don't bother writing back.

The people who forward and send these things aren't interested in spreading the truth; they're trying to validate their beliefs or stoke a self-righteousness high. It's in-group cheerleading that happened to slop over into a non-True Believer's mailbox.

* * *

I read, just recently, that Will Eisner is working on a graphic novel that debunks the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I'd probably buy a copy of that, but then I'm a card-carrying ACLU member and contributor to the Southern Poverty Law Center. I already *know* the "Protocols" are a bunch of crap. The people who really need to know that won't ever read Eisner's comic, and if they did they'd probably believe it was just another part of the conspiracy.

#5 ::: John Y. ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 02:48 PM:
Truman finished that war and started one in Korea, North Korea never attacked us. From 1950-1953, 55,000 lives were lost,an average of 18,333 per year.
Both South Korea and the United Nations requested our presence in Korea; several other UN nations sent (and lost) troops.
John F. Kennedy started the Vietnam conflict in 1962. Vietnam never attacked us. Johnson turned Vietnam into a quagmire. From 1965-1975, 58,000 lives were lost, an average of 5,800 per year.
Dwight Eisenhower promised troops to Vietnam in 1954. Johnson certainly escalated Vietnam, but Nixon continued his policies for several years.
Clinton went to war in Bosnia without UN or French consent. Bosnia never attacked us. He was offered Osama bin Laden’s head on a platter three times by Sudan and did nothing. Osama has attacked us on multiple occasions.
Clinton did not commit ground troops. He also tried on multiple occasions to capture or kill bin Laden, but was (a) trying to follow U.S. law as it pertains to assasinations and (b) was accused of "wagging the dog" by conservatives.
In the two years since terrorists attacked us, President Bush has liberated two countries, crushed the Taliban, crippled al-Qaida. Put nuclear inspectors in Libya, Iran and North Korea without firing a shot, and captured a terrorist who slaughtered 300,000 of his own people.
Mr Bush has failed to provide adequate funding or support to Afghanistan, allowing a resurgence of the Taliban and refusing to rebuild a country that teeters dangerously close to anarchy.

He continues to insist on a handover of power in Iraq on June 30 this year which is likely to lead to civil war.

Clinton had nuclear inspectors in N. Korea, the IAEA is responsible for the inspectors in Iran, and Libya entered secret talks with Britain (not the U.S.) long before the recent public events.

We lost 600 soldiers, an average of 300 a year. Bush did all this abroad while not allowing another terrorist attack at home. Worst president in history? Come on!

We've lost 600 soldiers in Iraq alone, and thousands have been maimed. Bush has, indeed, allowed the largest terrorist attack in U.S. history; they tend to wait a while before another major operation, victory cannot be declared in this respect.

Further, the Vietnam War had relatively light casualties in the first few years as well. A five- or ten-year presence in Iraq will probably result in tens of thousands of deaths and will likely require a new draft.

#6 ::: Seth Ellis ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 02:53 PM:

It's so much fun I'm going to jump in.

crippled al-Qaida

I don't even know where this one comes from. Is Bush claiming to have done this? Strategically, he can't, or justification for further anti-terrorist measures goes straight out the window. All he's claimed that I'm aware of is to have captured some key al-Qaida middle managers, which isn't crippling so much as kicking vigorously in the shins.

Put nuclear inspectors in Libya, Iran and North Korea without firing a shot

What CHip said about N. Korea. Anyway, we put nuclear inspectors in Iraq without firing a shot, and look where that got us. Big deal. Also: what we did is put nuclear inspectors in Libya, Iran and [North Korea] without firing a shot in Libya, Iran or North Korea. Shots were fired elsewhere. Bully leverage is not a world-stabilizing strategy.

and captured a terrorist who slaughtered 300,000 of his own people

We call that a dictator, not a terrorist. He wasn't a nice man, but let's get our terms straight. Since it's all good clean fun, I won't talk about the number of Iraqis who died as a result of the U.S. embargo, the crippling of the middle class from the same cause that strengthened the nasty "terrorist's" stranglehold on his country, etc.

Worst president in history? Come on!

I concede to the author that this may be an overstatement. I'll just go with worst president in my lifetime.

Also, there's a story about the Plot, Eisner's graphic novel, here.

#7 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 02:57 PM:

In the two years since terrorists attacked us, President Bush has liberated two countries, ...

'Liberated', as mentioned above, is not quite the term I'd use to describe the current state of Afghanistan and Iraq. But this is self evident.

...crushed the Taliban,...
The Taliban still control the majority of territory in Afghanistan and are encrouching on the parts they don't control. Doesn't sound like they've been all that "crushed' to me.

...crippled al-Qaida...
If they're so cripled why are they invoked every hour on the hour to justify everything from preemptive invasion to halitosis?

...Put nuclear inspectors in Libya, Iran and North Korea without firing a shot,...
I thought they were UN inspectors in these countries. Maybe I'm wrong...

...and captured a terrorist who slaughtered 300,000 of his own people.
I assume he's refering to Saddam Husein who was a Dictator, not a Terrorist (But there I go splitting hairs! These days everyone we don't like with a mustache is a terrorist). Also we didn't capture Sadam so much as take him away when the British stumbled onto his hiding place. meanwhile, Osama Bin laden is still partying hard in the Afghan/Pakistan mountains, scheming away.

I was going to address the comparisons to other wars but I'll let someone who enjoys sizing up apples against oranges have their fun.

though I would like to say that comparing Bush to the likes of JFK and truman is a little uncouth. I imagine that when Bush gets to the Hereafter, Truman, JFK and a few other Ex-Presidents will have a few choice words to say to Junior.

#8 ::: Shelley ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 03:07 PM:

Taken one at a time:

We did not invade North Korea. North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, and the UN security council voted to repel this attack. The United States did not fight alone, but was part of a UN-based armed force to repel this invasion.

JFK did not start the Vietnamese conflict in 1962. The French tried to maintain control of Indochina following World War II, including Vietnam, but ended up having their butts kicked and having to cede North Vietnam as a separate, communist country in the 1950's. We had already started sending support at that time -- to the French, to help them in their fight. Those imperialist dogs (up freedom fries).

(Sorry, couldn't resist. I like the French.)

Our actions in Vietnam were by invitation, based on a mutual pact of support signed between us and the South Vietnamese government, and ostensibly to defend the South Vietnamese government, but it wasn't much to write home about. In reality, the world was pretty damn scared of communism at that time (after Stalin, the world has reason to fear communism).

We entered Bosnia as part of NATO, blessed by the UN.

As for liberating two countries? Both Iraq and Afghanistan face civil war if we pull out. In Iraq, women, who once enjoyed a great deal of freedom, now huddle in their homes in terror.

Al-Queda sits and plays info games with us, sitting back laughing every time we go on orange alert, or turn back a jet.

Acts of terrorism are on the increase in Iraq.

Iraq is less secure now than it was a year ago.

We in the US are less free than we were a year ago.

Better? I can't explain how anyone can possibly think any of this is 'better'.

Worst president in history? I didn't think anyone could be Grant as worst president. No longer. I'm still waiting for one person to come up with one thing that Bush has done right. Even his so-called defense of this country has come with high costs to our freedoms, and the creation of an agency that scares the heck out of me.

Oh, I guess he didn't choke on the pretzel. His wife probably thought that was good. And he served as a turkey for the troops last Thanksgiving.

Ooops. Typo there. I meant he served 'a' turkey for the troops.

#9 ::: Punk Walrus ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 03:15 PM:

Truman finished that war and started one in Korea, North Korea never attacked us

Actually, no war was ever officially declared. It was officially a "Police Action." Nitpicky, I know, but just to add to John Y's already excellent descriptions.

There's also the issue of Reagan and his "anti-commie" policies that ended up selling arms to Al-Queda because they were fighting Russia at the time. But I digress.

#10 ::: MisterBS ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 03:19 PM:

Maybe it's been picked up from "a paper in Durham, NC" as one link claims and filtered through a few of the nastier strata of the blogosphere. I'm curious whether we could trace it back further than that.

#11 ::: Garrett Fitzgerald ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 03:20 PM:

Actually, in the course of supporting South Korea, we _did_ invade North Korea. Just to nitpick...

#12 ::: Mark Orr ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 03:30 PM:

"We did not invade North Korea. North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, and the UN security council voted to repel this attack. The United States did not fight alone, but was part of a UN-based armed force to repel this invasion. "

Actually, we did, but they invaded first. After the North Koreans kicked us all the way to the tip of the peninsula, MacArthur did an end run at Inchon and pretty much had the war won. Then he got all full of himself and exceeded his orders by pursuing the North Koreans to the Yalu River, which brought China into the war, which is why Truman gave him the sack. All told, 14 nations of the UN participated on our side in achieving the war aim, which was the restoration of the Status Quo Ante-Bellum. Instead of obtaining this goal by 1951, MacArthur's adventurism prolonged it by two years and cost about 40,000 more UN lives than it should have. MacArthur, BTW, was a Republican.

"JFK did not start the Vietnamese conflict in 1962. The French tried to maintain control of Indochina following World War II, including Vietnam, but ended up having their butts kicked and having to cede North Vietnam as a separate, communist country in the 1950's. We had already started sending support at that time -- to the French, to help them in their fight. Those imperialist dogs (up freedom fries). "

We supported France in maintaining their colonies because they blackmailed us into it by threatening to let the Commies take over in France if they didn't get their way. Yes, that is an over-simplification, but there's a kernel of truth in it.

The tragedy is that Ho Chi Minh repeatedly tried to get our help in his nationalistic revolution. He only got the Communists to help him after Woodrow Wilson (my own least favorite Democrat president) refused to even see him at the Versailles Peace Treaty meetings. The American OSS trained the Viet Minh to fight the Japanese in WWII, and at the end of the war Ho modelled the Vietnamese independence movement on our own, including invoking our Declaration of Independence and flying the American Flag alongside the Vietnamese flag. Alas, his dalliance with the Comintern doomed him. Rabid anti-communism wouldn't let us cuddle up to Ho, and forced us to back the losing horse. Then, after the French gave it up as a lost cause in 1954, Eisenhower's Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, mucked things up at Geneva when he interfered with the negotiations for nation wide elections in Viet Nam. As was not unusual, every move we made in that country made things worse, despite Ho's friendly intentions towards us.

Again and again, Ho reached out to us and we spat in his hand. After the Apollo One fire, he sent a letter of condolence to LBJ. We should always be so lucky in our enemies. Ho was no saint, but he deserved better than he got from multiple American presidents of both parties.

#13 ::: Matt ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 03:35 PM:

I find it strange that fatalities are listed for every conflict but Bosnia. I wonder why that might be? It also seems strange that the right is now concerned about the opinions of the UN and France on this one.

If you want to group up Afghanistan and Iraq into the War on Terror(tm) and claim 600 fatalities over the last two years, I'd have to point out then that the fatality rate went up by 10 times in the last year. Should we expect 6000 dead by this time next year?

Not that much point in rebutting this letter. When you claim that going to war against the Nazis is a bad thing, you'll have the expect that your message won't be taken very seriously.

#14 ::: Mark Orr ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 03:39 PM:

"Worst president in history? I didn't think anyone could beat Grant as worst president. No longer. "

As bad as Grant was, I rank Buchanan worse, as well as Fillmore, Arthur and Pierce. Bush has 'em all beat, singly or in combination. Even Harding had more positives than Bush does.

#15 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 03:43 PM:

As of Friday 13 January, 537 soldiers have been killed in Iraq. That's deaths in aproximately a one year period. Quite different from "We lost 600 soldiers, an average of 300 a year."

More telling is than the death rate is the injury rate:

As of the beginning of January, there had been over 9000 soldiers wounded in Iraq. (Good luck trying to find out what the current injury rate is.)

I might propose that the reason we have so few deaths is not that our soldiers are staying out of danger, but that our medical science has advanced to the point that those who would have died in previous conflicts are surviving.

This is a GOOD thing, don't get me wrong, but I think that we are glossing over the seriousness of the danger by looking only at deaths and not injuries. It also ignores the fact that a number of deaths and injuries are due to the fact that many of our soldiers were sent over to Iraq without proper uniforms or armor. (See also here for more on armor.)

#16 ::: Mel Sherman ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 03:44 PM:

Gosh, non-existent facts and bad logic in a single package.

The writer of this pass-along completely ignores Eisenhower's infamous "Domino Theory"--defining our cold-war era foreign policy for decades. American military advisors were training South Vietnam forces as early as 1956 (during Ike's 1st term) and the first 2 U.S. servicemen killed in Vietnam in 1959 (Ike's 2nd term.)

It was all Kennedy's fault, though. Somehow.

#17 ::: Richard ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 04:14 PM:

the new uses of the terms "liberate", "cripple" and "crush" have all been thoroughly analysed above.

What I find interesting here is that the best defence of the current president the anonymous author can muster is that he may not be the worst president in history - hardly a proud claim, especially in an election year.

Perhaps the more obvious lies could have been avoided by saying that he may not be the worst or most destructive leader in the history of the world. In comparison with Hitler, Stalin, Genghis Khan or Vlad the Impaler he still looks OK, although I'm fairly sure neither Genghis nor Vlad had to circumvent electoral systems to get into power.

#18 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 04:15 PM:

I gather the author thinks we shouldn't have fought the Germans in WWII? Talk about your moral clarity . . .

#19 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 04:20 PM:

Not bothering with the entire letter; just hitting high points I don't see covered elsewhere.

The one Prominent person I remember describing Bush as the worst president in history is George Akerlof. Akerlof was speaking economically--and he has Ultraconservative U-Chicago-Nobel-Prize winner credentials; no one would confuse him with J. K. Galbraith or Lester Thurow, even.

The Clinton-could-have-gotten-Osama allegation has its core in the 1998 bombing of that chemical factory. You know, the one that:

1) all the prominent Republicans claimed was a wag-the-dog attempt to distract from their lame-duck-bittersweet-vengeance impeachement vote and

2) the one that David Kay reported served the final death knell in Sa-Dam's WMD program.

Supposedly, Osama was there a few hours before the bombing. (Memory serving, Regnery has a book out--_Dereliction of Duty_??--claiming that President Clinton was playing golf and therefore incommunicado for several hours when the strike would have gotten him Mr. Bin Laden as well. Not that [1] above would have been any different.)

On a personal note, I live in Charlotte during the week, and often stay over with friends in Raleigh before the weekend supersaver let's me see the family for 48 hours. No one in either city has mentioned the letter.

#20 ::: Rachel Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 04:47 PM:

A side note:

I might propose that the reason we have so few deaths is not that our soldiers are staying out of danger, but that our medical science has advanced to the point that those who would have died in previous conflicts are surviving.

Interestingly, this has also been suggested as an explanation for the dropping national murder rate--if the victims survive, it ain't murder. It gives one furiously to think, no?

#21 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 04:55 PM:

This bit of agitprop has spread to a number of Web sites, newsgroups, and news sources. No doubt it will go further. But some of the Usenet correspondents, at least, are unwilling to give the anonymous author a free ride.

Many sources attribute it to "the Durham, NC local paper." Haven't confirmed this.

#22 ::: Adam Rice ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 05:29 PM:

As long as we're picking nits here, the War on Terror isn't a war (nor was Vietnam, nor Bosnia, nor--as someone else pointed out--Korea). Only Congress has the power to declare war, and it hasn't done so (I don't think) since WW2. It certainly hasn't in the WoT, which is no more a war than LBJ's war on poverty was.

#23 ::: dipasquo ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 05:33 PM:

This send-along email has become the running debate in my mostly-conservative family. My response to the original message went back to all of the recipients and has fostered an interesting dialogue:

This argument, which attempts to analogize Bush's military action in Iraq with actions by past Presidents, is vacant. The comparison between Bush-Iraq and FDR-Nazi Germany is too ludicrous to consider. Vietnam and Korea are widely recognized as failed policies and cannot
provide precedent or justification for any current or future military action. The U.S. went into Bosnia to end an active and ongoing
genocide. Most importantly, there was never strong evidence to link Iraq with the war on terror; this rationale has been thoroughly
discredited.

If you're looking for points of comparison, consider some of the other accomplishments of these past Presidents:

FDR guided the United States out of the Great Depression. It was an economic disaster so great that never before and never again will this
country see something like it. Bush, on the other hand, has presided over the loss of more than 2,000,000 jobs and watched a half-TRILLION
dollar budget surplus turn into a half-TRILLION dollar deficit. We've also seen the trade gap widen to record levels and the value of the
dollar fall to 20 year lows.

Truman led the United States out of World War II and helped our fallen allies rebuild. Foreign policy under Truman not only saw the creation
of the United Nations (architected by FDR) but also turned the enemies of Japan and Germany into two of our strongest allies. Bush, on the
other hand, squandered through arrogance and petulance the support proffered by the world community after 9/11. His actions have damaged
the credibility of our intelligence and foreign policy, seriously blunting weapons that will be needed in the ongoing fight against fundamentalist Islamic terrorism.

Kennedy stared down the single greatest immediate threat ever faced by the United States: the Cuban Missile Crisis. Bush, on the other hand, diverted critical resources from the fight gainst al-Qaeda to dubious aims in Iraq. Kennedy issued the greatest proclamation of American strength ("Let every nation know... that we shall pay any price, bear any burden... to assure the survival and the success of liberty...") and the greatest call for Americans to realize their role in Democracy ("Ask not what your country can do for you...") ever heard. Bush, on the other hand, called upon Americans to do the one thing least threatening to his agenda: go shopping.

Clinton set the stage for peace between Israel and the PLO with the 1993 Oslo Accords. He failed in several attempts in 2000 to finalize agreements between the parties, but for the duration of Clinton's two terms, the region was quiet by historic standards. Upon his assumption
of the White House in January 2001, the door was open for Bush to truly and heroically reshape the Middle East by mediating negotiations between Israel and the PLO. Instead, accounts from former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill reveal that Bush took an appalling stance: "'If the two sides don't want peace, there's no way we can force them.'" Warned by Colin Powell that "A pullback by the United States would unleash Sharon and the Israeli Army.... [Powell said] 'The consequences f that could be dire.'... Bush shrugged '...Sometimes a show of trength by one side can really clarify things.'"** Bush is complicit in the deaths of hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians since 2001. More egregiously, Bush is accountable for perpetuating risks to the
security of the United States that result from instability in the Middle East.

Something to remember in November 2004.

Dan

P.S. Some clarification to the concluding points of argument of that editorial:

1. Libya has been on course for a dozen years to normalize relations with the world community; no longer the baddest fish in the pond, Qaddafi rightly realized that greater profits could be reaped by playing nice: Libya sits on a vast oil reserve that was contraband under international sanctions.
2. Negotiations with Iran were largely executed by ("Old") European diplomatic efforts.
3. There are no nuclear inspectors in North Korea. They were expelled in December, 2002, and have not been allowed back. Bush Administration
policy has been to refuse direct talks with North Korea; in the mean time their nuclear arsenal continues to develop.
4. Hussein was a brutal tyrant, but he had no connections to attacks against Americans. The leader of the terror organization responsible
for thousands of murders of Americans on 9/11 has not been captured, the size and momentum of the organization is unknown, and the mentality of those inclined to harm the U.S. is such that the reaches of al-Qaeda have just as likely grown larger as smaller.

** From "The Price of Loyalty" by Ron Suskind.

#24 ::: Nao ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 05:40 PM:

I live in Durham, NC, and have spent a fair amount of time in the local library's periodical section--the only town papers I know of are the Herald Sun and the Independent Weekly (and that's more a regional paper than one specific to Durham, though it's produced in town).

There are currently three letters to the editor having to do with Bush on the Herald Sun's site (two condemning him, and one supporting), but none of them are the nasty piece of work quoted. A quick search of the site doesn't find anything, though that doesn't prove anything--it's possible the paper's search engine doesn't search letters to the editor.

The Independent's search engine is a little better, but also doesn't produce anything. It's a little less likely to be the source, since it's our lefty paper, though I do see occasional right-wing rants in the letters to the editor.

Perhaps somebody with ready access to a news database (Lexis Nexis, say) could search the Herald Sun using a more reliable interface?

Not that it matters much--another question for the original sender of the email is why we should take a letter to the editor as a more reliable authority than other sources of information. Though it would be nice to know who was responsible for writing this garbage...

#25 ::: Red Wolf ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 05:46 PM:

If you google for this letter, you'll find it spread far and wide. No original source is mentioned.

Yet, even when it hits the right-wing Christian groups and the Republican sites it is getting condemned. Nice to know that not everyone is swallowing the spin.

#26 ::: SpaceBass ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 05:58 PM:

As Bill Higgins pointed out, this bit is definitely making the rounds. So far, it seems mainly to be confined to conservative-leaning publications or forums. Sometimes posters chop out all the opinion stuff and just post the "facts." One Canadian was nice enough to edit out the "liberal" labels in favor of the more generic "some" and "one person." Interestingly, the Commercial Appeal, a 150 year-old Memphis-based newspaper, printed it with an attribution to one Ken Haley of Mississippi, not North Carolina at all!

I also found quite a few references to a "local newspaper in Durham, NC," which I am also unable to confirm. This list shows only two such local papers: The Independent, which returns no hits on a search for terms from this letter and the Herald-Sun, which also returns no hits on a search for terms from this letter. Perhaps someone in Durham would be willing to head to the local paper offices and poke through their archives? I'm more interested in the mystery of origin than debunking obvious propaganda. ;)

On Preview: Damn, Nao beat me to it. =)

#27 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 06:06 PM:

On the uniform issue.

People are without Desert Camoflage Uniforms because they 1: weren't available,and 2: aren't really needed.

The plain fact of the matter is that very few of us are slinking across the sand, trying to hide in the shadowed hollows of the heath and scrub.

So, if a unit can't get DCUs before they ship out, they don't get them.

The issue of Interceptor Body Armor is a bit more complicated. The stuff is brand new (IIRC it came online no more than 2 years ago) and the Army has been buying the entire run for the whole time.

Basically the Army didn't plan for so large a deployment of troops to what is a frontless battlefield, where all the troops would need the most modern armor.

The older stuff (late 80's tech) is pretty damned good. No, it won't stop a rifle round, at least not at 90 degrees, and not up close, but most of us aren't getting shot, we're getting clipped by fragments and shrapnel, which is what those vests were meant to stop (since most troops get killed by such).

So the answer is, a slight lack of planning (and even if the desire had been there to equip us all with Interceptors, the cost would have been greater, more production lines, not just more vests, as well the money wasn't there to buy them), a lack of time, and an adequate, if not ideal, alternate in the system already.

But it makes a nice thing to beat the Army and the Administration up with.

Terry K

#28 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 06:57 PM:

"Vietnam never attacked us."

So . . . does this mean that the Right has decided the Tonkin Gulf Resolution is now inoperative?

Though the substance of the "argument" about "starting" wars with nations that "never attacked us" would seem to be that it's perfectly okay for the US to invade anybody, anytime, because we just feel like it. The analogy rather breaks down otherwise.

#29 ::: Dori ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 07:02 PM:

The "liberal" who said the "worst President in US History" quote is probably Helen Thomas (source).

#30 ::: Alex D ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 07:02 PM:

Helen Thomas was quoted in an article as saying (in conversation) that Bush is the worst president in history. Molly Ivins wrote in a column that he's the worst in a generation.

So congrats to Anonymous for not being the worst distorter in history.

#31 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 08:01 PM:

Perhaps it's a bit late to be bringing this up (considering I was the first to rip into the opinion piece), but . . .

Is it really fair to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed person?

#32 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 09:58 PM:

One Canadian was nice enough to edit out the "liberal" labels in favor of the more generic "some" and "one person."

Well, that wasn't because he was being nice. In Canada "liberal" has never been the all-purpose insult it has become in the US. Even on army.ca, it means safe stodgy dull middle-of-the-road majority government. If he didn't want his readers to burst out laughing, he pretty much had to translate.

#33 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 10:19 PM:

Alice, whoever sent this lie out into the world wasn't unarmed. I'm arguing with 'em in absentia because s/he/it is hiding behind a scrim of anonymity.

Dori, thanks for the Helen Thomas source, but I'm certain she's not the only person who's saying that. In fact, different sectors are saying that same thing for different reasons. I'm not sure but what they're all right.

I've long been of the opinion that Buchanan was our worst-ever president, no contest; but Bush is forcing me to reevaluate that.

Mike, it looks to me like that's the implication.

Oh, and that reminds me: SAY, MIKE, I SEE YOU HAVE A NEW BOOK, HEAT OF FUSION, THAT'S JUST COME OUT AND IS INEFFABLY SWELL. ... Just thought I'd mention it.

Terry, thanks for the info. I appreciate having an authoritative source.

Bill, Nao, Redwolf, SpaceBass: I've been trying to track this down. It gets interesting. As you've seen, it's spread all over the place, never with proper attribution, and no one's taking credit. What's even more interesting, especially in light of Nao's meritorious research, is that the earliest appearance of it I can find was posted on FreeRepublic.com, 08 February 2004, by someone posting as "Keen-Minded" who appears to be one of the site's proprietors. The day after that it appeared on something called The Silicon Investor, which is when it acquired the "Please forward to all on your list as this will put things in perspective" line. Two days after that (as SpaceBass has noted) it was on the KnoxGOP site, where it appeared with this prologue:

The following letter is very revealing. America must have the reslove to defeat terrorism. It is literally killing us. We've tried diplomacy to the point "peace in the middle east" became a joke. Lobbing a couple of cruise missiles didn't do the trick. Putting terrorists on trial like we did after the first time the World Trade Center was bombed in 1992 certainly didn't stop the attacks of 9/11. President Bush made the right decision in the LONG-TERM interest of America to take the terrorists head-on. See the letter from a NC newspaper ...
And so to all the world. The reception the piece got on Freep is interesting in its own right. One commenter after another slavishly agreed that it was a terrific thing. Every so often someone would pop up and say
German/Italy declared war on the U.S. first.
Truman got the U.S. involved in Vietnam first.
or
JFK didn't get us started in Vietnam
or
German U-boats sank a few US Destroyers in the North Atlantic prior to Germany declaring war on the USA on 12/11/1941,
or
Ahem, North Korea invaded South Korea. The UN responded and the USA was dominant part of UN forces. Truman did not start the Korean war.
which would be roundly ignored. Then some guy posting as IcycleMort showed up, said some stuff the locals liked, was welcomed, and after that must have said something locally objectionable, because all of a sudden people there were acting like he'd farted in an airlock. His post seems to have vanished, as did he, banned from further participation there. This prompted a cri de coeur that -- no, I can't do it justice. Here's the whole thing:
To: texasflower; IcycleMort; Admin Moderator

Hey, he is banned now. I mean IcycleMort

And just after I spent 10 minutes constructing a reply to him.

His talking points are no more extreme than a number of anti-Iraq-war posters around here (think "Destro").

Unless he said something rude or was a known disruptor I think that was wrong to kick him out, even though he was a a newbie with an attitude ... HEY QUIT BANNING DISSENTERS THAT ACTUALLY STRING COHERENT SENTENCES TOGETHER.

By the way, for the record, and in case anybody's interested, they still believe the reason we don't agree with them is that we're so full of wild unreasoning causeless hatred for GWB that we're beyond the influence of reason. Apparently they're they only primates on the planet that can't correctly interpret snickering and eye-rolling behavior.

#34 ::: Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 12:38 AM:

It makes me wonder what being a "moderator" at FreeRepublic must be like. Is it merely reflex intolerance? Or is it more like growing botulism toxin? Adjust the temperature, maximize yield, cull non-producing strains.

It's a shame people aren't usually ashamed of what they've done. Otherwise, I'd like to track these people down, twenty-five years from now, and ask them why they did so many petty, malicious things, and believed such crap.

That we might need American lustration, sigh. To paraphrase Huey Long, when terrorism starts in this country, it'll be called anti-terrorism.

Anyway. Heat of Fusion is out? Why aren't there any all-night bookstores in NYC that sell things I might want to read?

#35 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 01:40 AM:

The only reference in Lexis-Nexis is for the aforementioned Memphis Commercial Appeal citation, in a letter to the editor on 2/16/04, from Ken Haley, Olive Branch, Miss. It starts with the "Liberals claim" sentence and carries on from there as described.

#36 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 03:09 AM:

Uck, propaganda. The stench...I don't know it manages to make one feel so unclean. A high-class propagandist writing for the Freep? How strange. ...does anyone know where the Freep gets its funding from? Perhaps Scaife, the Heritage Foundation, or one of the Christian Right groups?

IIRC, LBJ sent the first troops who were identified as such to 'nam--Kennedy sent "advisors" and I think Eisenhower only provided moral support, a general recognizing a quagmire. Johnson's sending troops was part of a devil's bargain with the Senate hawks--they got their war, Johnson got his domestic programs. IIRC, the war started as a war of independence of the Vietnamese from the French.

#37 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 04:54 AM:

Somewhat pertinent - a wonderful, if depressing book from a thoughtful historian and excellent writer of quite a few other good books too.
The March of Folly : From Troy to Vietnam by Barbara W. Tuchman

The pertinent bit is a dissection of the start & continuation of US involvement in the ongoing Vietnam conflict, but the other examples & the principles deduced give one to think quite a bit on the situation of the world.
And perhaps even might lead you to reconsidering your own behaviour carefully.

http://www.history-asia.com/The_March_of_Folly__From_Troy_to_Vietnam_0345308239.html
(and quite a few other places)

#38 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 04:56 AM:

Somewhat pertinent - a wonderful, if depressing book from a thoughtful historian and excellent writer of quite a few other good books too.
The March of Folly : From Troy to Vietnam by Barbara W. Tuchman

The pertinent bit is a dissection of the start & continuation of US involvement in the ongoing Vietnam conflict, but the other examples & the principles deduced give one to think quite a bit on the situation of the world.
And perhaps even might lead you to reconsidering your own behaviour carefully.

www.history-asia.com/The_March_of_Folly__From_Troy_to_Vietnam_0345308239.html
(and quite a few other places)

#39 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 05:13 AM:

Darn. Sorry about that double post.
But I'll see that and raise the Canadian liberal by mentioning that the Liberal Party in Australia is the equivalent of the UK Conservative Party (ish) and, more or less, the US Republican Party (there's also the small Australian Democrats Party which would take too much to explain here), but the main other party is the Australian Labor Party, also subtly different to (from?) the UK Labour Party.
I'm not going to say anything about our Republicans, which aligns me with most other Australians :)
The Liberal Party has been heading into more & more socially conservative, economically radical (free trade 'n' all that) territory, leaving a group who call themselves "small-l liberal", which is kinda-sorta a bit like what might be called liberals in the USA, but is not necessarily pejorative. Are we all confused now?
Was it Wilde who said Great Britain & America were two countries separated by a common language? As the language spreads, the gaps continue to open.

#40 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 05:48 AM:

I agree with your assessment, Theresa, that this is a piece of professional copy-writing. My mind's ear is hearing it being read by one of those warm, confident voices that they employ on political TV advertising; I expected to read 'Vote Bush in 2004' at the end.

In fact, from the writing and complete lack of provenance, it looks to me like more than a right-wing copywriter venting off independently, it looks to be a deliberate piece of 'viral marketing'. I think the Republican campaign has already started, folks.

#41 ::: Nao ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 06:00 AM:

Now that Teresa has narrowed down an early possible date, I wish I could go to the library and check the Herald Sun's letters to the editor for the 8th and a couple of weeks before that. It would be nice to have a definitive answer of some sort. (I really doubt that it's from the Independent.) Unfortunately, I'm going out of town today for a couple of weeks.

Any other readers live in Durham?

Alternatively, here's the Herald-Sun's contact info.

#42 ::: The Magician ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 09:01 AM:

Keith said:
"...and captured a terrorist who slaughtered 300,000 of his own people."
I assume he's refering to Saddam Husein who was a Dictator, not a Terrorist (But there I go splitting hairs! These days everyone we don't like with a mustache is a terrorist). Also we didn't capture Sadam so much as take him away when the British stumbled onto his hiding place.
a) Mustaches are optional!
b) Thanks for the pro-British comment, but I think it was actually the Kurds who found him and held him until the US Army 3rd Armoured Propaganda Brigade could arrive and plug in cameras ...
Sydney Herald article

... it took them awhile to retrieve the cameras from the hospital where Jessica Lynch was being "held prisoner" by unarmed medical staff
BBC News article

Though the US propaganda would have you believe that it was entirely down to US Intelligence forces (and maybe it was!)
Another BBC News article

#43 ::: The Magician ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 09:04 AM:

Sorry, in the above comment, my <cite> tags seemed to have slipped off (mea culpa), Keith's quote should go down to "when the British stumbled onto his hiding place."

#44 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 09:30 AM:

Nao, you've been great, and thanks for the help. Anyone else in Durham? Failing that, anyone else want to call and ask the newspapers there about that letter?

NelC, thanks for confirming my aural diagnosis. This campaign's been going on for a long time, and this kind of viral marketing has been a part of it.

I've known that the Freep functions as a dissemination point for it ever since I did that series of articles on the trashing of Iraq's libraries and museums. The freep-handlers fed their minions their football cheer of the week -- "You must care more about trinkets than about the human lives lost under Saddam Hussein" -- and gave them my address: woof woof woof woof woof. That was the week I learned to delete messages and lock out participants on the fly.

Not long after that I did more posts on the same subject, in the course of which I said hard things about the freeperati. None of them showed up. I guess it wasn't part of that week's marching orders. I don't know how much interaction you've had with individual freepi, but I find that very few of them can follow up if you respond to one of their acts of drive-by sloganeering. I mean it literally when I say that a lot of those guys don't have much to say for themselves.

Other information that may be useful: Later in that Freep thread, someone posted what he said was another letter from that same Durham paper:

To: All

Here is another letter to the Editor by the same Durham Newspaper I just found by doing a search that I think is very good also

Dems forget the facts
Isn't it amazing how all the Bush headhunters are listening to David Kay's testimony concerning his findings on Iraq's weapons programs and only hearing the parts they can use against Bush politically? Forget his opinion that Bush acted correctly, given the information made available to him. Forget that their beloved United Nations and King Bubba also declared that Iraq had WMD. Forget the fact that Saddam Hussein used weapons against his own people and filled mass graves with their bodies. Forget the fact that Saddam violated the numerous weapons resolutions passed by the United Nations. Instead of focusing on Kay's conclusion of flawed intelligence, they seize the opportunity to tear down our commander in chief. Could it be they are desperately trying to regain power and that protecting America is secondary? I shudder to think of the current Democrat front-runner, John Kerry, at the helm. In 1995 he was the only sponsor of a bill to cut intelligence over the next five years. It is a fact that the Democratic party has shown little more than contempt for the intelligence community and the military in general over the last few decades and has done everything in its power to weaken them. I agree that intelligence failures need to be investigated and fixed. But putting a fresh Democrat in the White House is not the solution.

Here's a page listing all the Durham County newspapers, past and present.

#45 ::: Geoff Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 09:42 AM:

I used to live in Durham, and "the Durham paper" the post refers to certainly wasn't the Independent, unless it was done strictly as a parody. The Independent is a weekly, left-liberal, alternative paper, the sort that prints "Life in Hell" and has long profiles of happy gay couples.

The Herald-Sun, on the other hand, is a likely place. They were fond of publishing press releases from the Council for the Study of the Shroud of Turin as articles, unedited.

When I lived in Durham, I did as most right-thinking people did: I had a subscription to the Raleigh News & Observer.

#46 ::: Mark Orr ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 09:51 AM:

Allow me to second Epacris' endorsement of Tuchmann's MARCH OF FOLLY. A great book, indeed.

IIRC, the first American casuality in Vietnam was an advisor kiled in 1959, during the Eisenhower administration.

Incidentally, I've always thought the coup that displaced Diem was the result of a misunderstanding. I suspect that at some point Kennedy quoted the phrase, "Carpe Diem", which CIA director Allan Dulles misinterpreted as meaning that Diem should sleep with the fishes. And on such flukes doth history turn.

Glad I'm not the only one who thinks Buchanan was our worst pre-Bush president.

#47 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 10:37 AM:

I put "one liberal recently claimed bush was the worst president in u.s. history" into Lexis's 90-day news file and got a Biloxi (MS) Sun Herald letter to the editor on February 22, 2004: however, it starts:

"I can't take credit as the author of the following paragraphs, only as a supporter of putting the truth in perspective:"

Searching on "Worst president in history? Come on!" found that and the Memphis Commercial Appeal article mentioned above.

Just searching North Carolina News Sources didn't turn up anything.

#48 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 10:47 AM:

TNH said to John M. Ford: Oh, and that reminds me: SAY, MIKE, I SEE YOU HAVE A NEW BOOK, HEAT OF FUSION, THAT'S JUST COME OUT AND IS INEFFABLY SWELL. ... Just thought I'd mention it.

Geez, TNH, you get my hopes up and I run to check my Amazon pre-order . . . and no, it's still sitting there patiently awaiting release, along with Stevermer's _A Scholar of Magics_ and Kay's _The Last Light of the Sun_.

I do have a copy of "Timesteps" that I found at Boskone to comfort me in the meantime, though.

#49 ::: Plooky Plok ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 12:02 PM:

The earliest mention of the 'letter to the editor' I can find on USENET is from "Slappy" (g4designs@comcast.net) in a post to dfw.general. The time of the posting was Feb 3 08:17:26 PST
Can anyone find an earlier reference? I doubt Slappy is the author of the letter, but it's a place to start.

#50 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 12:09 PM:

Kate: According to Powell's (whom I prefer to use rather than Amazon) the Kay book is available (and I have just ordered it) but the others are still pre-order.

MKK

#51 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 12:15 PM:

Rachel:
Interestingly, this has also been suggested as an explanation for the dropping national murder rate--if the victims survive, it ain't murder. It gives one furiously to think, no?

I had originally added that because it fascinates me, but then took it out as not pertinent.

Terry Karney:
Thank you for the information on the uniforms. That has bothered me for the past year, and nowhere could I find any information on it. It seemed to me that if some of the soldiers had desert unifroms, then all of the soldiers should have them.
Regarding the armor, do you know whether production was stepped up prior to or following hostilities, or if this was even possible?

The idea of sending people into danger without every possible protection bothers me tremendously.

#52 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 12:45 PM:

Carlos:

"Otherwise, I'd like to track these people down, twenty-five years from now, and ask them why they did so many petty, malicious things, and believed such crap."

They'll say they said it so they wouldn't get in trouble with the authorities, and that they were secretly working for the Resistance.

#53 ::: AndyHat ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 01:50 PM:

Well, there's a copy of this as a letter to the editor in the Memphis Commercial Appeal's archive for 2/16: http://www.commercialappeal.com/mca/letters_to_editor/article/0,1426,MCA_538_2655846,00.html
signed by Ken Haley of Olive Branch, Mississippi (you'll have to register with the site to read that link, unfortunately). Of course, that's no guarantee that Mr. Haley wasn't just forwarding a letter he found somewhere else, but it is at least one reference in print with a name on it.

And I could find no evidence of the letter in the Durham or Raleigh papers, though it appears their archive search engines do search letters.

#54 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 05:42 PM:

It occurred to me this morning that there's an unstated assumption underlying the whole letter: that the number of US troops dead per year represents a valid measure of Presidential leadership. We start out by asking whether GWB is the worst President in history, and then we start looking at how many people died taking on the empires of Japan and Germany in the '40s versus how many died invading and occupying little Iraq. I mean, when you think about it, it's really a complete non sequitur. Fewer Americans having died in Iraq doesn't make GWB's leadership as President somehow stack up to FDR's!

The slickness of the writing does a good job of obfuscating this absurd assumption. We've had sixty years of economic growth and technological advancement -- cannons ain't in it anymore; God is on the side of the high-tech battle armor, fighter jets, cruise missiles, and spy satellites. And it's not like the President directs the troops himself, either, so again, how does a death rate reflect on him?

It's like trying to get a 2-year-old to put on a sweater: ask him or her, "Do you want the red sweater or the blue one?" and hope that you can distract them from asking whether they want to wear a sweater at all. Get people engaged with the wrong questions and you don't need to worry about their answers.

#55 ::: Matt K ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 06:14 PM:

Well, I'm an evil liberal from "Bush Country" down in the Lone Star State.

I'm heartened to see so many people that understand history and are trying hard not to repeat it.

What I wonder is, can we change anyone's minds?
I've already been asked several times to stop sending links to these kinds of sites by people who tell me I'm "insulting President Bush" with my "smear tactics."

I despair that there are people out there who refuse to see the truth because it goes against what's on FOX news and what's coming out of their pulpits on Sunday morning.

Sorry, I don't have anything to add to tearing down this ridiculous letter, except to say that Al Franken has an excellent section in "Lying Liars" that debunks the Clinton/Sudan/Osama part.

Will the truth really set us free? I sure hope so.

#56 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 06:23 PM:

There are times when I find myself wondering, are the people who comment here making any difference? Are we preaching to the converted?

I'm not an American, I've no vote, and we have our own local bloody liar, here in the UK, and our own Ashcraft-equivalent who is making right-wing thugs look electable.

I know my comments here won't change that, and I doubt that they'll change anyone's vote in the USA. But I don't think this is the time for blogs, in either of our countries. People have to choose to come and read them, and we need to affect the opinions of the people who don't come and seek us out.

#57 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 08:30 PM:

Dave -- We have to talk to each other, otherwise how will we know how to act when the opportunity comes? Otherwise we'll have to try tapping the collective unconscious in order to know the Right Thing to do, and that, I've found, doesn't really work consistently.

Yeah, Action looks more impressive than its little brother Talk, but in the end, Talk gets more done. Why do you think dictators close coffee-shops and licence photocopiers?

Don't get pessimistic. Talk to people. Check out who's undecided, give them the facts you've read (some of them reported here, doubtless), talk over the sticking points for them. Debate with the Blairites. Even if you lose, you'll find out something about them, which you can use in the next debate. And then tell us how you're doing. If you're doing well, the rest of us will be heartened. If you're doing badly, then maybe we can hearten you.

Even if the only thing you achieve is to deprive Labour of one more vote at the next election, that might be enough.

In the meantime, if you can think of an appropriate counter to this viral campaigning....

#58 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 09:36 PM:

Nel's right, Dave. We have to keep the lines open, and trust it makes a difference. The bad guys are happy to have us subside into quiet despair.

Matt, I've seen the kind of thing you're talking about, and it grieves me. When did Americans start giving up their pride in their own independence and citizenship, and sign on for a cult of personality that defines the discussion of issues as "smear tactics," and questioning or disagreeing with Bush's policies as an "insult"?

We used to understand that this is a democracy. We may not all be equal in our abilities or achievements or wealth, but we're equal under the law. Calling it an insult to Bush to disagree with him, regardless of the rights or wrongs of the situation, is an implicit demand to treat him as an aristocrat: someone who's essentially different from and better than the rest of us. Once upon a time, Americans knew better than to do that.

Sometimes I try to console myself with the thought that these people are reacting like this because they can't bring themselves to believe that they've been lied to and misused as thoroughly as they have. They are, after all, Americans. They know this is their country. They're not accustomed to think of themselves as being excluded from the real game being played.

David Goldfarb, thank you for putting your finger on that. I knew there were more logical fallacies underlying that letter than the ones I spotted. You're right: the measure of Bush's performance is not the number of U.S. soldiers getting killed per year.

AndyHat, if the Durham papers' archive search engines do search letters, then we have our smoking gun: That supposed letter did not originate in a Durham newspaper. Failing the discovery of any earlier appearances, I think we can take its appearance at FreeRepublic.com as the initial dissemination point of a deliberately constructed piece of disinformation.

It's no surprise; but it's nice for once to have it confirmed that that's what's going on.

#59 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 10:05 PM:

If dead members of the armed forces are the yardstick, point out how many fewer died under Carter than under Reagan I (Desert One vs. Beirut Barracks).

#60 ::: Jeffrey Kramer ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 12:40 AM:

Another rhetorical device worth noting:

"Let’s clear up one point: We didn’t start the war on terror. Try to remember, it was started by terrorists on 9/11."

Opponents of war against Iraq typically insisted on an elementary fact: Al Qaeda attacked us, Iraq did not.

To get around this, we introduce a "clarification": "We didn't attack 'the terrorists,' rather 'the terrorists' attacked us."

Notice that "clarifying" the issue actually results in a massive loss of information, as all knowledge of all distinctions about the nature of the actual attack and the nature of Saddam Hussein's Iraq (i.e., everything you could say about the Middle East, different sects and uses of Islam, political systems, etc., etc.) get blurred out until the only figures visible are "us" and "the terrorists".

Moreover, the formulation "the terrorists" is undefined and thus contains zero information. The obvious point of this is that it allows the author to introduce an implicit claim ("Hussein's Iraq was part of the league of terrorists") which he doesn't have to argue for, or even state explicitly. This is another triumph for "clarification."

The ideal reader, then, may have begun with some suspicion of the war, based on particular set of facts, but can be coached to erase all such suspicions by the simple technique of ignoring inconvenient facts and substituting for them a omni-directional rage against an undefined enemy. Thus, "moral clarity" may be achieved.

#61 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 03:58 AM:

Actually, I'm struck not so much how much this reads like ad-copy as how much it reads like the Malleus Malificarum.

I'm going to go through it, replacing "terror" with "Satan" and variants and see what we get, replacing "President" with "Pope" just to make it easier to read in context. And since there's the "you're either for us or against us," I'll make "liberals" be "minions of Satan" and change terrorist organizations to Satanic organizations.

I mean, if Bush wants this to be a Crusade, it should read like one:

Minions of Satan claim Pope Bush shouldn’t have started this war. They complain about his prosecution of it. One minion of Satan recently claimed Bush was the worst Pope in U.S. history.

Let’s clear up one point: We didn’t start the war on Satan. Try to remember, it was started by Satanists on 9/11.

Let’s look at the “worst” Pope and mismanagement claims.

Pope FDR led us into World War II. Germany never attacked us: Japan did. From 1941-1945, 450,000 lives were lost, an average of 112,500 per year.

Pope Truman finished that war and started one in Korea, North Korea never attacked us. From 1950-1953, 55,000 lives were lost,an average of 18,333 per year.

Pope John F. Kennedy started the Vietnam conflict in 1962. Vietnam never attacked us. Pope Johnson turned Vietnam into a quagmire. From 1965-1975, 58,000 lives were lost, an average of 5,800 per year.

Pope Clinton went to war in Bosnia without UN or French consent. Bosnia never attacked us. He was offered Osama bin Laden’s head on a platter three times by Sudan and did nothing. Osama has attacked us on multiple occasions.

In the two years since Satanists attacked us, Pope Bush has liberated two countries, crushed the Hellfire Club, crippled the Cult of Baphomet. Put nuclear inspectors in Libya, Iran and North Korea without firing a shot, and captured a Satanist who slaughtered 300,000 of his own people.

We lost 600 soldiers, an average of 300 a year. Pope Bush did all this abroad while not allowing another Satanist attack at home. Worst Pope in history? Come on!

You know, putting it in that context makes the Bush's start to look more like the Borgias and Medicis, come to think of it.

#62 ::: Kristjan Wager ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 06:09 AM:

As someone else pointed out, the US action in Bosnia was part of a NATO action supported by the UN, in which France and other European countries participated in. To say that the UN and France was opposed to it, would be, what is technically called, a lie.

#63 ::: ET ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 08:16 AM:

> We 'liberated' 2 countries? By forcing OUR way of governing down their throats? That's considered liberating these days?

To my ears, this statement is similar to:

Look at her now, alone and miserable. Can't support her children. Poor girl. We shouldn't have interfered. We shouldn't have taken him from her. All he did was hit her and threaten to kill her and the kids.

I think that it's fine to argue deaths on both sides, damages, the necessity of the war, but when an argument like this comes up, I have to ask: do you really think that democracy is no better than dictatorship? Because that's what it sounds like. I agree with the idea that different ways of behaviour and government can be equally valid. I can even agree that a benevolent dictator can be good for a country (hey, it worked for Singapore). This doesn't mean that *all* different ways of behaviour or government are equally good.

#64 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 09:00 AM:

ET -

Under the circumstances, you can hardly describe the American way of government as a democracy.

'insecure kleptocratic neofascist authoritarianism' sounds like what Iraq is going to get if it doesn't get 'autocratic theocracy'; since it's not entirely clear which of those two is going to come to pass in the United States, I think the 'our way of governing' stands in the case of Iraq.

Since what Afghanistan got was bombed, without decisive change to the power structure nor the means of construction of power, no, they didn't get an American form of government. They didn't get any form of government.

#65 ::: Kristjan Wager ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 09:30 AM:

" I can even agree that a benevolent dictator can be good for a country (hey, it worked for Singapore)."

Well, it only worked if you are not homosexual and thus thrown in jail. There are many ways to look at what is good for a country.

#66 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 09:38 AM:

Uh, can someone please check my math:

The invasion of Iraq began in March or April of 2003.

It is now almost March of 2004.

2004-2003 = 1, not 2, doesn't it?

ken

#67 ::: Mark Orr ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 10:00 AM:

Pardon the slight deviation into levity, but has anyone else noticed that all our presidents with one syllable surnames were, to say the least, something less than spectacular successes? Polk, whose imperialistic adventuring obtained California for us, a mixed blessing indeed. Pierce, who sat back and pretty much did nothing while the unravelling of the national fabric accellerated. Taft, whom we have to thank for the income tax and trickle-down economics (almost as big an oxymoron as compassionate conservatism), and who then went on to a career as the worst lead singer for the Supremes until Rehnquist. Ford, whose administration was a Godsend for manufacturers of WIN buttons and swine flu vaccine and no one else. Bush and Shrub, who've individually and collectively insured that their rich buddies have more than enough liquid assets to patronize a variety of offshore banking establishments, thus relieving the American economy of the burden of sufficient money for those who somehow neglected to attend Ivy League universities.

On the other hand, the best presidents, or at least the ones notable enough to get their faces inscribed on money, monuments and mountainsides, all have at least two syllable surnames. Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, a pair of Roosevelts, Eisenhower, Kennedy. I personally think some of these gents were overrated, but you can't argue with the mint or Mt. Rushmore.

Of the twelve 20th Century to present Republican presidents, (McKinley, Roosevelt, Taft, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush, Shrub) four had one syllable surnames, five had two syllable surnames, two had three and one had four. Of the seven 20th Century Democrat presidents (Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton), none had a one syllable surname, five had two, two had three. The Republican average comes to exactly two syllables per surname. The Democrat average is nearly 2.3 syllables per surname. The superiority of the Democrats is, therefore, obvious, and with Dean and Clark out of the current race, is likely to continue.

Now I just wish I'd voted for Kucinich in the primary.

#68 ::: ET ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 10:01 AM:

> you can hardly describe the American way of government as a democracy.

Well, perhaps "republic" is a better description. Still, I'm sure you're not trying to argue that the form of government that Iraq had is better than what the US has. If anything, you're probably thinking that the current US government is a threat to freedom. So, is it better for Iraq to be have something much worse than the current US government?

> There are many ways to look at what is good for a country.

True. There is no perfect form of government, or, if there is, nobody has found it yet. All you can do is compare them using your own set of values. Which of course nobody does, because the moment you have someone you disagree with, you see all their actions in the worst possible light, no matter whether they could fit your set of values or not. I can understand a lot of the arguments against Bush, but "forcing a republic down a dictatorship's throat" doesn't seem like an argument that someone who's for a freer America should be using.

#69 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 10:28 AM:

ET -

What Iraq had was better than what is has now.

Just because Saddam was a very bad man doesn't mean that things can't get worse; the US has made conditions inside Iraq worse, and they show every sign of being poised to grow worse still.

You can't describe current American government as a Republic, either; very publically, a court declared that some votes, never once counted, would not be counted because they might change the outcome of an election. No one did anything.

American citizens have been, are being, held incommunicado, without charge or representation, at undisclosed locations, under rationales that argue for the arbitrary removal of all constitutional protections of liberty and security of person at the whim of the executive branch of government. No one did anything.

Certain -- 18181 margins, three times in one election? "meteors struck my car twice this week" -- widespread conspiracy to commit, not so much voting fraud as the replacement of voting with meaningless ritual, all publically known and obvious to the meanest intelligence. No one did anything.

That leaves out all the counter-to-the-intent stuff, like Gerrymandering of districts or media concentration or the publically espoused fascist ideology or the members of Cabinet's palpable public disdain for the Constitution as a vexing and anachronistic annoyance.

The United States, while not yet fully totalitarian, is a police state, controlled by an authoritarian coalition which has not yet settled its internal power sharing agreements between the thugs, the looters, and the theocrats.

#70 ::: Rachel Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 10:35 AM:

[D]o you really think that democracy is no better than dictatorship? Because that's what it sounds like.

A few points of interest here:

At the moment, Iraq has neither dictatorship nor democracy. What it has is basically no government--and Hobbes, at least, certainly argued that dictatorship is preferable to that (you know, the whole "and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" deal). I never really bought into Hobbes' argument (I'm a good liberal and prefer Locke, naturally--heh! a pun!), but looking at Iraq--and Afghanistan, too--makes me see where he was coming from.

Also: We are telling the Iraqis they must set up a democratic system in order for us to hand back control of their country. But...what if, using a full and fair, one-person-one-vote process, they would choose a theocracy? A secular dictatorship? A true power-to-the-people socialist state? Under the current conditions, we aren't offering the Iraquis any choice but US-style democracy--and please note that pure majority rule without well-defined protection for minority rights has the potential to be the most oppressive system of all.

I suppose it might be well to point out that I am not advocating a non-democratic system, I am merely pointing out that it may not be everyone's first, second, or even third choice. Bush & Co. don't seem to have grasped this notion in their "Us=good, them=bad" worldview.

#71 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 11:08 AM:

ET: I think that it's fine to argue deaths on both sides, damages, the necessity of the war, but when an argument like this comes up, I have to ask: do you really think that democracy is no better than dictatorship?

Apparently Bush and pals are all gung-ho on getting democracy for Iraq, as long as it's the kind of democracy where no one actually gets the vote.

How many deaths under the Hussein regime could be attributed to our sanctions and bombing raids? Are the people dying in the unrest there now any better off than they were before we invaded?

#72 ::: ET ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 11:26 AM:

Good point, Rachel. It's hard to say how things will develop there. The people of Iraq are obviously not used to the idea of democracy, so they'll have a hard time creating a viable replacement for what they had. The options that you mention are purely theoretical. Is there truly a viable option that will work if they are left alone? Will they come up with something viable if they are shepherded? That's a good question.

Going back to the woman with the abusive husband, it's always true that she could find another husband you disapprove of, decide to go live in a commune, or whatever, whereas you want her to finish her studies and get a good job so that she'd become independent. Are you meddling? Sure. Does it mean that what she'll be better off without your meddling? I don't know.

Graydon, the very fact that you can post what you post is proof that the US still has basic freedoms. The fact that you will soon be able to vote for a new president means that you still live in a republic. When a democrat will be in the white house, the right wing will tell me how much the US is going to the dogs. Bitching is a basic human right. Be glad you have it. :)

#73 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 02:34 PM:

Well, I'm going to say it if no one else will, but if Iraq is a battered woman, and Saddam and company were the battering husband, then it stands to reason that the deaths and indignities were the battering.

Except that she's still being battered, since there are still deaths indignities, and it begs the question of whether an overzealous police officer with a truncheon is somehow better than an occasionally violent and bullying husband. (Especially when it's being said that the police officer just wants to marry her for her money.)

Battering is battering and dead people are dead people. Iraq hasn't been liberated so much as it has a new regime.

#74 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 02:44 PM:

ET: It "sounds like"? How is that anything like? Explain, please. Figurative speech has to map.

#75 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 02:46 PM:

ET -

I'm not posting from, and am not a citizen of, the United States.

In the United States, should I be stupid enough to go there, I have no rights, no standing before courts, and no recourse under the law. Ask Maher Arar about how well that turns out.

Nor will you, or anyone, get to vote for President in the fall; you will get to go and push buttons on a touch screen, but you can be sure that the machinery isn't correctly reporting the vote, because that machinery is known to report a false vote; the president and CEO of one of the companies which makes that machinery has publically stated that it will report a false vote.

It will be no more and no less a vote than the votes held in the USSR.

#76 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 03:35 PM:

The people of Iraq are obviously not used to the idea of democracy, so they'll have a hard time creating a viable replacement for what they had.

Eh? It's only the bleedin' cradle of civilisation. If it is taking them a while to rebuild a governmental structure from the rubble, with anarchy in the meantime, perhaps that has something to do with their ministries, all the paperwork, etc. (day to day government runs on paper) having been bombed out of existence and armed foreigners roaming the streets. It's got nothing to do with their education levels or ability to comprehend abstract ideas like "one person, one vote"-- these are highly educated and sophisticated people.

Going back to the woman with the abusive husband,

Battered women go to the shelter, the shelter does not come to them, and there are sound reasons for that. Not that this analogy of yours has any relevance at all to a war and occupation launched on false pretexts and in despite of international law.

#77 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 03:43 PM:

Not all Canadians take quite as bleak a view of the US as Graydon does, but he is correct about this: non-US citizens within US borders, no matter how legal their presence, have essentially no rights. (Anyone who has ever dealt seriously with the INS knows this to be true; unfortunately, this means that most American citizens don't know it.)

As to Iraq: for the sake of argument, let us assume for the moment that American-style "democracy," warts and all, is democracy of a sort. Let us further assume that if it could be established, it would be at least an improvement over the rule of Saddam, who was a cruel dictator.

But, unfortunately, American-style democracy has never been on offer. You can't get there from here, especially not by jumping off a cliff. The emerging reality is that the invasion made things worse.

Civil war is worse than Saddam. Anarchy in the street is worse than Saddam. Theocratic autocracy might be an improvement on Saddam in some ways, but would be worse in others. And, of course, another strongman emerging out of the chaos is likely to be exactly as bad as Saddam, with the further disadvantage that *his* mass slaughters to establish power over all rivals would be yet to happen.

#78 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 08:34 PM:

It seems to me that the most important thing to do before the next (American) election, is to ensure that it will be a fair one. If Bush tried to win the last one by depriving citizens of their votes, then you have to ensure that the same thing won't happen again. I don't know, start a campaign to make sure that everybody who should be registered to vote, is registered to vote.

If they're trying to put unreliable or easy-to-subvert voting machines in the booths, then they have to be stopped. Can't an injunction be raised against the manufacturers? Or the government? If the judiciary can countenance gay weddings in the present political climate, then at least one of the counterbalances to monolithic government is still in place, and working.

What needs to be done to get UN observers in to check on an election, by the way? Is this something the security council has to vote on? If there's no other way of doing it, does anyone know Michael Moore? Maybe he can invite some Cubans, Nigerians and Iranians over to observe a few strategic voting stations.

For goodness sake, stop acting as though it was already a done deal. The Emperor hasn't dissolved the senate yet; the last remnants of the old Republic are still there. And he doesn't have nearly enough Death Stars....

#79 ::: Tuxedo Slack ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 08:45 AM:

Kate Nepveu skrev:

I put "one liberal recently claimed bush was the worst president in u.s. history" into Lexis's 90-day news file and got a Biloxi (MS) Sun Herald letter to the editor on February 22, 2004

As a former Mississippi Gulf Coast resident (who escaped in the fall of 2002), I'm curious to know who submitted the letter. I'd probably recognize the name. (My first guess is John Rhodes, but there are plenty of others who could've sent it in.)

#80 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 10:46 AM:

Tuxedo Slack: the article lists the contributor as "VAN M. ARNOLD, St. Martin."

#81 ::: The Magician ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 10:52 AM:

If people study the various ways of creating a government, then I think it just about always comes out that there are no "good" ways, just some that are "less worse" than others, and that it either relies on the goodwill of a small number of powerful people (possibly even just one) or anarchy.

Human beings, en masse (not any one of us of course!), are inherently lazy, selfish, self-protective and family protective. People have "circles of importance" (self then family then neighbours/village then country then planet, with overlays for race, religion and friendships) and that is just a generalisation of course, but if it comes down to a choice between, say, improving education for your kids or spending the money feeding the starving in Ethiopia (or preventing AIDs in sub-Saharan Africa), then I fully believe that the majority of parents would vote for the majority of the money to be spent on local education.

This is pretty much wired into us, which is a major reason wars occur (for food/land/wealth/defence/benefit for those who are near to us).

This means that if you have a true democratic (mob/majority rule) government, then minorities (gay, non-Christian, black, female) are likely to get a worse deal. And when you have a country that is divided into several groups already (Sh'ite and Kurd to name but two) with heavy concentrations geographically, then you'll get an effective theocracy based on the largest population group (like the Christian US Government with their "In God We Trust" on the coins and "One Nation Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, and Bush pushing for a no-gay-marriage constitutional amendment.)

Democracy, as in pure Democracy, does not work. But then neither does any other form of putting some *humans* in charge. Even if a balance is struck between all the competing special interest groups, then remember "Compromise is where no one wins, everyone loses" (glib and trite but quite often true). One "benevolent dictator" with the good of her/his people is pretty darn good, but they are rarely followed by another good person, whether they are related or not. We have thousands of years of British Monarchs to prove that!

Iraq has no valid census (so who is going to stop ballot box stuffing?), has very little government infrastructure (so who is collecting taxes? Repairing roads? Doing Health inspections on restaurants and shops? Paying for teachers, sanitation workers, librarians etc.?)

If the US can't run a fair election in their own country, do you think they can really run one in a country where many people hate the Americans, have seen their schools, shops and hospitals (not to mention libraries and museums) looted because the Americans came in and destroyed the government and policeforce that was keeping the country together? Where religious divides and expected bias in whatever government elected is presumed?

ET: don't mistake the "ideal of democracy" with the reality of implementation. We have at best a representative democracy in both the US and the UK, where we elect someone else to make our decisions for us, and if there are 100 different decisions to be made a year, we try to elect someone that will either agree with us on at least 51 of them, or on most of the top 30, or who will investigate further and make the right decisions for us as a country that we might not as individuals. E.g. investing in foreign aid, medical research, farm subsidies, renewable energy etc.

Bread, circuses and tax cuts (and defecit spending) are good ways of buying votes, but they are not the best way of getting a good government. Both the US and the UK have a cult of personality, where it seems to be more important how charismatic a person is, than whether they would be a good politician. In Iraq it will be whoever the religious leaders decide would be good people to run the country. Because without the agreement of the religious leaders, no election will work, and with their agreement, no election will be "free and fair". But then, that's not that much different from the US where, without the support of "religious" leaders (Christian, Jewish, Black (Jesse Jackson), Mammon (oil and tobacco and defence), NASCAR etc.) you can't win the nomination and you can't be President.

People (in general) follow leaders, that's why they are called "leaders". People who read Making Light are probably more free-thinking than most. But the majority of people want to trust a few good people (Oprah, Jay Leno, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ralph Nader, Billy Graham, Howard Stern, Captain Crunch, whoever) and use them as filters and guides towards who to trust to run the country. That is the power and the danger of mass media. Combine that desire for someone to provide leadership, with a religious fervour (Muslim, Christian, Jewish, whatever) where it is God's will you vote for Mr.Ed, (and you'll burn in eternal damnation if you vote for the pro-abortion, anti-gun, anti-farm subsidy, pro-"Sex and the City" _liberal_ spawn of Satan) then democracy seems an awful long way away.

Sorry about the rant, just didn't want to get back to fixing this C program that I need to get finished today.

#82 ::: F. Simmons ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 07:02 PM:

This response was compiled today from information found on the internet and from citizens around the country responding to this dubious "article" on message boards (including this one). The facts have been checked, and links (text in red) are provided so you can see for yourself & make your own decision. The opinions, mine and others', you can take or leave.

> > > The United States didn't start the War on
> > > Terror. It was started by terrorists on 9/11.

Tenet & the CIA had “declared war” on bin Ladin as far back as 1998>> CIA Director George Tenet’s testimony in 2002 gives a clear picture of where intelligence on terrorism stood before the attacks. The CIA warned that something big was coming.

Now the official "War on Terror" is being used as a premise to invade and attack sovereign nations with impunity in order to track down terrorists, targeting an identity or persona rather than a crime. Its broad nature and sweeping generalism are a global cause for concern.

However, we were not attacked by Afghanistan, Iraq, Saddam Hussein or his minions on 9/11. We were attacked by al Qaeda, a very specific group of terrorists, mostly Saudis, based in Afghanistan.

> > > For those of you who have forgotten the
> > > facts, or never knew them, read this:
> > > FDR led us into World War II. Germany
> > > never attacked us: Japan did. From 1941-1945,
> > > 450,000 lives were lost, an average of 112,500
> > > per year.

FALSE. Hitler declared war on us on 11 December 1941.>>

The German U-boats were sinking our merchant ships, and our navy had orders to shoot German subs on sight. 13 ships flying the American Flag were sunk by the Germans between 12/21/1940 and 12/2/1941.>>

> > > Truman finished that war and started one in
> > > Korea. North Korea never attacked us. From
> > > 1950-1953, 55,000 lives were lost, an average
> > > of 18,333 per year.

FALSE. Truman did not start the Korean war.

The Korean War was the result of the division of Korea into communist North and capitalist South. North Korea invaded South Korea first.

When the North invaded the South, the US saw it as communist effort at expansion. Compounding the United State’s fears, the attack was endorsed by the USSR, and partially led by Red China. The US feared that communism would spread throughout South East Asia should the communist forces takeover the whole of Korea. This would thus allow them to be able to strike any where in Asia or the Pacific

North Korea attacked, driving South Korea all the way to the tip of the peninsula. MacArthur did an end run at Inchon and pretty much had the war won. Then he became insubordinate and exceeded his orders by pursuing the North Koreans to the Yalu River, which brought China into the war, which is why Truman fired him.

All told, 14 nations of the UN participated on our side in achieving the war aim, which was the restoration of the Status Quo Ante-Bellum. Instead of obtaining this goal by 1951, MacArthur's adventurism prolonged it by two years and cost about 40,000 more UN lives than it should have. MacArthur, BTW, was a Republican.

It is all verifiable through history books or online.

> > > John F. Kennedy started the Vietnam conflict
> > > in 1962. Vietnam never attacked us.

FALSE. JFK did not start the Vietnamese conflict in 1962. We were already hip-deep in Vietnam 10 years before he took office.>>

Truman got the U.S. involved in Vietnam first with $10 million in direct aid (May 1950). The French were trying to maintain control of Indochina following World War II, including Vietnam, but failed, and ended up having to cede North Vietnam as a separate, communist country in the 1950's.

By the end of 1950, the United States had given $150 million in aid to the French forces, including planes, tanks, fuel, ammunition and napalm.

By the end of 1953, America was paying 80 percent of the war, over a billion dollars a year. Dwight Eisenhower promised troops to Vietnam in 1954.

> > > Clinton went to war in Bosnia without UN
> > > or French consent. Bosnia never attacked us.

HALF TRUE. The French (and the US) took part in the Bosnia operations as part of NATO.>> That is clearly “consent”.

> > > Bill Clinton was offered Osama bin Laden's
> > > head on a platter three times by Sudan, and
> > > did nothing.

CIA Director George Tenet, in his 17 October 2002 testimony before the Joint Inquiry Committee>>
said,

“We have read the allegations that, around this time, the Sudanese Government offered to surrender Bin Ladin to American custody. Mr. Chairman, CIA has no knowledge of such an offer.”

There are, however, persistent rumors that a businessman who claimed he had connections to the Sudanese government made this unofficial offer, and Clinton did not act on it. How many times is not clear, and the validity of the offer is in question. Here is what President Clinton said about it:

"We'd been hearing that the Sudanese wanted America to start meeting with them again," Clinton told the Long Island Association on Feb. 15, 2002.

"They released [bin Laden]. At the time, 1996, he had committed no crime against America, so I did not bring him here because we had no basis on which to hold him, though we knew he wanted to commit crimes against America."

If bin Laden had not committed a crime against the US yet (or we didn’t have proof), Clinton’s inaction makes sense. "Wanting" to commit crimes was not a punishable offense in pre-9/11 America. Rumors and speculation are not and should not be enough. Bin Laden wasn't under any indictments in the USA. So how could he be extradited here legally? With 20/20 hindsight, of course, we know that following the law had disastrous consequences. Does that mean Clinton should have ignored the law?

Anthony Lake's 9/18/02 testimony to the Joint Intelligence Committee>> sheds light on what we "knew" about bin Laden in 1996: "In an effort to disrupt his financial networks, we urged the Sudanese government to expel him, which was done in May, 1996. He fled to Afghanistan."

As more damning evidence accumulated, the Clinton administration hardened efforts to stop bin Laden. Clinton tried on multiple occasions to capture or kill bin Laden, but was constrained by U.S. law as it pertains to assassinations. Clinton in pursuing bin Ladin was accused of "wagging the dog" by conservatives.

> > > Osama has attacked us on multiple occasions.

True, but the implication here, that the attacks came before the alleged offer above, is not. Both Clinton and Bush missed opportunities with regard to bin Laden. Clinton’s administration took action through the CIA and issued clear warnings to the incoming president about terrorist activity.

What Bush missed is well documented:

PBS Interview of Eastham>>
Time Article>>
Washington Post Article 1/19/02>>
Washington Post 5/16/02>>

By the time Clinton left office, OBL had become priority one and the incoming Bush team was well briefed. Nevertheless, one of Rumsfeld's earliest actions was to cancel the Predator drone surveillance of OBL. Proposals for action languished though the intelligence coming in fairly screamed that an attack was imminent. “Could 9/11 Have Been Prevented?”, Time magazine, 8/4/02>>

Bush and his team were given ample information to be fully aware of the threat posed by Osama bin Laden when Bush took office. Remember, the attack on the USS Cole occurred in October 2000.

The annual report in Feb 2001 by CIA Director George Tenet >> also focused strongly on the threat of Osama bin Ladin.

> > > In the two years since terrorists attacked us,
> > > President Bush has liberated two countries,

QUESTIONABLE. Bush used 9/11 as a pretext for turning America into a global bully, ramming "democracy" down the throat of the Middle East.

When South Korea was invaded, we were asked to assist. In the liberation of Kuwait, we were asked to assist. Even in Vietnam we were asked to assist. Who asked us to liberate Iraq? In this instance WE were the invaders, making war on a country without declaring war on it. Has our invasion improved their lives? Are they glad we are there?

In Iraq, according to Vice Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, U.S. Navy Director, Defense Intelligence Agency:>>

“Iraq is the latest jihad for Sunni extremists. Iraq has the potential to serve as a training ground for the next generation of terrorists where novice recruits develop their skills, junior operatives hone their organizational and planning capabilities, and relations mature between individuals and groups as was the case during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and extremist operations in the Balkans.”

We invaded Afghanistan to punish the Taliban and hunt down al-Qaeda, and tore up an already ravished land. Their citizens are not “free” now. Much of Afghanistan is now in the hands of various warlords. Karzai's power doesn't extend much beyond the limits of Kabul. Funding and support to Afghanistan is inadequate, allowing a resurgence of the Taliban and endangering efforts to foster democracy there. Barnett Rubin - Stockholm talk, 11/20/03>>

> > > crushed the Taliban, crippled al-Qaida, put
> > > nuclear inspectors in Lybia, Iran and North
> > > Korea without firing a shot and captured a
> > > terrorist who slaughtered 300,000 of his own
> > > people.

Taliban is far from crushed, currently staging a guerilla counter-offensive. They still are fighting hard for territory in Afghanistan and are encroaching on the parts they don't control with a strong control of the border (South and Southeast) between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Their continued presence, supported by Pakistan, keeps the situation volatile and dangerous. They are a serious and growing threat.

Washington Post 2/23/04>>
International Herald Tribune article, Barnett Rubin, 1/12/04>>
Voice of America article, 2/16/04>>
ABC News Article 2/7/04 (warlords)>>
Fighting highlights Afghanistan instability - Stephen Graham, Associated Press, 2/8/04>>

> > > crippled al-Qaida,

2/14/04: Al-Qaida’s presence in Iraq is INCREASING, not DECREASING.>>(AP news article)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 24 2004 -- Osama bin Laden's right-hand man, Ayman Zawahiri, said in a tape aired on Qatar's al-Jazeera satellite television network on Tuesday that President Bush had lied when he asserted that most of the al Qaeda network had been crushed.>>

Even the Director of the CIA, George Tenet, said on 2/24/04>> that

"There are notable strides, but don't misunderstand me -- I am not suggesting Al-Qaeda is defeated. It is not. We are still at war. This is a learning organization that remains committed to attack the United States, its friends, and its allies."

"The steady growth of Osama bin Laden's anti-American sentiment through the wider Sunni [Muslim] extremist movement and the broad dissemination of Al-Qaeda's destructive expertise ensure that a serious threat will remain for the foreseeable future, with or without Al-Qaeda in the picture," Tenet said.

CIA: Al-Qaida spawning new terrorists, Washington Post 2/24/04>>
World: CIA Chief Says Al-Qaeda Hurt But Still Dangerous, Radio Free Europe, 2/24/04>>

As one blogger puts it, "If they're so crippled why are they invoked every hour on the hour to justify everything from preemptive invasion to halitosis?"

Consider this statement>> made 2/24/04 by FBI Director Robert Mueller:

“The greatest threat remains international terrorism -- specifically Sunni extremists, including al-Qa’ida. While our successes to date are dramatic, we face an enemy that is determined, resilient, and patient, and whose ultimate goal is the destruction of the United States. Al-Qa’ida’s flexibility and adaptability continue to make them dangerous and unpredictable. This enemy still has the capability to strike the U.S. both here and abroad with little or no warning.

Al-Qa’ida is committed to damaging the U.S. economy and U.S. prestige and will attack any target that will accomplish these goals.

There are strong indications that al-Qa’ida will revisit missed targets until they succeed, such as they did with the World Trade Center. The list of missed targets now includes the White House and the Capitol.”

…and this one by DIA Director Jacoby:>>

“Despite 25 months of sustained pressure, al-Qaida continues to demonstrate it is an adaptable and capable threat. Their network has directed numerous attacks since 9/11, most recently in Istanbul and Riyadh. Al-Qaida continues to enjoy considerable support and is able to recruit terrorists. Capable but less experienced individuals are replacing those captured.”

> > > put nuclear inspectors in Lybia, Iran and North Korea

“We put nuclear inspectors in Iraq without firing a shot, and look where that got us. Big deal. We may have put nuclear inspectors in Libya, Iran and [North Korea] without firing a shot in Libya, Iran or North Korea, but shots were fired elsewhere. Bully leverage is not a world-stabilizing strategy.” – a message board respondent

Libya entered secret talks with Britain and the US during the Clinton administration. >> Britain led the way in this, not the US. >> Credit is due to the CIA for cooperation with the British to bring Libya around.

Iran was mainly thanks to the Europeans; the International Atomic Energy Agency>> is responsible for the inspectors in Iran, which is now giving signals that it may resume uranium enrichment. ( Iran offers to sell nuke fuel in global markets, AP News 2/15/04>>)

According to George Tenet (2/24/04) >>, “Iran and Syria continue to support terrorist groups, and their links into Iraq have become problematic to our efforts there.”

"Over time it's going to be important for nations to know they will be held accountable for inactivity," he said. "You're either with us or against us in the fight against terror."- George W. Bush, 2/4/2001

N Korea was a six-nation joint operation with China applying most of the pressure. Clinton also had nuclear inspectors there. They are still defiant, claiming now that they do not have highly enriched uranium, despite US intelligence to the contrary. We’ve heard that scenario before.

"But make no mistake -- as I said earlier -- we have high confidence that they (Iraq) have weapons of mass destruction. That is what this war was about and it is about. And we have high confidence it will be found." White House, Apr 10 2003

According to Tenet(2/24/04)>>, “The NORTH KOREAN regime continues to threaten a range of US, regional, and global security interests. As I've noted earlier, Pyongyang is pursuing its nuclear weapons program and nuclear-capable delivery systems. It continues to build its missile forces, which can now reach all of South Korea and Japan, and to develop longer-range missiles that could threaten the United States.”

North Korea shows "nuclear deterrent", BBC article 1/11/04>>
N. Korea Repeats Uranium Denial, Washington Post article 2/26/04>>

> > > We lost 600 soldiers, an average of 300 a year.

Yes, we've lost 600 soldiers in Iraq alone. Placing this statistic in context among all the other wars listed and their thousands of deaths seems to downplay the value of 600 lives. One life in a wrong war is too much.

Thousands of our soldiers have been maimed there. As of the beginning of January, there had been over 9000 soldiers wounded in Iraq. Many more Iraqi civilians have died.>>

The Vietnam War had relatively light casualties in the first few years as well. A five- or ten-year presence in Iraq will probably result in tens of thousands of deaths and could require a new draft.

> > > Bush did all this abroad while not allowing
> > > another terrorist attack at home

Mightn't the anthrax and ricin plots be considered 'terrorist attacks'? Yet “On the same day a poison-laced letter shuttered Senate offices, President Bush asked Congress to eliminate an $8.2 million research program on how to decontaminate buildings attacked by toxins.”>>

As one message board respondent put it, "Terrorists tend to wait a while before another major operation; victory cannot be declared in this respect."

Events are still transpiring that threaten our security. Tenet 2/24/04 >> // Washington Post 2/23/04>>

> > > Worst president in history? Are we sure?

Maybe not the worst president in history, but not one who deserves to be re-elected.

The evidence shows that Americans are NOT safer now than before the invasion of Iraq. On the contrary, there is now a wave of anti-Americanism>> that endangers our citizens abroad.

Our alliances are damaged, our reputation has declined… and the enormous cost of rebuilding other countries is placing an unfair burden on future generations. It's time for some checks and balances in Washington.

My intention here has been to provide solid facts to dispute these generalized lies. Any and all corrections are welcome.

#83 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 08:36 PM:

Magician: Iraq has no valid census (so who is going to stop ballot box stuffing?),

This was recently disputed; Iraq was doing such massive handing-out of food that they are said to have had a detailed formal system for making sure everybody got some but not too much.

In Iraq it will be whoever the religious leaders decide would be good people to run the country. Because without the agreement of the religious leaders, no election will work, and with their agreement, no election will be "free and fair.

This is arguable; the biggest religious noise in Iraq is Sistani, who insists that true Shi'a (i.e., unlike the Iranian version) does not interfere in civil government. How this will work out remains to be seen.

#84 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 10:47 PM:

When I saw Teresa on Wednesday, she thought I should comment, given my interest in the US's military history. However, most of the points about the facts of this utterly, irredeemably specious letter that I would have made have been made quite well, often better than I would have made them.

However, there is a point on the rhetoric which hasn't been made which I think is important. Years of arguing politics on rec.arts.sf.fandom (and elsewhere) have shown me that any two historical situations can be made to resemble each other, if you elide or distort enough of the details. This letter is pretty much a perfect case in point; the only real similarities among World War II, Korea, Viet Nam, and Bosnia are that American troops fought in them.

(My dear coyote tells me that there is a law of literary criticism which says that with sufficient ingenuity, any narrative can be found inside any other narrative; my observation is a special case of that.)

#85 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2004, 02:25 PM:

In response to the question about armor:

I think that, yes, production might have been stepped up, by adding extra shifts at the factories (and it takes more than one type of plant to make them, the Kevlar fabric, the cutting, the armor plate makers,and shapers, etc.) could have increased production.

There are actually reasons to not do that, in the interests of protecting soldiers. If all of a sudden we started making an extra 10,000 sets of armor a month, someone (whom we might rather not) will notice, and perhaps prepare.

As for the best protection possible, I'd like an M-1A2 Abrams for my body armor too (well, no, but that is because I think tanks are not for me, too tall, too loud, draw fire and can't duck) but the best available was provided, and in the best distribution pattern for the risks perceieved.

None of the guys at the sharp end (when there actually was a sharp end) had old-fashioned armor, and I never felt mine to be inadequate to the risks I faced (even if I wanted the Interceptor because it was more comfortable).

Terry K

#86 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2004, 03:51 PM:

Terry,

Thank you. I have had family there, only it's the side of the family that doesn't like to talk to my side of the family, so I know little about details, and have no one to ask, so I appreciate the information.

#87 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2004, 04:18 PM:

"...with sufficient ingenuity, any narrative can be found inside any other narrative..."

"We have incontrovertible evidence that Moby-Dick is a Whale of Marine Destruction. Therefore . . ."

And Terry, the observation "A movin' foxhole attracts th' eye" comes to mind, for some indefinable reason.
Be really nice to still have him right now.

#88 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2004, 06:45 AM:

Freepers for sale or rent
Wish they'd go away for Lent,
They're a bunch of knee-jerk whackoes,
Recidivists.

No honor and no couth,
And completely lacking ruth,
They're an affront to real truth
Whacked out Freepers.

They're in ev'ry newsgroup and ev'ry blog,
Posting lies and spreading fog,
Pushing agenda in ev'ry way,
Oh how I wish they they would go away, and

Freepers for sale or rent,
Wish they'd go away for Lent,
They're such lying slime malicious
Recidivists.

#89 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2004, 01:53 PM:

Terry: If all of a sudden we started making an extra 10,000 sets of armor a month, someone (whom we might rather not) will notice, and perhaps prepare.

Considering this administration's hawkish posture, what secret would have been blown by gearing up armor production on 12 Sep 2001? Or, at the latest, when Bush announced that Saddam had to go? Given the longstanding Cheney/Rumsfeld/... posture on rearranging the Middle East, could this step have been untaken in order to encourage Saddam to continue defiance, given them a casus belli (however feeble) -- i.e., being more careless with individual lives?

#90 ::: J. Bogan ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2004, 05:48 PM:

One additional point that I've rarely seen brought up:

Saddam Hussein's forces DID in fact attack Americans and the then-president did nothing despite the opportunity to rid the world of the mass-murdering thug. So let's all condemn... Ronald Reagan, for doing nothing after the attack on the USS Stark... except give Saddam MORE stuff.

#91 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2004, 12:22 AM:

The Boston Globe on Feb 28 has an article State Department websites inflating Bush's military flight record...

http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/presbush/bio

"George W. graduated from Yale in May of 1968 with a major in history. Two weeks before graduation, he went to the offices of the Texas Air National Guard at Ellington Air Force Base outside Houston to sign up for pilot training. One motivation, he said, was to learn to fly, as his father had done during World War II. George W. was commissioned as a second lieutenant and spent two years on active duty, flying F-102 fighter interceptors. For almost four years after that, he was on a part-time status, flying occasional missions to help the Air National Guard keep two of its F-102s on round-the-clock alert."

Oh, REALLY??? Not.... Don't other people get kicked out of jobs for that sort of exaggeration and lie?

The Globe article is at
http://www.boston.com/news/politics/president/articles/2004/02/28/bush_bio_on_web_inflates_guard_service/

"The errant biography on the State Department website was called to the Globe's attention yesterday by Hugh E. Scott, a retired Continental Airlines captain and former Air Force pilot from Newbury Park, Calif."


Globe articles tend to stay freely accessible only a couple days, however.

#92 ::: Kris T ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2004, 12:49 AM:

Well, as for Korea...Korea was invaded by Japan and occupied for about 30 years, I believe. They outlawed the Korean language, kidnapped the daughters for sex slaves, confiscated the land, and killed the men who were begging the UN for help. The U.S. entered Korea after years of opression and civil rights violations of the worst kind. Hardly jumping the gun.

#93 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2004, 03:05 AM:

Um, the people of Korea were begging the UN for relief from Japanese occupation? That seems somehow wrong to me.

#94 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2004, 05:30 AM:

Occupation of Korea 1910-1945. Study of Japanese language made compulsory early on, but the schools taught Korean as well until 1938, when it was abolished, and Koreans were also forced to adopt Japanese names. (Some funky reforms of Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, were being proposed by Koreans in Russia/USSR during that period, as well.)

Also, given that Woodrow Wilson's "fourteen points" inspired the Koreans' March First Movement for independence, which turned bloody on both sides, I suppose begging the UN for help later on isn't that unlikely. I mean, we're talking about the former Hermit Kingdom here, for cryin' out loud. (I am often amazed that the Joseon dynasty didn't collapse a lot earlier.)

Kris T., are you referring to the March First Movement, or to other incidents? I can't tell from the description.

References:
Kim-Renuad, Young-Key, ed. The Korean Alphabet: Its History and Structure. Honolulu, Hawai'i: U. of Hawai'i Press, 1997.

Nahm, Andrew C. Introduction to Korean History and Culture. Elizabeth, NJ: Hollym International Corp., 1993. (Well, I have the Korea printing, which would be Seoul, Korea, but probably easier to find the NJ one in many places.) I'm sorry to say that this is a horrendously dry read, but I picked it up over the winter in Korea because finding material in English on premodern Korean history is a depressing exercise. Also keep in mind that I haven't cross-checked this data, as the thing's 10 years out of date.

#95 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2004, 05:36 AM:

The UN was founded in late 1945 and had its first meeting in 1946. I would think that Japan was out of Korea by then; that's all I was saying.

#96 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2004, 07:28 AM:

David: Oh, I see what you were getting at. Yes, quite, although bitterness lingers, and then there was whole collaborationist problem...

#97 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2004, 03:46 PM:

My college roommate's perspective is below. She majored in Political Science and is now a journal for Albany's (?) Daily Gazette.

"Interesting...I like the idea of criticizing a piece on its attempt to misinform people intentionally...but, unfortunately, I think I disagree with Teresa about that.

"I think that those ARE honest mistakes, because they're the way anybody born after Vietnam would view wars they don't know much about.

"And I think the person is making a semi-good point. The policy after WW2 was to protect democracy by stopping the spread of communism in places far, far away, because of the theory (since disproven) that if one country became communist, it would spread like wildfire because the communists would have a toe-hold in the ara and would subsequently overthrow all nearby countries too.

"So, yes, Korea and Vietnam and Bosina etc. never attacked us and never threatened us in any way, nor did they have the capability to attack us. No one has threatened US soil since we fought with Mexico over whether we could invade Texas successfully with a bunch of settlers, and you could argue thatthat doesn't count because it was our invasion. In that case, no one has threatened US soil since the war of 1812, when England attacked...and lost, after burning the White House.

"The thing the writer is missing, however, is the fact that Bush's policy of attacking first is the logical extension of all of these other wars in places where we weren't in direct danger. Bush actually opposed war in places where we weren't being threatened, so he argued that in the case of Iraq, we WERE being threatened. And that is why he is so worried about the lack of WMDs in Iraq -- it means he has become a liberal, in terms of war policy.

"The funny thing is that liberals have become conservatives in war policy since the Iraq war started.

"Liberals used to be in favor of saving oppressed peoples, but now that it's being done on the scale that liberals said would be the truly moral and right thing to do, they realize that war is horrible and nobody really likes it when you march into their sandbox, criticize their games and make them play your way.

"So, anyway, I think the letter writer made reasonable mistakes --knowing only that those wars happened without fighting on our soil, and forgetting the rationale behind them -- but I think the writer is wrong, not in terms of what was said but in terms of not realizing that Bush is thus carrying on a liberal agenda that the liberals are horrified to see actually happen.

"I'm glad that, if nothing else, Afghanistan and Iraq have taught us that people don't appreciate outsiders "saving" them. I think we can blame WW2 for the difficulty in learning that lesson -- we didn't know, at the time of the war, that the concentration camps were what they were, but when we got to them the people were very happy to be rescued. We've therefore assumed that anybody would be equally happy, not realizing that the concentration camps were a very unusual extreme.

"It is not the same, for example, when two idiots who go into a country and deliberately break its laws and are put in jail for it, but everybody reacted as though it was when those missionaries were jailed in Afghanistan.

"I'm sending this to you, rather than posting it at Teresa's thing, because I don't think it's what she's looking for...but if you disagree, you can post it." (sic)

#98 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2004, 07:30 PM:

The idea that World War Two in Europe was, in any large sense, fought to "rescue" concentration-camp inmates is truly odd. Perhaps the lady is unaware that there was a larger German presence in both western and eastern Europe between 1938 and 1945.

The notion that the policy of containment, the Domino Theory, and the escalation in Vietnam were somehow "liberal agendas" is more than a little ridiculous. Our contributions to regime change in Iran and Chile were also not big with the NATION-reading crowd. But then, we are all overfamiliar with this particular use of "liberal."

I'm at least glad the lady "likes the idea" of criticizing an article that deliberately tells lies. Too bad she couldn't bring herself to do it.

#99 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2004, 12:19 AM:

That isn't what I got out of KM's e-mail, or I wouldn't have posted it here. Rather, the point she made about WW2 was that, in the PROCESS of winning WW2, we freed people from concentration camps, and they were very happy to be freed. We now expect everyone we intervene on the behalf of to to be just as grateful, and it isn't always the case.

#100 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2004, 02:55 AM:

It remains a bad analogy. First, because the idea of sending troops abroad to improve the lot of the natives hardly begins with World War II; it is the core idea of imperialism, and one of the things that distinguishes empire-building from mere conquest: Rome began by merely looting the countries she overran, but moved on (for a variety of reasons it would be way too digressive to list) to exporting her culture. Whether or not anyone else believes that culture was the best in the world, the Romans definitely did. (It is relevant to note that Paul Wolfowitz is a big fan of what he thinks Imperial Rome was, though his study of the subject seems limited to wide-screen movies.)

And even within WWII, it's a bad analogy. Europe was occupied, remember? The death-camp prisoners were not the only people liberated by the Allied forces; everybody else, including a good many Germans, was quite happy to be out from under the Nazis. Look, in all of human history, -no- occupied nation has ever been "liberated" by purely internal effort; it has -always- involved an invasion. (Note that neither Afghanistan or Iraq were occupied nations; their abysmal rulers were natives.)

And, of course, having liberated Europe, we rebuilt it. That is, we financed its rebuilding; one of the key elements of the Marshall Plan was that the methods of reconstruction not be dictated by the US. Now, the problems cannot be directlly compared; Europe had a developed, advanced society to rebuild, Afghanistan does not, and Iraq is deeply divided over what sort of society it wishes to construct. But the Afghanis, and from the available evidence, the bulk of the Iraqis, are not angry with the invasion forces because we "made them play our way," especially since no such thing has happened (except, of course, when our satrap decided that -sharia- law was okay by him); they are angry because, having "liberated" them, we have done absolutely bleep-all to put their countries in working order. We have allowed armed gangs to do as they please; we have contributed nothing whatsoever to infrastructure. There is not, at least as of a couple of weeks ago, a single functioning sewage plant in all of Baghdad, and the resulting pollution of the Tigris and Euphrates is almost beyond description; the budget allocation to the environmental ministry for its first year's operations is . . . one million dollars.

It may or may not be the case that this administration intended to seize Iraqi oil and turn a profit from the invasion; certainly that is not what the US troops believed they were fighting for (even the ones posted to guard the oil ministry while the hospitals were left to be looted). It is, however, what a great number of Iraqis believe, and even if they are wrong, they are not stooges of Saddam for thinking so.

Oh, and Iraq never threatened the United States, on our turf or off. The WMDs were a lie, remember? The connection with 9/11 and Al-Queda was a lie, utterly transparent to anyone for whom the East is not just a vague mass of sorta-Arabish country-like objects. Saddam knew that attacking the US would be suicidal. He was a dangerous man (there is no one who is actually unhappy that he's gone, only a few willing to use that as an excuse for violence) but not that stupid. And he knew something about the US; he was Reagan's big buddy, our good weapons customer, when he was killing all those Iranians.

Talking about the liberation of Auschwitz et al. as if it were the sole motive for invading Normandy, or the sole liberation in Europe, is historically absurd. Failing to differentiate between types of international intervention -- drawing no line between a vaccination program and a war, never mind the covert deposition of an elected ruler (I am thinking of Mossadegh, not Hussein) is morally absurd. The concept that Bush's premeditated Oedipal war was somehow part of a "liberal agenda" -- saying that the people who opposed the invasion were only getting what they wanted -- is beyond absurdity.

Okay, I am as close to angry as I feel like getting. If there is some actual discussion of why and how a steaming pile of lies is mere well-meaning misapprehension, I might engage with that. Otherwise, I'm going to stick with the threads that still have something to discuss.

#101 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2004, 12:18 PM:

Mr. Ford, you are The Man.

#102 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2004, 01:57 PM:

Bush actually opposed war in places where we weren't being threatened, so he argued that in the case of Iraq, we WERE being threatened.

Well, actually, no.

The American people opposed war in places where we weren't being threatened (since we recall the Titanic Blunder that was Vietnam), and Bush lied in order to make it seem to those people that we were being threatened.

How do we know Bush lied?

First, listen to the public statements of his advisors:

"He [Saddam Hussein] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors."
-- Colin Powell, February 2001

"We are able to keep his [Saddam Hussein's] arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt."
-- Condoleeza Rice, April 2001

Next, we now know that the Bush administration was listening in on the UN weapons inspectors in 2002/2003. He was getting the data raw, not filtered, and the UN weapons inspectors weren't finding those still-missing weapons of mass destruction.

Bush opposed to a war in Iraq? No. He was looking forward to one ... see, for example, his comments in 1999 during his campaign. See also the Project For the New American Century.

#103 ::: Kathleen ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2004, 03:37 PM:

I agree that the idea of "saving people" by invading their country is an imperialistic concept. The U.S. was isolationist until WW2 (which means we were opposed to getting involved in anybody else's business, but in reality meant we defined "anybody else" as anyone not living in North or South America).
However, at the end of WW2, we were startled to find a reason for the war that extended beyond both revenge for Pearl Harbor and keeping committments to defend allies. We realized that Hitler had indeed been seriously oppressing some people, who were very happy to have us rescue them.
After that, we thought we were possibly the only ones able to rescue people -- and we had some reason to think so. Our land had not been devastated by the wars, so we had the money to help out Europe.
So we did, and that got us into the world, and we've never been isolationist again.
To make my point clear about liberals supporting intervention, please recall the Bush-Gore debates.
They discussed Clinton's support of intervention in Bosnia, Somalia, etc. and Bush criticized those actions. Gore defended them. Clinton had argued that we as a nation and as a member of the UN need to protect people who are being massacred by evil dictators or large groups of other people. The problem is that in the case of the concentration camps, the people were locked up and (with one notable exception) were unable to free themselves. People involved in civil wars on their land may have horrible lives and not want to be fighting, but they have an extent of freedom that detainees do not.
Clinton argued, as did many previous presidents, that we should at least give money and arms to the poor people being oppressed. Liberals, a term I use loosely, have supported this, and have argued that we as a country or the UN as a group should help out lots of these people.
Bush said no, that was wrong, we shouldn't interfere.
He said he would only support risking our troops if we as a country were at risk.
Liberals derided that, saying he was cowardly and should want to help poor people who can't help themselves.
Then Bush as president went out and did what liberals have been calling for for years. The two top countries, in terms of horrible oppression that liberals have said we should do something about, were Iraq and Afghanistan. Bam, he went into both countries.
And then, a year later, we realized that it isn't always so easy. Everyone forgets about the years it took in Germany and Japan, and no one ever remembers that Japan's governmental structure was revealed to not be democratic a few years ago, when widespread corruption between government and business leaders was discovered. Germany's economy struggled too, decades after we supposedly saved them.
It takes decades of dedication. Where do we still have lots and lots of troops stationed? Germany and Japan. Do the people there beg them to stay? Oh, no. They've been begging them to leave.
Nobody wants their country fooled around with, not really. They complain, but it's not as easy as killing Saddam or overthrowing the Tailban. We're all seeing that now. The people chose the Taliban, which was formed by students in Pakistan's refugee camps, who came to back to their country with Pakistani pay to overthrow the warlords who were committing atrocities. The US overthrew the Taliban and reinstated the warlords. In an interview with the president of Afghanistan now, in this week's Time Magazine,which was good enough to print both the questions and the verbaim answers, the presidents says the Taliban were good people, except for about 100 who were involved with al Quada, and he'd be happy to work with them. He says the biggest problem in Afghanistan is getting rid of the warlords...the warlords the Taliban had removed from power, the VERY SAME warlords that the US restored to power.
According to the US Country Reports, which are issued annually, Afghanistan was moving toward "modernization" in that women were no longer required to wear the burkas, were allowed to work, and the Taliban allowed schools for girls as well as boys and a special school for women to be trained as doctors.
That was in 2000.
In 2002, the Taliban was gone. Bush proclaimed happily that women were now free to go to school and work.
Sad to say, most of the press swallowed it.
In Iraq, we now know the poor dictator was telling the truth when he, increasingly desperately, swore he didn't have any WMDs. We overthrew his country too.
In both cases, we thought we were saving people. In the first case, women, and in the second case, us. Turns out neither needed it. That's the danger of intervention -- you learn the truth when it's too late. People are realizing that now, thank goodness. But Bush is seriously screwed; he thought he was using our forces to save us. But it turns out he was using our forces to save people, which was supposedly the great, loving, wonderful thing to do --according to liberals-- and found out that the Republicans were right all along and it really sucks to try to fix somebody else's problems.
I suppose this is a little off topic, but my congrats to anyone who's made it this far.
Kathleen

#104 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2004, 04:25 PM:
However, at the end of WW2, we were startled to find a reason for the war that extended beyond both revenge for Pearl Harbor and keeping committments to defend allies. We realized that Hitler had indeed been seriously oppressing some people, who were very happy to have us rescue them.

This is a ridiculous characterization of the mindset of US policymakers (and the US public) of the period.

To make my point clear about liberals supporting intervention, please recall the Bush-Gore debates.

Nice sense of historical perspective you've got there.

Clinton argued, as did many previous presidents, that we should at least give money and arms to the poor people being oppressed.

That's a very, er, simplistic way to frame the argument, but even so, the "many previous presidents" were mostly not liberals by any reasonable definition. For example, remember Reagan? The contras? The mujahedeen, the former darlings of the neocons? (I have the feeling the answer is "no.") But of course you use the term "liberal" "loosely" (when you make a word do that much work, you have to pay it extra).

I'll stop before I become even more uncivil.

#105 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2004, 04:35 PM:

The recent discussions of WWII and liberating the concentration camps entirely sidesteps the fact that the US (and many other countries) refused for a long time to believe the camps existed, then refused to believe what was happening in them, and actively refused to allow Jewish refugees to come to the US or go to Palestine (or, indeed, anywhere except back to the European countries they were trying to get away from in the first place).

#106 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2004, 04:37 PM:

I suppose that were the arguments made at the time the war was proposed about our needing to get rid of a bad man so the people could engage in Wilsonian self-determinism, the war in Iraq might be as you paint it.

But it wasn't. It was presented as the excercise of a right to pre-emptively attack those who threatened us. We now know (as some did, and those in both the back-rooms where decisions are made, and in the trenches where information is collected) that the premise was, in a word, a lie.

It is also why the war is not an extension of the idea that we need to, militantly, foster the freeing/saving/helping of the opressed.

Which is the reason so many who opposed the war in Iraq, were not opposed to the War in Afghanistan. There was a connection between the people who attacked us, and the leadership in Afghanistan.

Our follow-up, however, in neither case, has failed to live up to the promises we made before hand. We have propped up the warlords in Afghanistan, and shilly-shallied on how we intend to give the Iraqis the control of their destiny we promised them. Now we have changed our tune again, saying that which was not doable before December, must be completed by June.

Such waffling, such continued attempt to use the lives and fortunes of the Iraqis for local political advantage are seen by them as being cynical, a morally indefensible. Most Iraqis are, at worst, presently indifferent to us. They accept, grudgingly, that the realpolitik of the world dictated the war, and that means there will be some turmoil.

They also want to be able to get to stable (and they hope more pleasant than the last) regime, and we don't seem to be doing dick to help that, and more to the point, seem to be acting in a manner counter-productive of that end.

Whether the perception matches the facts is unimportant, because the perception is what drives the discontent, which is what drives the shootings, the roadside bombs and the indirect fire.

Those few who come in from outside have a different agenda, and pretty much don't count, except as they want us to stay longer, so they can come closer to their ends, which benefit from instability, and the U.S. as a whipping boy.

Terry K

#107 ::: Xopher spots more comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2004, 03:42 PM:

Yep, another irrelevant comment on an old thread, with a link to the same site as Benedict on the other one...looks like they've broken your wall here. Dammit.

#108 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2004, 03:46 PM:

There was one like this a few days ago, too, but I can't remember on which thread. I didn't think much of it at the time, but it follows the same pattern (including the proverb use).

#109 ::: Raven ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2004, 09:55 AM:

The "worst president?" spam is still being posted &mdash and challenged — including on misc.writing, with currently one poster weaseling about whether it really does accuse FDR of starting WWII.

Google USENET search
Google WEB search
Google NEWS search

Only recently did I see this and start responding to it.

I was delighted to come across this discussion and see your debunking & deconstruction. Well swatted, folks!

(And hi from Caer Anterth, Mike!)

#110 ::: Raven ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2004, 09:59 AM:

HTML typo: "&mdash" ---> "—".

#111 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2004, 02:09 PM:

Less than an hour ago, John Dean, on CNN, said that Bush's abuse of Secrecy (example: the "Bin Laden Intends to Attack Inside US" memo) is "worse that Watergate."

Saturday Night Live, a few hours earlier, had their opening segment about Janet Jackson playing Condoleeza Rice flashing a breast (Cheney's advice) at the 9/11 Commission.

Then SNL gave the titles of some other White House briefing memos (I paraphrase):

"Bin Laden Really, Really Intends to Attack Inside US"

"Put down that Game Boy, Mr.President: Bin Laden Really, Really, Really, Really Intends to Attack Inside US: Shouldn't you do something?"

There's deception, disinformation, and "I can't make up stuff as fictional as that!"

#113 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2004, 04:08 PM:

Johnson turned Vietnam into a quagmire. From 1965-1975, 58,000 lives were lost, an average of 5,800 per year.

Try to remember that from 1969-1975 the president was Nixon, a Republican. At least 21,202 died in Vietnam during the Nixon years, or 3,534/year.

(And 58,000 lives weren't lost 1965-1975. That's an attempt to place all the Vietnam casualties, counting those who died as early as 1956 and those who were declared dead as late as 1998, into those ten years. Source: The National Archives)

Until Bush came along, Nixon was widely considered our worst president.

#114 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2004, 04:15 PM:

So who was the worst President?

Before George W. Bush (a Republican) came along, the worst president was widely considered to be either Ulysses S. Grant (a Republican) or Warren G. Harding (a Republican).

#115 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2004, 04:36 PM:

James D. MacDonald: gee, you skipped a few.

My parents were of the generation some of whose lives were literally saved by the New Deal. THEY tended to think that Herbert Hoover (...a Republican...) was The Worst President.

I came of age when Richard Nixon (...a Republican...) was trying to draft me for no good reason anybody could explain (before he exploded in a mess of crimes large and small).

I thought RMN was the worst president, until I came onto the job market during the Reagan Depression (...another Republican...), before HE narrowly escaped impeachment by claiming to be unaware of what was going on in his administration.

I never thought I would live to see a worse president than those two.

And now for the last four years I’ve been forced to watch the daily parade of unceasing diasters from the current (...Republican...) Junta.

I've asked conservative friends to name a single measure - ANY measure - by which the United States is better off today than four years. I'm still waiting for an answer.

#116 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2004, 05:14 PM:

Home ownership is apparently up slightly. Faint praise.

#117 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2004, 06:34 PM:

Ulysses S. Grant, our Worst President? Not when James Buchanan, Millard Fillmore, and Warren G. Harding are in the pool of eligible nominees. Grant never could understand money, and he didn't have the background expertise for the job, but he was neither cowardly nor dishonest nor a dimbulb.

#118 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2004, 08:51 PM:

Let's not forget New Hampshire's own Franklin Pierce.

(As for Grant -- having read some of his memoirs, I tend to wonder if the problem wasn't that he was so reflexively honest that it required an extraordinary effort of imagination for him to consider that someone else might not be.)

#119 ::: Tayefeth ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2004, 09:09 PM:

My husband, a Republican, thinks that Wilson was the worst President we've ever had, but "if this one gets re-elected, we'll have a new contender".

#120 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2004, 10:30 PM:

Tayefeth, I'll second your husband's nominee.

It's that setting a precedent of getting into war for popularity thing. And the 14 points were obnoxious.

#121 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2004, 11:50 PM:

Polk set that precedent, surely.

#122 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2004, 02:48 AM:

Tom Whitmore answered my rhetorical question above (Name a single metric by which America is better off today) by pointing out that
>Home ownership is apparently up slightly.

Darned if he isn't right. I had heard the Bushies claim this, and just assumed that they were lying.

But it's true. A quick google for "home ownership rates" turns up a nice Census table, which confirms my broader point above, that Republican presidents tend to be a disaster for the American populace.

E.g.: The rate of home ownership reached a peak under Carter, and declined under Reagan. When RR left office in '89, home ownership had declined back to what it had been under LBJ, 20-odd years before. It didn't again exceed the Carter peak until the next Democratic administration, in 1997.

The current boom in home ownership is due to record low interest rates, and thus more credit is due to the Federal Reserve than to the administration, but it's still a real improvement.

So, ok, I stand corrected: there is ONE measure. . . .

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