September 18, 2003

Activists Against Nation-Building

Judith Weiss sent me this from the left-wing activists at

The US occupation in Iraq has left American soldiers unprepared and vulnerable, the country degenerating into chaos, and the Iraqi people embittered and hostile. Now the President is asking Congress for a staggering $87 billion blank check to fund more of the same. But until he takes strong steps to correct this failure, Congress shouldn't give him a cent.
Let me just correct that. These activists aren't trying to block Bush from getting "a cent." They are trying to block the Iraqi people from getting a cent.

And those who think Iraqis are "embittered and hostile" might want to read this (which I linked yesterday) from a liberal American judge in Iraq who strongly opposed the war before he actually went there:

WE ARE NOT GETTING THE WHOLE TRUTH FROM THE NEWS MEDIA. The news you watch, listen to and read is highly selective. Good news doesn't sell. 90% of the damage you see on tv was caused by Iraqis, not by US. All the damage you see to schools, hospitals, power generation facilities, refineries, pipelines and water supplies, as well as shops, museums, and semi-public buildings (like hotels) was caused either by the Iraqi army in its death throes or Iraqi civilians looting and rioting.
He also goes on to say this:
By my sample, 90% are glad we came and the majority doesn't want us to leave for some time to come...Of the hundreds I talked to, the overwhelming majority thanked us for being there. Hundreds of adults and children on the roads waved and smiled as we passed by.
The activists are willing to help Iraqis on two conditions: Bush must fire Donald Rumsfeld for leading us into a (non-existent) quagmire and must surrender Iraq to the UN.

Anti-war activists, who never did show much concern for brutal oppression in Iraq, now want to hold Iraqis hostage for partisan domestic political gain. Oh how inspiring.

If only activists could be liberal and internationalist again...

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 18, 2003 12:13 AM

One of the risks of this war was misleading reporting on the aftermath and political pressures that might put on Bush to compromise away the gains.

Is it possible that Al-Qaeda has not attacked in this country again because of strategic reasons, not an inability to do so? They only have to see how the media is cursing Bush and the US and look to what happened after 9-11.

Posted by: tallan at September 18, 2003 06:17 AM has probably not read this from Iraq-Today either.

[Start Excerpt] On the face of it, wouldn't it have been better from the beginning to have Arabic speaking soldiers in Baghdad, who can relate to the local culture in a way a Westerner can only dream of? How much easier would it have been for the CPA to win hearts and minds, if they had more Arabs delivering their message? Having Muslim troops stationed in a Muslim country makes sense, doesn't it? A Saudi Arabian officer, or a Jordanian trooper would be much easier to trust than one with the Stars and Stripes on his uniform, right?

Wrong. Evidence on the ground suggests that the absence of Arab involvement in Iraq is actually not a bad thing at all. The truth is that most Iraqis would rather have an American dominated force here, than an Arab one.

The grim reality, particularly hard to hear for all those Arabs that felt they were supporting their Iraqi brethren when demonstrating to stop the war, is that most people here don't want anything to do with them.

On the walls of Mosul University, one of Iraq's oldest, warning signs are clearly displayed; "No Jordanians, No Palestinians". Iraqis are clearly still upset that other Arabs were able to study in Iraq, effectively on Saddam's payroll. Iraqis have had enough of seeing their own lives compromised for the benefit of Arabs from neighbouring countries. [End Excerpt]

I am neither pro nor anti war. I am simply pro freedom. I understand that the media has an interest in spinning this as a negative for Bush but it would be nice if every now and then they would actually report news instead of writing stories that fit preconceived notions.

Posted by: Buck Hicks at September 18, 2003 06:58 AM

Someone else said there was graffiti saying "Go home Palestinians, your free ride is over"

Posted by: James Stephenson at September 18, 2003 08:18 AM

I have confessed to being one of the anti-war activists "who never did show much concern for brutal oppression in Iraq". Actually, a better way to put that phrase would be to replace the word "show" with "demonstrate". There were a lot of signs and pamphlets from the overwhelmingly non-America-hating contingent of protestors that in one way or another claimed that the war would be some degree of horrible for the Iraqis.

Yet prior to the war, and continuing on had the war not taken place, I and my erstwhile companions did absolutely nothing to benefit the people of Iraq other than marching against a war to destroy the regime that had terrorized, brutalized, enslaved and murdered them for 30 years, because in our naivety and willful ignorance we thought that American invasion and occupation not only could be, but would be, worse. It was Chomskyite hypocracy diffused into the soccer-mom middle classes.

I think there's actually a reasonable chance that a lot of the people who demonstrated against the war have tempered their feelings about it somewhat since the heady days of protest--after all, there aren't any more protests. Hundreds of thousands of people around this country marched against the war, but we're not hearing from most of them any more, at least not in ways that rise above the background noise. Or maybe they just found something else to occupy their fleeting attention; it'd be interesting for somebody to catch up with some of them.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at September 18, 2003 08:54 AM

My favorite part was the bit about the "$87 billion blank check." I don't mean to deflect legitimate criticism by picking nits, but a blank check is one that doesn't have an amount written in. It's like an unlimited line of credit. The fact that the appropriation is $87 billion means, by definition, that it's not a blank check.

Of course, the folks would never let facts get in the way of their political agenda. "Blank check" is a much more evocative turn of phrase than "really big check that, despite the fact that we know exactly how much it is, is still really big."

Posted by: Jeff Harrell at September 18, 2003 11:00 AM

I doubt lying prostrate to the UN would staunch the wails of the Rabid Left. For confirmation, do a web search on:


Good lawd the froth that comes back.

Posted by: SlimyBill at September 18, 2003 11:06 AM

Left-wing activist are evolving into a unique breed whether they work for MoveOn or the U.N. They become so self-absorbed that they are right, any who disagree with their “well formed conclusions” are either stupid (“not too bright”), uninformed, inferior or right-wing extremists. They rarely see themselves as having been indoctrinated by some ideology, but as true champions of the "underdog".

My friends in Geneva who work in the U.N., have convinced themselves that really only “humanitarians” who work with the victims or tragedies have a “true understanding” of global problems and how to solve them. It seems that (depending on their experience) they also must participate in some gesture that denounces Israel and/or the U.S., before they are accepted to the “club” (and start getting benefits). Once admitted, these useful idiots are especially helpful in spreading the worldview that the hyperpower is to blame for most evils. Your tax dollars at work.

Posted by: d-rod at September 18, 2003 11:15 AM

Mr. Totten,

I would respectfully dispute your comment that anti-war activists never showed much concern for the brutal oppression in Iraq. Don't you remember all the activists in the 90s who wanted end sanctions because of how the West was brutally oppressing Iraq's children?

Posted by: Z at September 18, 2003 11:35 AM

Oh yes, and they always bring the children into it. As if it Saddam wasn’t responsible for brutally oppressing the children.

Posted by: d-rod at September 18, 2003 11:53 AM

"Is it possible that Al-Qaeda has not attacked in this country again because of strategic reasons, not an inability to do so?"

What would that strategy possibly accomplish? Aren't we trying to wipe them out no matter what?

But then you got me thinking. Maybe after the fall of the Taliban, Bush based America's strategy in the War on Al-Qaeda on the fact that terrorists need publicity in order to terrorize.

So, Bush brilliantly stopped mentioning Osama by name and invaded a country that had nothing to with 9-11. As long as the U.S. publicly ignores Osama while privately seeking to squash him like the revolting insect he is, Osama's forced to attack Western interests only in foreign countries.

Nah, my theory's dumb. Forget I wrote it.

Posted by: Oberon at September 18, 2003 11:54 AM

"If only activists could be liberal and internationalist again..."

And this would take the form of...?

Posted by: Stephen at September 18, 2003 12:40 PM

"Nah, my theory's dumb. Forget I wrote it."

Oh yes. Thats just totally silly. We all KNOW Bush is a moron, thanks to geniuses like Maureen Dowd, so we know that nothing like that could have been planned by the White House.

Posted by: Roark at September 18, 2003 12:44 PM

By "blank check", Move On means that the $86 billion figure is, in all likelihood, a starting point. As someone who didn't support starting a preemptive war based on WMD's, I believe that we nonetheless have a responsibility to rebuild Iraq, and do not oppose the President's request, with the cavaet that this must be a deficit-neutral request. This is his mess, not America's, and if he still believes this to be America's top priority, he has to come up with the money to pay for it.

Posted by: Steve Smith at September 18, 2003 12:47 PM

Don't you remember all the activists in the 90s who wanted end sanctions because of how the West was brutally oppressing Iraq's children?

Z, those arguments against the sanctions are a pretty good example of how the activists were arrayed against the U.S., and not for the Iraqis. By focusing on the West "brutally oppressing Iraq's children", they completely ignored things like the success of Iraqi Kurdistan (forced to live under the exact same sanctions regime as the rest of Iraq), the multitude of palace complexes maintained by Saddam while his people starved, the fact that the regime was literally starving the opposition by witholding food and medical supplies to regions which opposed him. They also made no mention of how to deal with Iraq once the sanctions were lifted, and Saddam was again free to rebuild his armed forces.
In short, it was more important to oppose sanctions because they were imposed by the west, than it was to support the people who were being starved, tortured, and murdered by Saddam.

Posted by: George at September 18, 2003 12:52 PM

By "blank check", Move On means that the $86 billion figure is, in all likelihood, a starting point.

I'm really not all that interested in "what they meant." I'm more interested in what they said, and why. What they said was untrue. Why they said it... well, we can only guess at that, but it seems fair to say that they appear to have been more interested in appealing to emotion than being truthful.

This is his mess, not America's

Wrong answer, Steve. The President of the United States is the duly elected chief executive of our country. Everything he does reflects on us, the electorate. Furthermore, he was acting with the express approval of Congress, meaning that it's Congress's "mess" as much as his. And since Congress is elected by the people directly, there's another reason why it's most certainly America's "mess."

(Mess? Hardly. Things are going better in Iraq than any reasonable person could have anticipated. If things continue to go like this--knock on wood--we'll probably be done there in three or four years instead of six or seven.)

Z, those arguments against the sanctions are a pretty good example of how the activists were arrayed against the U.S., and not for the Iraqis.

That's true, George, but it's also true that those arguments are yet another example of not letting the facts get in the way of a political agenda. Here's just one example: the radical left often accused the west of denying Iraq access to medicines. In fact, Iraq was strongly encouraged by western nations to import more medicines, but refused to do so. The sanctions never had any impact on Iraq's access to medicines. And yet, this simple fact didn't get in the way of the radical left's blaming the deaths of untold millions on the sanctions.

Posted by: Jeff Harrell at September 18, 2003 01:01 PM

Steve, saying that the president has to come up with the money, and not the American people is pretty silly. Whether it is deficit neutral or not, it's still paid for by us.

Something in the moveon pitch also strikes me as funny: who do they think will pay the UN bills if the UN takes over reconstuction? Hmm, maybe they believe it'll hit bargain basement prices because the quagmire will miraculously disappear.

Posted by: Van Gale at September 18, 2003 01:23 PM

Oops. It seems some people took my post literally. Please add an ironic tone.

My original draft, instead of "Iraq's children", had "Iraq's poor, innocent children, protected from the imperialist infidels only by Saddam's sheltering hand". But I figured the sarcasm was over the top in that one.

Posted by: Z at September 18, 2003 01:25 PM

"But I figured the sarcasm was over the top in that one."

It is almost impossible to be more over the top with sarcasm about the activists than they are over the top in all seriousness. Sarcasm fails as a form of humor in the face of obstinate idiocy. Historical irony still works, but mostly because most of the activists have as much sense of history as newborn. The lovely folks at have done some amazing work in this vein.

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at September 18, 2003 02:40 PM

Bush is cornered by a bad economy and job situation and an escalatingly expensive situation in Iraq. I personally don't understand how Rummy and Wolfowitz couldn't figure it would expensive there? How could they overestimate the infrastructure? But then again, apparently everybody overestimate it?

Bush is going to sliced and diced in the next year leading up to the election and Hillary might be smelling some blood I hear.

The Europeans and UN know all this and are going to make the price of "UN Approval" though meaningless to us in any sort of military way, and at best only slightly helpful in an economic way, VERY EXPENSIVE.

The bottom line is that the Middle East is a cauldron that has to be dealt with and if Bush can navigate the next 12 months or so well, then the next phase of plans could be crucial.

By the way a comment Pipes took flack for appears to be ringing true already.

In an article heavily linked Bush advisors Grove and Norquist have had intimate contacts with Arabs in groups like the AMC and CAIR as well as others that are now indicted in terrorism links. Apparently these advisors are pushing Bush to soften his stances and pursuit of the War on Terror domestically for at least now until the election.

The need for the growing Arab Muslim influence is eventually perhaps going to water down the war on terror. Imagine the effect in 20 years?


Posted by: Mike at September 18, 2003 04:19 PM

These activists aren't trying to block Bush from getting "a cent." They are trying to block the Iraqi people from getting a cent.

Umm, isn't that money for military support, not rebuilding, per se? Sure would be grand if we could get an itemized receipt. I swear, these damn tax-cut-and-spend conservatives...

Posted by: Rob La Raus at September 18, 2003 04:34 PM

Generally speaking, the argument against the sanctions was that it gave the Iraqi state too much control over the distribution of medicine and other suchlike -- that, in short, we were handing too much power to Saddam over his own people.

I saw merit in the discussion, but I felt that the risks to Kurdish areas and regional stability were too great. But then, it was a lousy situation all around, and there were no good solutions, which is why it kind of sat there for twelve years.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 18, 2003 04:59 PM

The lovely folks at have done some amazing work in this vein.

Ugh. Anybody who proudly associates themselves with Michael Savage has their credibility, especially as attackers of hypocracy, cast immediately into doubt.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at September 18, 2003 09:32 PM

Whenever I see somebody describing themselves as an "activist" these days, I cannot help but think that there is somebody who doesn't have to work for a living.

Posted by: eric at September 20, 2003 05:36 AM


"Is it possible that Al-Qaeda has not attacked in this country again because of strategic reasons, not an inability to do so?"...What would that strategy possibly accomplish?

9/11 was a huge strategic mistake for the Islamists. That tragedy woke up LOYAL Americans to the fifth-column alliance between transnational socialists and Arab nationalists. I shudder to think what state we would be in had we continued to slumber for another 10-20 years.

So what would that strategy accomplish? We might go back to sleep. That would give the cockroaches at CAIR and MoveOn more time to work unnoticed in the dark. CAIR could continue with their agenda of turning America into an Islamic nation. MoveOn could continue in their agenda of subjugating America to the UN.

Posted by: HA at September 21, 2003 04:03 AM

Van Gale,

Something in the moveon pitch also strikes me as funny: who do they think will pay the UN bills if the UN takes over reconstuction?

Exactly. The transnational socialists at MoveOn want to put American troops under UN control. They want UN administrators to American taxpayer money.

MoveOn wants to position itself as the sane alternative to ANSWER. Real Americans know better. MoveOn is a greater danger to America than ANSWER and Al Qaeda. If groups like MoveOn and their allies at CAIR weren't dividing and weakening us from within, nobody would dare attack us.

Posted by: HA at September 21, 2003 04:11 AM

Now I know why "activists" have peeled off their "Free Tibet" bumper stickers:

Posted by: HA at September 22, 2003 03:26 AM


"I'm flattered such an excellent writer links to my stuff"
Johann Hari
Author of God Save the Queen?

Andrew Sullivan
Author of Virtually Normal

"Brisk, bracing, sharp and thoughtful"
James Lileks
Author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food

"A hard-headed liberal who thinks and writes superbly"
Roger L. Simon
Author of Director's Cut

"Lively, vivid, and smart"
James Howard Kunstler
Author of The Geography of Nowhere

Contact Me

Send email to michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com

News Feeds


Link to Michael J. Totten with the logo button


Tip Jar


Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn