November 09, 2004

The Triumph of Secularism

I wasn't going to link this article by Christopher Hitchens, as much as I love the man, because I think he paints with (a bit) too wide a brush this time around. But since some people in my comments section insist on lumping me in personally with Christian fundamentalists, despite the fact that I'm a socially liberal atheist, here goes.

So here is what I want to say on the absolutely crucial matter of secularism. Only one faction in American politics has found itself able to make excuses for the kind of religious fanaticism that immediately menaces us in the here and now. And that faction, I am sorry and furious to say, is the left. From the first day of the immolation of the World Trade Center, right down to the present moment, a gallery of pseudointellectuals has been willing to represent the worst face of Islam as the voice of the oppressed. How can these people bear to reread their own propaganda? Suicide murderers in Palestine—disowned and denounced by the new leader of the PLO—described as the victims of "despair." The forces of al-Qaida and the Taliban represented as misguided spokespeople for antiglobalization. The blood-maddened thugs in Iraq, who would rather bring down the roof on a suffering people than allow them to vote, pictured prettily as "insurgents" or even, by Michael Moore, as the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers. If this is liberal secularism, I'll take a modest, God-fearing, deer-hunting Baptist from Kentucky every time, as long as he didn't want to impose his principles on me (which our Constitution forbids him to do).

[...]

George Bush may subjectively be a Christian, but he—and the U.S. armed forces—have objectively done more for secularism than the whole of the American agnostic community combined and doubled. The demolition of the Taliban, the huge damage inflicted on the al-Qaida network, and the confrontation with theocratic saboteurs in Iraq represent huge advances for the non-fundamentalist forces in many countries. The "antiwar" faction even recognizes this achievement, if only indirectly, by complaining about the way in which it has infuriated the Islamic religious extremists around the world. But does it accept the apparent corollary—that we should have been pursuing a policy to which the fanatics had no objection?
Hitchens seems to forget about the far-more reasonable secular liberals at his own Slate magazine (Jane Smiley's awful guest column excepted). But his basic point stands. The American right is a better champion for secularism where it is most urgently needed. And for that they have my (partial) support.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at November 9, 2004 02:09 PM

Comments

I agree, almost entirely, with this piece.

One cannot one the one hand decry the dogma of Christianity and on the other hand excuse the dogma of Islam.

However, I do have to disagree with Mr. Hitchens on a couple areas. I certianly think that the PLO is much more driven by the desire for the Palastinian state, than simply Islamic religious dogma.

Terrorists and Insurgents have been around for literally centuries. The Vikings were terrorists, American Revolutionaries were Insurgents (who stooped to terrorism when it suited them).

It's never as simple as Good vs. Evil, unless you are drowning in someone's dogma.

I'm still not sure that invading Iraq was the most correct decision. I think focus on Al-Q, and maintaining the hunt for Bin Laden would far outweigh what we've done in Iraq (at least in the near term... the next 3000 victims aren't going to take solace in Iraqi Elections). However, that doesn't in any way, mean that I support the Islamic theocrats, it means I question our leaders decisions, in the way they chose to stand against the Islamic theocrats.

Ratatosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at November 9, 2004 02:36 PM

Tosk: that doesn't in any way, mean that I support the Islamic theocrats, it means I question our leaders decisions, in the way they chose to stand against the Islamic theocrats.

Yes, I know. No need to convince me. The "left" has many different factions, as does the "right." I wish we could throw those useless labels away, but we're stuck with them.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 9, 2004 02:41 PM

I have been infuriated by the "spin" on this election.

Keep up the good work Michael.

Posted by: Terry at November 9, 2004 02:46 PM

Chimpy Bushitler religious rightwing christian zealot is bringing secularism and freedom to the middle east. Imagine that. And the Left hates him for it. Go figure.

Posted by: David in Jesusland at November 9, 2004 02:54 PM

"I'm still not sure that invading Iraq was the most correct decision."

Don't worry rat when its all over and we demolish the insurgency and Iraq is on the path to freedom you can pull a John Kerry and voice your approval for our actions. You can say the same about most of the Afghanistan "quagmire" intellectuals and pundits that now sing our praises and looking back the anti-globalists and democrats that ridiculed Reagan but now understand that his policies led to the destruction of the USSR.

"It's never as simple as Good vs. Evil, unless you are drowning in someone's dogma."

I must be drowing then, it is that simple, unless you are moral relavist. Would anyone today argue who was on the good and evil side of WWII? Ask the South Vietnamese, you know the same people who are still starving to death after years of communist rule, who was on the good side of the fight? The same will be said today, one nation embraces freedom and democracy, one faction of a religion embraces death, submission, and opression. It is really that simple..

Posted by: gibs. at November 9, 2004 03:06 PM

Gibs,

Was the Soviet Union on the good side or the evil side of World War II? Seems simple at first, but think about it for a second. Which side actually killed more of their own civilians, USSR or Nazi Germany? Who was on the good side, Finland or the USSR? How many native Taiwanese were happy to be "liberated" from Japan in order to be delivered to the Kuomintang?

I'm not really disagreeing with you, I'm just sick of people dragging out WWII all the time. It confuses the issue. What we're engaged in now is basically the Tripoli Pirates revisited, except the Pirates have grabbed better weapons. There are wars, and there are battles for civilization. Iraq is still the former. If everyone on the left and right had a little more perspective maybe there would be more understanding.

Posted by: Vanya at November 9, 2004 03:15 PM

Hitchens' article is specious nonsense, designed purely to accomplish the self serving and self-evidently impossible task of reconciling his previous beliefs with those he currently professes (because he is constitutionally incapable of renouncing any position he has previously held).

Let's go to the scoreboard:

U.S.: now more firmly in the control of people who believe that they have the right to impose their religious beliefs on others.

Iraq: a previously secular country that will either disintegrate into anarchy or, if it has a government, will have a government that is to a greater or lesser extent, theocratic. Religious militias continue to grow in strength and influence.

M/E generally: religious fundamentalism continues to gain in credibility and strength - in significant part due directly to the actions and statements of the U.S. administration. With Arafat gone, the last vestiges of the secular heritage of the PLO will disappear and it will emerge as a purely Islamicist movement. The secular regimes that we support (which are largely dictatorships, by the way) continue to be challenged by Islamic fundamentalism, driven, in part, by the implications of western support for those regimes.

Afghanistan: the Taliban is gone, for now.

So: add it up - is the number of people whose lives are unwillingly influenced by theocrats growing or shrinking?

If we had designed a strategy to polarize the world into two warring religious camps, it seems to me that it would look pretty much like the one we have adopted.

Posted by: Mork at November 9, 2004 03:22 PM

I'm not going to whore this thread but I will say that Russia was not quite our ally and never was in the eyes of Patton and others before Hilter decided to pull a Bonaparte and invade the Motherland. But I agree WWII is pulled into way to many threads, as is Nazism unfortunately.

I maintain, however, that this fight against militant Islam is as simple as good vs. evil.

Posted by: gibs. at November 9, 2004 03:25 PM

Vanya,

Re the Barbary pirates, when Jefferson inquired of his European hosts how they dealt with their piracy problem. He was stunned to find out that France and England both paid tribute to them. Sound familiar? The pirates would then use the money to expand their own armada, buy more weaponry, hijack more commercial ships, enslave more innocent civilians and demand greater ransom.

This didn't make sense to Jefferson because he recognized the purchase of peace from the Muslims only worked temporarily. They would always find an excuse to break an agreement, blame the Europeans and demand higher tribute.

When a dozen of our U.S. merchant ships were hijacked and it's crew and passengers enslaved, he did what the Europeans should have done instead of appeasing them. He wiped them out. That's the moral of the story. Appeasement doesn't work. Wiping them out always does.

Posted by: David in Jesusland at November 9, 2004 03:28 PM

"If we had designed a strategy to polarize the world into two warring religious camps, it seems to me that it would look pretty much like the one we have adopted."

I know you've been in a self-induced haze for the past 24 years but this began way before GWB ever got into office. We've just now begun to pay attention and fight back.

Or in your estimation, considering you don't give any suggestions so to deny your position, should we just pretend people don't want to ruin our way of life, by means of flying planes into building or heaven forbid acquiring nuclear weapons from a rogue state? I guess our lives were a lot simpler when we just left the world alone while factions of islamofacists bombed embassies, kidnapped and killed innocents, and tried to take down a US vessal.

Posted by: gibs. at November 9, 2004 03:43 PM

What we're engaged in now is basically the Tripoli Pirates revisited, except the Pirates have grabbed better weapons.

Were the Tripoli Pirates inspired by a system of laws and a culture of hate that has caused more than a million deaths?

I think what we’re seeing here is a cult, inspired by a nasty combination of oil money and bad philosophy, that grabs whatever weapons it can. The current Wahhabi-inspired cult is a cross between the Thousand Year Reich and the Hutu genocidaires – with a lot of religious fundamentalism thrown in. There was no doubt that both of these groups should have been stopped.

The Palestinians, whose planned constitution includes rule by Islamic law and the establishment of an Islamic state, are a part of it. Saddam did his best to appease it. The mullahs of Iran believe that they’ve been at war with us for more than twenty years. We’re only beginning to notice.

I agree with Hitchens when he says that Islam is the fundamentalism that we should worry about. I don’t always agree with what Bush does, and Hitch does paint with a wide brush, but the tendency of the left to appease and make excuses for the Wahhabi cult as they try to convince me that my God-fearing relatives in the red states are a bunch of frothing at-the-mouth lunatics doesn’t inspire trust.

Posted by: mary at November 9, 2004 03:48 PM

So, gibs, are you saying that it is impossible to hunt and kill terrorists without convincing the Islamic world that the United States is embarked upon a religious crusade to subjugate the middle east?

Posted by: Mork at November 9, 2004 03:50 PM

but the tendency of the left to appease and make excuses for the Wahhabi cult

Mary - can you given me one example of someone in the mainstream American left "making excuses for the Wahhabi cult".

And while you're at it, would you care to characterize the Bush Administration's approach to the chief sponsors of the Wahhabi cult - by which I mean the royal family of Saudi Arabia?

Posted by: Mork at November 9, 2004 03:53 PM

Yes, given the stakes it would be impossible.

You can't treat this threat as a hit and run operation whereby we just swoop down into Afghanistan, take out the terrorists, and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. Unfortunately, its not that simple. For one we don't have a base of operations to conduct this kind of activity in the middle east, unless of course you think Turkey is all of the sudden going to allow us to launch SF teams inside Iran.

Secondly, we'd better be just as concerned about Al Queda as we are about rogue dictators with a thirst for WMD. The two wouldn't mix well on US soil. You can't just pay off dictators anymore, especially one's that try to conduct assignation attempts. You have to uproot them by any means necessary. If you inflame some unemployed theocrat sipping on tea in Cairo or Morocco so be it, he's as anti-American as he was 10 years ago. Or do you think the mullahs have been preaching peace and happiness against US policies for decades?

People, whether they be jealous aristocrats from France or theocrats from Iran or communists from the US, will always loath America. To think otherwise or that this will somehow change is naive.

Islamofacism is a disease and must be eradicated, you don't defeat cancer by cutting out a section of the tumor. You don't destory militant islam by dropping an ill placed tomahawk or arrest a small faction of thugs.

Posted by: gibs. at November 9, 2004 04:04 PM

Mork,

A lot of people in the Middle East think we're on a religious crusade to subjugate the Middle East. But we aren't, and you know we aren't. Eventually they will have to notice, however long that takes, because the much-feared Christian subjugation will never ever materialize.

I don't know about you, but I'm not willing to let Middle Eastern paranoia prevent me from defending myself. Crazy stupid "theories" are going to materialize in some quarters no matter what we do, even if we do nothing at all. The Joooooooos were blamed for September 11. That kind of loopiness can't be appeased.

Besides, as you probably already know, most of these "theories" originate in the state-run media of the dictatorships. They are deathly afraid of us, as they should be. Their days are numbered because we are not putting up with their bullshit anymore.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 9, 2004 04:23 PM

Michael,

Can you please explain to me again how we're "defending ourselves" by invading a country that was no threat to us and creating more anti-Americanism, and thus more terrorists, in the process? I forgot how that works.

Posted by: flipster at November 9, 2004 06:43 PM

can you given me one example of someone in the mainstream American left "making excuses for the Wahhabi cult".

Mork - several elected Democrats have made excuses and/or accepted very large cash donations from the Wahhabis.

Jimmy Carter’s peace foundation has received millions of dollars from Saudi Royals and the bin Laden family. In return, (or maybe out of a rush of goodwill) he has endorsed the Saudi Peace Plan, and he maintains very friendly relations with the Saudi royal family.

Jimmy recently accepted a 4 million dollar check from Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud. This was the same Talal whose $10 million dollar check was turned down by Rudy Giuliani after September 11th. Guiliani criticized bin Talal’s statement that blamed Israel for the Saudi sponsored attack.

Immediately afterwards, democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney sent bin Talal a letter begging for the millions, witing that "excessive, and often indiscriminate, use of force by Israeli security forces... breeds a hotbed of anger and despair that destabilizes peace in the Middle East and elsewhere."

McKinney was later asked to be the keynote speaker for the CAIR annual fundraising dinner.

According to an investigation by the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary, CAIR is a Wahhabi sponsored organization.

Sen. Patty Murray told a group of high school students terrorist leader Osama bin Laden is popular in poor countries because he helped pay for schools, roads and even day care centers.

"We haven't done that," Murray said. "How would they look at us today if we had been there helping them with some of that rather than just being the people who are going to bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan?"

Those are just elected representatives. A general list of leftists and liberals who have made excuses for the Wahhabis would overwhelm the comments section.

Democrats and Republicans have a long history of making our ‘special relationship’ with the Saudis a top priority.

Democrats and Republicans have two main priorities when it comes to national security. The first priority is to avoid nuclear conflict, and the second is to maintain our oil supply. The Saudis aren’t a nuclear threat right now, and despite the fact that Saudi-sponsored terrorist attacks have depleted our economy by approx. 1 trillion dollars, despite the fact that the Saudis are sponsoring the insurgency that we’re currently fighting, and despite the fact that their worldwide jihad is destabilizing nations like India, Thailand, the Netherlands, etc., neither party has indicated that it intends to take any decisive action to stop this.

Posted by: mary at November 9, 2004 06:59 PM

Flipster,

If you wish hard enough terrorists around the globe will magically go away.

I suggest standing on one leg, with your eyes closed and singing a christmas carol. That should take care of all the "bad" people that are hell bent on destroying our way of life.

Posted by: gibs. at November 9, 2004 07:00 PM

Michael:

You quote this bit of Hitchens with apparent approval:

If this is liberal secularism, I'll take a modest, God-fearing, deer-hunting Baptist from Kentucky every time, as long as he didn't want to impose his principles on me (which our Constitution forbids him to do).

Do you really share Hitchens's apparent faith in the airtight protections of the Constitution? You and I are certainly not protected from the imposition of this modest Baptist's principles, to the extent that we have a Supreme Court full of social-conservative radicals like Scalia and Thomas, and another AG in the Ashcroft mold.

Just for example, today Ashcroft asked the Supreme Court to throw out Oregon's assisted-suicide law. While Ashcroft claims to be enforcing the Controlled Substances Act, there's no question that the energy of this initiative comes from religious-conservative groups imposing a religious "principle."

You might want to watch this issue, because it cleaves the right in an interesting way. For both liberals and libertarians, it's hard to imagine a more repulsive prospect than to have the State intruding on your Last Big Decision in life: the question about when and how to die in the face of terminal illness. The Bush admin's handling of this issue will be a crucial barometer for the extent to which they are in the business of "imposing their principles" on us -- something which the Constitution prevents only if the Supreme Court says so.

Peace,

Jarrett

Posted by: Jarrett at November 9, 2004 07:29 PM

Gibs,

So we invaded Iraq to fight terrorists who weren't there before we got there and destabilized the place and made it possible for them to operate there? COOL.

Thanks alot for clearing that up.

Posted by: flipster at November 9, 2004 07:30 PM

Jarrett: Do you really share Hitchens's apparent faith in the airtight protections of the Constitution?

I woudldn't describe it as airtight, no. But even a conservative Supreme Court would knock down bogus theocratic bullshit if Congress ever got hair-brained enough to pass it into law.

Ashcroft is wrong to fight Oregon on assisted suicide. And any conservative who will defend him on this is spectacularly hypocritical. I hope the door does hit his ass on the way out.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 9, 2004 07:43 PM

Hey, any of you want to guess who the bigger Morality Police is???

http://www.techcentralstation.com/110804E.html

Hint: They ain't in Jeebusland. They are the same Moralists that won't let you eat a frech fry, spend your own money or choose non-government education or healthcare services.

Posted by: Don't Hate On Jesus at November 9, 2004 07:53 PM

"Suicide murderers in Palestine—disowned and denounced by the new leader of the PLO—described as the victims of "despair."

Well, despair + brainwashing, when it comes to the 14 year olds. The adults are a different story--actually, I do think despair comes into it too, but despair is a choice, as is murder.

This is a reasonably fair charge. It of course in no way applies to the leadership of the Democratic party, but to an out of power faction in an out of power party, represented by a number of Congressmen I can count on ten fingers and not much else.

"The forces of al-Qaida and the Taliban represented as misguided spokespeople for antiglobalization."

I have seriously never, ever encountered this. Not in Brooklyn, not in Manhattan, not in Cambridge, not at the antiwar rally I went to (NOT an ANSWER affair). I bet I could find it on ANSWER's website or somewhere if I went looking, but it would be about as easy to find a website where an extreme right winger implicitly or explicitly endorsed murdering gay people.

"The blood-maddened thugs in Iraq, who would rather bring down the roof on a suffering people than allow them to vote, pictured prettily as "insurgents" or even, by Michael Moore, as the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers."

"Insurgents" is accurate and does not imply anything at all pretty. "Terrorists" is accurate as far as the one who target civilians, but my guess is that not all of them have, so I prefer to use "terrorists" when describing those who commit a beheading or a bombing of a school--again, anything that targets civilians--and insurgents when I have no evidence that these particular people are trying to kill civilians. I believe that terrorism, like any war crime, should be defined precisely if we are to try to end it, and the key moral distinction is the targetting of civilians.

This is not controversial when it comes to a term like "Genocide"--no one accuses me of sympathizing with any of the murderous thugs in West Africa's various civil wars when I call those "civil wars" and not "genocides".

The founding fathers quote, if accurate--it's totally plausible to me, I just haven't looked it up--

"If this is liberal secularism, I'll take a modest, God-fearing, deer-hunting Baptist from Kentucky every time, as long as he didn't want to impose his principles on me (which our Constitution forbids him to do). "

This is where he implies that the entire Democratic party and most of the Democratic electorate supports these things. It is a false and frankly despicable accusation.

"George Bush may subjectively be a Christian, but he—and the U.S. armed forces—have objectively done more for secularism than the whole of the American agnostic community combined and doubled."

Well geez, when you put the U.S. armed forces in the equation, of course. Doesn't say much for Bush though.

"The demolition of the Taliban, the huge damage inflicted on the al-Qaida network, and the confrontation with theocratic saboteurs in Iraq represent huge advances for the non-fundamentalist forces in many countries."

The theocratic saboteurs were not there and not killing people before the invasion, so I'm not sure fighting back is such a net gain against theocracy. Saddam Hussein was not a theocrat. Not all murderous dictators are. The Taliban is accurate, though I firmly believe any U.S. President would have done the same. I am even more certain that any U.S. President would have done the same against Al Qaeda. I don't share his confidence about the extent of the damage we have inflicted on Al Qaeda, and I am convinced that Kerry and Gore would have done more damage and done more to deny Al Qaeda the means to inflict damage on us. I also think that Bush has given political strength to Islamists. Abu Ghraib, the invasion of an Arab country not connected to 9/11 on a rationale that turned out to be false--these all play into their hands.

I can't figure out if he's talking about most liberals and the Democratic party, in which case most of this piece is a vicious lie, or if he's talking about a small fringe group, in which case it's a terrible argument for voting in Bush and his merry band of far-right Congressional supporters. (A third possibility is that he spends too much time around the Nation and it has completely warped his view of what American liberals actually believe.) Either way: lousy article. One more exercise in self-justification and attacking one's opponents--even though they have no power to speak of. There are more important things to worry about than liberal or leftist bashing. But there is certainly a market for it.

Posted by: Katherine at November 9, 2004 09:03 PM

"The founding fathers quote, if accurate--it's totally plausible to me, I just haven't looked it up--"

I cut off here. I was going to say, is appalling and despicable and I really cannot say in strong enough terms how ridiculous it is.

It is not, however, a reason to support George W. Bush. To quote Andrew Northrup, "The outrages from the right are endless, and they extend up to the highest levels of government, and yet, somehow, this never seems as worthy of note as the fact that Michael Moore is fat or Michael Moore has a big house or I HATE MICHEAL MOORE!!!1! If you voted for George Bush because you wanted to show Michael Moore what for - and there are many of you out there - you are so, so, so, so, so, so, so stupid."

Posted by: Katherine at November 9, 2004 09:07 PM

Katherine: This is where he implies that the entire Democratic party and most of the Democratic electorate supports these things. It is a false and frankly despicable accusation.

Well, yes, if he meant it that way, it's lame. But I don't think he did. He was just being sloppy. He writes for a liberal magazine, after all, and none of his colleagues belong to Michael Moore's clapping seal fan club.

I take his point differently than you do. A vote for Kerry is "a vote for the flag-burners" in the same way that a vote for Bush is "a vote for fundamentalists." We're all trapped by this equation. Hithcens is saying he'll take a red-meat rightie over a red-meat leftist if forced to choose awkward bedfellows. I understand where he's coming from perfectly well.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 9, 2004 09:18 PM

" A vote for Kerry is "a vote for the flag-burners" in the same way that a vote for Bush is "a vote for fundamentalists." We're all trapped by this equatnion"

See me when any Democrat in Congress, let alone the party's leader in the House and a large number of Senators, start burning flags. See me when the Democratic candidate delivers video greetings to the ANSWER convention or to Michael Moore, and his chief strategist discusses Supreme Court picks with them and returns their emails within hours from Air Force 1.

These people are not the entire Republican party, but they are a large and growing part of it. I'd say about 1/3 right now, but one of the most powerful thirds. They feel Bush owes his re-election to them, and he, based on his renewed enthusiasm for the marriage amendment, apparently agrees.

I am obviously not getting through on this issue.

For reference see these posts on one specific right wing group, their history of gay-bashing, and their close ties to the administration.

Or better still, see Matt Welch. He explains it better than I have.

My point isn't to blow off steam about the election. Okay, it honestly was a few days ago,
but it's not anymore. All I'm saying is: this people are very bad, and very powerful, and should not be underestimated. This was a real trade off in your vote to Bush. If you feel it was necessary, fine, but don't just deny it or try to wish it away.

Posted by: Katherine at November 9, 2004 10:34 PM

Katherine: These people are not the entire Republican party, but they are a large and growing part of it. I'd say about 1/3 right now

Yeah, I'd say that's about right. I don't know about the "growing" part, but 1/3, yes probably.

I read Matt Welch every day. He's a friend of mine and a great guy.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 9, 2004 10:38 PM

For perhaps a better example, see this story on pharamacists refusing to dispense the birth control pill.

Posted by: Katherine at November 9, 2004 11:28 PM

What do you expect me to say, Katherine? We are in agreement about this stuff. So it's probably best that you not harrangue me about it. Argue with people who don't agree instead. It's a better use of your time.

If you're annoyed by my "liberal case for Bush" titles, fine. Believe it or not, I do understand. So help put Bush's (admittedly limited) brand of liberalism back into the Democratic Party so I can stop. If you think I'm happy with my Bush vote, why do you think I voted for Democrats in Congress and at the local level?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 10, 2004 12:10 AM

Kerry was more interventionist than Bush about Darfur as far as I could tell. I don't believe either would have launched a full scale invasion of Iran; I believe either would consider authorizing a strike on the nuclear facility under the right/wrong circumstances, but I don't believe this would bring about any kind of Democratic resolution. I think both would be governed by realpolitik in North Korea, which is unfortunate but I don't see much choice when one is confronted with 8-10 nuclear weapons & a nuclear exchange would kill even more innocent people than Kim is starving to death. I think Kerry was more likely than Bush to put serious pressure on "allied" middle eastern regimes to democratize. I doubt Egypt will take our calls for freedom and democracy very seriously while we continue to have them torture our prisoners for us.

Which leaves us with Iraq. Which I think has killed more civilians than it has saved so far--and prevented us from intervening in Darfur, where we could have saved more than our intervention killed. And the death toll continues to rise, and the situation does not seem to improve, and the threat this war was supposedly a response to turned out not to exist--something that has shot our credibility on WMD related matters all to hell when we need it more than ever. I do not think it likely that we will create a functioning democracy, or anything very close to one. I think we will either have a quasi-democratic state that violates human rights but does so less than Saddam, or chaos and civil war, or some combination of the two. I do not think liberalism required that we invade as we did, when we did. I believe liberalism would have been much better served going forward in Iraq by Kerry, because I think his and Bush's goals are similar and Kerry is light years more competent.

And the liberal interventionists are winning, within the party. Kerry became more interventionist starting in the Balkans. Clark is certainly a liberal interventionist--read Samantha Powers book. Even Dean is a liberal interventionist--he wrote to Clinton urging him to act in Bosnia, and the EU to urge them to act in Darfur. Edwards, Gephardt, and Lieberman all supported the Iraq War unequivocally, though Edwards and Gephardt criticized his execution? Am I missing something, or have I just named all the major presidential candidates? Do you think any of them opposed the war in Afghanistan or against Al Qaeda? I can promise you they didn't.

I mean, I'm obviously won't convince you, but I'm honestly baffled as to why you seem more worried about the peace marchers, Moore, Kucinich, McDermott, McKinney--than really anyone else in U.S. politics. They are a tiny tiny fraction of the party that controls 0 branches of government.

Or maybe you just mean Iraq. I don't know what to say there. I don't see any reason other than sheer stubbornness to think that this war will have left humanity better off. In any case, though, it happened already. Why the yay/nay on Iraq continues to override everything else, foreign or domestic, baffles me. Unless you think Bush is really going to invade Iran or Syria, but him and what army? A draft? Or covert ops? I just don't get it.

Posted by: Katherine at November 10, 2004 12:55 AM

Kat,

"I am convinced that Kerry and Gore would have done more damage and done more to deny Al Qaeda the means to inflict damage on us."

I am convinced you cannot make a statement of this nature and actually be serious about international terrorism and the methods at which to defeat it, see Bill Clinton.

Flipster,

I guess you missed the intel about the terrorists training camps in northern Iraq run by al Queda operatives. Or the countless litany of "run ins" Saddam had with said group, nevermind facts they just get in the way.

Terrorism relies on an infrastructure to survive, this isn't done in 6 months, it takes a great deal of time. Besides, we're not just fighting terrorists, as people have mentioned. Its a collection of thugs from al Queda, the criminals release before the fall of Baghdad (al Sadr militia), and former Baathists. I hate to break it to you but there was one party that ruled the country, you know the Baathists, and well we fucked them up and now they are pissed about it. Because whats life if you can't randomly cut off people's fingers or rape and murder women? Unless of course you believe Iraq before we got there was a peaceful bastion of tolerance.

Does it suprise you that people are coming over from Sudan and Iran to fight? I'm going to take a wild guess and say that maybe, just maybe, they think a democratic Iraq would cause havoc for their theocratic rule. Wouldn't that be a shame if they collapsed from within? I mean I'm sure the women in Iran and the growing youth movement would be so dissapointed.

Posted by: gibs. at November 10, 2004 06:25 AM

"I mean, I'm obviously won't convince you, but I'm honestly baffled as to why you seem more worried about the peace marchers, Moore, Kucinich, McDermott, McKinney--than really anyone else in U.S. politics. They are a tiny tiny fraction of the party that controls 0 branches of government."

The irony...

Posted by: gibs. at November 10, 2004 06:30 AM

" I think his and Bush's goals are similar and Kerry is light years more competent."

Do you include competent at getting elected?

Posted by: KR at November 10, 2004 07:13 AM

Katherine - Kerry was more interventionist than Bush about Darfur as far as I could tell.

No he wasn’t.

Kerry’s ‘global test’ regulators, the UN, influenced by Arab bloc, opposed intervention in favor of peace talks.

The American anti-slavery group, iAbolish, held a protest outside of the UN. Many speaker spent several hours criticizing the UN’s stance. The Bush administration, the Brits and Sudan’s African neighbors had to fight the ‘international community’ to force them to take some kind of action to stop the slaughter. They were very reluctant to do so.

Here’s a sign from the rally.

Note that there was no thanks given to the UN, but there was thanks given to Bush.

One anti-Bush speaker, Gloria Steinem, confused the audience. The Sudanese who appreciated the work that the Bush administration had done for them, fighting the UN, didn’t understand why this liberal was so consumed by self-hatred and hatred for her president.

They did understand Dr. Charles Jacobs, president of the Anti-Slavery group who said that America and other nations had made mistakes in the past, and that we would have to change our attitudes towards Islamists, when he said that world must resist Islamic fundamentalism and their racist jihad. He also said that the press should tell the truth about the fundamentalists & the Arab bloc in the UN, that the UN shouldn't debate because 'there's nothing to debate'.

Which is kind of what Hitchens is saying here.

Posted by: mary at November 10, 2004 07:31 AM

Katherine, I'm glad you brought that "news" story up, because it highlights a difference in the way the right/left sees the world.

You read that article, and think "The fundies are coming after us! We're losing our rights!"

I see that article, and think "Why didn't they cite any numbers? How many pharmacists have actually made the decision to not sell the pill? And besides, do you really want to give the government the power to tell private business owners that they must sell goods that run contrary to their belieffs? Doesn't our free market guarantee that those goods will be made available if the demand is there? Isn't this article probably just a bunch of crap to keep the 'Fundies are taking over' meme in the headlines?"

Posted by: Zymurgist at November 10, 2004 07:35 AM

Triumph of secularism?

Hitchens knows better. He knows that the Taliban are far from dead in the Afghan countryside, that Pakistani politics has been much further Talibanized, that the hand of the theocrats in Iran has been strengthened against Khatami, and that to the extent we face a coherent insurgency in Iraq, the insurgency unites under Islam.

Those who think that bin Laden and co. are out to "destroy our way of life" completely misunderstand this conflict. Their aim was and is a kind of jijitsu: start a war that would destabilize the Middle East and breathe new life into their ailing ranks (alternatively, disengagement a la Reagan as a response could have suited them too). Bush has given them exactly what they wanted.

Americans across the political spectrum have difficulty understanding that this wasn't primarily about us. The moralist left thinks of the attacks as a kind of payback for evil (Katherine is right that this is a sufficiently marginal position policywise that it doesn't merit your obsession); much of the rest of the country thinks that it's about our goodness. It's hard, it's very difficult when victimized to think strategically, but we must; Hitchens and Totten are just buying into the nationalist moralism, which is fuelling anti-secularism here and abroad in a big way, not to mention a sizeable body count on many sides.

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