Monday, March 05, 2007

Open Letter To CPAC from The American Mind, re: Ann Coulter

Well, there's this.

A few thoughts follow:

1. Sometimes it seems that the first rule of politics is: never admit you or your allies are wrong. And the first corollary of that rule is: EVER. So I'm always happy to see someone actually admit error on his own side. Props to Sean Hackbarth for that.

But, um, on the other hand:

2. The letter's a little heavy on the prudential reasons and lighter than one might hope on the moral ones. Yes, Coulter might hurt conservatives, but is that really the point? It's more significant that she's a bigot, and that good people don't associate with bigots, much less adore them or make them their spokesmodels. The appeals to prudence in Hackbarth's letter make one wonder to what extent any conservative blowback against Coulter is a result of genuine moral outrage, and to what extent it's a strategic move.

2'. In defense of Hackbarth, however, such appeals to prudential considerations have become almost second nature at a time when there's some kind of weird, inarticulate, background moral skepticism in the zeitgeist. Just pointing out that something is wrong and giving moral reasons has, strangely, come to be regarded as insufficient. Furthermore, conservatives are, in general, more inclined to ask what's in it for me? than are liberals, and the letter is, after all, aimed at conservatives. So it's possible that moral concerns are the motive here, and prudential considerations are just being offered to help persuade the morally dim-witted. So we might want to cut them some slack here.

3. So, let me get this straight: 'raghead' wasn't enough, then?

4. I quote:
"Ann Coulter used to serve the movement well. She was telegenic, intelligent, and witty. She was also fearless: saying provocative things to inspire deeper thought and cutting through the haze of competing information has its uses. But Coulter’s fearlessness has become an addiction to shock value. She draws attention to herself, rather than placing the spotlight on conservative ideas."

Um... Where to begin? Ann Coulter is not particularly intelligent by any standard of intelligence I'm aware of. She's minimally articulate, but minimal articulateness is non-identical with intelligence. Spend a little time in academia--where a significant minority of people are articulate but not much brighter than average--if you're somehow unaware of this fact. Or consider Bush '43, who's probably a guy of about average intelligence, just inarticulate. (His problem is that he's incurious and intellectually dishonest--but he's got no less intellectual firepower per se than your average Joe, so far as I can tell.)

And she isn't fearless, she's vicious. And, quite possibly, unstable. Like so many other conservative celebrities, she's able to produce stream-of-consciousnes invective against liberals, but she can't tolerate being challenged. (Think, for example, of her melt-down on Crossfire when that notorious liberal Tucker Carlson tossed her the softest of softball questions about one of those "books" of hers.) Note to conservatives: viciousness isn't courage.

And anyone who thinks that Coulter "inspire[s] deeper thought," or that that's even what she aims at, is simply deluded. My guess is that Hackbarth is just saying that to help get conservatives to listen up; and I can live with that.

And as for "telegenic"--egad, man, you may need to get out of the house more.

5. As for the bit about how 'raghead' and 'faggot' "may be tolerated on liberal websites but not at the nation’s premier conservative gathering"... Well, I can only respond to that with my sincerest possible huh?

O.k., so that's it. I'm not sure it's a good idea to harsh on Hackbarth given that what he's trying to do here is mostly good, but I find it annoying when people can't even criticize the most outlandish excesses of their own side without throwing elbows at the other guys. So although I'm inclined to go on about how, for example, basically everybody and his brother has known and said (for more-or-less ever) that words mean things, to attribute this fairly pedestrian thought to Rush Limbaugh, as if it were some discovery of his, is fairly laughable. But I won't.

Coulter is an idiot, a nut, and a bigot, and she's at least borderline unstable. It says quite a bit about contemporary American conservatism that she has become one of their celebrities. It also says a lot that whether or not they should dump her is controversial. But in the constellation of conservative quasi-intellectuals (motto: I'm not really an intellectual, but I play one on t.v....or at least on A.M. radio."), Coulter is not even close to being the worst offender. Whereas many on the right are fond of calling anyone they disagree with traitors, they're the only ones with actual traitors in their pseudo-intellectual celebrity pantheon. Coulter may be a nut, but compared to G. Gordon Liddy and Ollie North, she's practically a patriot...and practically sane.

Which, of course, doesn't mean that anyone who takes her seriously isn't an idiot.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked with this Hackbarth character last fall. He's got an earring. I always thought that was kind of funny.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

...conservatives are, in general, more inclined to ask what's in it for me? than are liberals...

Or not.

"(Arthur C.) Brooks has spent his academic career studying the economics of charity, and for this project he accumulated a vast store of data in hopes of describing the difference between the 75 percent of Americans who give to charity and the 25 percent who don't.

"In my preconceptions, I was in the usual box about charitability and compassion," he said in an interview.

"I figured conservatives were hard-headed, pragmatic, tough-minded but didn't care as much about others and wouldn't donate as much," he said. "I figured liberals were soft-hearted and cared more."

What he found was that self-described conservatives were "a percentage point or two" more likely to give to charity than self-described liberals. That was surprising enough, he thought.

But what really astounded him was the amount of giving: In 2000, he says, conservative households gave 30 percent more money to charity than liberal households.

The discrepancy wasn't a function of income; on average, liberal families annually earn 6 percent more than conservative families. The difference in giving held throughout every income level. Indeed, poor conservative families gave a larger percentage of income than wealthy liberal families.

"That was the wow," Brooks told me. A former Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent, Brooks says he has no ideological interest in the data's outcome.

"Between liberals and conservatives, I've got no dog in that fight," he said. "I liked the conclusions only because I realized I was making a point that contradicts the stereotype and that people would think was subversive."

And Brooks is expert at finding provocative ways of expressing the liberal-conservative divide over charity. For example, he compares charitable giving between the conservative state of South Dakota and the tirelessly progressive city of San Francisco: "The average South Dakota family gives away 75 percent more of its household income each year than the average family in San Francisco."

Most of the press -- and outrage -- about "Who Really Cares" has focused on the political differences in charitable giving. But that misses the larger point, Brooks says.

"The real divide is between religious people and secular people," he says. "There's nothing inherently more virtuous about people who are politically conservative. But they live in a subculture where it's more natural, more expected, for people to give charitably."

And the chief determinant here is religious practice. People who regularly attend houses of worship -- or even participate regularly in spiritual exercises such as yoga -- are far more charitable than people who don't. More than 90 percent of self-identified religious people give to charity; 66 percent of non-religious people do.

Some critics charge that this skews Brooks' numbers: Religious people often tithe to their churches, which is a rather specialized form of charity. Yet Brooks says religious people are far more likely to support secular charities, too.

"It's down the line," he says. "Religious people are 21 percent more likely to volunteer in explicitly secular causes. They're even twice as likely to donate blood."

6:33 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Probably false, but could be true.

So, Tom, I'll grant you that that single sentence is questionable.

Congrats, man.

Though remember: many religious people do good works because they're afraid of going to, again, prudence is a factor in the mix.

6:49 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Me, I don't really care about the why behind people being or doing good. If William Wilberforce had been a secularist, that would be OK, too.

I do think Brooks' study indicates at least that there is no ground for assuming conservatives are selfish. Even if they're no "better" than liberals, they're probably not measurably worse.

I do think that John Edwards, in a similar vein, is full of it on a number of levels, though, as evidenced by his latest. First, Brooks' study also shows Americans to be the most charitable in the world, and second that no GOPer (and for good reason) would get away with using Jesus as the bludgeon that Edwards does here.

First, Edwards "forgives" his anti-Catholic bloggers, who have shown no remorse, then gets on some religious high horse himself in support of his "Two Americas" campaign theme.

I apologize that this is only somewhat relevant, WS, and resembles a tu quoque. But Edwards just got on my last nerve today with this garbage.

7:26 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, I gotta say, the relevance of this is lost on me.

Also, the charitable giving is just one measure of the characteristics at issue. It's also relevant that foreign policy "realism" is popular on the right. That, again, is the view that says that we should never act toward foreign countries for any reasons other that self-interested ones. That rules out humanitarian intervention.

8:50 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, the relevance is buried in there, WS: you must take my word that I was over-the-top offended by Edwards' bloggers. Mary using an abortifacient on Jesus, indeed. There was other stuff, too.

(Not that it wasn't clever in an abominable way, let me admit that. But that was a 10; Coulter was a 6, because the reference was to that guy on Gray's Anatomy who had to go to rehab for calling someone a faggot and it was clever, too. [Altho I don't accept her and her apologists' explanation that she didn't mean to call Edwards a faggot. Contrary to the assertion that she's an idiot, she's a graduate of one of top 5 law schools in the country, and clerkships at the Supreme Court don't go to bottom-of-the-class types. In other words, she quite knew what she was doing. It's her common sense, not her intelligence that's questionable.])

I was offended by Edwards' slow-motion response to these hateful bigots in his employ. I am offended by his "forgiving" them when they haven't backed down an inch. In fact, it was they who gave utilitarian reasons for leaving the Edwards campaign, the very thing you criticized on behalf of Coulter's conservative critics.

Please, if you can, point me to the outrage on the left on my behalf about the Edwards bloggers. I realize that I and those of similar mind aren't considered the arbiters of what's offensive in the American polity, but perhaps a little empathy is in order here.

As for the rest, I was appalled at Edwards hiding behind Jesus' skirts. Substitute abortion for Edwards' economic language and you would be appalled, too, of this I have no doubt. I can't think of any serious GOP candidate who would play the Jesus card so baldly.

As for dragging Kosovo or the Iraq war in yet again, the neocons', or Bush's, flaw was not cynicism, but idealism. Realism has changed teams.

But if we have dispensed with, or at least put into question the calumny that conservatives don't give a shit, this has been a productive inquiry.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Unfortunately, graduating from a top law school basically means you can memorize things. So it's fairly weak evidence of non-idiothood. But Coulter's real problem, like Bush's, is not flat-out stupidity, but, rather, intellectual dishonesty.

I didn't follow the stuff about Edwards's bloggers. I barely read blogs anymore.

But--and this point has been made before--to find vicious liberals you basically have to root around on the web. It's my understanding that the Edwards blogger in question was Amanda from Pandagon--a blog that has sucked for years now (at least since Ezra left). It's still on my blogroll only b/c I'm too lazy to change it.

Vicious, mendacious conservatives, however, often have their own radio or television shows and audiences of millions. Hard to compare Coulter, a gen-u-ine celebrity to a blogger...

Also: there's really nothing to compare to things like "kill their leaders and convert them to christianity."

And: the really vicious on the left are political outliers, tending to be leftier than the vast majority of liberals. Coulter, unfortunately, seems to have represented a big chunk of the right over the last tenish years.

So, though you can *tu quoque* away, none of what you write here in any way constitutes a defense of Coulter. We can always play "hey, here's a different point on which I can defend my side"...but then considerations of relevance are out the window...

7:01 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

And, of course, Bush did not go into Iraq for idealistic/humanitarian reasons. I'm not sure why folks on your side keep trying to slide that one by.

Though many folks on the left DO sound like "realists" these days. Basically it seems that people pick up or reject "realism" as it suits them. Damned idiotic way to reason--if you want to call it that.

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would definitely agree with Winston about the Iraq War not really being a humanitarian intervention.

The fact that Tom's support for it was based on humanitarian concerns speaks well of him, but he errs when he projects that rationale onto Bush et al for the war. To be sure, there were elements of the Administration, mainly in the State Department, that viewed it that way, but the main drivers behind the rush to war were clearly not motivated by such concerns (two examples I would give are Cheney and Rumsfeld).

The only evidence we have to the contrary are statements, mostly post hoc when WMD failed to materialize, made by Bush and other *senior administration officials* that the war was all about liberation and democratization of Iraq.

On the other hand, we have the hard evidence of willfull ignoring of the Future of Iraq Project, the going to war without adequate forces, the lack of provision of basic security, the failure to guard ammo dumps, the lack of oversight at Abu Ghraib, the opposition to regional elections for the Transitional Council until threats by Al Sistani and the list goes on an on. Actions speak louder than words.

I would also say, briefly, that I'm growing tired of the binary thinking that either realism or idealism need be the sole basis for foreign policy. I won't go into huge detail due to time, but if ever there was a false dichotomy this is one; probe any thinking person's opinions of international relations deeply enough, and you'll find their decision heuristics informed by both, depending on the circumstances. Yet people continue to embarrass themselves by making reductionist arguments that others are cold-hearted whenever they take one step in the direction of considering reality, or that they are naive dreamers when they dare to consider the way things ought to be.

12:13 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

As WS is fond of saying when he concentrates his attacks on the American right, that bin Laden is a bad man goes without saying. Similarly, if Saddam weren't a proven murderer, we don't go to war. In the least, folks like me would have vigorously opposed it.

So too, judging Bush and the neocons' motivations is a waste of time. One cannot know, altho I submit I know more about them because I'm one of 'em.

And WS, the Edwards bloggers were employed by him. That's the significant part pure and simple. I don't defend Coulter at all, and hope she's kept segregated from any real politics. If a candidate hired Coulter, that would also disqualify them from my vote, as an astonishing lack of judgment.

Like Edwards'.

(And in all his years of Jesusing, Dubya has never crossed the line the way Edwards did.)

3:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If Saddam weren't a proven murderer, we don't go to war."

This is clearly wrong.

There are many proven murderers around the world, and we've chosen to go to war with very few of them. The sine qua non for getting approval for this war, both from the public and the Congress, was the threat posed by Saddam Hussein to us with his weapons of mass destruction.

That is the only fair reading of the historical record.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

That's the revisionist history you've bought into, which is perfectly correct if you ignore all the other factors and the Duelfer Report.

I apologize for the second-hand opinion, but WS have been at this for years now, and you can scan the archives for my more original thoughts. We're all sick of Iraq, and I've already had my say.

"The dictator who is assembling the world's most dangerous weapons has already used them on whole villages -- leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind, or disfigured. Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained -- by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape. If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning. (Applause.)

And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country -- your enemy is ruling your country. (Applause.) And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation. (Applause.)

---Bush, State of the Union, 2003

4:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please. Don't insult my intelligence. We both know that absent all the stuff about mushroom clouds and aluminum tubes, there would never have been any vote nor any resolution in Congress for war.

And should I quote all the times George W. Bush stated that the vote in Congress was not a vote for war, but a vote to *keep the peace*?

Yes, editorial pages can spin things many ways. That I'm aware of. But the idea that Saddam could have posed even a minimal threat to our country was laughable from the start. He had no meaningful connection to Al Qaeda, which the 9/11 Commission Report said, if anyone cared to actually read it.

The whole thing was so weak a justification for attacking Iraq as to be laughable. Quoting directly from the Report:

"Bin Ladin was also willing to explore possibilities for cooperation with Iraq, even though Iraq's dictator, Saddam Hussein, had never had an Islamist agenda-save for his opportunistic pose as a defender of the faithful against "Crusaders" during the Gulf War of 1991. Moreover, Bin Ladin had in fact been sponsoring anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan, and sought to attract them into his Islamic army.53

To protect his own ties with Iraq, Turabi reportedly brokered an agreement that Bin Ladin would stop supporting activities against Saddam. Bin Ladin apparently honored this pledge, at least for a time, although he continued to aid a group of Islamist extremists operating in part of Iraq (Kurdistan) outside of Baghdad's control. In the late 1990s, these extremist groups suffered major defeats by Kurdish forces. In 2001, with Bin Ladin's help they re-formed into an organization called Ansar al Islam. There are indications that by then the Iraqi regime tolerated and may even have helped Ansar al Islam against the common Kurdish enemy.54

With the Sudanese regime acting as intermediary, Bin Ladin himself met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer in Khartoum in late 1994 or early 1995. Bin Ladin is said to have asked for space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but there is no evidence that Iraq responded to this request.55 As described below, the ensuing years saw additional efforts to establish connections....
In mid-1998, the situation reversed; it was Iraq that reportedly took the initiative. In March 1998, after Bin Ladin's public fatwa against the United States, two al Qaeda members reportedly went to Iraq to meet with Iraqi intelligence. In July, an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan to meet first with the Taliban and then with Bin Ladin. Sources reported that one, or perhaps both, of these meetings was apparently arranged through Bin Ladin's Egyptian deputy, Zawahiri, who had ties of his own to the Iraqis. In 1998, Iraq was under intensifying U.S. pressure, which culminated in a series of large air attacks in December.75

Similar meetings between Iraqi officials and Bin Ladin or his aides may have occurred in 1999 during a period of some reported strains with the Taliban. According to the reporting, Iraqi officials offered Bin Ladin a safe haven in Iraq. Bin Ladin declined, apparently judging that his circumstances in Afghanistan remained more favorable than the Iraqi alternative. The reports describe friendly contacts and indicate some common themes in both sides' hatred of the United States. But to date we have seen no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship. Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States76."

The whole thing was sold on a false basis, which is probably the reason that most of our troops in Iraq think they're there to avenge 9/11. The idea that Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda MIGHT someday have a collaborative relationship, and Iraq MIGHT give weapons that it didn't even have (which we were in the process of discovering he didn't have until Bush warned the inspectors to leave) was turned into Saddam having "in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons" and plotting actively against the United States. That is Cheney's bizarre one percent doctrine on LSD.

All of this against the backdrop of potential opportunity costs of diverting attention and resources to actually capturing or killing Bin Laden and properly routing the Taliban. In that context, there is no way the US would have supported a huge humanitarian intervention less than two years after we were viciously attacked and were in the process of destroying those who attacked us. Cheney and co. knew this, and thus knew that it NEEDED to be tied to 9/11 to gain any traction.

5:40 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

The seletion Tom quotes from Bush's 2003 SOTU does not refute HL's claim that
"The sine qua non for getting approval for this war, both from the public and the Congress, was the threat posed by Saddam Hussein to us with his weapons of mass destruction."

HLM's claim is, however, supported by the ultimatum that Bush issued on 17 March 2003, giving Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave Iraq. Bush said:

"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised. This regime has already used weapons of mass destruction against Iraq's neighbors and against Iraq's people."

"The regime has a history of reckless aggression in the Middle East. It has a deep hatred of America and our friends. And it has aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of al Qaeda."

"The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons, obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country, or any other."

"The United States and other nations did nothing to deserve or invite this threat. But we will do everything to defeat it. Instead of drifting along toward tragedy, we will set a course toward safety. Before the day of horror can come, before it is too late to act, this danger will be removed."

"The United States of America has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security. That duty falls to me, as Commander-in-Chief, by the oath I have sworn, by the oath I will keep."

Bush closed with:
"We are now acting because the risks of inaction would be far greater. In one year, or five years, the power of Iraq to inflict harm on all free nations would be multiplied many times over. With these capabilities, Saddam Hussein and his terrorist allies could choose the moment of deadly conflict when they are strongest. We choose to meet that threat now, where it arises, before it can appear suddenly in our skies and cities."

"... In this century, when evil men plot chemical, biological and nuclear terror, a policy of appeasement could bring destruction of a kind never before seen on this earth."

"... The security of the world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now."

According to George W. Bush, we went to war for the WMD's that did not exist, as per HLM.

5:42 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, if you ignore everything else he said in the months and years before, which you intend to for here on out. I really have no interest in replaying the talking past each other that has been done millions of other times on the internet.

There were other sine qua nons. If Canada instead of a murderer is developing WMDs, no war. I see a constellation of factors, you see Planet Bush.

Fair enough, but I just can't do this yet again. I'm pissed off about John Edwards using religion in a way that most on the left would scorn if the colors were reversed, I'm pissed off at Edwards hiring people who spew anti-Christian filth, and I have nothing good to say about Ann Coulter.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Humanitarian reasons for invading Iraq were so important to Mr. Bush that he left them out of his justification for deliving the 48-hours ultimatum to Saddam Hussein.

Humanitarian reasons for the invasion of Iraq were so important to Mr. Bush that he left them out of his letter to Congress notifying them that we were invading Iraq.

Here is what Mr. Bush wrote.
"Text of a Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate"

"March 18, 2003"

"Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)"

"Consistent with section 3(b) of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107-243), and based on information available to me, including that in the enclosed document, I determine that:"

"(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and"

"(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."

Tom does not wish to address the simple facts that
1) Mr. Bush is on record that we invaded Iraq because of the perceived threat from his putative WMD, and

2) The AUMF allowed for invading Iraq only if it was found to be a threat to the US.

I know of no evidence of a humanitarian motive that has a fraction of the weight of the two pronouncements by Bush that I have cited.

If Tom is too tired of the topic to make his case again, perhaps he could point to where he made it the first time.

7:33 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, Bush left them out. As WS is fond of noting, some things go without saying. If anyone forgot Saddam's butcher's bill as Bush chronicled in his 2003 state of the union address, they weren't paying attention.

(Oh, wait, you forgot already. You see why this is a useless enterprise. Counterarguments are "spin," if they're not ignored completely.)

Yes, I am tired of this, fellas, and neither does poking through the political rhetoric of the time amount to a finding of fact---it's a perception and an opinion of the prevailing atmosphere at best. I remember Sean Hannity going on for days on end not about the imminent danger, but over the continuing violation of a dozen UN resolutions.

Per 1(b), above.

Neither does political rhetoric alone tell the whole story. There were other reasons that could not be spoken, as I note here. And here. (In fact, I was inspired to start blogging by the Philosoraptor hisself, because of the space constraints of comments sections.)

I'm not saying you didn't have a different perception at that time, but it was not mine. WS has made the same arguments as you guys have, chapter and verse, over the past year or two. I won't even say they're wrong, because there is little point in it at this late date. If you're genuinely interested in my thoughts, there's a search function on this blog. Type "Iraq" and rock away.

8:19 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Tom writes:
"If anyone forgot Saddam's butcher's bill as Bush chronicled in his 2003 state of the union address, they weren't paying attention."

I don't dispute Bush's damning of Saddam Hussein in the 2003 SOTU. However, when it was time for Bush to justify the invasion hedid not invoke Hussein's evil. Instead he invoked the putative WMD's and the putative ties to Al Queda.

"(Oh, wait, you forgot already. You see why this is a useless enterprise. ...)"

Forger? I did not forget. Tom has yet to show that huminatrian reasons were the sine qua non for the invasion of Iraq, in the face of the contrary evidency that (as HLM asserted) the putative WMD were the sine qua non.

Ignoring Mr. Bush's clear statements
"The United States of America has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security. That duty falls to me, as Commander-in-Chief, by the oath I have sworn, by the oath I will keep."

We are now acting because the risks of inaction would be far greater. ... We choose to meet that threat now, where it arises, before it can appear suddenly in our skies and cities."

"... The security of the world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now."

The selection Tom provides from the 2003 SOTU does not in any way tie Saddam's "butcher's bill" to the reasons for invading Iraq.

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not only that, the acid test was the timing of the start of war. Why the rush? Why actually notify inspectors that they need to leave the country for their own safety? The obvious answer is that with continued lack of evidence that Saddam was a genuine threat, the salient rationale for attacking was evaporating.

Saddam's "butcher's bill" was not going away any time soon, so it would have been an equivalent justification a few months and thorough inspections later.

Keep in mind that I'm not saying there wasn't a humanitarian argument for the war. Far from it. There was one, but it was made in featherweight fashion compared to the sledgehammer pounding of WMDs and threat to our nation arguments. The only justification you could take away from the mix to guarantee you get no Congressional approval was the one about the threat to our nation. All the other stuff was like a sprig of parsley on a plate with a huge steak.

9:52 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

To you, not me. What else can I say?

10:23 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I'm with Tom: no need to go over this stuff again.

But against him in that I see no significant reason to think that humanitarian concerns actually motivated Bush. That position has been shredded a hundred times on this blog alone.

And, since nobody here but Tom thinks otherwise, I don't see any reason to rehash it all.

But one way of interpreting Tom's point goes like this: SH being a bad man was a necessary (but not even loosely-speaking quasi-sufficient) condition for our going in. Had he been a good guy, even the GOP noise machine couldn't have got us all lathered up enough to go in. Ergo SH being a bad man was a factor in our deciding to go in. (where the 'we' there is the U.S., not the Bush admin.)

I actually think that's plausible.

Then HLM's point becomes relevant, though: there are lots of bad people, so why' we go after this one instead of any of the other ones? The answer to this will determine to what extent humanitarian reasons can be cited in explaining our motives. (right?)

So, although SH's being a bad person put Iraq in play, it wasn't the deciding factor that determined that we'd go into Iraq instead of, say, the Congo...or instead of keeping our eye on the ball in Afghanistan.

So, anyway: no, humanitarian reasons weren't the determining reasons that sent us into Iraq, although they WERE the reasons that made some of us think that going into Iraq wasn't the worst idea ever. I mean, no sensible person believed all that uranium-and-aluminum-tubes hogwash...

Anway, as I've said many times before: we still don't know why the admin. really went in--we don't know what their real reasons were. Can't be WMDs, unless they believed their own lies, wasn't humanitarian what was it?

Nobody knows.

10:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I agree and the most important point I was trying to make was the practical one that, morality aside, there really would have been no debate, no resolution and certainly no Congressional approval without the WMD/threat argument.

These guys may be a lot of things, but stupid isn't one of them, and they knew it wouldn't fly based on humanitarianism, reverse Domino theories or any of that other stuff.

11:33 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

You called me out, Jim Whoeveryouare. I took the time to post the links as a courtesy and out of good faith. Since I don't use the blog anymore, I checked the Sitemeter and saw you didn't even click on the links.

I won't stop posting here in good faith because I respect WS. But you can kiss my ass from now on, you phony.

PseudoHLMencken: If Iran murdered its and other people like Saddam did, their nascent nuclear facilities would be smoking steaming radioactive wreckage at this very moment, and France and Russia and China and the UN wouldn't have said boo. Take that to the bank.

WS:Then HLM's point becomes relevant, though: there are lots of bad people, so why'd we go after this one instead of any of the other ones? The answer to this will determine to what extent humanitarian reasons can be cited in explaining our motives. (right?)

I doubt any of our standing to adjudge motives.

Neither do I believe that the only moral merit comes when we do something good that's totally disconnected from our own lives.

The toughest and most real thing for the rest of us is living our lives, protecting our families, and still doing the right thing along the way. That's plenty to chew on without climbing some tower and divorcing ourselves from our actual humanity.

Save the whales! Save the Duchy of Grand Fenwick! It's all the same, some undifferentiated soup of concern...

1:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're not talking about motives, but means. I agree with Winston that we still don't know *why* we went to war in Iraq, which is the underpinning of *motive*.

The means, however, is about HOW they took us to war. On that I don't think there is reasonable doubt; the case was built on WMD and Iraq's threat to us. As I said, everything else was just window dressing.

Where the rubber meets the road, no WMD/threat issue, no resolution, no war. You can take that to the bank, all the other speculative stuff about Iran, France etc. notwithstanding.

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would also reiterate, per my earlier post, that if one WAS to speculate about motives, actions carry far more weight than words.

Given that, as I said earleir, there is precious little evidence that the movers and shakers in the Administration viewed the war as a humanitarian enterprise.

12:18 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Tom is correct, I had not checked his links before I posted. That was, frankly, rude.

Tom, please accept my apologies for my rudeness.

You ask (implicitly) who I am.

My name is Jim Bales. I teach the subject Strobe Project Lab at MIT.

My sincerest apologies and best wishes,
Jim Bales

12:25 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Having reviewed the two links Tom posted at 1:31 AM, I stand by my original assertion, that:

"[W]hen it was time for Bush to justify the invasion hedid [sic] not invoke Hussein's evil. Instead he invoked the putative WMD's and the putative ties to Al Queda."

and reiterate that Tom continues to ignore Mr. Bush's clear statements:
"The United States of America has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security. That duty falls to me, as Commander-in-Chief, by the oath I have sworn, by the oath I will keep."


"We are now acting because the risks of inaction would be far greater. ... We choose to meet that threat now, where it arises, before it can appear suddenly in our skies and cities."

"... The security of the world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now."

Tom, in his post at Philosdude, proposes a rational for invading Iraq that Bush did not put forward, and asserts:
"There are any number of reasons Bush couldn't say those words. Fortunately, we have a president who understands actions speak louder."

Bush did not say those words, nor does Tom present any direct evidence that Bush believed anything like what Tom put forward in those words.

So we are back to the fact that the only rationales that were clearly put forth to justify the invasion by those who choose to invade were the putative WMD and the putative ties to al-Queda.

Or, as HL Menken stated,
"The means, however, is about HOW they took us to war. On that I don't think there is reasonable doubt; the case was built on WMD and Iraq's threat to us. As I said, everything else was just window dressing."

"Where the rubber meets the road, no WMD/threat issue, no resolution, no war. You can take that to the bank, all the other speculative stuff about Iran, France etc. notwithstanding."

12:40 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Apology accepted, Jim.

Your case is built on the rhetoric of the time, and particularly a single speech---I submit there was more to it than what was said and what could be said. Neither should congress be swayed only by rhetoric. We are a republic, and they have a duty to know what's up.

Bush, I suppose, could have added, "And because Saddam is a poo poo head," but there was hardly any point.

2:44 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

From a sprawling interview with Paul Wolfowitz. It's from May 2003, but that makes it more valuable, as it shows just what the thinking was at that time.

It's informative on a number of levels, like getting Clinton's back on Kosovo, that a Shia Iraq would pose competition to Shia Iran, and still thinking Saddam had WMDs he didn't use when we invaded. But per this discussion, two things jump out at me:

"I remember once when the President in the middle of a discussion about a particular country said just how brutal are its leaders. I thought it was an incredibly perceptive question and it's too often left out of the equation as a sort of pragmatic view that you've got to deal with them as the leaders of country X and you shouldn't inquire too deeply into what kind of people they are. I think you do have to deal with all kinds of dubious characters in the world in order to accomplish the national security objectives of the country.

But it's really important to keep in mind what this country is about. It's a lot more than just physical security or economic health."

"There are a lot of things that are different now, and one that has gone by almost unnoticed--but it's huge--is that by complete mutual agreement between the U.S. and the Saudi government we can now remove almost all of our forces from Saudi Arabia. Their presence there over the last 12 years has been a source of enormous difficulty for a friendly government. It's been a huge recruiting device for al Qaeda. In fact if you look at bin Laden, one of his principle grievances was the presence of so-called crusader forces on the holy land, Mecca and Medina. I think just lifting that burden from the Saudis is itself going to open the door to other positive things."

Whether he was useful as an oracle is not at issue here. :-)

5:32 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

The speech I am quoting is the one where Mr. Bush
1) Issued an ultimatum to Saddam,
2) Asserted that the US would invade Iraq if Saddam did not obey the ultimatum, and
3) Presented to the world the justification for invading Iraq.

Therefore, it is more relevant than the 2003 SOTU address in establishing why we invaded Iraq.

The letter to Congress I quoted cites the legal authority for invading Iraq. The only lawful reasons for invading Iraq are laid out in the letter to Congress. The letter has legal standing that the 2003 SOTU lacks.

FInally, the Wolfowitz interview Tom cites is quite revealing as to what the Bush administration believed to be cause to invade Iraq -- and what was considered to be insufficient cause to invade Iraq.

As to why we invaded Iraq, Wolfowitz lists:
"... three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. Actually I guess you could say there's a fourth overriding one which is the connection between the first two."

[Interruption as Wolfowitz takes a phone call]

"The third one by itself, as I think I said earlier, is a reason to help the Iraqis but it's not a reason to put American kids' lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did it.

As Tom points out, the interview with Wolfowitz is "more valuable, as it shows just what the thinking was at that time."

At the time of the invasion, Wolfowitz is on record as stating that the "criminal treatment of the Iraqi people" did not justify putting "American kids' lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did it."

Conclusion: humanitarian reasons were not the sine qua non of the invasion. Putative WMDs and putative ties to al Queda were.

6:13 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

This getting sophistic. If you want a win on points, fine. I didn't submit that we went into Iraq purely for humanitarian reasons, devoid of self-interest. But all three legs had to be there.

Iran 1) soon will have nukes and 2)supports terrorism. If they 3) murdered on the scale Saddam did, we wouldn't be waiting for them to finish 1).

6:27 PM  

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