Friday, September 01, 2006

They die so easily, disappear so completely

If you haven't yet watched Keith Olbermann's superb smackdown of the odious speech given by the criminally-still-employed Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, you should catch it on Crooks and Liars. As they say, it's one hell of a commentary. As The Los Angeles Times noted in an editorial yesterday, Rumsfeld's speech was "cranky" and in parts "inane," but there was one line in it that is so remarkably hypocritical it deserves a thorough debunking:
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld warned yesterday that "moral and intellectual confusion" over the Iraq war and the broader anti-terrorism effort could sap American willpower and divide the country, and he urged renewed resolve to confront extremists waging "a new type of fascism."
Now, to be clear, Rumsfeld suggested that those who don't see the threat clearly suffer from a moral or intellectual confusion, not those who oppose him, although that's a distinction without a difference in that the timing of the speech leaves no doubt its main objective is to taint the Democrats as weak on defense and prop up the GOP's chances in November. Here's what he said to the 88th Annual American Legion National Convention:

You know from experience personally that in every war there have been mistakes, setbacks, and casualties. War is, as Clemenceau said, “a series of catastrophes that result in victory.”

And in every army, there are occasional bad actors, the ones who dominate the headlines today, who don't live up to the standards of the oath and of our country. But you also know that they are a very, very small percentage of the literally hundreds of thousands of honorable men and women in all theaters in this struggle who are serving our country with humanity, with decency, with professionalism, and with courage in the face of continuous provocation. (Applause.)

And that is important in any long struggle or long war, where any kind of moral or intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong, can weaken the ability of free societies to persevere.

The implication in that, of course, is that Rumsfeld sees clearly what is right and what is wrong, and his opponents don't. But as this is only one in a series of orchestrated speeches the Administration is unleashing on the public for their holiday weekend enjoyment, it's fair to say Rumsfeld is speaking for the Commander in Chief (you know, the Decider) here, and therefore the implication is that the man making the decisions (you know, Cheney) sees clearly what is right and what is wrong...that his moral compass is functioning fully, and that the decisions being made are morally sound.

Which brings me to the Sandpaper Flypaper Theory, you know the cowardly canard the Administration manipulates at every turn, the false (but appealing to the weak and fearful) assertion that if we draw them out and fight them there, in Iraq, we won't have to fight them here:

Bush: This is a global war on terror. I repeat what our major general said -- or leading general said in the region. He said, "If we withdraw before the job is done, the enemy will follow us here." I strongly agree with that. And if you believe that the job of the federal government is to secure this country, it's really important for you to understand that success in Iraq is part of securing the country.
I am amazed (and quite thoroughly embarassed) at how many times I hear an American offer that excuse as their rationale for supporting the war in Iraq. The "it's better to fight them there than fight them here" rationale. When I press them to account for the fact that fighting them "over there" places innocent Iraqi men, women and children in harm's way, they counter either that they deserve it because of 9/11 (which of course makes my head explode) or that (I swear, one of my relatives said this to me) those people are more used to that kind of thing than we are. I won't reveal which relative, as the shame is far too painful.

I came across this passage in an essay by the always brilliant Dorothy Allison the other day:
The first time I heard, "They're different than us, don't value human life the way we do," I was in high school in Central Florida. The man speaking was an army recruiter talking to a bunch of boys, telling them what the army was really like, what they could expect overseas. A cold angry flash swept over me. I had heard the word they pronounced in that same callous tone before. They, those people over there, those people who are not us, they die so easily, kill each other so casually. They are different. We, I thought. Me.

When I was six or eight back in Greenville, South Carolina, I had heard that same matter-of-fact tone of dismissal applied to me. "Don't you play with her. I don't want you talking to them." Me and my family, we had always been they. Who am I? I wondered, listening to that recruiter. Who are my people? We die so easily, disappear so completely....I did not know who I was, only that I did not want to be they, the ones who are destroyed or dismissed to make the "real" people, the important people, feel safer.

Dorothy Allison, "A Question of Class," from Skin 1994, Firebrand Books.
So I guess I should confess to some degree of confusion. I'm totally confused how a nation that claims to be the "Home of the Brave" could stoop so low as to let other people in a far away land die in proxy, and for the temporary illusion that it makes us safer (our invading Iraq has coincided with an increase, not decrease, in the number of terrorist attacks worldwide, and as the bombings in Madrid, London, Bali, etc. demonstrate, not all of those joining the terrorists feel compelled to fight in Iraq, where most of the fighting now is between Iraqis, not terrorists...and...sigh...why are we still at this point in the dialog?).

The answer of course is that it's easy to let the Iraqis die in our place. We never met them, we can't distinguish one mangled body on the TV from another. They die so easily and disappear so completely, there's nothing to it really. That is, unless you believe you have a soul, or you're averse to cowardice.

Now, I'm not noting all this to conclude we should immediately withdraw from Iraq (we most certainly should have NEVER invaded it, but an immediate pull-out would do more harm than good, IMO, and I'll address what I think we should do in another post), but I will not suffer some cranky old fool lecturing his opponents on moral confusion when he clearly doesn't have the humanity to value the lives of innocents over his own theories of a leaner, meaner war machine (Rumsfeld was repeatedly told that to secure Iraq he would have to send in far more troops, but he was too hellbent on using Iraq to prove his lame-ass hypotheses about contemporary warfare to listen, and tens of thousands have died directly because of his arrogance and total incompetence).


"It's better to fight them over there than over here" is a morally and intellectually bankrupt position. They will still come over here, and we don't have a right to the lives they're taking in fighting us over there.

18 Comments:

Blogger Mark said...

My feelings regarding the war on terror, Iraq, and the criminally insane administration-AAAaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!!

9/01/2006 09:21:00 AM  
Anonymous bnon said...

I don't disagree one iota on anything you've said here, but it seems to me there's an omission. We had very few enemies in Iraq before the invasion of the kind Rumsfeld is talking about and that Americans fear--al Qaeda members who probably aspire to attacks on American soil. Accepting this premise is too close to accepting Rumsfeld's general aims in the War on Terror while disagreeing on a particular tactic, forgetting the fact that we've helped create a lot of terrorists by invading Iraq in the first place.

9/01/2006 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger ondine-nyc said...

How wonderful it is to see Olbermann's smackdown, like the spirit of Edward R. Murrow lives.

9/01/2006 10:04:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

Edward, I thought when I saw the title of this post that it was going to be about art movements :)

I actually agree with Rumsfield's call for renewed resolve to confront extremists waging "a new type of fascism." I intend to do my part by voting against those extremists in the next election, and continuing to send checks to the Democrats.

9/01/2006 11:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

"They" will still come over here..

But who's "they"?

"They" were a bunch of kids planning to destroy the CN Tower.

"They" were the pakistanis planning to bomb planes in UK.

Who's "They"?

It's just crazy people all over.

Tomorrow that might even turn in young pro-bush americans killing the anti-bush. I mean, judging at all the gang-related violence happening in America one would think that the lowering of the value of life is not something that only happens in middle east.

You people are AS used to these sorts of things than in middle east.

Come on, the other day I was in a rest area in Ohio and there was a sticker in front of the restroom: "no firearms allowed in this establishment". Haha...are you kidding me?


Cheers,

Cedric Caspesyan
centiment@hotmail.com

9/01/2006 11:53:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

Come on, the other day I was in a rest area in Ohio and there was a sticker in front of the restroom: "no firearms allowed in this establishment". Haha...are you kidding me?

No Cedric, they're serious. If you attack someone in an Ohio restroom you have to use a knife. Using a gun is against the law.

9/01/2006 12:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Not a very casualist post.

I thought the theory was called "flypaper," not sandpaper.

I didn't understand Olbermann's reference to Neville Chamberlain. Was he saying we're not warlike enough? Or perhaps, not waging the correct war? Does he want to attack Iran and Syria, i.e., the sources of terrorist funding? It's politically tricky for anti-war people to claim we should in fact be fighting a different war.

I also don't know the significance of the Iraq war leading to an increase in terror attacks worldwide. I might interpret the rise in violence as evidence that the US has called the terrorists' bluff, i.e., that the terrorism was always going to happen, or the terrorist groups were always going to attempt a power grab, but the timetable was accelerated when we made our move. It's arguable that we're seeing a bubble. Stock market bubble, housing bubble, terrorist bubble. It could happen.

It's also dangerous in my opinion to assert that standing up to violent people should be considered the cause of any ensuing violence. I don't personally believe the Iraq war created terrorism any more than I believe short skirts create rapists, that Eliott Ness created gangland violence, or that whistleblowers cause corporate scandals. Is there a relationship between one and the other? There may well be. The question here is of fairly assessing blame and deciding on fair recourse.

9/01/2006 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I thought the theory was called "flypaper," not sandpaper.

HA! (correction made)...shows you I've been too involved in renovations to the gallery...

{{{Step away from the keyboard, sir, you're in no shape for bloggin'}}}

I also don't know the significance of the Iraq war leading to an increase in terror attacks worldwide

I hope I didn't imply that it had. I wrote that it conincided with an increase, which only demonstrates that the invasion has not made us safer. At least not in the short-run, and I suspect not in the long-run.

It's also dangerous in my opinion to assert that standing up to violent people should be considered the cause of any ensuing violence.

I think it's totally fair to assert that invading another country without proper plans or resources to ensure the security of its people can be seen as allowing an environment in which such violence can explode. The administration was fully aware that the three segments of Iraq were not in love with each other and that given a chance would scramble for dominance, but they did not implement the steps needed to stop that scramble. I'm fully prepared to lay the blame for that at their feet.

9/01/2006 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

War is peace... We've always been fighting Eurasia... Big Brother knows best...

Can anyone turn down this telescreen?

9/01/2006 02:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

I think it's totally fair to assert that invading another country without proper plans or resources to ensure the security of its people can be seen as allowing an environment in which such violence can explode.

No disagreement. The best I can suggest in response is that perhaps the Bush administration believed the Iraqis would take over from Saddam's regime relatively quickly.

Before the invasion I specifically tested the idea of an post-Saddam Iraqi take-over, and found support on both sides of the aisle for the idea that Iraqis as a society would be able to take control relatively successfully.

For example, in some pre-war discussions with some very (and still) anti-invasion Democrats, themselves neither Arabs nor Muslims, but who lived the first 50 years of their lives in that part of the world, including about a decade in Iraq (one of them even spending an evening in a Saddam-era prison under "surveillance"), there was one point they absolutely agreed upon, which was that the Iraqis were an educated, sophisticated people who would probably be better off without Hussein, and could land on their feet in good time. The Bush planning may have been bad, but I don't think the conventional wisdom on this point was much different from any angle.

9/01/2006 02:27:00 PM  
Blogger painterdog said...

I didn't understand Olbermann's reference to Neville Chamberlain. Was he saying we're not warlike enough? Or perhaps, not waging the correct war? Does he want to attack Iran and Syria, i.e., the sources of terrorist funding? It's politically tricky for anti-war people to claim we should in fact be fighting a different war.

Its a reference to how Chamberlain's government used the same tactics that Bush and company are useing to silence the opposition. That is by painting saying the are not for the country, unpatriotic useing diinfrmation to confues the public. Chamberlain did all this to make Churchill look like a senile old man, Churchill was right about Hitler, and Stalin, at the time the majority did not believe him.

He was right, the same way the poeple who where against going to war with Iraq are. The irony is that Chamberlain
tried to appese Hitler and Churchill wanted to stop him in his tracks.

Bush by way of the puppit master Cheney
did the opposite.


I am amazed (and quite thoroughly embarassed) at how many times I hear an American offer that excuse as their rationale for supporting the war in Iraq. The "it's better to fight them there than fight them here" rationale. When I press them to account for the fact that fighting them "over there" places innocent Iraqi men, women and children in harm's way, they counter either that they deserve it because of 9/11 (which of course makes my head explode) or that (I swear, one of my relatives said this to me) those people are more used to that kind of thing than we are. I won't reveal which relative, as the shame is far too painful.

This is an outrageous thing to say.
Now I hate to say this but its no wonder most of the planet hates us.

If a lot of people think this way we are in big trouble.

9/01/2006 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger kurt said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/01/2006 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger onesock said...

Living in the south I meet people all the time who express the opinion that we should turn the entire Mideast region into a parking lot. You'd be amazed!

I realize it stems from a universal human trait and all- called tribalism- but one of the most horrible, insideously embedded beliefs of Americans is that our lives are worth more than others'. Sometimes I wish Kennedy's Peace Corp idea was compulsory- that every young able bodied American MUST serve say 1 year abroad in a dissadvantaged country holding shovels intstead of guns.

Perhaps that is how we will atone for all the damage done. If possible.

9/01/2006 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Barbaccia said...

This administration's policies in the Mideast have been successful. If you consider keeping the region in turmoil successful. (Amd I'm taking the names of anyone who disagrees.) From supplying Hussein with materials for a war against Iran, to fooling him into thinking we wouldn't go to war if he invaded Kuwait, to introducing democracy to an area ignorantly partitioned by the West in the 1920's. All this acts have convinced me that instability is the key to control.

9/01/2006 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger Nancy Baker, aka Rebel Belle said...

The cold war came to an end because the Reagan administration consistently outspent the Soviets in defense, ultimately causing the USSR to go bankrupt. The Russians are having the last laugh now, because our brilliant government is entering into that twilight land of insolvency, while the Russians are rolling in oil money.
Aside from the ethical and moral considerations of the Iraqi war, this has been a financial debacle for the US. 100 billion dollars that could have gone to the victims of Katrina, to rebuilding the infrastructure of the US, to a national health system. Where's the outrage! American citizens have been hugely fucked over.

9/02/2006 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger painterdog said...

the outrage is there, I think most Americians are to caught up in the day to day of just getting the mortgrage paid on time, that's what the government wants.

I watched the program last night called AIR on PBS, about FEMA.

As early as 2004 FEMA was already screwing up big time. Michael Brown is the poster boy for everything that's wrong with this rouge administration, smug, corrupt, and never thinks he did anything wrong.

"Well before Hurricane Katrina made landfall in August 2005, a team of reporters from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel had published a series called "FEMA: A Legacy of Waste," alerting readers to the federal government's unreadiness for a category 5 hurricane. Since October 2004, these reporters from the Fort Lauderdale newspaper had spent more than a year documenting and reporting problems with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Their investigation led to indictments, a US Senate hearing, a federal audit, and changes in the way that FEMA processes claims. In an editorial, the paper even called for the resignation of then director Michael Brown, long before "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job" had become an ironic national punch line."


You had to see this clown tell a US senator that a hurricane which hit miles north of Dade county, had in fact caused damage to Dade county, and that all the information she had was wrong, rather than admit he and his team had made mistakes.

That is the national weather service, visual proof, and local authorities, they were all wrong and he was right.

God helps us.

9/02/2006 11:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE BUSH:
"And if you believe that the job of the federal government is to secure this country, it's really important for you to understand that success in Iraq is part of securing the country."

Interesting how Bush's speech writer didn't argue that Bush himself believes that the federal government's job is to secure the country, which makes perfect sense since how can Bush explain what happened in New Orleans after Katrina if he truly believed it was the government's responsibility to protect its citizens? The more I listen to his speeches the more I believe his speech writers are parsing words in such a way so that Bush can tell himself that "technically" he is not lying. This war has nothing to do with protecting our country and everything to do with securing oil and power for the wealthiest among us. Check out the Project for the New American Century as well as their letter to Clinton advocating "removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power" back in Jan. 1998 http://www.newamericancentury.org/iraqclintonletter.htm (not to mention their letter to Bush just after 9/11). Take a look at who signed the letter and you will see a good percentage of "folks" who joined Team Bush in the Depts. of State, Defense, Security and Foreign Policy (not to mention their appointments to the World Bank (Wolfowitz) and United Nations (Bolton) and ambassadorship to Iraq (Khalizad)) or the hacks like Bill Kristol who promoted in print the agenda that got us into this mess. We need more Olbermanns to wake up more Americans from their sleepwalking.

9/03/2006 04:52:00 AM  
Anonymous ml said...

Every time I hear Bush or Cheney speak, I realize that when Rove read 1984 and Brave New World, he did not see them as cautionary tales: he saw them as how-to manuals.

And now ABC has produced a "factual" miniseries about 9/11 which blames Clinton who at least tried to take out bin Laden. The Republicans at the time criticized him for doing so - claiming he was trying to divert attention from the Monica scandal. ABC is planning to share this "factual" miniseries with school children. And our allies in Pakistan have granted a no-military-allowed pass for the area next to Afganistan.... Lordy, lordy, is this country f**ked up.

9/07/2006 11:00:00 AM  

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