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There is Much More to Say
May 24, 2011 10:22 AM   Subscribe

It might be instructive to ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic (after proper burial rites, of course). Uncontroversially, he is not a “suspect” but the “decider” who gave the orders to invade Iraq -- that is, to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: in Iraq, the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country and the national heritage, and the murderous sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region. Equally uncontroversially, these crimes vastly exceed anything attributed to bin Laden.
There is Much More to Say by Noam Chomsky.
posted by klue (463 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love Noam Chomsky. He is (understandably) slowing down these days and getting a bit more bleak (aren't we all?) but there is so much speaking truth to power in his words over the years that I still find him awesome.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 10:26 AM on May 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


Love him or hate him, Chomsky remains consistent in pointing out that the US really doesn't believe in the rule of law, and has plenty of examples to back up his claim.
posted by hippybear at 10:29 AM on May 24, 2011 [25 favorites]


This history, she is written by the winners?

And the winner is Disney.
posted by chavenet at 10:31 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I await the inevitable gang stomping for his daring to suggest that the United States be held to the same standard as lesser countries.
posted by Trurl at 10:31 AM on May 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


As much as we may have wished it otherwise, George W. Bush was (for all intents and purposes, questionable Supreme Court decisions notwithstanding) a democratically elected head of state. Assassinating a foreign head of state is unquestionably an act of war. Bin Laden, however, was not a head of state and held no office. Whether you believe Obama's targeted strike was legal or not, justifiable or not, Chomsky's hypothetical bears no comparable relation to reality.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:32 AM on May 24, 2011 [59 favorites]


George W. Bush is not currently a head of state.
posted by kipmanley at 10:34 AM on May 24, 2011 [24 favorites]


I don't think I'd be that upset if commandos landed in W's compound and took him out.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:34 AM on May 24, 2011 [17 favorites]


Bin Laden, however, was not a head of state and held no office.

And yet somehow he was capable of "declaring war" on us.

Dastardly clever fellow.
posted by Trurl at 10:34 AM on May 24, 2011 [25 favorites]


how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic

Can there be a "Mission Accomplished" banner as well?
posted by ryanrs at 10:35 AM on May 24, 2011 [18 favorites]


As much as we may have wished it otherwise, George W. Bush was (for all intents and purposes, questionable Supreme Court decisions notwithstanding) a democratically elected head of state. Assassinating a foreign head of state is unquestionably an act of war. Bin Laden, however, was not a head of state and held no office. Whether you believe Obama's targeted strike was legal or not, justifiable or not, Chomsky's hypothetical bears no comparable relation to reality.

I'll remember that when we kill Muammar Gaddafi.
posted by briank at 10:36 AM on May 24, 2011 [12 favorites]


One gets the sense that Chomsky objects to the assassination of bin Laden, but would have found the execution of Bush justified.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:36 AM on May 24, 2011 [14 favorites]


A friend of mine since high school now works as a senior legal counsel to Amnesty International, and was instrumental in initiating a warrant for Bush's arrest in Switzerland, which ultimately led to Bush cancelling his trip there; world leaders can no longer claim immunity from prosecution.

So, Chomsky needn't create hypothetical scenarios - people around the world are already seeking Bush's arrest.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:37 AM on May 24, 2011 [12 favorites]


how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound...

Well, beyond posting an FPP, I doubt my day would be affected much at all.
posted by Ardiril at 10:39 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Whether you believe Obama's targeted strike was legal or not, justifiable or not

It's precisely this part of your sentence that is important to the hypothetical. It bears enough comparable relation to reality to illustrate the moral/legal issue that you've brushed off. He did not kill elected officials - is his extra-judicial assassination legal? Justifiable? If he had killed an elected official, would that change the answer?
posted by spicynuts at 10:39 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


George W. Bush was [...] a democratically elected head of state.
--
I'll remember that when we kill Muammar Gaddafi.


He did say democratically elected.
posted by saturday_morning at 10:39 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


pardonyou?: "One gets the sense that Chomsky objects to the assassination of bin Laden, but would have found the execution of Bush justified."

Bush got a lot more people killed.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:39 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


He talks in there a lot about the threat of hostilities with Pakistan. They mentioned on the CBC today that China had announced that “Any attack on Pakistan would be construed as an attack on China.”

Apparently they're not counting all those drones in there, but it's kind of disturbing none the less. Things seem to be getting a bit Cold War-ish between China and America.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:42 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Something Chomsky discusses (which I've always wondered), is how much of a 'head of Al-Qaeda' Bin Laden really was. I've no doubt terrorist attacks were planned in detail, but to me, it seems likely a terrorist organization has a flattish hierarchy, mainly for for self-preservation. Historically, infighting and splintering of terrorists groups would suggest this.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 10:42 AM on May 24, 2011



pardonyou?: "One gets the sense that Chomsky objects to the assassination of bin Laden, but would have found the execution of Bush justified."


That's not quite how I read it, I think he was using Bush for contrast.
Calling for executions goes against what he's always stood for, and that wasn't Chomsky's intent. But your question answers itself if you put the stress on execution and assassination.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:44 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Say what you feel, Noam.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:45 AM on May 24, 2011


Bin Laden declared war on the U.S. without any vested power to do so, and we all GRARRED the fuck out, but Bush was not vested with any power to declare war *either* (Congress must declare war, not the president), and yet most (not all) Americans were THRILLED when the U.S. committed a massive, vile crime when we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq.

I love Noam Chomsky. OM NOM NOAM.
posted by tzikeh at 10:46 AM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Except the UN authorized it:

"Contrast that with, say, the United Nations Security Council: [...]

Recalling the “heinous” terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, as well as the numerous attacks perpetrated by the Al-Qaida network around the world, the Security Council welcomed today the news that Osama bin Laden would never again be able to perpetrate such acts of terrorism.

Expressing its deepest condolences to the victims of terrorism and their families, the Council stressed the need for the full implementation of all its resolutions and statements on terrorism, notably resolutions 1267 (1999), 1373 (2001), 1624 (2005), 1963 (2010) and 1904 (2009), as well as other applicable international counter-terrorism instruments.

And, indeed, the referenced UNSCR 1373 is full of international legal authorization for killing people, specifically deeming the 9/11 attacks events that, “like any act of international terrorism, constitute a threat to international peace and security, Reaffirming the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence, Reaffirming the need to combat by all means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts.” And, again, in case it’s not clear please read Chapter VII of the UN Charter which says (though of course not deploying such blunt language) that when the Security Council wants to combat a threat to international peace and security it can use military force.

Long story short, neither Osama bin Laden nor the government of Pakistan has any standing in international law to complain. Bin Laden was not, in international legal terms, a “criminal” who we have to attempt to apprehend. He was an ongoing threat to international peace and security who the nations of the world were urged to “combat by all means” and the whole point of the Security Council is that it overrides national sovereignty.
posted by spaltavian at 10:46 AM on May 24, 2011 [27 favorites]


Sorry, I forgot the ending quotation mark. All of that is from Yglesias, part of which is Yglesias himself is quoting a UN statement.
posted by spaltavian at 10:48 AM on May 24, 2011


Meanwhile, the pending defense authorization bill "says the U.S. is at war with al-Qaida, the Taliban and associated forces. It gives the White House the power to take action against anyone who belongs to those groups or anyone who supports them, anywhere in the world."
posted by Trurl at 10:49 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bin Laden was not, in international legal terms, a “criminal” who we have to attempt to apprehend. He was an ongoing threat to international peace and security who the nations of the world were urged to “combat by all means”

Oh, so he's like Emmanuel Goldstein then?
posted by mikelieman at 10:50 AM on May 24, 2011 [12 favorites]


ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic

I would definitely be calling for the Iraqi commandos to be arrested. Even assuming for the sake of argument that they had legal Visas - a point that would certainly bear further investigation - I'm pretty sure that it isn't legal to just dump bodies in the Atlantic.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:50 AM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Up is down and down is up.

Bin Laden is the victim, don't you know?
posted by Ironmouth at 10:50 AM on May 24, 2011 [9 favorites]


Something Chomsky discusses (which I've always wondered), is how much of a 'head of Al-Qaeda' Bin Laden really was.

Apparently joining al-Qaeda required an oath of loyalty directly to him (rather than to Islam or to the organization). You know who else required an oath of loyalty directly to the leader, rather than to the organization itself or to its principles? That's right, Godwin!
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:50 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


If wars did mostly consist of leaders trying to assassinate each other, rather than killing soldiers in the field (as well as, whether collaterally or intentionally, civillians), war would be far less terrible and probably also less frequent.

So, as long as we're doing this little thought experiment, I suppose I'm in favor of both.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 10:52 AM on May 24, 2011 [11 favorites]


~how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic~

There aren't enough plastic kazoos, confetti, glittery hats, E-Z Cheese, dancing kittens, rainbow cannons or slurpee waterslides in the world to supply the one-man party I'd be having.
posted by chronkite at 10:53 AM on May 24, 2011 [12 favorites]


Except the UN authorized it:

That's not true. Here is UNSCR 1373

If you read through it, nowhere do they mention killing people who are presumed guilty. It's to long to paste in here, but it's more along the lines of preventing the facilitation of terrorism, rather than punishing those suspected of terrorism.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 10:54 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


Ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic

I wouldn't shed any tears, tbh.
posted by empath at 10:54 AM on May 24, 2011


Didn't Bush go to war with the support of both houses of Congress? If so, shouldn't every Representative and Senator also be kidnapped by Iraqi commandos? It would be logistically complex, but metaphorically more satisfying.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:54 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that whole thing struck me the wrong way right away. Reading Chomsky's piece I was left with an irritating feeling, a sort of itch--is this what a left-leaning person would be expected to think and say, just because it goes against the crowd-consensus?

I would have gone through the piece and shown its contradictions if I had the rhetorical power to do so. Fortunately, I didn't have to. Christopher Hitchens did it for me.
posted by DanielZKlein at 10:54 AM on May 24, 2011 [13 favorites]


Also, let's not quote the Nurnburg trials if we are saying that there has to be due process.

I'm no fan of the Nazis, and I think it was right they were tried. But they were charged with crimes on no statute books, which they had no prior knowledge existed, and for which international law did not exist. Due process requires a statute. The idea that somehow these trials were the paragon of due process is laughable.

Were they right?

yes.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:54 AM on May 24, 2011 [13 favorites]


Oh, so he's like Emmanuel Goldstein then?

No, he was the leader of a military organization that is at war with the United States. The battlefield doesn't have a court room; that why war is bad in the first place.
posted by spaltavian at 10:55 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Long story short, neither Osama bin Laden nor the government of Pakistan has any standing in international law to complain. Bin Laden was not, in international legal terms, a “criminal” who we have to attempt to apprehend. He was an ongoing threat to international peace and security who the nations of the world were urged to “combat by all means” and the whole point of the Security Council is that it overrides national sovereignty.

the problem with this line of argument (aside from whether the UN can really authorize the assasination of an individual as a legal matter) is that if it were so clear cut, why did they bother with the obfuscatory rules of engagement vis a vis the raid of bin Laden's compound. It's perfectly clear that they intended to kill him, yet they were forced to couch the operation in terms such that practically any action of bin Laden could be determined to be a threat justifying lethal response.

In short, if the Obama administration thought they were authorized to shoot Osama in the back of head they would have been upfront about it.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:55 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Chomsky has always been brilliant of course, but he is also an ass -- as even some in the the liberal community have said recently.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 10:55 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


George W. Bush is not currently a head of state.

He's not currently prosecuting a war either. A basic concept of international law is that heads of state are immune from prosecution for decisions made in their official capacity, subject to a few narrow exceptions. You can make a case that Bush (and maybe Blair) lied to the UN to get global consensus on going to war, but likewise it's up to the UN to issue sanctions or so if that body feels itself to have been wronged.

I suspect Chomsky understands this perfectly well.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:55 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


From the article:
We are left with two choices: either Bush and associates are guilty of the “supreme international crime” including all the evils that follow, crimes that go vastly beyond anything attributed to bin Laden; or else we declare that the Nuremberg proceedings were a farce and that the allies were guilty of judicial murder.

Upon reading that, there are a number of people unconsciously adjusting their necktie.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 10:56 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Assassinating a foreign head of state is unquestionably an act of war.

Are we talking legally or morally?
posted by DU at 10:56 AM on May 24, 2011


Chomsky has always been brilliant of course

Guy is a meandering idiot who does more harm than good to even the causes he supports.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:57 AM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Due process requires a statute.

Mass murder isn't wrong or traditionally punishable by death because of a law, and the consequences of launching an aggressive war always include death at the hands of your enemies.
posted by empath at 10:57 AM on May 24, 2011


I can't favorite spaltavian's comment enough.

I also wonder if there is such a thing as an Afghan or Iraqi Chomsky -- a well-known gadfly who claims that the US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan is "blowback" for terrorist acts against civilians around the world (but especially in the US). Maybe I should post separately in AskMe to see what the hive knows.

Meantime, I'll venture to say that it's much easier (and safer) to be a notorious gadfly in the West, and especially the United States, than it is in many other places in the world.
posted by BobbyVan at 10:58 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


So am I. What of it?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:58 AM on May 24, 2011


presumed guilty. It's to long to paste in here, but it's more along the lines of preventing the facilitation of terrorism, rather than punishing those suspected of terrorism

Your argument is circular. "Guilt" and "punishment" are not applicable concepts in war. (That's why war is bad.) You're reading falls apart when you don't previously assume what you want to believe.
posted by spaltavian at 10:58 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chomsky apparently hasn't heard that America is exceptional.
posted by Doug Stewart at 10:59 AM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


or else we declare that the Nuremberg proceedings were a farce and that the allies were guilty of judicial murder.

Well, let's look at it.
Charter of the International Military Tribunal

August 8, 1945
(Selected Articles)

ARTICLE 1
In pursuance of the Agreement signed on the 8th day of August 1945 by the Government of the United States of America, the Provisional Government of the French Republic, the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, there shall be established an International Military Tribunal (hereafter called "the Tribunal") for the just and prompt trial and punishment of major war criminals of the European Axis.
The victors, post hoc, declared the actions of the enemy to be crimes.
The Tribunal established by the Agreement referred to in Article 1 hereof for the trial and punishment of the major war criminals of the European Axis countries shall have the power to try and punish persons who, acting in the interests of the European Axis countries, whether as individuals or as members of organizations, committed any of the following crimes.
The following acts, or any of them, are crimes coming within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal for which there shall be individual responsibility:

(a) Crimes against Peace: namely, planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a Common Plan or Conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing;
(b) War Crimes: namely, violations of the laws or customs of war. Such violations shall include, but not be limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity;
(c) Crimes against Humanity: namely, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war,14 or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of domestic law of the country where perpetrated.
Leaders, organizers, instigators, and accomplices participating in the formulation or execution
of a Common Plan or Conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing crimes are responsible for all acts performed by any persons in execution of such plan.
These are all crimes ex post facto. They would be constitutionally prohibited in the United States.

so by the standards that those want to use to free bin Laden, yes Nurenburg was judicial murder.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:02 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've no doubt terrorist attacks were planned in detail, but to me, it seems likely a terrorist organization has a flattish hierarchy

This is a good point, and one people tend to overlook in the face of a symbolic victory like the assassination of bin Laden. I'm not sure how top-down al Qaeda is/was, and my suspicion is that a lot of the al Qaeda-affiliated groups after 9/11 borrowed the name to lend themselves some gravitas and make their more minor successes appear part of a greater whole. Are we to assume every coordinated car bombing and suicide bombing by al Qaeda in Iraq or Jemaah Islamiyah in the years since 2001 were on the orders of bin Laden himself? It seems much more likely that al Qaeda supplied inspiration, training, and/or funding to groups without necessarily being involved in the details of planning specific attacks. That will surely continue from the remaining members of al Qaeda or similar organizations so long as resources allow. In that sense, the bigger victories were likely those where terrorist organizations' assets were seized or frozen.
posted by Hoopo at 11:02 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


so by the standards that those want to use to free bin Laden, yes Nurenburg was judicial murder.

No one has suggested freeing him - in fact you are the first person to use this word. What is being discussed is whether killing him was justified, either morally or legally.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 11:04 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree with Chomsky on a lot of these points. I don't shed any tears for bin Laden. I'm very happy he's dead. I'd have been happier to see a trial, but honestly? Fuck him. He went out of his way to put himself in a position where he damn well knew that due process was going to be a dicey proposition at best.

I don't know what he did in that compound, but it's entirely plausible to me that whatever it was amounted to "suicide by SEAL."

I do think that if he had been captured and held for trial, there likely would've been scads of kidnappings and 'let bin Laden go or we murder the hostage' stuff. I can't say that's a reason NOT to capture rather than kill, but at least we haven't been seeing that.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:05 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


It might be instructive to ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic (after proper burial rites, of course).

I was going to post that Metafilter would break out in cheers and parties, but Metafilter beat me to it. I love you guys.
posted by DWRoelands at 11:06 AM on May 24, 2011


Over the years, it seems to me that Al Qaeda has been referred to as a decentralized "franchise" (go anarcho-syndicalism!), and that Bin Laden was more of a PR person who also provided some logistical and perhaps ideological support; Al Qaeda is more of a global movement of disaffected murderous shitheads, rather than an actual organization.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:06 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Guy is a meandering idiot who does more harm than good to even the causes he supports.

so by the standards that those want to use to free bin Laden, yes Nurenburg was judicial murder.


Your argumentation skills are truly impressive.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:07 AM on May 24, 2011 [14 favorites]


These are all crimes ex post facto. They would be constitutionally prohibited in the United States.

so by the standards that those want to use to free bin Laden, yes Nurenburg was judicial murder.


what a specious argument, the whole point of Nurenburg was not to try the Nazis based on the laws of any one country but to establish *international* norms that governments and agents thereof could be held accountable to by an *international* tribunal.

As Judge Jackson says, the validity of these ex post facto norms comes directly from our own willingness to be subject to them. American exceptionalists like Dick Cheney have always objected to the very idea of international law: is that the company you wish to keep?
posted by ennui.bz at 11:08 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Free Göring!
posted by CautionToTheWind at 11:09 AM on May 24, 2011


When I saw (via YouTube) Chumpsky shaking hands with Hezbollah leader and stating that that group was no more a terror organization that America was I knew he was a friggin Nutter.
Screw Bin Laden. I am glad he got killed. Does Chomsky think 9/11 was an ok thing to do?

Can you recall any time ever that Chumpsky had a decent word to say for his country?
I am fully aware of the many terrible things our nation has done and does do. But damn iot, we saved Europe from the Nazis and saved lives in the East by defeating Japan...and we give aid to many countries in need and so forth. But for Noam, none of that matters.
I don't see him moving from the area where he lives now that he is retired, land that was not owned by white folks many years ago. That is ok, though, because, well, just because.
posted by Postroad at 11:10 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why does a self-professed anarchist like Chomsky wrap himself up in arguments based on "the rule of law" all the time?

Since he doesn't believe in the rule of law himself, what's the basis of his own authority to pass judgment or criticize others on those grounds?
posted by saulgoodman at 11:10 AM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ironmouth: Guy is a meandering idiot who does more harm than good to even the causes he supports.


Seriously Ironmouth? lol Look, I know you're whole schtick here is to be the right-wing voice of reason but seriously Chomsky is a professor emeritus at M.I.T and is known in the academic and scientific community as one of the fathers of modern linguistics .

So he is hardly an idiot. You may not agree with his social critiques but you can hardly argue that by and large they are not well reasoned and documented. So look , Ironmouth, are you doing this for the attention or what? You can certainly disagree with Chomsky's political leanings and messages but calling him an "idiot" just makes you look silly yourself.

posted by Poet_Lariat at 11:11 AM on May 24, 2011 [12 favorites]


The Nuremberg Trials are entirely irrelevant to the situation with OBL, or even the hypothetical with Bush. Nuremberg took place after the surrender of Germany and the cessation of hostilities. 1946 is not 1944.

If Allied forces found any of the military leaders later tried at Nuremberg in a bunker in 1943, the would have ended up as enemy forces killed in battle.
posted by spaltavian at 11:11 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Christopher Hitchens did it for me.

And as only Hitch can!

Amid the ad hominem sneers like "guru of the left", we get gems like:

... it is remarkable that [Chomsky] should write as if the mass of evidence against Bin Laden has never been presented or could not have been brought before a court.

See? We could have convicted him after a fair trial. But why should we have to bother when his guilt is so obvious?

Since it took Hitch being actually waterboarded for him to realize that it is in fact torture, clearly we're going to have to execute him without due process before he figures out what's wrong with that.
posted by Trurl at 11:11 AM on May 24, 2011 [24 favorites]


Ironmouth:

Bin Laden is the victim, don't you know?

I don't think bin Laden is "the victim;" noting that the U.S. invaded a sovereign nation and committed a war crime != "Oh, poor bin Laden; it's just not fair what happened to him."
posted by tzikeh at 11:12 AM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


anigbrowl, many jurists argue that immunity dies when the individual's term in office expires, and the recent cases of the international tribunals make it relatively clear (in so far as these things are ever clear) that one cannot claim immunity for acts done in office which violate jus cogens norms. This is especially true because gross violations of humanitarian law often require that the perpetrator have high office of some sort, so preserving immunities would render that body of law a nullity.

Iraq and Afghanistan aside, Bush almost certainly authorized or ordered actions which violate jus cogens norms: torture of prisoners; imprisonment without due process; abductions; arbitrary executions without process of law. His mantle of office cannot completely protect him from those crimes now that he is no longer the incumbent.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:12 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


Did the United States flying stealth helicopters into Pakistan and assassinating a resident thereof with its super elite special forces violate all sorts of international laws and treaties? Yes.

Was this the right thing to do? Maybe.

Is anyone going to do anything about it? No.
posted by gagglezoomer at 11:12 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I still think the better analogy would be that if Mexico discovered there was a drug cartel kingpin (whose group was behind a lot of the horrible violence Mexico has been having in the past few years) holed up on a suburb of Houston and sent a team in to capture/kill him without telling the US first...

THAT would be much more of a parallel action within the US than Iraq coming after GWB.

The US would have a complete shitfit about it, too.
posted by hippybear at 11:13 AM on May 24, 2011 [13 favorites]


Maybe I should let him speak for himself, but Ironmouth is not a right-winger, Poet_Lariat. Do you really think anyone who doesn't agree with you or Chomsky must be a jackbooted thug?
posted by spaltavian at 11:14 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


Is anyone going to do anything about it? No.

WRONG! From the looks of the FPP, the USA has now received at least 1 angry letter.
posted by Hoopo at 11:14 AM on May 24, 2011


Since he doesn't believe in the rule of law himself, what's the basis of his own authority to pass judgment or criticize others on those grounds?

Who says he, or other anarchists, don't believe in the rule of law? It's actually quite a topic of discussion among real anarchists, and not straw-man anarchists.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:16 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wasn't this part of the original "bin Laden is dead" post? I remember seeing a link to this same quote a day or two after the whole thing went down.
posted by crunchland at 11:19 AM on May 24, 2011


saulgoodman :Why does a self-professed anarchist like Chomsky wrap himself up in arguments based on "the rule of law" all the time?

The link that you reference in the quote from you above has the word "Anarchy" in the title. But when actually reading the article on finds that it says:

Chomsky warns that little can be said about anarchism on a very general level. "I haven't tried to write anything systematic about these topics, nor do I know of anything by others that I could recommend,"

Furthermore when actually reading the article one finds that Chomsky neither particularly believes in anarchy as a viable social regulating mechanism nor does he in any way indicate that he "doesn't believe in the rule of law as you suggest. When one actually the article one finds that Chomsky is merely discussing the meaning of the concept and it's pluses and minuses. So ... ummm... what's up with that?
posted by Poet_Lariat at 11:19 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


THAT would be much more of a parallel action within the US than Iraq coming after GWB.

Much less provocative too. I agree with a lot of what Chomsky says in this piece, but the GWB angle seems like tacked-on axe-grinding. I think it actually takes away from the overall message
posted by Hoopo at 11:21 AM on May 24, 2011


And this is why the GOP is laughing at us.

The horrors of Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts are built on the foundations Bin Laden laid. There is no grey area here - he was actively planning more murder and chaos when he was killed. This is nothing like the Nuremberg trials, there is no comparison to be made - this is more like the end of Yamamoto. We are still in the middle of at least four shooting wars (Hello, Phillipines and Yemen!) where he and his organization are actively fighting US troops.

Chomsky is going to ivory tower us to death, I swear.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:22 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Chomsky is going to ivory tower us to death, I swear.

Nah, what will cause death will be American chauvinism and chest-thumping. In fact, I think it's about to kill this thread.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:26 AM on May 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


And this is why the GOP is laughing at us.

Thank God I don't base my life around what makes the GOP laugh.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:27 AM on May 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


If you make a spectacular show out of attacking the most powerful country in the world then you will and arguably should die. Either that or you win - in which case others will and arguably should die. This seems a simple concept to grasp and it eludes me why Chomsky doesn't comprehend this.
posted by eeeeeez at 11:27 AM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's to long to paste in here, but [UNSCR 1373 is] more along the lines of preventing the facilitation of terrorism, rather than punishing those suspected of terrorism.

It's not exactly a huge stretch to come up with a plausible argument that killing Bin Laden "prevented the facilitation of terrorism," insofar as he may have still been involved at some level in the organization.

Personally, I think that "preventing the facilitation of terrorism" is a more slippery slope than simple retribution. At least if you're acting in revenge, the targeted person has to have done something. But you can kill just about anyone in the name of preventing something that they haven't actually done yet; there's a sort of tiger-repelling-rock aspect to it.

Allowing assassinations in order to prevent terrorism that hasn't occurred strikes me as a much more dangerous and abuse-prone justification than allowing after-the-fact executions for crimes committed.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:27 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


George W. Bush was [...] a democratically elected head of state.
--
I'll remember that when we kill Muammar Gaddafi.

He did say democratically elected.


Apparently you don't remember the 2000 presidential election.
posted by briank at 11:30 AM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


When one actually the article one finds that Chomsky is merely discussing the meaning of the concept and it's pluses and minuses. So ... ummm... what's up with that?

The one link isn't meant to summarize Chomsky's whole career or everything he's ever written or said on the subject of his politics. He's well known to be an anarchist (I hope I don't have to establish that here), I just thought the link might provide some good background into his peculiarly frustrating refusal to say what he actually believes as an anarchist. He frequently identifies himself as an anarcho-syndicalist in public appearances and anybody who didn't just discover Chomsky yesterday is well-acquainted with his self-professed anarchist orientation. I'm not gonna debate that a whole lot here. But I find it extremely frustrating to see an anarchist dishonestly/or without self-reflection using ideas he doesn't even believe in to score political points. When it comes to many of Chomsky's observations about the use of political propaganda/rhetoric, I'll stand by him against any critic. But when it comes to a lot of his broader, political arguments, they don't ring nearly as true, and we start to part ways.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:31 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: America is exceptional.
Another Osama post? Ugh!!!!
posted by Chuckles at 11:31 AM on May 24, 2011


Seriously Ironmouth? lol Look, I know you're whole schtick here is to be the right-wing voice of reason

wut
posted by joe lisboa at 11:34 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


President Bush Reacts to Osama Bin Laden's Death
posted by homunculus at 11:36 AM on May 24, 2011


spaltavian: Maybe I should let him speak for himself, but Ironmouth is not a right-winger, Poet_Lariat. Do you really think anyone who doesn't agree with you or Chomsky must be a jackbooted thug?

Your gratuitous false dichotomy aside, Ironmouth has already spoken for himself via his posting history. He hates Media Matters (effing truth-tellers ruin it for everybody), believes in the Afghan war, believes Wall Street has not committed crimes worthy of investigation (hates Taibbi as well), promotes American killings of suspected terrorists without trial, believes we should cut back on social spending....

Need I go on? He may well have voted Democratic last election but that does not make him not to be a right winger in my eyes at least. I know a lot of so-called Democrats who are merely right-wingers in Demo-drag. It's the main reason why I am not a Democrat anymore.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 11:38 AM on May 24, 2011 [15 favorites]


I don't think I'd be that upset if commandos landed in W's compound and took him out.

Yeah, I'd be pretty relaxed if an Iraqi offed Bush for the damage done to his people. Hell, I'd be cheering if a Cambodian managed to take out Kissinger.
posted by rodgerd at 11:38 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


We killed an unarmed man in his home, injured his wife, annihilated any other male in the compound, then threw a kegger in Times Square.

YEAAAAAAH, AMERICA.

WOOOOHOOO CALIG-I mean THE PRESIDENT!

On a more serious note: We had laws to keep our worst instincts in check. Now we see our woes return, though I'm glad to only see Lust, Greed, Glutony, and Wrath in full force for now.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:39 AM on May 24, 2011


Oh, so he's like Emmanuel Goldstein then?

Exactly right! If you believe that Osama Bin Laden is imaginary and that the US is Oceania. Well, do you ... ?

You know, I've yet to be convinced by them, but there are arguments to be made that the killing of Bin Laden violated national or international laws. It's just that those arguments need to be a little more sophisticated than NO JUSTICE NOBAMA!!!!
posted by octobersurprise at 11:40 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


He's well known to be an anarchist (I hope I don't have to establish that here),

Yes, actually, you do.
I've read Chomsky. He is anti-fascist and believes that the U.S., among others, is far more fascist than it is a Democracy which may be arguable but hardly makes him an anarchist.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 11:41 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thank God I don't base my life around what makes the GOP laugh.

No, others are doing that for you. What's wrong with Kansas? Fuck. What's wrong with us?
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:47 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you're actually curious about Chomski's political views, instead of simply wish to tar him with an anarchist brush, Wikipedia has a whole page devoted precisely to the topic.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:48 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bush got a lot more people killed.

I think once you've reached "1" then you're in trouble.
posted by gcbv at 11:49 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


And this is why the GOP is laughing at us.
posted by Slap*Happy at 2:22 PM on May 2


No, the GOP is laughing at you because you plural write things like this:

I await the inevitable gang stomping for his daring to suggest that the United States be held to the same standard as lesser countries.
posted by Trurl at 1:31 PM on May 24


Specifically they are laughing at the idea that the United States should be held to the same standards as other countries. And why should it? Where does it say that all nations are equal? International law? And who enforces that exactly? Oh, the largest and most powerful countries on earth, namely the United States.

Chomsky has made a form of the same argument his entire life: "If this is the rule that that the US applies to everyone else, then the US is breaking that rule." Well, Noam, your assumption is wrong. The rule is:

Everyone has to follow these rules except the most powerful. That is the rule. The exception is part of the rule.

You don't like exceptionalism? Exceptionalism is why the unemployment rate in the US, France, Germany, and Japan are between 6-8%, but in Spain and Greece--you know, where people are rioting--its approaching 20%. Exceptionalism is your country's ability to fuck up the global economy while citizens of other countries bear the brunt.

If the world were fair, the conditions of most Americans--i.e. the 90% that think the top 5% should pay more in taxes--would revert to that of Eastern Europeans. Your condition, however bad you think it is, would be immeasurably worse if things were evened out. But if you think that fair is far and right is right, then all you have to do is wait. We'll be sliding into mediocrity before you know it.

Let me rephrase and repeat the rule for you, the only one rule of international law: Whoever has the guns and the money gets to make, break, and enforce the rules. That is not my opinion of what the rule should be. That's what the rule is. It's is a fact, a state of nature, an observation based on thousands of years of historical evidence. It is as immutable as the laws of physics. Failure to acknowledge that as the rule is a mark of insanity, like believing in ghosts or that the earth is flat.

That's why they laugh, because you say things that are crazy.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:53 AM on May 24, 2011 [18 favorites]


Chomsky is a professor emeritus at M.I.T and is known in the academic and scientific community as one of the fathers of modern linguistics

So much for the academic and scientific communities...
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 11:53 AM on May 24, 2011


> > Wasn't this part of the original "bin Laden is dead" post? I remember seeing a link to this same quote a day or two after the whole thing went down.

Yes, it was. It was discussed a fair bit and it wouldn't bother me in the slightest if this one was deleted on that basis.
posted by K.P. at 11:56 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pastabagel:Let me rephrase and repeat the rule for you, the only one rule of international law: Whoever has the guns and the money gets to make, break, and enforce the rules. That is not my opinion of what the rule should be. That's what the rule is

How's that rule working out in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya these days? Maybe Syria but we'll see.

There is another, often overlooked, rule: Someone has to labor to make the guns and earn the money and if they stop ... well then.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:00 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whoever has the guns and the money gets to make, break, and enforce the rules. That is not my opinion of what the rule should be. That's what the rule is. It's is a fact, a state of nature, an observation based on thousands of years of historical evidence. It is as immutable as the laws of physics. Failure to acknowledge that as the rule is a mark of insanity, like believing in ghosts or that the earth is flat.

Unfortunately all true, but not really and indictment of Chomsky's argument as you have just parroted his main critique of "the way the world works". His oft repeated truism isn't a statement about the way things are, but rather a challenge to do better.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:01 PM on May 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


the unemployment rate in the US, France, Germany, and Japan are between 6-8%

I don't think you're reading those charts correctly.
posted by hippybear at 12:05 PM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


No, they're laughing because those who vote will never associate with useless hand-wringers and navel-gazers who shed a huge, politically motivated crocodile tear for the worst of the worst as a way to wear a hair-shirt in public. It's the wrong damn hill to die on, and you know it. It's intellectually dishonest to equate the combat death of Bin Laden (if Yamamato was a clean kill, and he was, Bin Laden was a clean kill).

Responsibility and change are scary. I suppose it's less scary if the left is politically impotent, tho, so you go on ahead and explain to the average voter why they should be ashamed Bin Laden is dead.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:07 PM on May 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


Chomsky's a useful guy, sometimes far-left (and far-right) types occasionally get it right and take unpopular positions that're morally correct, or have a counter-intuitive view that ends up being right. There's also a certain internal consistency to his logic and worldview.

That internal logic also leads to extreme positions and a startling naivete, which are on full display in the linked article.
posted by aerotive at 12:08 PM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


I've read Chomsky. He is anti-fascist and believes that the U.S., among others, is far more fascist than it is a Democracy which may be arguable but hardly makes him an anarchist.

Okay, if you're going to insist on stubbornly denying well-established facts, I'll play along for a bit more. I can't find a "money quote" for you to the effect of "I, Noam Chomsky, am an anarcho-syndicalist" at the moment, but there's this from his bio:

Since the 1960s, he has become known more widely as a political dissident and an anarchist,[8] referring to himself as a libertarian socialist.

Also, here's a YouTube video of Chomsky explaining that he's an anarchist.

So, do I still have to prove it some more?
posted by saulgoodman at 12:09 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Okay, if you're going to insist on stubbornly denying well-established facts, I'll play along for a bit more. I can't find a "money quote" for you to the effect of "I, Noam Chomsky, am an anarcho-syndicalist" at the moment, but there's this from his bio:

If it matters that much, dig out the twenty-odd year old Rolling Stone interview where he describes Libertarians as "right-wing anarchists" and himself as a "left-wing anarchist".
posted by rodgerd at 12:12 PM on May 24, 2011


Responsibility and change are scary. I suppose it's less scary if the left is politically impotent, tho, so you go on ahead and explain to the average voter why they should be ashamed Bin Laden is dead.
posted by Slap*Happy at 3:07 PM on May 24


Because the United States of America, an empire to rival Rome at its peak, should not be frightened of one man.

I can't find a "money quote" for you to the effect of "I, Noam Chomsky, am an anarcho-syndicalist"

He said almost those exact words in his famous debate with Foucault.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:16 PM on May 24, 2011


Slap*Happy? We we're getting pummeled on this hill in the run up to the Iraq war. We rallied briefly when it was clearly shown that the whole thing from start to catastrophic continuation was illegal. We're still on the hill, throwing up flak about how the rule of law is being trampled today despite the blue square to the left of the president's name on the ballot.

We're not going to stop bleating, kicking, screaming, shouting, and picketing on this hill until the governments of the world remember the rule of law.

So, we'll be here until the Heat Death of the universe. At least we stick to our bloody principles.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:17 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


The debate on whether Chomski is or isn't an anarchist isn't really that important. The reason his anarchist leaning were mentioned was to discredit his arguments by claiming he doesn't believe in the rule of law because he is an anarchist. But there's nothing to back up the insistence that he doesn't believe in the rule of law. It was pure straw man.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:18 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


pardonyou?: "One gets the sense that Chomsky objects to the assassination of bin Laden, but would have found the execution of Bush justified."

That's exactly how this reads to me, too.

One reason why is Noam's blithely typical willingness to nonchalantly condemn the United States as a regime of international terror responsible for the deaths of millions while wholly absolving Osama bin Laden. Now, I think there's an argument to be made for the first bit, and like any fellow traveler on the left I am skeptical about the United States and about international capitalism. But to completely dismiss Osama bin Laden as innocent and even ineffectual? This seems sort of insane, and Noam seems to do it, as always, merely because he relishes thoe role of the contrarian.

Noam Chomsky is an idiot and a disgrace to the left, and the longer we leftists hold him up as an example of a thoughtful intellectual, the longer really intelligent people will laugh at us.
posted by koeselitz at 12:18 PM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


SaulGoodman: Your material is near 4 decades old. I think the man's views have ripened ever so slightly since then.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:18 PM on May 24, 2011


There is another, often overlooked, rule: Someone has to labor to make the guns and earn the money and if they stop ... well then.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 3:00 PM on May 24


Well then, you find others. Laborers are cheap, plentiful, and surprise, disposable.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:19 PM on May 24, 2011


Slackermagee: "Your material is near 4 decades old. I think the man's views have ripened ever so slightly since then."

I wouldn't bet on it.
posted by koeselitz at 12:21 PM on May 24, 2011


What a confused and incoherent letter. Why is there so much talk about "suspects" and "punishment"? Those are criminal law concepts, and have no particular application to an attack on a leader of a large group of organized fighters armed with military weapons who are battling a country's armed forces.
posted by planet at 12:21 PM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


If it's a strawman, explain how AZ? Seriously. Since when do anarchists of any stripe believe in the "rule of law"? How do concepts like "rule of law" and "national sovereignty" square with any version of anarchist thought? I'd like to understand, because I feel that one of the biggest problems we have is that the wingers on both sides in the US are anti-state, and that makes it quite easy for the Republicans to sell their anti-state ideas.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:21 PM on May 24, 2011


Let me rephrase and repeat the rule for you, the only one rule of international law: Whoever has the guns and the money gets to make, break, and enforce the rules. That is not my opinion of what the rule should be. That's what the rule is. It's is a fact, a state of nature, an observation based on thousands of years of historical evidence. It is as immutable as the laws of physics. Failure to acknowledge that as the rule is a mark of insanity, like believing in ghosts or that the earth is flat.

Thank goodness all those people who were riding busses in the South 50 years ago looked at the status quo and said, "you know, this is just how things are, and I don't have money or guns, so I'm going to let those that do make all the rules."

That was just how things were, based on thousands of years of historical evidence. Segregation was as immutable as the laws of physics.
posted by hippybear at 12:22 PM on May 24, 2011 [10 favorites]


Also, let's not quote the Nurnburg trials if we are saying that there has to be due process.

I'm no fan of the Nazis, and I think it was right they were tried. But they were charged with crimes on no statute books, which they had no prior knowledge existed, and for which international law did not exist. Due process requires a statute. The idea that somehow these trials were the paragon of due process is laughable.
I'm pretty sure the Nazis broke laws in the countries they attacked.
You can make a case that Bush (and maybe Blair) lied to the UN to get global consensus on going to war, but likewise it's up to the UN to issue sanctions or so if that body feels itself to have been wronged.
They never got a global consensus to go to war and the U.N never authorized it.
Chomsky is going to ivory tower us to death, I swear.
Who is "Us" here? Do you think Chomsky is an Obama supporter or something?
No, others are doing that for you. What's wrong with Kansas? Fuck. What's wrong with us?
I find this attitude annoying. Rather then arguing about what's right and wrong we should be arguing about how we can be as amoral as possible in order to benefit the democratic party because... because why exactly? So democrats can cut back on social spending on the poor instead of republicans?
If the world were fair, the conditions of most Americans--i.e. the 90% that think the top 5% should pay more in taxes--would revert to that of Eastern Europeans. Your condition, however bad you think it is, would be immeasurably worse if things were evened out.
Yeah the guy making over $250k thinks average Americans need to suffer MORE for the economic catastrophe caused by wallstreet and the bush administration, because obviously all jobs emanate from billionaires like light from the sun, and the more billionares we have, the more jobs we'll all have! So wee need to cut their taxes right away!
the unemployment rate in the US, France, Germany, and Japan are between 6-8%
Now see, that's funny. You lump the U.S. in with much more socially equitable countries in order to make the statistics look better, when in fact the U.S's unemployment rate is 9% and for recent college grads it's actually around 20%. Or higher. Meanwhile countries like Germany, Japan, France, Sweeden, the Netherlands etc actually are much, much more evened out, people get tons of mandatory vacation per year, free government supported healthcare and so on.

When you actually look at how 'uneaven' the U.S. is based on GINI index we're right around with the third world. On wikipedia we're actually right in between to Cameroon and Uruguay, with more income inequality then Nigeria, Cambodia, China, Turkey, Yemen, Egypt, and Bangladesh. Compared to the countries with the least income inequality like Sweeden, Norway, Austria, Luxembbourg, Finland, Germany and so on.
posted by delmoi at 12:23 PM on May 24, 2011 [16 favorites]


saulgoodman:Okay, if you're going to insist on stubbornly denying well-established facts, I'll play along for a bit more. I can't find a "money quote" for you to the effect of "I, Noam Chomsky, am an anarcho-syndicalist" at the moment...,

OK Saul, that should have been your first clue that maybe, you know, you were wrong?

but there's this from his bio:

Since the 1960s, he has become known more widely as a political dissident and an anarchist,[8] referring to himself as a libertarian socialist.


Right. That's a Wikipedia page Saul. When you actually click on the tiny "8" there you get the "cite " which turns out to be some Alaskan Press Publication and interestingly enough - the link does not go to any page at all. So what is the "cite" referring to ? Does it prove anything at all? I haven't a clue. You can't tell from the Wiki "cite". This should have been your second clue.

Also, here's a YouTube video of Chomsky explaining that he's an anarchist yt .

Seriously Saul? Seriously? The link that you give points to a youtube audio from Chomsky that that is 35 years old and is entitled. Chomsky explains anarchism. Is explaining something the same thing as being something in your eyes? Can we really get an idea of what the man thinks form an audio excerpt 35 years old? Does Chomsky actually say he's an anarchist anywhere in that audio clip or did you just do a quickie Googe search and hope no one would notice? So many questions.... this should have been your third clue.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:25 PM on May 24, 2011


You could follow my link above, Saul. Or you could do any additional research. And, while Chompski sometimes identifies himself as an anarcho-syndicalist, he also identifies himself as a "fellow traveler" -- he's sympathetic to anarchism, but diverges from it in some significant ways. So if you're going to claim he doesn't believe in the rule of law, you have to actually demonstrate that he has said he doesn't believe in it, rather than simply pointing to the fact that he sympathizes with a movement that is opposed to hierarchical structuring. It is possible in anarchist theory to implement law that is non-hierarchic, and to believe that this would be a just alternative. But even if you could make the case for any of these things, that doesn't mean that Chompski can't call out the US for living up to its own legal standard, which is what he has done.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:26 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


No, they're laughing because those who vote will never associate with useless hand-wringers and navel-gazers who shed a huge, politically motivated crocodile tear for the worst of the worst as a way to wear a hair-shirt in public. It's the wrong damn hill to die on, and you know it. It's intellectually dishonest to equate the combat death of Bin Laden (if Yamamato was a clean kill, and he was, Bin Laden was a clean kill).

The GOP is busy rushing up their own hills to die on these days, so there isn't much time for them to laugh, but I want to quote this for fucking truth. You can think that the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan has been a clusterfuck (which I do: Iraq, entirely; Afghanistan only marginally less so) and still not care how Bin Laden bought it in a conflict of his choosing. His end was merciful and swift, which was more than he ever did for the people who died by his hands.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:26 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


We should not have killed on sight.

We should be beyond that.

We should have tried to capture him alive, to drag him back to the United States as a prisoner, not a corpse. We should have sent a message to the world at large, to friends and to enemies, that this is how America acts. That those who strike at our citizens will be hunted down, chased to the far corners of the globe and captured. Captured. Not killed.

We should have charged him, afforded him a speedy and public trial, allowed him access to an attorney, and provided representation if he could not afford one.

We should have sent a message that we do not kill in anger -- that we do not seek revenge. That even for the most infamous, the most hated man in our children's history, that we do not suspend our principles of justice.

We should have sent a message that for a man as evil as this, for a man as despised as this, that we will stop at nothing to try him in a court of law, his trial and defense a sterling embodiment of the principles upon which this nation is founded -- an irrefutable demonstration of our nation's integrity, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that our freedoms have survived the man who sought to attack them.

We should not have killed on sight.

We are better than that.
posted by -1 at 12:27 PM on May 24, 2011 [13 favorites]


Chomsky, rather. Chompski is what happens when people at a winter lodge get hungry and have no food.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:27 PM on May 24, 2011


Chomsky, rather. Chompski is what happens when people at a winter lodge get hungry and have no food.

Considering your user name the mistake is entirely understandable ;)
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:29 PM on May 24, 2011


We should have sent a message that we do not kill in anger -- that we do not seek revenge.
Why would you call an attack on a leader of a group of heavily armed militants we're fighting "revenge"? Sounds like good strategy, to me. It's not like he was 20 years retired, living in the Caribbean.
posted by planet at 12:29 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


And Chomsky is what happens when people who have plenty of food need a reason to get angry at other people and can't find a good one.
posted by koeselitz at 12:30 PM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, Ironmouth's not the right-wing apologist here, that'd be Pastabagel.

But God, I'm tired of undergrad lefty thinking, and this Chomsky letter was stupid bullshit when it was posted in the Bin Laden thread.
posted by klangklangston at 12:30 PM on May 24, 2011 [10 favorites]


what a specious argument, the whole point of Nurenburg was not to try the Nazis based on the laws of any one country but to establish *international* norms that governments and agents thereof could be held accountable to by an *international* tribunal.

Specious? Listen, I think the tribunals were flawed, but the decision ultimately correct. But you cannot deny that the Allies created the laws under which these persons were tried after the crimes in question. That's an Ex Post Facto law. Its a denial of due process. You cannot charge a person of a crime that was enacted after the crime was committed.

These are facts.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:30 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't trust people who aren't angry about something.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:31 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, let's not quote the Nurnburg trials if we are saying that there has to be due process.

I'm no fan of the Nazis, and I think it was right they were tried. But they were charged with crimes on no statute books, which they had no prior knowledge existed, and for which international law did not exist. Due process requires a statute. The idea that somehow these trials were the paragon of due process is laughable.
I'm pretty sure the Nazis broke laws in the countries they attacked.


But the Nurenburg trials were not based on those laws. They were based on ex post facto laws imposed, without legislation, upon the losers. You cannot deny that occurred.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:33 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Robertson attributes the murder to “America’s obsessive belief in capital punishment—alone among advanced nations—[which] is reflected in its rejoicing at the manner of bin Laden’s demise.” For example, Nation columnist Eric Alterman writes that “The killing of Osama bin Laden was a just and necessary undertaking.”
Well, this is an out-and-out lie.

Bonus link: Chomsky's defense of Holocaust denialist Robert Faurisson.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 12:33 PM on May 24, 2011


I think anger is powerful, but only if you find a good reason to be angry.
posted by koeselitz at 12:33 PM on May 24, 2011


Associate Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas charged that the Allies were guilty of "substituting power for principle" at Nuremberg. "I thought at the time and still think that the Nuremberg trials were unprincipled," he wrote. "Law was created ex post facto to suit the passion and clamor of the time

posted by Ironmouth at 12:34 PM on May 24, 2011


UrineSoakedRube: "Well, this is an out-and-out lie."

Look, I'm a charter member of the Chomsky Haters Club here, but that doesn't seem true at all. It's a legitimate quote that says what Chomsky says it does. Not a lie at all.
posted by koeselitz at 12:38 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think anger is powerful, but only if you find a good reason to be angry.

I'd say the sense that the most powerful nation in the world is abusing its position is good cause to be angry. You may disagree with his argument, but there is a difference between disagreeing and dismissing. One requires an actual argument; the other requires almost no thought at all.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:38 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


1Adam12, agreed, but any prosecution for something that didn't attract any sanctions or institutional condemnation at the time is DOA for all practical purposes. My point is not to endorse this state of affairs, but to point out that Chomsky is surely aware of this reality.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:40 PM on May 24, 2011


Let me rephrase and repeat the rule for you, the only one rule of international law: Whoever has the guns and the money gets to make, break, and enforce the rules.

Then you agree with Professor Chomsky when he points out that all of America's talk about principles and liberty is bullshit. That what we're about is invading your country and taking your oil and killing anyone who gets in our way. The difference being that you seem to approve of this state of affairs and he does not.

Well, I'd rather be wrong with him than right with you. And in any case, there's a saying about "live by the sword".
posted by Trurl at 12:41 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


pastabagel: "Everyone has to follow these rules except the most powerful. That is the rule. The exception is part of the rule."

If you don't think countries should aspire to more than that, I will remember to ignore your complaints when, in 30 years, China is the most powerful.
posted by Popular Ethics at 12:44 PM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


Then you agree with Professor Chomsky when he points out that all of America's talk about principles and liberty is bullshit. That what we're about is invading your country and taking your oil and killing anyone who gets in our way. The difference being that you seem to approve of this state of affairs and he does not.

But that's the problem. Chomsky and you are wrong to say that all of "America's talk about principles and liberty is bullshit" America is made up of humans. Sometimes it follows through on its very grand principles. Sometimes it does not. This is the nature of human existence.

But you and Chomsky go further and state that every single thing America does is not consistent to its principles. That's not the truth. That's a lie.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:47 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd say the sense that the most powerful nation in the world is abusing its position is good cause to be angry

So it abused its position by shooting poor bin Laden?
posted by Ironmouth at 12:47 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


UrineSoakedRube: Bonus link: Chomsky's defense of Holocaust denialist Robert Faurisson.

Obviously a certain number of the population on teh internets conflates a Google search with actual research and actual facts with "I saw it on a web page". From the content of the page that you linked to I very much doubt that you actually read or understood it.

When you actually look into the matter of Chomsky and Faurisson you find that Chomsky does not defend Faurisson's views but rather his right to hold those views. Which is really quite a different thing isn't it?

But I am convinced that politics to some is just another form of religion and nothing I say could ever change their minds. Some people will continue to believe in Judg(e)ment day and find "facts" to support their case just as some will continue to believe in Ayn Rand, Obama or those "damn {insert noun here}" and Google words that they earnestly believe will do likewise
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:48 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pastabagel:Let me rephrase and repeat the rule for you, the only one rule of international law: Whoever has the guns and the money gets to make, break, and enforce the rules. That is not my opinion of what the rule should be. That's what the rule is

How's that rule working out in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya these days?


Seems to be working out okay in Egypt. I haven't been following the news from Libya very assiduously, but my impression is that without NATO support the rebels would have been blown to pieces by now. The major caveat to Pastabagel's Law, I think, is that the people who, in the final instance, have the guns (the actual soldiers) can sometimes be convinced not to do the bidding of the people who have "the money"--often by someone else who also has money. (The Egyptian army has both the guns and the money, which is why I am less optimistic than some about the future of the Egyptian Revolution.)

Thank goodness all those people who were riding busses in the South 50 years ago looked at the status quo and said, "you know, this is just how things are, and I don't have money or guns, so I'm going to let those that do make all the rules."

Money and guns played a big role in that struggle, too--federal funds denied to segregated school districts, desegregation enforced by National Guardsmen, etc. And don't dismiss the role of armed civilians.

Of course, I'm not discounting the moral force of mass protest, or arguing that people without guns or money should sit down and shut up--I'm just suggesting that starry-eyed idealism about grassroots nonviolence is no less misguided as a way of thinking about social change than brutal Realpolitik.
posted by DaDaDaDave at 12:49 PM on May 24, 2011


Trurl: That what we're about is invading your country and taking your oil and killing anyone who gets in our way. The difference being that you seem to approve of this state of affairs and he does not.

Well, I'd rather be wrong with him than right with you. And in any case, there's a saying about "live by the sword".


Really, those are the ONLY two positions we have? And we have to either flat out reject them or accept them wholesale, including everything else a certain person concurs with? Wasn't it former Sith Lord president George Bush that said something like "You're either with me or against me."?
posted by FJT at 12:50 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


So it abused its position by shooting poor bin Laden?

I dunno. I'm not an expert in international law. But that seems to be what Chomsky thinks. He actually took the time to support his position. If you disagree with him, go ahead and make your case.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:51 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pastabagel:Let me rephrase and repeat the rule for you, the only one rule of international law: Whoever has the guns and the money gets to make, break, and enforce the rules. That is not my opinion of what the rule should be. That's what the rule is


nuh-uh
posted by Ironmouth at 12:51 PM on May 24, 2011


So it abused its position by shooting poor bin Laden?

I dunno. I'm not an expert in international law. But that seems to be what Chomsky thinks. He actually took the time to support his position. If you disagree with him, go ahead and make your case.


See above.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:51 PM on May 24, 2011


Specious? Listen, I think the tribunals were flawed, but the decision ultimately correct. But you cannot deny that the Allies created the laws under which these persons were tried after the crimes in question. That's an Ex Post Facto law. Its a denial of due process. You cannot charge a person of a crime that was enacted after the crime was committed.

The odd thing is that I think Chomsky would agree with you on this, though the claim of "ex post facto" misses the point as I stated before. His argument has always been that the internationalist institutions of the post-WWII formed a sort of American Delian League, where principles are overshadowed by the pragmatics of US hegemony. But, his point has always been that, just like democracy, rule of law, and civil liberties would be a nice idea, if practiced in the U.S., holding nations and governments accountable to principles of human rights would be a nice idea, if practiced. Of course any 'laws' for an international tribunal are going to "ex post facto" there has never been a set of inviolable laws that governments, internationally, agree to hold themselves to.

The funny thing about the Iraq war is that Bush and Cheney never understood how the U.N. (and other "internationalist" institutions that go back to Roosevelt) served as tools of American power. The deliberately set up the Iraq war as a humiliation of international norms and the UN, to show that the US would be bound by no rule other than it's own interest. In doing so they've actually torn down the infrastructure of Pax Americana.
posted by ennui.bz at 12:52 PM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


When you actually look into the matter of Chomsky and Faurisson you find that Chomsky does not defend Faurisson's views but rather his right to hold those views. Which is really quite a different thing isn't it?

Chomsky's views on Faurisson (ie, the right to hold and express an opinion) pretty much line up with the opinions of most American MeFites. On the other hand, in Canada people (including me) think that restricting freedom of speech regarding Holocaust denial is perfectly acceptable and necessary. I believe many European countries are the same.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:53 PM on May 24, 2011


Really, those are the ONLY two positions we have?

Yep.

Either the rule of law means something or it doesn't.
posted by Trurl at 12:53 PM on May 24, 2011


Of course any 'laws' for an international tribunal are going to "ex post facto" there has never been a set of inviolable laws that governments, internationally, agree to hold themselves to.


There are now. There were none then. Ask Slobodan Milosevich.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:54 PM on May 24, 2011


UrineSoakedRube: "Well, this is an out-and-out lie."

koeselitz> Look, I'm a charter member of the Chomsky Haters Club here, but that doesn't seem true at all. It's a legitimate quote that says what Chomsky says it does. Not a lie at all.

Chomsky: Robertson attributes the murder to “America’s obsessive belief in capital punishment—alone among advanced nations—[which] is reflected in its rejoicing at the manner of bin Laden’s demise.[bold emphasis mine] For example, Nation columnist Eric Alterman writes that “The killing of Osama bin Laden was a just and necessary undertaking.”

Alterman: The killing of Osama bin Laden was a just and necessary undertaking; just because he had the blood of thousands of innocents on his hands, and necessary because his continued escape from justice was an inspiration to others to try to follow in his footsteps. But it should not be occasion for joy. [bold emphasis mine]

Nope, it's a lie. Not a "misquote" or "elision" on Chomsky's part: a lie. Chomsky has the nerve to quote someone who specifically says that bin Laden's killing should not be an occasion for joy as an example of "rejoicing at the manner of bin Laden's demise."
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 12:55 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been thinking about the OBL killing for weeks now, much like the rest of the world, and find my thoughts to be a confusing mix of emotion and legalistic reasoning. I've not quite finished teasing this out, but my current thought process is that liberals tend to prefer that the fight against Al Qaida be attacked rhetorically as a legal or social problem, but actually as a real war. Conservatives like to attack Al Qaida rhetorically as a war, but actually as a quasi-legal problem (namely, they like to imprison terrorists, but they don't like America's actual legal system, preferring to make something up as they go along).

So, liberals want to just kill terrorists and have the war then be over, and the conservatives seem to want a perpetual "war" that leads to occupation and foreign entanglement and money for their chosen client states and corporation. Now, I am not saying that these two positions are incompatible, it just seems to be a tendency issue. You can't really understand the OBL operation as anything but an act of war. The diplomatic issue is convincing Pakistan that it wasn't an act of war against them.

The weird thing? I continue to not have a problem on a gut level with the operation, even though from a legal perspective it's immensely troubling. I think the episode will perpetually be taught in international relations classes as a dividing line between idealism and realism in foreign policy. From an idealist perspective it's barely defensible. From a realist perspective it's practically a no-brainer.
posted by norm at 12:56 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Really, those are the ONLY two positions we have?

Yep.

Either the rule of law means something or it doesn't.


But the problem is that the law does not say what the defenders of bin Laden says it does. They claim it gives him fourth amendment rights overseas. The Supreme Court has never ruled on that. It is your assumption that he has those rights and that the declaration of military activity against the perpetrators of 9/11 is overriden by a right not found in the Constitution.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:56 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Obviously a certain number of the population on teh internets conflates a Google search with actual research and actual facts with "I saw it on a web page". From the content of the page that you linked to I very much doubt that you actually read or understood it.

Ooh! Burn!
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 12:56 PM on May 24, 2011


Really, those are the ONLY two positions we have?

Yep.

Either the rule of law means something or it doesn't


As I've always said, there are two types of people: those that think you can divide everyone into two types of people, and those that don't.
posted by norm at 12:59 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are now. There were none then. Ask Slobodan Milosevich.

It's like saying the U.S. Constitution could not be brought to bear on questions relating to actions of the continental congress, when those were some of the most pressing problems and first questions before congress and the supreme court. The nurenberg principles are founding principles for the post-war US internationalist project.

Now, you could also argue that the trials served as a fig leaf for the whole scale rehabilitation of small town Nazis in West Germany to better fight the commies, but that says nothing about the principles involved.
posted by ennui.bz at 12:59 PM on May 24, 2011


But the Nuremberg trials were not based on those laws. They were based on ex post facto laws imposed, without legislation, upon the losers. You cannot deny that occurred.

...ish. The question of where customary law begins and ends is a little more complex than legislation in international law, Ironmouth. You're a lawyer; you know that. What is not complex is that the same types of customary claims made by the US/UK to justify force (the Caroline Case, for example) can be applied to Nuremberg.

All of the major nations agreed that these things were not allowed. That's enough to judge it customary law. Germany's explicit acceptance of that dates back to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the League of Nations Covenant, and the Hague Conventions. The Covenant in particular (signed by all the parties, including Germany) *explicitly* states that the principles are merely a recognition of customary law.

You can't judge international law by domestic principles, and it's neither helpful or correct to pretend you can.
posted by jaduncan at 12:59 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Either the rule of law means something or it doesn't.

But the problem is that the law does not say what the defenders of bin Laden says it does.


I think you're conflating "the rule of law" with "what the law says". One is a concept about how things should work, the other is a written down set of rules.

Those who are pointing out that the US is going against the rule of law are not suggesting that they believe that US laws apply to non-citizens in foreign countries. They ARE saying that the concept that there are proper ways to handle matters and that a bullet through the eye isn't always the way to handle men such as Bin Laden. Especially when there is an insistence that Bin Laden not go around putting bullets through other people's eyes, either literally or metaphorically.
posted by hippybear at 1:01 PM on May 24, 2011


But the problem is that the law does not say what the defenders of bin Laden the rule of law says it does.

FTFY
posted by Trurl at 1:01 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Love him or hate him, Chomsky remains consistent in pointing out that the US really doesn't believe in the rule of law, and has plenty of examples to back up his claim.

That's bullshit. It inconsistently tries to stick to its principles. Like every other person and institution on this planet in every century and place.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:03 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's like saying the U.S. Constitution could not be brought to bear on questions relating to actions of the continental congress

You are confusing civil and criminal law. The Constitution forbids ex post facto criminal laws, state and federal and has done so since day one.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:05 PM on May 24, 2011


There are now. There were none then. Ask Slobodan Milosevich.

My word. What we might expect to apply is the Nuremberg Principles accepted by the UN in 1950. Why do you think that this would not be expected to apply to Milošević? The law was 40 years old at the time. The ICC might have been new; the law definitely wasn't.

Relevant principles:

"Principle I

Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefor and liable to punishment.

Principle II

The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law.

Principle III

The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible Government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law.

Principle IV

The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.

Principle V

Any person charged with a crime under international law has the right to a fair trial on the facts and law.

Principle VI

The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:

(a) Crimes against peace:
(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).

(b) War crimes:
Violations of the laws or customs of war include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labour or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war, of persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.

(c) Crimes against humanity:
Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connexion with any crime against peace or any war crime.

Principle VII

Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law. "
posted by jaduncan at 1:06 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nah, it's not bullshit. It's been Chomsky's litany for as long as I can remember hearing about him. He always says pretty much the same thing -- here's this thing we're doing policy-wise, but look at how we're demanding that X, Y, and Z do exactly the opposite of that? And look at how we have laws on the books which speak directly against doing this thing we're doing, but we're doing it anyway because it's the most expedient thing to do.

He's fully consistent. Whether you agree with him or not about what he says, the fact that he's saying it and has for decades remains truth.
posted by hippybear at 1:08 PM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


Bin Laden is the victim, don't you know?

No, the Constitution and the Rule of Law were the victims.

Just about everyone, liberal or conservative, wanted bin Laden brought to justice or killed.

Those of use who are concerned with civil liberties wanted that done according to the law, and without collateral damage to our traditions and liberties.

And that could have been easily done -- just as the FBI could easily get warrants rather than rely on "National Security letters" or just making extra-judicial demands.

So when we could easily do it the right way -- and in the process shut up all these tedious ACLU liberals whining about process -- why then do we do it the illegal way?

It's not incompetence. It's a desire to use the crisis to convince the public that you can't have both legal restraint on government and safety from terrorists. And you have to ask, who benefits from this cynical power-grab?
posted by orthogonality at 1:09 PM on May 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


There are now. There were none then. Ask Slobodan Milosevich.

My word. What we might expect to apply is the Nuremberg Principles accepted by the UN in 1950. Why do you think that this would not be expected to apply to Milošević?


I have not been clear. I am saying that they did apply to Slobo. It was not an ex post facto circumstance for him. For the Nurenburg defendants, it was not legal.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:09 PM on May 24, 2011


Principle II and III, combined with the crime VI(b) and (c) rather screw him, to be clear. Principle V makes absolutely clear that people should expect a trial in the circumstances. Where's the departure? I'm honestly curious where you think the issue is, Ironmouth.
posted by jaduncan at 1:09 PM on May 24, 2011


Bin Laden is the victim, don't you know?

No, the Constitution and the Rule of Law were the victims.


Please provide me a cite stating that the 4th amendment applies to non-citizens accused of a crime who are currently overseas. Especially when Congress authorized military force against the parties responsible for 9/11.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:11 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


UrineSoakedRube:Nope, it's a lie. Not a "misquote" or "elision" on Chomsky's part: a lie. Chomsky has the nerve to quote someone who specifically says that bin Laden's killing should not be an occasion for joy as an example of "rejoicing at the manner of bin Laden's demise."
posted by


So by your logic then, when you misstated Chomsky's position earlier in the thread as defending a Holocaust denier rather then his actual stated position of defending that person's right to speak his mind, you were out and out lying and are a lying liar pants on fire - correct?

No? Then maybe you are wrong about Chomsky intentions by calling him a liar then instead of his apparently using a quote out of it's context and/or badly.

One or the other.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 1:11 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, my apologies for the Milošević confusion.

My central disagreement is over the ex post facto statement; the whole point of the Nuremberg Principles is that they are a recognition of the customary law expressed in the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the League of Nations Covenant, and the Hague Conventions.

Again: "The Covenant in particular (signed by all the parties, including Germany) *explicitly* states that the principles are merely a recognition of customary law."

The Covenant was accepted by Germany as a recognition of customary law, and predates the Third Reich. Thus I would claim that the principles can be followed further back, and Nuremberg itself was thus not ex post facto but was instead an application of existing customary law.
posted by jaduncan at 1:14 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Those of use who are concerned with civil liberties wanted that done according to the law, and without collateral damage to our traditions and liberties.
What is the law that prohibits a country to attack a leader of a group of militants that is fighting the country's armed forces?
posted by planet at 1:15 PM on May 24, 2011


What is the law that prohibits a country to attack a leader of a group of militants that is fighting the country's armed forces?

Is it Ghostbusters II?
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:16 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


OBL was a rabid and diseased animal. It is ok to feel bad about killing him, but it had to be done. I cried at the end of Old Yeller, but Travis had to do it. There was no other choice, same thing here.
posted by humanfont at 1:16 PM on May 24, 2011


I'd like everyone here who assumes that bin Laden has Fourth Amendment rights outside the U.S. to read U.S. v. Verdugo-Urquidez
posted by Ironmouth at 1:17 PM on May 24, 2011


The Covenant was accepted by Germany as a recognition of customary law, and predates the Third Reich. Thus I would claim that the principles can be followed further back, and Nuremberg itself was thus not ex post facto but was instead an application of existing customary law

No. The Nurenburg tribunal specifically tried the prisoners on terms listed in the indictment. It did not try them on any principle. It most very definitely expressly defined its own terms post facto and then tried people by it. There is no escape clause there.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:20 PM on May 24, 2011


Those of use who are concerned with civil liberties wanted that done according to the law, and without collateral damage to our traditions and liberties.

there is no extraterritorial application of the fourth amendment to aliens not on US soil.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:21 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are we really trying to argue that the Nuremberg trials invented some crime out of whole cloth?

Due process requires a statute

No, (procedural) due process (which I assume you're discussing) requires notice and a hearing. And I know you know enough about the law to know this, because I suspect you phrased your sentence that way to ignore the fact that the Nazis had fucking notice that what they were doing was wrong.

Look at the crimes that you yourself posted. War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity are literally all existing crimes - murder, wanton destruction of property, enslavement. The only Brand New Crime in the list is Crimes Against Peace, which is basically a conspiracy to commit a war of aggression. Why a war of aggression? Because, as Justice Jackson explained,
The central crime in this pattern of crimes, the kingpin which holds them all together, is the plot for aggressive wars. The chief reason for international cognizance of these crimes lies in this fact.
Just like with intentional crimes, self-defense is allowed, so militarily defending yourself is okay. But aggressive wars are different. You can't wage a war without at least destroying property, if not killing people, so planning to wage an aggressive war is inherently a conspiracy to commit those other, existing, crimes. These were only ex post facto crimes if conspiracy, murder, destruction of property, slavery, etc. were not crimes in the nation waging the war. And I'm no legal historian, but I BET they were in 1930s Germany.

SO, the Nazis had notice that their actions were criminal, and they had trials. Where do you see a lack of due process?

You can question the authority of the Nuremberg Tribunals' jurisdiction over the Nazis if you want, but to claim that the Nazis had no due process is fucking absurd.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 1:21 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


OBL was a rabid and diseased animal.

Many would agree with him being executed, but take issue with the manner with which it was done.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:22 PM on May 24, 2011


If you're actually curious about Chomski's political views, instead of simply wish to tar him with an anarchist brush, Wikipedia has a whole page devoted precisely to the topic.

FWIW, I'm not trying to "tar Chomsky with an anarchist brush," but to me, this particular argument just seems like cynical political posturing. As a general rule, I agree with Chomsky on a lot of things, but not on his positions with regard to the nature/role of state. But then, I am unapologetically a statist. Given his positions on those matters, I can't see why he'd ever have any incentive to approve of any state sponsored action (although I realize he breaks from many of his anarcho-syndicalist peers in approving of state welfare programs). Seems to me any consistently applied system of law implies a de facto hierarchical power structure--with the law itself at the top of the pyramid. How do any of the variations on anarchist thought get around this bind with anything more than some hand-wavy stuff about how order will just "grow organically"? Every other time we've seen societies grow organically on a large scale, they grew into systems with states, and often rigidly hierarchical power structures at that.

If you read left-anarchist/anarcho-syndicalist thought (including Chomsky) you'll find there's a common belief, ultimately, in the desirability of the ultimate dissolution of the state (or in Chomsky's case, perhaps more a belief the state as such doesn't really exist to start with, except as a cover for the self-interested actions of various power interests). Well, that's basically what the Tea Party types claim to believe, too, so why they hell don't they all just fuck and get it over with already? Hurrah! Finally everyone agrees! There should be no state, just individual assholes with lots of wealth on one side and groups of assholes with lots of people power on the other, all constantly struggling to force their wills on each other by whatever means necessary with no recourse to any basic, assured personal rights. Sounds like a great time.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:24 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Look at the crimes that you yourself posted. War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity are literally all existing crimes - murder, wanton destruction of property, enslavement.

uh, the crimes I posted were written after the war! they were ex post facto crimes! It is simply undeniable that the actual laws they were alleged to have broken were written, word for word, after the crimes occured. There is no factual basis to deny that they were ex post facto crimes.

I'm not saying it was wrong, I'm saying it was unconstitutional.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:26 PM on May 24, 2011


Please provide me a cite stating that the 4th amendment applies to non-citizens accused of a crime who are currently overseas. Especially when Congress authorized military force against the parties responsible for 9/11.

As the case of Anwar Al-Awlaki demonstrates, the issues of citzenship and responsibility for 9/11 are smokescreens.
posted by Trurl at 1:29 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sounds like a great time.

Sounds like you have reduced anarchism down to a parody for the sake of mocking it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:29 PM on May 24, 2011


And I'm no legal historian, but I BET they were in 1930s Germany.

I'm both a lawyer and I have a MA in German History. There was actually an enactment that made the orders of the furher law.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:29 PM on May 24, 2011


Please provide me a cite stating that the 4th amendment applies to non-citizens accused of a crime who are currently overseas. Especially when Congress authorized military force against the parties responsible for 9/11.

As the case of Anwar Al-Awlaki demonstrates, the issues of citzenship and responsibility for 9/11 are smokescreens.


having it both ways? In other words, you want the law until you learn it does not suit your purposes, then you discard it by saying it is wrong.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:30 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying it was wrong, I'm saying it was unconstitutional.

The constitution of the United States? Does that apply to an international military tribunal?
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:30 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth: Guy is a meandering idiot who does more harm than good to even the causes he supports.

Seriously Ironmouth? lol Look, I know you're whole schtick here is to be the right-wing voice of reason but seriously Chomsky is a professor emeritus at M.I.T and is known in the academic and scientific community as one of the fathers of modern linguistics .


To be fair, his recent comments on statistical models of language processing do kind of ignore the amazing practical progress that has been made using statistical methods (e.g. Google's Translate, speech-recognition in phones, sentiment analysis and opinion mining in the social web, etc.)

Honestly, what have symbolic methods yielded besides toy parsers used in research and for undergraduate homework projects?

Regarding statistical methods, Chomsky stated, "That's a notion of [scientific] success that's very novel. I don't know of anything like it in the history of science." Kind of a dickish statement right there, might as well say, "Oh, that's cute, but it's not science."

Wait, what were we talking about?
posted by formless at 1:30 PM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


saulgoodman : ...although I realize he breaks from many of his anarcho-syndicalist peers in ...
...If you read left-anarchist/anarcho-syndicalist thought (including Chomsky) ...


Just because you keep repeating the words, it does not make the words true. Amazing how many people fail to grasp that. I'm still waiting on that "Noam Chomsky says he's an anarchist" proof that you seem to believe in.

maybe if you put the words on a billboard?
posted by Poet_Lariat at 1:31 PM on May 24, 2011


I'm not saying it was wrong, I'm saying it was unconstitutional.

Are you trying to argue for extraterritorial application of the U.S. Constitution's prohibition on ex post facto laws in a foreign court now? Or are you reading in some such prohibition into a new jurisdiction for some reason other than assurance of due process, since the Nazis had notice and a hearing?
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 1:31 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seriously Ironmouth? lol Look, I know you're whole schtick here is to be the right-wing voice of reason

The fact that I disagree with some people here does not make me right wing. I'm left-wing, just not so far off on the left wing that I'm not rational.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:34 PM on May 24, 2011


having it both ways?

I don't believe so.

My position is that we do not have the legal right to execute criminal suspects without a trial - regardless of their citizenship status or personal location.

You're the one saying it makes a difference that bin Laden is not an American citizen. The Al-Awlaki case demonstrates to my satisfaction that it's not a difference that counts for anything.
posted by Trurl at 1:36 PM on May 24, 2011


Crimes Against Peace, which is basically a conspiracy to commit a war of aggression. Why a war of aggression? Because, as Justice Jackson explained,
The central crime in this pattern of crimes, the kingpin which holds them all together, is the plot for aggressive wars. The chief reason for international cognizance of these crimes lies in this fact.
Just like with intentional crimes, self-defense is allowed, so militarily defending yourself is okay. But aggressive wars are different. You can't wage a war without at least destroying property, if not killing people, so planning to wage an aggressive war is inherently a conspiracy to commit those other, existing, crimes.


OK, so are we charging Bush with war crimes for plotting a war of aggression against Iraq?
posted by VikingSword at 1:37 PM on May 24, 2011


That's bullshit. It inconsistently tries to stick to its principles. Like every other person and institution on this planet in every century and place.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:03 PM on May 24 [+] [!]


You're tearing down a man who has devoted decades to pushing for the realization of the ideal you claim the US is capable of.

Chomsky has devoted much of his professional life to pointing out when the US (and other institutions) have fallen short of their declared principles. Simple as that. He's done so within the framework of democracy by challenging power through academia and activism.

If you'll pardon my interpretation based on your comments, but you seem to see America as a shining paragon of freedom and democracy that sometimes falls a wee bit short of its lofty principles. He sees it as a tragically corrupt system built on the hypocritical application of law and power to the benefit of entrenched elites.

Both of you are right.
posted by hamandcheese at 1:38 PM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


Given his positions on those matters, I can't see why he'd ever have any incentive to approve of any state sponsored action (although I realize he breaks from many of his anarcho-syndicalist peers in approving of state welfare programs).

"Bin Laden's assassination was problematic because all state-sponsored action is fundamentally illegitimate" is not going to convince anybody; the argument can be made, but most people will lose interest along the way. "Bin Laden's assassination was problematic because it violated these specific norms and principles that the US claims to adhere to" stands a much better chance of getting people to think more critically about what happened and about the actions of the US generally. I'm an anarchist, and I do this sort of thing all the time in conversations about politics.
posted by twirlip at 1:38 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying it was wrong, I'm saying it was unconstitutional.

Are you trying to argue for extraterritorial application of the U.S. Constitution's prohibition on ex post facto laws in a foreign court now? Or are you reading in some such prohibition into a new jurisdiction for some reason other than assurance of due process, since the Nazis had notice and a hearing?


LOL!

I'm not saying that at all. I actually support the Nurenburg process. But I admit that it was massively flawed, as Justice Douglas did. But I wanted to point out that the Nazis did not have notice of the crimes they were charged with. It is impossible for them to have notice because they can't see the laws they were tried under in the future. So people, like Chomsky, relying on Nurenburg as some sort of paragon of due process that bin Laden was entitled to are kidding themselves.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:39 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


KokuRyu> Chomsky's views on Faurisson (ie, the right to hold and express an opinion) pretty much line up with the opinions of most American MeFites.

No, Chomsky's view that Faurisson has the right to publish works supporting Holocaust denialism does line up with most American MeFites, but Vidal-Naquet very specifically says that he does not take issue with that narrow position: "Let us restate the point with due calm: the principle he invokes is not what is at stake. If Chomsky had restricted himself to defending Faurisson's right to free speech, from my point of view there would not be any Chomsky problem."

But Chomsky goes further: he was a signatory to a petition that used the tendentious and misleading work "findings" with respect to Faurisson's work, which gave the impression that Faurisson had actually made factual discoveries at odds with the widely-accepted historical facts about the Holocaust. Further, the petition implies that Faurisson has achieved victim status, with French officials attempting to deny him access to archives and libraries, when the reality was that he was never barred from either.

Chomsky also provides cover to Faurisson by giving him a clean bill of health as far as his anti-semitism: "As noted earlier, I do not know his work very well. But from what I have read --largely as a result of the nature of the attacks on him-- I find no evidence to support [such conclusions] [that Faurisson is an anti-semite -- USR]." He also claimed that Faurisson was "a relatively apolitical liberal of some sort".

And that's the defense of Holocaust denialism that I (and I suspect most American MeFites) object to: presenting the denialist as a victim or potential victim of non-existent persecution, claiming that there was no open evidence of Faurisson's anti-semitism, which is simply not true, and arguing that the denialist is a dispassionate seeker of truth by claiming that he holds middle-of-the-road political views.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 1:39 PM on May 24, 2011


But I wanted to point out that the Nazis did not have notice of the crimes they were charged with.

Was that genocide wrong?

You know, I have to plead ignorance on this. Because if anyone had told me when I first started that this sort of thing was frowned upon...
posted by Trurl at 1:41 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's bullshit. It inconsistently tries to stick to its principles. Like every other person and institution on this planet in every century and place.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:03 PM on May 24 [+] [!]

You're tearing down a man who has devoted decades to pushing for the realization of the ideal you claim the US is capable of.


I don't know where you get the idea from the statement of mine you cite that I think the US is capable of any "ideal." Seems like I'm saying the opposite, no?
posted by Ironmouth at 1:41 PM on May 24, 2011


You can argue the toss about the rights and wrongs of Chomsky "defending the rights" of Faurisson, as opposed to "defending" him. You might more pertinently ask why Chomsky chooses to waste even a second of his time in coming to the aid of Faurisson and his Holocaust-denying ilk, as opposed to standing up for the rights of, ooh, I don't know, the Bosniak prisoners at Omarska concentration camp.
posted by Prince Lazy I at 1:41 PM on May 24, 2011


Here's my attempt to summarize Chomsky's views on anarchism, with supporting quotations.

pardonyou?: One gets the sense that Chomsky objects to the assassination of bin Laden, but would have found the execution of Bush justified.

It may be helpful to remember that Chomsky regards the US as morally equivalent to Nazi Germany (see his comments after "Munich analogy"), while judging Maoist China and the North Vietnamese Communists much less harshly. If you're on the Left, I'd suggest that you be careful about accepting Chomsky's depiction of US foreign policy uncritically. He's typically American in that he tends to see international politics as a conflict between good guys and bad guys--except that to Chomsky, it's the US which is in the role of the bad guys, and the Third World which is in the role of the good guys. Yes, he includes a lot of footnotes, but as Stanley Hoffmann (a fellow opponent of the Vietnam War) noted back in 1969, Chomsky has a marked tendency "to draw from an author's statements inferences that correspond neither to the author's intentions nor to the statements' meaning."

To me, Glenn Greenwald's criticisms of the Obama administration seem better grounded.
posted by russilwvong at 1:43 PM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


But I wanted to point out that the Nazis did not have notice of the crimes they were charged with.

Was that genocide wrong?

You know, I have to plead ignorance on this. Because if anyone had told me when I first started that this sort of thing was frowned upon...


Without a doubt. I fully support the flawed Nurenburg process. I mean that. But I'm saying that (1) the law does not provide 4th amendment protection to aliens in foreign countries, especially where military action has been authorized by the congress; and (2) the paragon of justice raised by Chomsky, Nurenburg, is no such thing.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:43 PM on May 24, 2011


You might more pertinently ask why Chomsky chooses to waste even a second of his time in coming to the aid of Faurisson and his Holocaust-denying ilk, as opposed to standing up for the rights of, ooh, I don't know, the Bosniak prisoners at Omarska concentration camp.

And you might even more pertinently ask why we're arguing about whether a man with zero influence in American politics is an anarchist or a Holocaust denier - as opposed to acknowledging the reality that America has become a police state on a permanent war footing.
posted by Trurl at 1:45 PM on May 24, 2011


To me, Glenn Greenwald's criticisms of the Obama administration seem better grounded.

Oh man, now you've done it....
posted by Trurl at 1:47 PM on May 24, 2011


There should be no state, just individual assholes with lots of wealth on one side and groups of assholes with lots of people power on the other, all constantly struggling to force their wills on each other by whatever means necessary with no recourse to any basic, assured personal rights.

The guiding principles of anarchism, especially as it has manifested in US political thought, are the individual as a sovereign entity and a repudiation of coercion of the individual in any form, especially by a state entity but also by other individuals. So your characterization here of the ideal anarchist society is woefully inept and wrong at an extremely basic level. You should have read Astro Zombie's link.
posted by Errant at 1:49 PM on May 24, 2011


You might more pertinently ask why Chomsky chooses to waste even a second of his time in coming to the aid of Faurisson and his Holocaust-denying ilk, as opposed to standing up for the rights of, ooh, I don't know, the Bosniak prisoners at Omarska concentration camp.

Chomsky is right to defend the rights of those saying things like that while disagreeing with them.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:49 PM on May 24, 2011


Ignoring the flawed Nurenburg process, his hypothetical does raise a question I haven't seen answered.

If a foreign state declares a US leader a war criminal, what would the favored outcome be for those who support the bin Laden assassination? An international trial or an assassination?

I'm not asking for an in-depth dive into the intricacies of international law, just a simple question. Do we want other countries to engage in the same practices we engage in?
posted by formless at 1:51 PM on May 24, 2011


Hurrah! Finally everyone agrees! There should be no state, just individual assholes with lots of wealth on one side and groups of assholes with lots of people power on the other, all constantly struggling to force their wills on each other by whatever means necessary with no recourse to any basic, assured personal rights. Sounds like a great time.


That sounds more like an extreme right-wing libertarian than a left-wing anarchist, or syndicalist position.

I'd suggest broadening your literature a bit, you're working with some pretty common assumptions here, but they're categorically incorrect.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:58 PM on May 24, 2011


"You might more pertinently ask why Chomsky chooses to waste even a second of his time in coming to the aid of Faurisson and his Holocaust-denying ilk, as opposed to standing up for the rights of, ooh, I don't know, the Bosniak prisoners at Omarska concentration camp."

Chomsky is right to defend the rights of those saying things like that while disagreeing with them.


Shame he didn't consider the defence of innocent civilians against the proven actuality of state-sponsored murder, torture and rape-as-weapon-of-war a tad more worthy of his powers of advocacy than the defence of Robert Faurisson against the possibility of being denied access to some archives, then.
posted by Prince Lazy I at 1:59 PM on May 24, 2011



Yeah, Ironmouth's not the right-wing apologist here, that'd be Pastabagel.


keep applying those labels. That's just the type of high-power thought that's going to cement America's position at the top.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:59 PM on May 24, 2011


Bin Laden is the victim, don't you know?

This is a stupid thing to say, and the person who says this should be ashamed of himself for saying it.

Bin Laden is no victim, but he should have had his day in court, and no amount of morally bankrupt rationalizations changes that.

If our culture and our legal system can't stand up to the ravings of a mass murderer, then his assassination wasn't worth it at a hundred times the cost of two illegal wars.

This country is even more of a joke now. And that's saying a lot after a proposal to put electrified dog collars on airline passengers.

Bin Laden is no victim. He won, his ideas won, his movement won, because we were too fucking cowardly to put our system to the test.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:02 PM on May 24, 2011 [15 favorites]


Well, I'd rather be wrong with him than right with you. And in any case, there's a saying about "live by the sword".

Well, you could say the same thing about Osama bin Laden.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:04 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Perhaps more germane than the discussion about Neurenberg was the US internment of more than 60,000 Japanese Americans and other "aliens" during WWII.

The point being that if the events of the past decade - the torture, Guantanamo and now the assassination of Bin Laden - are somehow harbringers of the US' descent into fascism, then it must have descended long ago.
posted by eeeeeez at 2:04 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


vic·tim
(vktm)
n.
1. One who is harmed or killed by another: a victim of a mugging.
2. A living creature slain and offered as a sacrifice during a religious rite.
3. One who is harmed by or made to suffer from an act, circumstance, agency, or condition: victims of war.
4. A person who suffers injury, loss, or death as a result of a voluntary undertaking: You are a victim of your own scheming.
5. A person who is tricked, swindled, or taken advantage of: the victim of a cruel hoax.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:06 PM on May 24, 2011


We won. We set up Nurenburg. We won again. I am glad. I am not very bright but in my little way I think what the Nazis did was not very nice and so I am glad they got spanked. Bin Ladin?
Had he turned himself in he could have had a trial.
posted by Postroad at 2:06 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seekerofsplendor: "he is also an ass -- as even some in the the liberal community have said recently"

Chomsky is emphatically not a liberal, and is harshly critical of liberalism. He is a socialist. I think it does a disservice to the political dialog in this country to elide the distinction between liberalism and socialism.
posted by idiopath at 2:07 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, Cap'n Trickledown, I just don't have the mental energy to pretend that your free-market fellatio is a serious position statement, nor to pretend that you're not just bloviating for the sake of your own ego.

Don't you have your own site for the folks who think you're the bee's knees to tell you so?
posted by klangklangston at 2:07 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


[The US] inconsistently tries to stick to its principles ...

I don't know where you get the idea from the statement of mine you cite that I think the US is capable of any "ideal." Seems like I'm saying the opposite, no?


The more I've read your posts in this thread, the less clear I am on anything you're saying. I don't see any clear declarations of what you believe, only attacks on others' arguments. But I'll bite.

The principles you seem to be trumpeting in order to absolve the US of any wilful wrongdoing are the ideal. Even though they are not fully achievable, they are the ideal. Chomsky has spent his life fighting for his version of this ideal within the US's democratic system. That is all I'm saying.

The main problem with your argument against Chomsky is here, though:

Chomsky and you are wrong to say that all of "America's talk about principles and liberty is bullshit" America is made up of humans. Sometimes it follows through on its very grand principles. Sometimes it does not. This is the nature of human existence.

But you and Chomsky go further and state that every single thing America does is not consistent to its principles. That's not the truth. That's a lie.


Chomsky doesn't argue that "every single thing America does" is wrong. This is full-on strawman.

You are the liar.
posted by hamandcheese at 2:08 PM on May 24, 2011


I'm not asking for an in-depth dive into the intricacies of international law, just a simple question. Do we want other countries to engage in the same practices we engage in?

You'll never get a straightforward answer to that.

American Exceptionalism is so deeply ingrained, even among liberals, that it's impossible for them to consider our actions in the same light that they would view the actions of any other country.

If you remind them that our drone bombers are killing civilians in Pakistan, they may disagree over whether it's productive or counterproductive to American interests. But they would never even consider the question of whether we have the right to pursue our interests by this method.

Well, you could say the same thing about Osama bin Laden.

I do.

If he was a "rabid and diseased animal" for countenancing the deaths of thousands of civilians in pursuit of his geopolitical goals, so is every American president who has done the same.
posted by Trurl at 2:08 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Bin Laden is no victim. He won, his ideas won, his movement won, because we were too fucking cowardly to put our system to the test."

Seriously?

DOES NO ONE IN THIS THREAD HAVE ANY GODDAMN PERSPECTIVE AT ALL?
posted by klangklangston at 2:09 PM on May 24, 2011 [9 favorites]


Ignoring the flawed Nurenburg process, his hypothetical does raise a question I haven't seen answered.

If a foreign state declares a US leader a war criminal, what would the favored outcome be for those who support the bin Laden assassination? An international trial or an assassination?


bin Laden is not a head of state. Nor is your statement that it is an assassination make it one.

But if a foreign state orders the death of a US president without trial, it is an act of war. However, bin Laden isn't the head of any state. So there is no comparison.

Please, again tell me how bin Laden has 4th amendment rights while overseas, when our own law says otherwise?
posted by Ironmouth at 2:12 PM on May 24, 2011


I do.

If he was a "rabid and diseased animal" for countenancing the deaths of thousands of civilians in pursuit of his geopolitical goals, so is every American president who has done the same.


so bin Laden is the same as US presidents? Really, he's the hero?
posted by Ironmouth at 2:13 PM on May 24, 2011


Overthrowing Saddam Hussain and freeing the Iraqi people from his murderous tyranny was absolutely the right thing to do and the mistake was not doing it in 1991. The vast majority of people killed in Iraq since then have been killed by terrorists, rather than allied troops, and though Chomsky has made a good living for himself churning out 'books' peddling the same anti-American drivel for years he's the real enemy of freedom here. He's never met a vicious tyrant he didn't like, never seen a democracy he didn't despise and he's wrong about a universal grammar as well.
posted by joannemullen at 2:14 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


The point being that if the events of the past decade - the torture, Guantanamo and now the assassination of Bin Laden - are somehow harbringers of the US' descent into fascism, then it must have descended long ago.

Fascism? What specifically is fascist about the US? What do you think the term even means?
posted by Ironmouth at 2:14 PM on May 24, 2011


joannemullen, care to elaborate?
posted by kuatto at 2:15 PM on May 24, 2011


Overthrowing Saddam Hussain and freeing the Iraqi people from his murderous tyranny was absolutely the right thing to do and the mistake was not doing it in 1991. The vast majority of people killed in Iraq since then have been killed by terrorists, rather than allied troops, and though Chomsky has made a good living for himself churning out 'books' peddling the same anti-American drivel for years he's the real enemy of freedom here. He's never met a vicious tyrant he didn't like, never seen a democracy he didn't despise and he's wrong about a universal grammar as well.

Well, at least he can spell . . . .

All joking aside, G H W Bush did right in 1991 by expelling a naked aggressor from a country which had done him no harm. GW Bush in 2003 did exactly what Saddam did in 1990. It was wrong morally and likely legally.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:17 PM on May 24, 2011


I do.

If he was a "rabid and diseased animal" for countenancing the deaths of thousands of civilians in pursuit of his geopolitical goals, so is every American president who has done the same.


This guy is your bed-fellow. He thinks bin Laden and Obama are the same.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:19 PM on May 24, 2011


Really, he's the hero?

I don't understand why you keep trying to smear the people who disagree with you as "al-Qaeda lovers" or some such - not if your legal arguments have the merit you claim for them.

Perhaps an analogy will help. When the ACLU went to court to defend the free speech rights of the Nazis who wanted to march on Skokie, Illinois, it was not because the ACLU supported Nazism. They did so because they supported free speech.

To which some in this thread would have sneered, "Defending the free speech of Nazis? Is that the hill you want to die on?"

If you won't uphold your prinicples when it's inconvenient or distasteful, they're not principles. They're just pretty stories you tell yourself.
posted by Trurl at 2:19 PM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


Fascism? What specifically is fascist about the US? What do you think the term even means?

The fascism / corporatism link is pretty firmly established, isn't it? And if the US is anything, it's deeply corporatist. It hasn't taken on the full-fledged xenophobic trappings of fascism, but it's come pretty damn close in the past few years. Listen to the rhetoric around you, about how all of Them are coming Here to take Our jobs. All it takes is a little weight on one side of the scale to tip that kind of rhetoric over into full-on Citizens Only Everyone Else Must Leave fascism.

But yeah... corporatist-oligarchy is pretty much where we're at today, even though we have all the trappings of being something else.
posted by hippybear at 2:19 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


"If a foreign state declares a US leader a war criminal, what would the favored outcome be for those who support the bin Laden assassination? An international trial or an assassination?"

First off, phrasing Osama's death as an assassination is already begging the question.

Much like the idiotic assertion upthread from someone else that getting Osama was "easy," ergo he should have had full American due process rights.

I'm not asking for an in-depth dive into the intricacies of international law, just a simple question. Do we want other countries to engage in the same practices we engage in?"

Your "simple question" is pretty misleading, as it ignores the reasons why Osama was killed the way he was.

But if the American leader was an unelected foreign national who was using the US as a base to plan further attacks on this other hypothetical state, and the US intelligence apparatus was too corrupt and/or sympathetic to capture him, and he was resisting arrest, and there was reason to believe that missing this opportunity would both cost lives and compromise future attempts at capture, then yes, I would support it, even as I would expect the US to make noises about its sovereignty while tacitly supporting the outcome.

But as a hypothetical, that argument is pretty damn weak.
posted by klangklangston at 2:22 PM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


This guy is your bed-fellow. He thinks bin Laden and Obama are the same.

This guy is yours, he thinks they aren't.

(I agree with you on this, but you are starting to lose your rationality here)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:22 PM on May 24, 2011


Seriously?

Seriously.

Bin Laden won the moment Bush and Cheney launched an attack on a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.

Bin Laden won again the moment the House and Senate enacted anti-terrorism laws without reading them.

Bin Laden won again the moment that women and children get molested in the name of airport security.

Bin Laden won again the moment that Obama gave telecom executives full immunity from prosecution for illegal wiretapping.

Bin Laden won the moment that Blackwater/Xe were given multimillion dollar contracts and immunity from seeing consequences for their actions as mercenaries in illegal wars.

You want perspective? The guy won years before anyone put a bullet in his head, frankly. And even as a soldier fired into him, he was winning again, getting the US to not only violate the sovereignty of another county in order to carry out an extrajudicial killing, but have it done because the USA cannot even trust its own system of justice.

Bin Laden won, because our system is so corrupt, so rotten through and through. He won, because we keep inventing new excuses why it was okay to do everything that we did over the last ten years.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:23 PM on May 24, 2011 [17 favorites]


"The fascism / corporatism link is pretty firmly established, isn't it? And if the US is anything, it's deeply corporatist."

I used to think the same thing, until I realized that the "corporatist" doesn't refer to corporations per se, but rather the integration of disparate interests into one entity — Mussolini's "corporatist" is the same metaphor as the "body politic."

A better descriptor than "fascist" for America is "factionalist," and for a while, the autoritarian-rich were the faction in charge.
posted by klangklangston at 2:25 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Bin Laden won again the moment that women and children get molested in the name of airport security. Bin Laden won again the moment that Obama gave telecom executives full immunity from prosecution for illegal wiretapping.

In a nutshell: He won because the freedoms he purportedly hated us for don't exist any more.
posted by Trurl at 2:27 PM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


Fascism? What specifically is fascist about the US?

Corporate personhood.
Corporate control of government (effectively).
Corporate control of laws and elections (effectively)
Corporate control of all popular media
Corporate welfare arising from decrease in benefits to the working class.
The effective destruction of the middle class.
Soon-to-be corporate control of formerly public education.
Corporate monopolies prohibiting small business competition in all major areas of business
The reduction and/or elimination of civil rights while increasing the rights of business.
The huge disparity in wealth causing 400 to have as much wealth as 160 million other Americans.

What do you think the term even means?
See above
posted by Poet_Lariat at 2:27 PM on May 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


And even as a soldier fired into him, he was winning again, getting the US to not only violate the sovereignty of another county in order to carry out an extrajudicial killing

The US has been doing all those things long before Bin Laden came on the scene and - for better or worse - most of those things ended up strengthening rather than weakening the nation.
posted by eeeeeez at 2:29 PM on May 24, 2011


Sure, Osama bin Laden might be dead, but not without seeing his fondest dream come true, immunity for Telecom executives.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:30 PM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


Sure, Osama bin Laden might be dead, but not without seeing his fondest dream come true, immunity for Telecom executives.

Laugh it up while your Constitutional rights keep evaporating.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:35 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fascism? What specifically is fascist about the US?

Corporate personhood.
Corporate control of government (effectively).
Corporate control of laws and elections (effectively)
Corporate control of all popular media
Corporate welfare arising from decrease in benefits to the working class.
The effective destruction of the middle class.
Soon-to-be corporate control of formerly public education.
Corporate monopolies prohibiting small business competition in all major areas of business
The reduction and/or elimination of civil rights while increasing the rights of business.
The huge disparity in wealth causing 400 to have as much wealth as 160 million other Americans.

What do you think the term even means?
See above


Really? You most certainly have no idea what fascism is. Don't remember reading about Corporate Personhood in benito mussolini's works, or Mein Kampf for that matter.

Corporate control of public education? Most definitely not fascist. Monopolies are fascist, but if you think there is more monopoly now than there was in 1908, you have a lot of reading to do.

I think you need to read this book.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:37 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Seriously.

Bin Laden won the moment Bush and Cheney launched an attack on a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.
"

Not really. Bin Laden's vision for a Caliphate was premised on the idea that America would be so weakened by fighting in Iraq that the Muslim people would be able to mount a global uprising.

Bin Laden won again the moment the House and Senate enacted anti-terrorism laws without reading them.

Not really. While the American people surely lost, that doesn't mean that Bin Laden won — our anti-terrorism laws certainly did him no good, and didn't inspire the type of rebellion that he may have wanted.

Bin Laden won again the moment that women and children get molested in the name of airport security.

"Molested" is a pretty broad and not entirely useful term, but this is kind of like arguing that the ocean wins any time I drink a glass of water. While air travel has declined, Osama's goal wasn't to make the US more authoritarian abstractly.

Bin Laden won again the moment that Obama gave telecom executives full immunity from prosecution for illegal wiretapping."

No, that'd be the cynical manipulation of fear in order to abrogate civil rights that won. But as Bin Laden has a pretty significant positive platform, he didn't actually win there either — it achieved none of his goals.

Bin Laden won the moment that Blackwater/Xe were given multimillion dollar contracts and immunity from seeing consequences for their actions as mercenaries in illegal wars.

On some level, I'm sure that Bin Laden would be happy that you're giving him all this credit, but then, I bet he'd ask you to actually read some of his writing and see what he wanted. The whole "Embroil the US in endless war" thing was actually in service of some other goals.

You want perspective? The guy won years before anyone put a bullet in his head, frankly. And even as a soldier fired into him, he was winning again, getting the US to not only violate the sovereignty of another county in order to carry out an extrajudicial killing, but have it done because the USA cannot even trust its own system of justice.

Well, except that the US does trust its system of justice pretty broadly, and that, again, getting shot furthered pretty much zero of Bin Laden's goals. While it may be seen as mildly hypocritical, I would imagine that most people in the audience Bin Laden was seeking to reach understood pretty well the practical justifications for it — I'd imagine that Pakistanis have an even grimmer view of their due process rights than Americans do.

Bin Laden won, because our system is so corrupt, so rotten through and through. He won, because we keep inventing new excuses why it was okay to do everything that we did over the last ten years.

Except that he didn't, and our system isn't corrupt through and through, and the statements you've made don't support either contention.

So I know that it feels good to get all shouty and dire in your rhetoric, but really, Bin Laden's death was mostly a mild symbolic moment, in pretty odd circumstances, and is only unpopular with dogmatic leftists who were already predisposed to see it as terrible.

Further, you know what was a bigger blow to American jurisprudence? Lincoln suspending Habeas Corpus in the Civil War.
posted by klangklangston at 2:37 PM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


Further, you know what was a bigger blow to American jurisprudence? Lincoln suspending Habeas Corpus in the Civil War

Well, I'd argue that the constitution does not specify who can do that. And you'd think it would be the executive.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:38 PM on May 24, 2011


"In a nutshell: He won because the freedoms he purportedly hated us for don't exist any more."

You're right! Just the other day, I saw a girl who was punitively raped for going to school! And I sure can't criticize Islam on the internets! All those freedoms, all gone!
posted by klangklangston at 2:39 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chomsky is emphatically not a liberal, and is harshly critical of liberalism.

Yes, I seem to recall Peter Gzowski (as liberal as they get) and he having a bit of a tiff on CBC-AM (mid-morning) some decades ago. It was genuinely weird to hear Canada's own Mr. Earnest Nice Guy coming across as a close-minded asshole, who would not allow his "guest" to finish his sentences.

Chomsky definitely has the ability to stir up the wasps, wherever they may be hiding.
posted by philip-random at 2:39 PM on May 24, 2011


kuatto, joannemullen usually just drops into a thread to make a drive-by comment and then *poof*.
posted by futz at 2:40 PM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Blazecock, I'm perfectly capable of being angered about the loss of individual rights AND laughing at someone who either doesn't know what Osama bin Laden wanted or doesn't know what "win" means.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:40 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Fascism? What specifically is fascist about the US?

Corporate personhood.
Corporate control of government (effectively).
Corporate control of laws and elections (effectively)
Corporate control of all popular media
Corporate welfare arising from decrease in benefits to the working class.
The effective destruction of the middle class.
Soon-to-be corporate control of formerly public education.
Corporate monopolies prohibiting small business competition in all major areas of business
The reduction and/or elimination of civil rights while increasing the rights of business.
The huge disparity in wealth causing 400 to have as much wealth as 160 million other Americans.
"

While those things are bad, that doesn't make them fascism any more than it makes them Trump's weave.
posted by klangklangston at 2:41 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


So I know that it feels good to get all shouty and dire in your rhetoric...

We noticed.
posted by Trurl at 2:43 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Laugh it up while your Constitutional rights keep evaporating.

See that's the thing. That is why fascism happens. It happens because of massive cognitive dissonance on a National scale. Like the guy why buys the crappy car and keeps touting its many benefits it to his friends, no one wants to think of themselves as a chump. No one wants to believe that they can be played for a fool. SO that guy you directed that comment to no doubt does not believe that his Constitutional rights have evaporated - well not the important ones anyway. And besides - we're at war - we have to make sacrifices! For Democracy!

And so it goes. We all laugh at the chumps who gave away their latest life savings to the latest Doomsday prophet but I'd bet a whole bunch of those who'd scoff at that are right now here in this thread dissing Chomsky for being some sort of Jew-hating liberal fool while at the same time essentially defending the rights of Haliburton and G.E. to fuck over some new country.

400 people own as much wealth in this country right now as 160 million other American . No one here has any right to laugh at the followers of Harold Camping , knowing that.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 2:45 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


klangklangston: okay, I'll accept that I had the wrong vocabulary word, and that "corporatism" is incorrect. But do you have a good word to use when it comes to the kind of in-bedded-ness that the US Government has with Corporate / Wall Street interests above those of the citizenry?

That's what I was trying to go for with that word, and I obviously had it wrong, but now I'm left with a concept and no word, and I'd like to have the world.
posted by hippybear at 2:45 PM on May 24, 2011


Ack. I'd like to have the word.

I wouldn't want the world. I wouldn't know where to put it.
posted by hippybear at 2:46 PM on May 24, 2011


I just can't understand the Chomsky hate. He doesn't "hate America," he's several times referred to it as the "freest country on Earth." He does, however, hate the highly deplorable things America occasionally (ok, often) does; he is equally critical of deplorable things foreign governments do. The simple difference is that he only feels culpable, as a taxpaying and voting citizen, for actions undertaken by the USA - a pretty reasonable position.
posted by relooreloo at 2:48 PM on May 24, 2011 [10 favorites]


You most certainly have no idea what fascism is. Don't remember reading about Corporate Personhood in benito mussolini's works, or Mein Kampf for that matter.

I most certainly do know what it means. I also remember that BASF, Mercedes , Deutche Bank, Dresdner Bank and IBM had something to do with the rise of the Nazi party.

geezus effing christ I am so done arguing with brick walls
posted by Poet_Lariat at 2:48 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Poet Lariat, in the future don't tell people what I "no doubt" think. It makes you look like an asshole.

The fact is that I laugh at Blazecock's argument because it's wrong. Osama bin Laden had very specific political aims, like the establishment of a new Caliphate that are no closer to happening today than on the day he was born. His political mission is a failure, even if we destroyed our country's ideals fighting him. That doesn't make it right, but describing it as him "winning" is completely wrong.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:51 PM on May 24, 2011


I just can't understand the Chomsky hate. He doesn't "hate America," he's several times referred to it as the "freest country on Earth." He does, however, hate the highly deplorable things America occasionally (ok, often) does; he is equally critical of deplorable things foreign governments do. The simple difference is that he only feels culpable, as a taxpaying and voting citizen, for actions undertaken by the USA - a pretty reasonable position.
posted by relooreloo at 2:48 PM on May 24


+1 bazillion
posted by hamandcheese at 2:51 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just can't understand the Chomsky hate.

He reminds us - calmly, implacably, untiringly - that America's perception of itself as a fundamentally decent country is an obscene lie saturated with the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

He can't expect us to thank him for it.
posted by Trurl at 2:53 PM on May 24, 2011 [9 favorites]


"okay, I'll accept that I had the wrong vocabulary word, and that "corporatism" is incorrect. But do you have a good word to use when it comes to the kind of in-bedded-ness that the US Government has with Corporate / Wall Street interests above those of the citizenry?

That's what I was trying to go for with that word, and I obviously had it wrong, but now I'm left with a concept and no word, and I'd like to have the world.
"

Cronyism works.

I even think Corporatist works OK in this context, it's just that it's important to recognize that Mussolini was using it in a different way, and not to unintentionally conflate the two for rhetorical point scoring.

Privatist would be another decent term for it, or just corruption.
posted by klangklangston at 2:53 PM on May 24, 2011


Actually, now that I read a bit more... I'm not convinced that I was that far off. Corporate Fascism as practiced by Mussolini isn't simply "the body politic". It involved trade unions and business entities running the government for their own interests, with non-elected control of the law-making process being handed over to these bodies and their representatives and interests.

That's pretty much what's going on here, only without the trade unions.

I'll stick with using "corporatism" as a description of the US system for now, with real possibility of it tipping into true Fascism as soon as we have our next serious terrorist attack on US soil. Until given a better word to describe what is going on here, anyway.
posted by hippybear at 2:53 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I most certainly do know what it means.

I have no special dog in this fight, but you really don't know what it means. I am referring to the general shared consensus of what "fascism" means when applied to politics, not the way teenagers use the word to mean "things I find oppressive." Don't complain about "arguing with brick walls" when you are in the process of erecting one.
posted by Falconetti at 2:54 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Noam Chomsky isn't a freedom rider he's George Wallace. The guys who risk their lives to fight the Taliban and make it possible for girls to go to school are today's freedom riders. Chomsky would be calling Martin Luther King an agent of a Yankee Empire. He would have been standing shoulder to shoulder with Lee and Davis demanding Lincon stop the war.
posted by humanfont at 2:59 PM on May 24, 2011


Can you recall any time ever that Chumpsky had a decent word to say for his country?

Sure, lots of times, as referenced a few posts above. He likes his country and its freedoms.

But he doesn't like America's government much. Especially its imperial adventures. Chomsky makes the point that America is not especially exceptional (heh) regarding its reckless wielding of military might for the purposes of, especially, guaranteeing resources for its people. (Say, oil.) However, we happen to have such a huge military that the damage we do abroad is often exceptionally questionable. We USA citizens have a right to be concerned when so much of our tax money goes toward supporting such a gargantuan military-industrial complex...however you may feel about Chomsky and his anarcho-syndicalism. Personally, I have always thought Chomsky has tried to tell the truth about what is going on. Our leaders are certainly not as transparent as those in a democracy (or a republic) should be.
posted by kozad at 3:02 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can I just say how amusing I find "Chumpsky"?

Other suggestions: Sissy-ure and Fuck-ault.
posted by Trurl at 3:03 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have no special dog in this fight, but you really don't know what it means. I am referring to the general shared consensus of what "fascism" means

The world is complex and things can have multiple meanings and nuances.
I am most certainly using the term correctly in one of it's several nuances.

The fact that you do not wish to see that your like and liberties are being eroded away by huge monetary interests owned by a small oligarchy is your problem not mine. OK , I take that back, it's both our problems really, isn't it?
posted by Poet_Lariat at 3:05 PM on May 24, 2011


Poet_Lariat, you objectively do not know what fascism means; more specifically, you do not know what "corporatism" means. I know "corporation" and "corporatism" sound alike, but they are not the same. Fascism is not, in fact, that laundry list of Lefty boogie men you listed.

Fascism is, at risk of oversimplification, total or near total power vested in the state (or nation if there is a racial character) in the form of a (usually charismatic) single leader or small group of leaders. There is a strong martial character. Corporations are only given as much freedom of action as the state permits to serve the state's actions. Fascism is not the runaway capitalism you're describing. The involvement of conservative business interests does not change this fact; fascism is distinctly totalitarian in nature, which would not premit the runaway free market which seems to be your strongest critique against American society.

You're describing, not fascism, but plutocracy. This is not totalitarian in character; ranging from simple corruption to authoritarianism. There is no particular alligence to either the state, nation or military, but only a willingess to use them for the elites' own ends. Political structures are contained or circumvented, not directly dominated.

It's would be verging on the irrefutable to argue that American society is a flawed democracy (or polyarchy, more likely) with strong plutocratic elements. It would be massively idiotic to argue it is fascist.
posted by spaltavian at 3:08 PM on May 24, 2011 [9 favorites]


Article on Corporatism.

It's Wikipedia, so it has some problems with emphasis, but it's worth noting that "corporatism" can refer to anything from guild systems to the New Deal, and that it's inaccurate to describe the parts of American politics that you don't like with a jargony term just because it sounds similar to what you want.
posted by klangklangston at 3:08 PM on May 24, 2011


It would be massively idiotic to argue it is fascist.

Oh, Well I agree. But I do believe that we are so so very close to approaching fascism that anyone should be seriously worried. The things I pointed out above I should have made more clear are fascist qualities I see in the U.S. now, rather then indicators of an existing thriving fascism. My bad and my apologies for getting carried away and not making my point clearly.

But ten years down the line , maybe 5 , maybe less I can see the real possibility for a true corpro-fascist regime if thinks don't turn from where they appear to be going.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 3:12 PM on May 24, 2011


Many would agree with him being executed, but take issue with the manner with which it was done.

That's kind of an interesting point. I'd wager that most of the people who feel like we should have given bin Laden a trial would also be in the equivalent thread, up in arms about how his trial was a sham, if we had. Because let's face it: the guy was getting executed one way or another. So given that any such trial would be purely symbolic -- it certainly wouldn't have fooled anyone overseas, I'll tell you that -- what would the point have been? Whose benefit would it have been for?

Exactly all the same pieces would be at the same spots on the board as always: the Right complaining we're weak for allowing bin Laden even that much, the Left bemoaning how we're now just like the Nazis because our court system will obviously only return one verdict, the rest of the world unimpressed and unconvinced by the whole thing, and bin Laden still alive, but wondering why the fuck we were wasting his 72-virgin time.

No, there's no plausible scenario where we do better than we did. The guy's guilt was not in question, and the outcome would have been the same all around. Fuck it. We've all got bigger fish.
posted by Amanojaku at 3:16 PM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


The fact that you do not wish to see that your like and liberties are being eroded away by huge monetary interests owned by a small oligarchy is your problem not mine. OK , I take that back, it's both our problems really, isn't it?

I don't want to escalate an already heated conversation, but I will just state that I disagree with your label of "fascism." No more no less. I don't think your litany of potentially negative instrusions of corporations in the political and public sphere is de facto congruous with fascism. And it is a bit of a leap to state that just because I disagree with your application of an often misused term that I am willfully blind to problems in the US.
posted by Falconetti at 3:16 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


What did Bin Laden win again? What contest grants the victor two bullets in the skull? Or do you mean he Charlie Sheen #winning won?
posted by humanfont at 3:17 PM on May 24, 2011


Please provide me a cite stating that the 4th amendment applies to non-citizens accused of a crime who are currently overseas. Especially when Congress authorized military force against the parties responsible for 9/11.

I tire easily with this legal tapdancing. A better question is: if a foreign country decided that at foreign national inside of the United States was a terrorist, what is the appropriate protocol?

1) Request extradition through normal legal channels for prosecution?
2) Start dropping bombs on Washington DC if extradition wasn't satisfied quickly enough?
3) Send in a military kill team to assassinate the accused?

The US skipped #1, though the Taliban offered to hand over bin Laden to a third party (ironically it would have probably been Pakistan). We refused and started a war that has killed tens of thousand of people over a decade. We tortured thousands of people, gave up an extraordinary amount of our civil liberties, and spent hundreds of billions of dollars. None of this brought bin Laden to justice. In the end, old fashioned intelligence work led us to him, and then we assassinated him, and that still did not bring him to justice.

Who really believes that this is civilized behavior that respects the most basic principles of Law? Once you start rationalizing the use of force and circumvention of basic democratic principles to get your will done, you are no different from bin Laden. You're just on the other side.

And I'll illustrate that with another very important point: our view on women's rights. Sure, internally, the US is far above Afghanistan and Iraq. But look at what has happened to the women of those countries since we invaded. They have had their lives destroyed. Millions are displaced, hundreds of thousands are dead, and now many Iraqi women have been forced into prostitution because their husbands and sons are all dead, or lost in the prison that now operate exactly as they did under Saddam: people are disappeared, tortured, and sometimes just left on the side of the road. Honor killings have returned without punishment, since the security of Saddam's state -- which was awful, no doubt -- is now gone. Iraq under the US is undoubtedly worse for Iraqis than Iraq under Saddam. They will tell you the same thing.

The situation in Afghanistan is somewhat more arguable, but the closest thing Afghanistan had to a secular state with women's rights disappeared in 1979 when we began our proxy war with Russia. It's been the playground and graveyard of empires for a number of years, and we have walked right into it, leaving tens of thousands of corpses in our wake. (Of course, back in those days, the proto-Taliban were the Good Guys, and the evil socialist government forces were the Bad Guys, regardless of their position on women's rights.)

That's why we are supposed to obey the Law in spirit always, and in letters when we can, because vigilante justice doesn't work. You kill the wrong people. You punish the wrong people. And you are worse off as a result.

If the US had followed Chomksy's advice for assembling evidence against bin Laden in 2001, even if he got away scott free and was never seen again, thousands of US soldiers would still be alive. The million people who have served wouldn't be suffering from PTSD, with at least 250,000 filing for help from the VA. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis would still be alive. We may have earned a lot of allies in the Middle East, and actually rooted out terrorist networks instead of dispersing them all over Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Not to mention the trillions of dollars that we could have spent on addressing the root causes of terrorism, instead of pretending that treating the symptoms are going to cure the disease.

As far as the Hitchens piece, it's a simple guilt-by-association attack, reaching all the way from truthers to Nazis. I mean, I can't believe anyone associates that with intelligent discourse, but that's what you fall back on when you don't have anything meaningful to say. Hitchens has fallen a long way from the days when he asked Charlton Heston point blank on TV to name countries that bordered Iraq. He's now subservient to the powerful, for whatever reason, and I will miss his insightful and delightfully snarky commentary questioning force instead of rationalizing it.
posted by notion at 3:22 PM on May 24, 2011 [9 favorites]


What did Bin Laden win again? What contest grants the victor two bullets in the skull? Or do you mean he Charlie Sheen #winning won?

His goal was to lure the USA in into a land war which would effectively destroy them as the dominant world power. He was willing to die for that cause, as were many others. We may not agree with his ethos or methods but it's undeniable that his operation was probably more successful than even he could have imagined. (Thanks Bush.) Even his illegal assassination furthered this agenda, as it destabilized Pakistan-USA relations, as Chomsky notes.
posted by mek at 3:34 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Bin Laden attacked my country & my region. He was a threat to me and mine. No amount of relativism will make him less of an enemy or make his killing less justified.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:41 PM on May 24, 2011


relooreloo: I just can't understand the Chomsky hate.

Because of Chomsky's depiction of the United States as morally equivalent to Nazi Germany, he's an extremely divisive figure. Any post discussing Chomsky's views on US foreign policy will immediately turn into a debate about Chomsky himself. Again, I'd recommend Glenn Greenwald as a starting point rather than Chomsky.

My personal view of US foreign policy is that the Bush II administration was much, much worse than its predecessors. (The US fought on the right side of the First and Second World Wars, preventing first Imperial Germany and then Nazi Germany from prevailing. Following the devastation of the Second World War, the US successfully contained the Soviet Union without launching a Third World War: the US was instrumental in reconstructing Western Europe through the Marshall Plan, and guaranteeing its security through NATO; in East Asia, the US played a similar role with respect to Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. On the negative side, besides the Vietnam War, and the overthrow of governments in Guatemala and Iran, the US bears a great deal of responsibility for the insanity of the nuclear arms race.)
posted by russilwvong at 3:43 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


mek: His goal was to lure the USA into a land war which would effectively destroy them as the dominant world power.

As a means, not an end. His ultimate objective was to overthrow the governments of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. As noted earlier, the fact that the Tunisian and Egyptian people were able to overthrow their governments without resorting to al-Qaeda-style violence was a major blow to bin Laden's ideology. (Doug Saunders: Bin Laden died in Sidi Bouzid before he died in Abbottabad.)
posted by russilwvong at 3:49 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Bin Laden Bush attacked my country & my region. He was a threat to me and mine. No amount of relativism will make him less of an enemy or make his killing less justified.

See? Works fine.
posted by mek at 3:51 PM on May 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


It might be instructive to ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic (after proper burial rites, of course)

Honestly, that seems like a idiotic line of thought. As much as dislike the Bush Jr. and his administration, I'm going to prefer his antics over Bin Laden's desire for a repressive religious government.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:51 PM on May 24, 2011


Bin Laden attacked my country & my region

You attacked his region first.

Not that this justifies him, of course. But the Muslim world has far more to avenge than we do. So I would advise against making that a justification for invading people's countries to slaughter unarmed men in their homes.
posted by Trurl at 3:58 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I tire easily with this legal tapdancing. A better question is: if a foreign country decided that at foreign national inside of the United States was a terrorist, what is the appropriate protocol?

1) Request extradition through normal legal channels for prosecution?
2) Start dropping bombs on Washington DC if extradition wasn't satisfied quickly enough?
3) Send in a military kill team to assassinate the accused?


First said terrorist would need to recognized by the UN security council as such. There would also need to be declarations by various US government officials and political leaders that the terrorist in question was either dead or at the very least not in the United States. The foreign stste should clearly express their plan to act anywhere if there is clear intelligence about the location of the individual, including the statement that they would go after said terrorist in the United States, without permission. The US should state clearly that they have no idea where he is, and that the US were in no way harboring such an evil person. Under those exact circumstances, sure go ahead send your kill squad in during the dead of night to the terrorists house and shoot him in the head along with other non-spousal cohabitants. Be sure to write the US a very large check before and after the fact.
posted by humanfont at 4:07 PM on May 24, 2011


I'm going to prefer his antics over Bin Laden's desire for a repressive religious government.

cough...cough...abortion...cough...marriage rights...cough...teaching evolution and other science...choo!
posted by Poet_Lariat at 4:22 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


His goal was to lure the USA in into a land war which would effectively destroy them as the dominant world power.

But today the US is still the dominant world power, despite of wasting money in Iraq. The strategy failed. Also Bush was going to war with Iraq regardless, 9-11 just delayed thie plans by a year. OBL had nothing to do with it. We would be done with Afghanistan if we'd not kept with the original Iraq invasion plan. OBLs fantasy of Mujahadin breaking USA like they broke the Soviets was demolished by the Northern Alliance, a few forward air controllers and a few JDAMs in a matter of weeks.
posted by humanfont at 4:30 PM on May 24, 2011


cough...cough...abortion...cough...marriage rights...cough...teaching evolution and other science...choo!

We're all intelligent here, speak up, no need to cough.

Otherwise, equating those things to what Bin Laden wanted is just idiotic. No one is claiming the US or the western world doesn't have issues or problems. But Bin Laden thought the rule of Taliban was it, the finest form of government around and that the rest of the world should be that way. Comparing him against Bush II, who I agree was a terrible President, doesn't make a lick of sense, unless one is trying to twist their already formed belief into a point.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:37 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Please provide me a cite stating that the 4th amendment applies to non-citizens accused of a crime who are currently overseas. Especially when Congress authorized military force against the parties responsible for 9/11.

I have two issues with this. First, the 4th Amendment doesn't apply to PEOPLE. It applies to the Constitutional Republic which it creates. The 4th Amendment says what The Government MAY DO. And it doesn't specify geographical limits to those grants of legitimate authority.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Period. THE GOVERNMENT must respect the right of the people to be secure, wherever they are. ( See also 9th and 10th Amendments further defining the limits on the created Constitutional Republic.

Secondly, a great case can be made that Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumfeld, Powell et. al. violated both 18 USC 371 and 18 USC 1001, committing felony fraud in preventing Congress from performing it's lawful oversight rule in the obtaining of that AUMF.

Is the AUMF still valid if it's the result of criminal fraud? Interesting question, I think.
posted by mikelieman at 4:39 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


"cough...cough...abortion...cough...marriage rights...cough...teaching evolution and other science...choo!"

COUGH STONING WOMEN TO DEATH.

I mean, Jesus, I realize that you think you're being witty, but snide allusions like this just point out that either your intention is to show how relatively minor our concerns are in the West and how good we have it, even as some seek to go backwards, or that you are incredibly ignorant about the actual political aims of Bin Laden and about the ways a good portion of the world spend their lives.

Seriously, it's like white guys comparing Affirmative Action to Jim Crow laws or Rand Paul comparing mandating health care to slavery. It might get you a hurf durf from folks who already agree with you, but it's piss-poor as far as an actual argument goes.
posted by klangklangston at 4:41 PM on May 24, 2011 [11 favorites]


But today the US is still the dominant world power, despite of wasting money in Iraq. The strategy failed.

Well, it could be argued that we've spent so much on these wars that we've basically bankrupted the country. It doesn't help that there's a faction within our government which seeks to also bankrupt the government to make political hay, but it's pretty clear that if we hadn't spent on Afghanistan and Iraq what we have spent, we wouldn't be in the budgetary crisis we currently find ourselves.

I don't know if the strategy failed or not, but we now have the basic income distribution of a third world country, something achieved within the past decade (with seeds planted earlier, granted), and we're going to default on our debt soon if we can't get our internal conflicts worked out.

China will surpass us in just a few years, and our image is more degraded now in the global eye than it was in August 2001, largely due to the domestic and military responses we took after Al Qaeda's actions.

I think he was more wily than he's often given credit for.
posted by hippybear at 4:42 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


COUGH STONING WOMEN TO DEATH.

Exploding them with bombs, shooting them during house raids, and burning them to death with phosphorous is okay?

In central Africa, they're raping and mutilating and murdering children by the hundreds of thousands. When do we invade to stop that injustice?
posted by notion at 4:45 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


But today the US is still the dominant world power, despite of wasting money in Iraq.

Maybe you were in 2003, but the US is no longer the dominant world power. While you can always point at debt levels and the fact that it is now China's economy that influences world markets on a daily basis, you can also take a look at how utterly and absolutely ineffective the US has been in the "Twitter revolutions" of Med Arab states over the past six months. Nobody listens any more.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:46 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


But today the US is still the dominant world power

Spending more on weapons than the rest of the planet combined helps.

But invading Iraq to steal its oil was a lot easier than it will be to invade China to steal its economy - when it overtakes ours.
posted by Trurl at 4:46 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Period. THE GOVERNMENT must respect the right of the people to be secure, wherever they are. ( See also 9th and 10th Amendments further defining the limits on the created Constitutional Republic.

The people, who formed the more perfect union to protect their lives liberties and pursuit of happiness, not the self declared enemies of the people. The enemies get nothing but bullets, bombs and the rockers red glare.
posted by humanfont at 4:48 PM on May 24, 2011


"Well, it could be argued that we've spent so much on these wars that we've basically bankrupted the country."

Not really, not compared to the impact of the global financial crisis. While the two are tangentially intertwined, the military expenditures haven't been what broke our backs. And we're (slowly) pulling out now.

China was already going to surpass us — they have a billion people. That's roughly three times our population. It's just a huge amount of economic inertia.

"China will surpass us in just a few years, and our image is more degraded now in the global eye than it was in August 2001, largely due to the domestic and military responses we took after Al Qaeda's actions. "

Our image being degraded hasn't actually cost us all that much, in part because we can still do things like the peaceful transfer of power (I remember so many lefty types that thought for realz Bush was gonna pull a coup), and Obama's been a big boon for us in foreign policy.
posted by klangklangston at 4:50 PM on May 24, 2011


A few quotes (and I read his post, thanks):

The crime of aggression was defined clearly enough by Justice Robert Jackson, Chief of Counsel for the United States at Nuremberg, reiterated in an authoritative General Assembly resolution. An “aggressor,” Jackson proposed to the Tribunal in his opening statement, is a state that is the first to commit such actions as “Invasion of its armed forces, with or without a declaration of war, of the territory of another State….” No one, even the most extreme supporter of the aggression, denies that Bush and associates did just that.

This differs greatly from the crime of genocide the Nazis systematically committed. Aggression, by as stupid and venal as the Bush chain of command, is not the same. I doubt we can easily equate the Bush II murderous charlie foxtrot with the Holocaust initators, and their willing participants, to entirely rid the world of innocent Jew, Roma and gay humans.

We are left with two choices: either Bush and associates are guilty of the “supreme international crime” including all the evils that follow, crimes that go vastly beyond anything attributed to bin Laden; or else we declare that the Nuremberg proceedings were a farce and that the allies were guilty of judicial murder.

A false choice fallacy if you took a semester of Rhetoric.

Pakistan is the most dangerous country on earth, also the world’s fastest growing nuclear power, with a huge arsenal.

70-90 nuclear weapons? Max reach of ~3,000 KM with Mirage IIIs delivering them and a pathetic cruise missile range? Hah, not really. US, Russia and Israel could glass Pakistan from half a globe away. Dangerous, but not most.

I find Prof. Chomsky's writings stimulating but only as a kind of social justice science fiction. His writings leave me with a chilling sense of murderous academia, no less ominous than what I see touted as exceptionalism or jihad elsewhere.
posted by nj_subgenius at 4:52 PM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


The people, who formed the more perfect union to protect their lives liberties and pursuit of happiness, not the self declared enemies of the people. The enemies get nothing but bullets, bombs and the rockers red glare.

Sorry, I didn't see any of that written in the text I quoted. Can you provide the text from the US Constitution which says that? I'd surely love to see it.
posted by mikelieman at 4:53 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Exploding them with bombs, shooting them during house raids, and burning them to death with phosphorous is okay?

What does that have to do with a policy of religious repression? Oh, I know, you just wanted to score a quick, context-free gotcha, and counted on people who agreed with you being too stupid to do anything but hit the favorite button.

But no, I disagree with Al Qaeda's attacks on civilians. Why don't you? I mean, if we're playing the inane rhetorical question game. You didn't explicitly state that you're against it, so you must be an Al Qaeda supporter.

In central Africa, they're raping and mutilating and murdering children by the hundreds of thousands. When do we invade to stop that injustice?"

Hey, I'm fine with that. I think we should have intervened in Sudan instead of Iraq. But I get this feeling based on your past postings that you're against that too, because you think any American intervention is de facto bad. So instead of pretending to endorse that idea of of consistency in an attempt to play the rhetorical gotcha game, why don't you say what you really mean? That you'd prefer that those people kept getting raped and mutilated rather than risk US involvement, and also that you think Sudan's sovereignty is worth more than those lives? Glad to see you support rape!
posted by klangklangston at 4:57 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think he was more wily than he's often given credit for.

I don't think anyone can say that. Bin Laden's dead, America and Western Civilization is still here and will be for a long time. Women will continue to gain rights and status, as will homosexuals and other minorities. Progress will continue.

As time goes on, I think Bin Laden was just a foolish guy with a lot of foolish dreams who thought he could make shit happen. But in the end he's dust and at most a speed bump to society. He managed to land a good punch at the right time (when idiots were in office). But time passes, administrations change, progress continues.

Bin Laden's legacy may never be truly defeated, because it's hard to kill an idea. But if that's true, then it goes double for America.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:58 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Exploding them with bombs, shooting them during house raids, and burning them to death with phosphorous is okay?

It's Ok if we do it I suppose.
So let me try to wrap my head around this:

Forced to wear a burka:bad
Forced to endure courtroom humiliation because you wore a mini-skirt while you got raped:OK, we can live with that for the time being

Getting your hand cut off for stealing:bad
Forced to carry your rape-baby through to term : not as bad really

Killing 3300 innocent civilians with a jet airplane:bad
Killing several hundred thousand innocent civilians by robot drone: not so bad, in fact justified.

Forced teaching in school that the United States is the Great Satan:bad
Forced teaching in school that evolution is the word of Satan: not nearly as bad

Conscripting 14 year olds in an army to shoot at us: very bad
Conscripting by poverty 19 year olds to shoot at them:patriotic.

It's difficult to keep it all straight. I just don't have the mind for it I suppose.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 5:01 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


the military expenditures haven't been what broke our backs. And we're (slowly) pulling out now

This is a going to be a for-real pullout, right? Not just replacing the troops that leave with mercenaries. Just want to make sure of that.

And however slow it was going to be, it's not going to be any slower now that Petraeus is going to CIA - which is effectively running the war at this point. Just want to make sure of that too.

OK, so 2014? Maybe? Give or take a few?

My question then is: How high will we have had to raise the debt limit ceiling by then?
posted by Trurl at 5:02 PM on May 24, 2011


This is a going to be a for-real pullout, right?

I asked that very same question just last night . I suspect the eventual answer will be similar.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 5:06 PM on May 24, 2011


This is a going to be a for-real pullout, right?

You can't ask a dude that question and expect an honest answer.
posted by gman at 5:06 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


ADHOMINEM AWARDS!!!

The high ground Award. Pastabagel flies high above the skirmish, his argument is unassailable. It is atomically true, and if the cockroaches below weren't completely immune to the fallout, it would have killed the thread.

The Suicide Bomber award goes to Ironmouth. He doesn't mind blowing up his own argument as long as he takes out as many of the enemy out with him. Unlike a real suicide bomber he keeps coming back.

True American Traitor award. Trurls argues for truth justice and the amercian way. Freedom of speech and moderation of state power. He'll be the first up against the wall when the Tea Party revolution happens.

Blazecock Pileon gets the Charlie Sheen award for his article.
Bin Laden WINNING!! US Fascism WINNING!!!

Poet Lariat gets the Reinforcements Award. Rides into a thread strewn with the dead and brings along his own new batch of people to argue with as well as a new thing to argue about. PL:What is Fascism anyway? humanfont:Fascism is u dorkface!!!! Falconetti:That is incorrect.

** Round 2 **
posted by vicx at 5:15 PM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]



Not that this justifies him, of course. But the Muslim world has far more to avenge than we do. So I would advise against making that a justification for invading people's countries to slaughter unarmed men in their homes.


And if I was part of that world I may be justified in attacking America. You need to protect yourself and your interests.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:15 PM on May 24, 2011


The thing Noam Chomsky and many of his followers don't seem to understand is that there are different kinds of evil. The US government is run in a bad way, often an evil way, but that doesn't make it the same as the Taliban.
posted by koeselitz at 5:15 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


"It's Ok if we do it I suppose.
So let me try to wrap my head around this:

Forced to wear a burka:bad
Forced to endure courtroom humiliation because you wore a mini-skirt while you got raped:OK, we can live with that for the time being

Getting your hand cut off for stealing:bad
Forced to carry your rape-baby through to term : not as bad really

Killing 3300 innocent civilians with a jet airplane:bad
Killing several hundred thousand innocent civilians by robot drone: not so bad, in fact justified.

Forced teaching in school that the United States is the Great Satan:bad
Forced teaching in school that evolution is the word of Satan: not nearly as bad

Conscripting 14 year olds in an army to shoot at us: very bad
Conscripting by poverty 19 year olds to shoot at them:patriotic.

It's difficult to keep it all straight. I just don't have the mind for it I suppose.
"

That's pretty obvious, given that "forced to carry your rape-baby to term" isn't something that happens through the force of law here in America without some pretty heavy caveats, just to pick one inane comparison out of your list (it's even more stupid when you realize that abortion rights aren't exactly protected under the theocracy that Bin Laden wanted).

But yeah, since we both realize you're too dumb to parse this stuff out, you might want to avoid it in the future.
posted by klangklangston at 5:16 PM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


OMG, I'm so going to have klang's baby.

Just one more thing Bin Laden wouldn't allow.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:20 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Trurl will be the first up against the wall when the Tea Party revolution happens.

And the really lousy part is that when executing me without trial, they'll be able to cite the actions of a Democratic administration as precedent.
posted by Trurl at 5:21 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


What does that have to do with a policy of religious repression? Oh, I know, you just wanted to score a quick, context-free gotcha, and counted on people who agreed with you being too stupid to do anything but hit the favorite button.

To a dead person, it doesn't matter why you killed them. How many people have been stoned to death in that part of the world in the past 10 years? How many have been killed by American weapons? How does that first number justify the second?

But no, I disagree with Al Qaeda's attacks on civilians. Why don't you? I mean, if we're playing the inane rhetorical question game. You didn't explicitly state that you're against it, so you must be an Al Qaeda supporter.

klang, don't be ridiculous. My position on the use of force has always been the same: only when absolutely necessary. And my position on Al Qaeda has always been the same. They're evil, cowardly fucks who murdered 3,000 people. Our retaliatory wars, however, were not morally just, did not bring them to justice, and did not do anything to stop terrorism.

Hey, I'm fine with that. I think we should have intervened in Sudan instead of Iraq. But I get this feeling based on your past postings that you're against that too, because you think any American intervention is de facto bad. So instead of pretending to endorse that idea of of consistency in an attempt to play the rhetorical gotcha game, why don't you say what you really mean? That you'd prefer that those people kept getting raped and mutilated rather than risk US involvement, and also that you think Sudan's sovereignty is worth more than those lives? Glad to see you support rape!

No, I asked a rhetorical question. Why are we invading Afghanistan and none of the other countries where similar injustices occur at a much higher rate? It's nice to pretend for your conscience that it's because we care about women's rights, but that's clearly not the case. Just look at women's rights (and freedoms in general) in Saudi Arabia versus Iran. Why are we selling tens of billions in weapons to one and not the other? The answer, unfortunately, is because Saudi Arabia plays ball and sells us oil, and Iran does not. We don't care about women's rights until it's a justification to invade, just like we didn't care about Saddam's crimes until we wanted to invade.

As for the rest of your paragraph, I can only ask, are you fucking kidding me? The war as it stands today is a result of our desire for conflict minerals. The US hasn't even proposed a moratorium on those materials, or even a recycling program to reduce our reliance on those materials, because that could be harmful for the US economy. Shall I draw the conclusion that you haven't proposed such a solution, so you must support rape? What the fuck is wrong with you?

Our dollars are more important than their lives. That has sadly been the case for a long time now, not only for Central Africa but for the Middle East since the British switched from coal to oil for their naval fleet. For Al Qaeda, their religion is more important than our lives. One position is not more moral than the other.
posted by notion at 5:23 PM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Setting aside Chomsky:

formless: If a foreign state declares a US leader a war criminal, what would the favored outcome be for those who support the bin Laden assassination? An international trial or an assassination?

An interesting question indeed. There have been many assassination attempts against US leaders and particularly US presidents, but most of the perpetrators were domestic.

Suppose we divide the world's countries into those favoring the status quo (the United States and its allies, including Europe and Japan) and those opposed to it (Iran, North Korea, China and Russia to a lesser extent).

Countries supporting the status quo would be extremely unlikely to provoke the US by arresting a US official for war crimes and putting them on trial, much less assassinating them.

What about countries opposed to the status quo? According to Hans Morgenthau, law tends to support the status quo, and thus countries opposing the status quo have an interest in weakening it. They might well seize on the US assassination of bin Laden (and others) to weaken the legitimacy of US foreign policy and of international law in general. But frankly, I would expect that a much greater factor would be Bush's policy of torturing prisoners.

Would they attempt to assassinate US leaders themselves? I think motive (would they benefit from it?) and opportunity (would they be able to carry it out?) would be more important than moral constraints. A past example is Saddam Hussein's failed plot to assassinate George H. W. Bush.

There have been times in the past when assassination was regarded as a normal tool of state policy. Praveen Swami:
For most of history, assassination was viewed with moral equanimity. Before the mid-17th century, historian Hans Morgenthau has recorded, such methods "were used without moral scruples and as a matter of course."

Between 1415 and 1525, Morgenthau found, the Republic of Venice "planned or attempted about two hundred assassinations for purposes of its foreign policy." Venice’s ruling council publicly solicited proposals for the elimination of domestic and overseas enemies from aspiring assassins. One clergyman-assassin, Brother John of Ragusa, made this offer in response: "For the Grand Turk, 500 ducats; for the King of Spain (exclusive of travelling expenses), 150 ducats; for the Duke of Milan, 60 ducats; for the Marquis of Mantua, 50 ducats; for his Holiness, only 100 ducats."

During the 16th century, religious fractures generated by the Reformation allowed political enemies to be deemed heretics, and vested assassination with the moral imprimatur of God. Philip II of Spain, one of the architects of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, placed a price on the head of Holland’s William of Orange, and sponsored several plots against Queen Elizabeth I of England. In the decade after 1570, Elizabeth I was the target of at least 20 known assassination plots and, in turn, sponsored several operations against her adversaries overseas. In 1516, Thomas Moore extolled the practice, deeming it a moral imperative--moral, that is, since it spared ordinary people the hardships of wars for which their leaders were responsible.

As the wars of the 18th century wound down, though, and the new nation-state system stabilised, a consensus against assassination developed. In essence, nation-states had little interest in vesting a system which empowered the weak against the strong with moral legitimacy.
From this perspective, the American reliance on assassination demonstrates that its power relative to its adversaries has declined. The US had to send in a secret team, without notifying Pakistan, because of the likelihood that sympathizers would have warned bin Laden. Why would there be sympathizers for bin Laden (especially considering that al-Qaeda has assassinated numerous Pakistani officials)? Because there's so many strong grievances against the US in the Islamic world. Even before the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there were the sanctions against Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

To quote Louis Halle, The Cold War as History:
... real power is always something far greater than military power alone. A balance of power is not a balance of military power alone: it is, rather, a balance in which military power is one element. Even in its crudest aspect, power represents a subtle and intimate combination of force and consent. No stable government has ever existed, and no empire has ever become established, except with an immensely preponderant measure of consent on the part of those who were its subjects. That consent may be a half-grudging consent; it may be a consent based in part on awe of superior force; it may represent love, or respect, or fear, or a combination of the three. Consent, in any case, is the essential ingredient in stable power--more so than physical force, of which the most efficient and economical use is to increase consent.

By using physical force in such a way as alienates consent one constantly increases the requirements of physical force to replace the consent that has been alienated. A vicious spiral develops that, continued, ends in the collapse of power. If the Government in Washington had undertaken to use [its monopoly on nuclear weapons] to control the world it would surely have ended by incurring the fanatical hostility of the world's peoples, with incalculable consequences. It would have found itself trying to dominate the world by terror alone; it would have found itself driven to ever greater extremes of ruthlessness; and the requirements of a totally ruthless policy would, at last, have compelled it to establish a tyranny over the American people as well as over the rest of mankind.
Considering all the things that could have gone wrong, sending in a team to kill bin Laden was a major risk. Attempting to capture him alive and put him on trial, rather than killing him, would have increased the risks further. It's arguable that the US should have taken these risks anyway; but it's not obvious.
posted by russilwvong at 5:25 PM on May 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


Our dollars are more important than their lives. ... For Al Qaeda, their religion is more important than our lives. One position is not more moral than the other.

Are you factoring in that their religion isn't true like ours?
posted by Trurl at 5:30 PM on May 24, 2011


If a foreign state declares a US leader a war criminal, what would the favored outcome be for those who support the bin Laden assassination? An international trial or an assassination?

Just ignoring the foreign state would be a good.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:31 PM on May 24, 2011


An interesting paper on the norm against assassination: Ward Thomas, The New Age of Assassination (2005). From Google's cache:
For anyone concerned about the deterioration of the norm against assassination in recent years, U.S. policy is likely to seem more part of the problem than part of the solution. ...

Any discussion of policy options should start from two premises. The first is that the United States should not want the killing of national leaders to become an accepted international practice, even under exceptional circumstances. The effects of such an adoption would be destabilizing, and as an open society, the United States would be more vulnerable than most of its potential adversaries. Assassination is an often low-tech, small-scale technique that places a premium on secrecy and fanatical resolve rather than sophisticated conventional operations, and therefore plays away from American strengths.

The second premise is that neither the United States nor any other state can or should renounce the right to target those individuals who, through non-state organizations, wield violence outside the purview of international law and pose significant threats to its interests or its citizens.

... While counter-terror efforts must use an array of strategies, non-violent means may not always suffice. Terrorists are immune to most forms of diplomatic and economic pressure and may be beyond the effective reach of judicial procedures. They are difficult to apprehend and to indict and convict without compromising intelligence sources that are important for intelligence gathering to preventing future attacks. Indeed, it may be both unrealistic and undesirable to expect intelligence gathering to proceed with an eye toward the potential admissibility of evidence in a court of law. If these individuals are taken alive, of course, they must be tried, but the threat posed by their organizations, while eluding easy categorization, is better understood in military than in criminal justice terms.

... Of course, there is a tension between these premises. The question is how this circle should be squared: how can a state like the United States retain this freedom of action in a way that does as little damage as possible to norms that serve its interests and promote international order?

The first and most obvious step is to distinguish between sovereign states and trans-national, non-state organizations and categorically to reject the direct personal targeting of government officials, whether in war or in peace. Even ambiguously threatening or condoning the killing of national leaders could hasten the demise of a norm that promotes international stability and serves U.S. interests.
posted by russilwvong at 5:44 PM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


"To a dead person, it doesn't matter why you killed them. How many people have been stoned to death in that part of the world in the past 10 years? How many have been killed by American weapons? How does that first number justify the second?"

Again, this was in response to my statement that the US's religious right was significantly different from the religious theocracy that Bin Laden sought.

How are your questions relevant to that statement? They're not.

"klang, don't be ridiculous. My position on the use of force has always been the same: only when absolutely necessary. And my position on Al Qaeda has always been the same. They're evil, cowardly fucks who murdered 3,000 people. Our retaliatory wars, however, were not morally just, did not bring them to justice, and did not do anything to stop terrorism."

Didn't do anything to stop terrorism? Well, y'know, Bin Laden was (according to reports) planning more terrorist operations right then. You can argue all you want about the utilitarian necessity of our wars, but instead you want to make absolute statements that are bullshit on their face. And given that you can't get the objective facts right, I don't feel charitable in taking your subjective moral reasoning as proffered.

"No, I asked a rhetorical question. Why are we invading Afghanistan and none of the other countries where similar injustices occur at a much higher rate? It's nice to pretend for your conscience that it's because we care about women's rights, but that's clearly not the case. Just look at women's rights (and freedoms in general) in Saudi Arabia versus Iran. Why are we selling tens of billions in weapons to one and not the other? The answer, unfortunately, is because Saudi Arabia plays ball and sells us oil, and Iran does not. We don't care about women's rights until it's a justification to invade, just like we didn't care about Saddam's crimes until we wanted to invade."

You keep saying "we" like you speak for me. And you keep saying things like "We don't care about women's rights until it's a justification to invade." That's bullshit. Offices like the GWI do great work around the globe. The blunt fact is that the American government, especially through the state department, does do a huge amount for women's rights around the globe, and that strategic concerns hamstring their efforts in some cases doesn't mean that we don't care about them.

It's the same fallacy as pretending that because you're not out there right now fighting for women's rights that you don't care about them — that the same rhetorical charge you were making could be leveled at you, especially as you conflate lack of a positive with a negative, e.g. Why do you care more about scoring petty political points on MeFi than rape? If it was so important to you, you'd be doing something else. It's something you do often, and it's obnoxious.

"As for the rest of your paragraph, I can only ask, are you fucking kidding me? The war as it stands today is a result of our desire for conflict minerals. The US hasn't even proposed a moratorium on those materials, or even a recycling program to reduce our reliance on those materials, because that could be harmful for the US economy. Shall I draw the conclusion that you haven't proposed such a solution, so you must support rape? What the fuck is wrong with you?"

What the fuck is wrong with you? You assert a simplistic take on a complex conflict, throw out some bullshit irrelevant half-measures (if this was about minerals, which I don't concede, a recycling program would be a fucking drop in the ocean compared to the amount we need), and then proceed to grandstand and repeatedly malign your supposed opponents with loaded rhetorical questions. If you don't like being asked why you support rape, try not to imply that having different priorities and not accepting your simplistic gloss is tantamount to supporting child murder in Africa.
posted by klangklangston at 6:13 PM on May 24, 2011


Otherwise, equating those things to what Bin Laden wanted is just idiotic.

They weren't being equated. They were being compared. They come from the same impulse. The impulse to do things because god said so. "Teach the controversy" is pretty fucking bad, and it leads to some scary fucking places.

And as for:

Oh, I know, you just wanted to score a quick, context-free gotcha, and counted on people who agreed with you being too stupid to do anything but hit the favorite button.

Probably this joker just needs to sober up for a few hours.
posted by Trochanter at 6:20 PM on May 24, 2011


They weren't being equated. They were being compared. They come from the same impulse.

*shrug* Lots of things come form the same impulse. If you want to quibble and say compared instead of equated, knock yourself out. It's still idiotic, because the comparisons don't match. It's not a matter of it being impossible to compare Bin Laden vs Bush or the US vs Taliban. It's just that there's not much to compare, different animals.

Probably this joker just needs to sober up for a few hours.

Klang's the penguin, not the joker.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:38 PM on May 24, 2011


>you're too dumb to parse this stuff out

Isn't that breaking the rules?

>You most certainly have no idea what fascism is.

>While those things are bad, that doesn't make them fascism any more than it makes them Trump's weave.

Maybe you two could enlighten us as to what your definitions of fascism are. Since you're bashing everybody else's.

Anybody seriously interested in studying fascism should begin by reading Fascism and Political Theory: Critical Perspectives on Fascist Ideology by Daniel Woodley.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:43 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


"They weren't being equated. They were being compared. They come from the same impulse. The impulse to do things because god said so. "Teach the controversy" is pretty fucking bad, and it leads to some scary fucking places."

Well, no. If they were being compared rationally, you'd end up saying what Brandon did — that Bush was a terrible president, but that even his vision of America is a lot better than Bin Laden's. And one of the scary places that "Teach the controversy" doesn't lead — nice slippery slope, there — is to stoning women to death for adultery.

It's just as dumb as comparing the US to Nazi Germany — plenty of things the US government has done have been bad, but they're bad on their own merits, not just because they share something in common with something else commonly seen as bad. Not every property commutes.
posted by klangklangston at 6:44 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


It might be instructive to ask ourselves...

It might be....but it's not.
Please, people, let us not supplant the nationalistic rhetoric of "America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world" with the ridiculous notion that somehow, the war perpetrated against Iraq and Afghanistan is in any way comparable to that waged by the Nazi regime in Europe.

Do we seriously find it impossible to argue and accept without such asinine hyperbole that the United States has behaved badly--even shamefully and despicably? The quoted Chomsky passage is separated from a lunatic crying "BUSH IS A NAZI" merely by word count and eloquence of prose.
posted by Room 101 at 6:56 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


China will surpass us in just a few years, and our image is more degraded now in the global eye than it was in August 2001, largely due to the domestic and military responses we took after Al Qaeda's actions.

China isn't going to surpass us in a few years. The US faces some big problems, but they are tiny when compared to China's. Even in the face of near stagnation of the American economy at 14 trillion dollars, China would need at least a decade to catch up to the United States assuming they maintain 10% growth rates (doubling every 7 years or so). I suppose anything is possible but I'm very doubtful it can be maintained with out major changes in the chinese political landscape, environmental issues, resource constraints and geography (consider that Pakistan and Afghanistan are bordering countries that sit on top of China's historic trading routes to Europe and the Middle East).

The image of the United States was never all that positive. Between the Contras, the School of the Americas, our cold war bullshit, etc, we've always been more popular in our own mind's eye. Bush certainly hurt our image, but much of that has been recovered by Obama.
posted by humanfont at 7:17 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


China isn't going to surpass us in a few years. The US faces some big problems, but they are tiny when compared to China's. Even in the face of near stagnation of the American economy at 14 trillion dollars, China would need at least a decade to catch up to the United States assuming they maintain 10% growth rates (doubling every 7 years or so).

I think you'll find the IMF thinks otherwise. 2016 is their forecast.
posted by hippybear at 7:30 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


China will surpass us in total economic size, but remember, they have 4x the number of people. They'd need 4x the economy to match our standard of living. It would be insane to imagine that the U.S. could outproduce China by over 4x indefinetly, especially when our government's main goal right now is to preserve the wealth of the wealthy.
posted by delmoi at 7:47 PM on May 24, 2011



I don't think bin Laden is "the victim;" noting that the U.S. invaded a sovereign nation and committed a war crime != "Oh, poor bin Laden; it's just not fair what happened to him."
posted by tzikeh at 2:12 PM on May 24 [5 favorites +] [!]


Right in the article "There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim."

Yeah, he thinks bin Laden was a victim.
posted by SuzySmith at 7:56 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


And one of the scary places that "Teach the controversy" doesn't lead — nice slippery slope, there — is to stoning women to death for adultery.

Says who? If you govern by what god whispers to you in the still night, who says he wouldn't whisper that? You bet governing by divine fiat is a slippery slope. Or governing from a book that has that very instruction in it. Don't get me wrong, it's a long way down the slope, but, as was said above, we're already playing goalkeeper against a bunch of legislative pot shots on abortion.

Actually, it was early after the Afghani war began that it occurred to me that the most solid claim we could make as to moral superiority over the Taliban was on women's rights.

I'll make the standard disclaimer: Bin Laden was a jagoff, and the world would be better without the Taliban.

And I've also got to say that I find Chompsky a piss poor communicator. I think it was him who used to bitch that the arguments he was making were too complex and refined to be expressed in soundbites, but I've listened to him talk for an hour and he didn't make his points well with that much time either.
posted by Trochanter at 8:07 PM on May 24, 2011


Fascinating the IMF suggests that China is about to pass the USA as world economic leader and suddenly DSK, IMF president, is pulled off his flight to Fance and sent to Rikers Island on a rape charge.
posted by humanfont at 8:19 PM on May 24, 2011


Fascinating the IMF suggests that China is about to pass the USA as world economic leader and suddenly DSK, IMF president, is pulled off his flight to Fance and sent to Rikers Island on a rape charge.

That's what happens when you rape people.
posted by Justinian at 8:25 PM on May 24, 2011 [12 favorites]


As much as we may have wished it otherwise, George W. Bush was (for all intents and purposes, questionable Supreme Court decisions notwithstanding) a democratically elected head of state

Questionable Supreme Court decisions notwithstanding, voter fraud in several states notwithstanding, rigged voting machines in multiple states notwithstanding, voter intimidation in at least seven states notwithstanding, and crooked election officials notwithstanding.

There was not one fucking democratic aspect of the 2000 election, only the outward appearance of one (for the people who aren't paying attention, that is).
posted by secondhand pho at 8:27 PM on May 24, 2011


Fascinating the IMF suggests that China is about to pass the USA as world economic leader and suddenly DSK, IMF president, is pulled off his flight to Fance and sent to Rikers Island on a rape charge.

Dude, you're pretty far off the deep end now.
posted by mek at 8:44 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


You keep saying "we" like you speak for me. And you keep saying things like "We don't care about women's rights until it's a justification to invade." That's bullshit. Offices like the GWI do great work around the globe. The blunt fact is that the American government, especially through the state department, does do a huge amount for women's rights around the globe, and that strategic concerns hamstring their efforts in some cases doesn't mean that we don't care about them.

No, it means that women's rights are less important than our geopolitical goals. This is worth zero praise. Let's take the GWI: they don't list their yearly budget, but the most I could find is about 10 million available through USAID. Let's assume it's five times that, which is 50 million per year. That's equal to about a half hour of military expenditures, which is around 2.2 billion per day. Women's rights don't seem to be that high on the list of our national priorities in foreign policy.

It's the same fallacy as pretending that because you're not out there right now fighting for women's rights that you don't care about them — that the same rhetorical charge you were making could be leveled at you, especially as you conflate lack of a positive with a negative, e.g. Why do you care more about scoring petty political points on MeFi than rape? If it was so important to you, you'd be doing something else. It's something you do often, and it's obnoxious.

The goalposts shall stay put at this: the United States will use force to intervene in a humanitarian crisis if and only if it aligns with our geopolitical goals. I'm not saying that the US military not being in Central Africa proves that it supports what is happening in Central Africa, or implicates Americans beyond our funding of the crisis through conflict minerals. I'm saying that our reasons for being in Iraq and Afghanistan have nothing to do with humanitarian issues there. They are convenient talking points after the fact.

Central Africa and other conflicts are examples that support my argument. If you want to save lives, it costs fifty cents per child per day throughout most of Africa. Why isn't the US Government doing that, and spending billions daily on military infrastructure? I think that's a very good question.

For my part, last year I donated 1% of my income to Oxfam, and this year I'm going to try to donate 2.5%. It's not much, but it's something.

What the fuck is wrong with you? You assert a simplistic take on a complex conflict, throw out some bullshit irrelevant half-measures (if this was about minerals, which I don't concede, a recycling program would be a fucking drop in the ocean compared to the amount we need), and then proceed to grandstand and repeatedly malign your supposed opponents with loaded rhetorical questions. If you don't like being asked why you support rape, try not to imply that having different priorities and not accepting your simplistic gloss is tantamount to supporting child murder in Africa.

I was using your immature, ridiculous example to show how immature and ridiculous it was. You tossed out rape as a rhetorical device (which is super classy, by the way) and I illustrated that accepting your assumptions still leads to the same conclusion: the United States does not care about human rights until it suits our interests, and when human rights interfere with our interests, they will be summarily ignored.

Also, you're totally incorrect about recycling rates, at least according to the EPA. They state that only 15% of electronics are recycled by weight, and 80% end up in landfills, which seems rather larger than a "drop in the ocean." Gather the facts before you try to dismiss them.
posted by notion at 9:00 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


What an interesting reaction. The deep end? I'm just making a sarcastic joke. I surprised you are so argumentative, I figured the DSK conspiracy stuff would fit in with the USA=Fascism nonsense. Apparently though in your world the evil powers that be might bomb a few brown people, but they'd never spring a honey trap on a European.
posted by humanfont at 9:01 PM on May 24, 2011


So basically you're saying "Haha just kidding only not really"?
posted by Justinian at 9:04 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oops, 18% are recycled. Typo.
posted by notion at 9:05 PM on May 24, 2011


Ironmouth: seriously? You're attacking the Nuremberg trials? I disagree with your claims about the post-facto nature of the international law under which they were tried, but in any event you're in a Common Law jurisdiction. You know that law is "discovered" all the time, and that acts which were previously thought to be legal (e.g., marital rape) turn out to be punishable. So even if it were the case that it had not yet been known that genocide is illegal always and everywhere, it would still be necessary to prosecute it - because to fail to do so would be to fail to uphold the law.

Also, and I mean no offense by this - if you would have had the Nazis freed then you're a moral monster. On the other hand, if you say "there's no law under which they could have been found guilty, but my disapproval is justification for killing them" then you're a moral monster.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:41 PM on May 24, 2011


Question for all the folks who wanted to see OBL get his day in court - what did you want to see him do with his day in court? Anything? Or is it enough that he just gets it?

I'm sure this will be an unpopular stance to take, but I'm perfectly content with OBL dying the way he did for two reasons. The first is that the constitutional protections we have, the rights we have, exist for reasons. The whole point of due process, a speedy trial, no cruel & unusual punishment, innocent until proven guilty - it's to protect the people who need protecting. I haven't seen anybody (except maybe Chomsky) seriously arguing that OBL was a victim, that he needed protecting, that he really needed to benefit from those rights. Nobody suggests he needed a trial because "Hey, what if he was actually innocent?"

Legally, Ironmouth has extensively pointed out, those rights don't apply to a guy on foreign soil (I have no idea how the whole situation looks under Pakistani law; I would actually be quite curious, if anyone does know), but more than that, morally, they don't need to apply to him. We all find him guilty, even without a trial. We all feel he deserved death, even without a sentence being passed. The conclusion is foregone. So what is the use of due process here? The only reason to give him a trial and a sentence is just to reassure ourselves that they are universally and fairly applied to everyone, because hey, if we apply them to a guy like OBL, we *must* apply them to everyone, right?

Which is the second reason I'm glad he wasn't tried - precisely because a whole segment of the US population would be a lot more comfortable with the idea that we are a just country, that we live up to our ideals, that our Constitution remains a strong source of protection for everyone. One "fair" trial of such an incredibly high-profile figure as OBL would easily overshadow all the hundreds of people still stuck in Gitmo. Or all the people who our system is no longer truly fair to. I'd just as soon not have everyone's outrage over the slow erosion of due process blunted by a meaningless, symbolic trial of one guy who was guaranteed (and who everyone wanted) to wind up dead with or without a long drawn out circus trial. I'll take naked injustice over injustice cloaked by the illusion of justice, any day of the week.
posted by mstokes650 at 10:11 PM on May 24, 2011


Legally, Ironmouth has extensively pointed out, those rights don't apply to a guy on foreign soil ..., but more than that, morally, they don't need to apply to him. We all find him guilty, even without a trial. We all feel he deserved death, even without a sentence being passed. The conclusion is foregone. So what is the use of due process here?

Well, when a group of people decide that someone is guilty and then execute him without a trial, the term we formerly used for this is lynch mob. That's the kind of thing which reams of history and literature have been written about -- the struggle to bring the real rule of law into places where mob rule and lynchings were commonplace.

I'm really not sure how to justify to you the idea that lynch mobs and mob rule are a bad idea, other than to say that I'm glad that I live in a time and place where the trees aren't bearing strange fruit and where we aren't waiting for a new sheriff to come in from St. Louis to try to tame the gangs shooting up the town nightly.

Now, some might argue that we don't have this problem here in the US anymore (although revenge killings and extra-legal beatings take place regularly in the US... sometimes as a substitute for law, and sometimes as sport). But if we have a system in place which relies on the faith of the populace as being valid and worth participating in, which is the basic social contract of government and rule of law, then any time we suspend that system in order to carry out something like this weakens the foundation base upon which it is built. That being, that everyone who falls into the system will be treated to the process which is due them according to that social contract. And this due process, according to the overarching contract, is something which applies to people who even attempt to reject it.

THAT, specifically, is why I'm bothered by this particular action. It represents a specific crossing of a line which weakens the structure which I regard as valuable. Many many people whom we as a nation regard as anathema have received trials of various forms. And while some of those may have been show trials or been entered into with a foregone conclusion, at least we were pretending that there is a process which is due to those people. In this instance, we didn't even bother to pretend, and I feel the foundation is a bit weaker because of it.
posted by hippybear at 10:30 PM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, yeah, Bush or the US isn't as bad as Hitler, Pol Pot, China, Russia, yadda yadda yadda. And then you look at our prisons.
posted by readyfreddy at 10:35 PM on May 24, 2011


ADHIMINEM AWARDS 2

The Slowfiltered Award. Russilwong posts some very nicely written response to Osamas Assasination. If everyone sat on their post like that we would all be a lot smarter.

The "He Saw it Coming Award" goes to Popular Ethics for drawing attention to the new cold war enemy China 50 posts before it become the new thread topic 50 posts later.

koeselitz, nj_subgenius, mstokes650 and russilwvong win "On Topic" Medals for at least mentioning Chomsky in their posts - a waning trend.

Many people mentioned "Rape" in their posts but did not include the word "Chomsky" . A missed opportunity for a medal.

I'm off to read that Chomsky piece now. I assume its about Nazis, Osama, Fascism, Religion, Strawman, China and Rape.
posted by vicx at 10:36 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Trochanter:And I've also got to say that I find Chompsky a piss poor communicator. ... I've listened to him talk for an hour and he didn't make his points well with that much time either.

You should write M.I.T and get them to take that whole professor emeritus thing back. Obviously that whole "father of modern linguistics" thing is a crock. What are your feelings towards Einstein and Hawking?
posted by Poet_Lariat at 10:39 PM on May 24, 2011


I heard a cosmologist refer to Hawking as overrated, so there you go.
posted by lukemeister at 10:45 PM on May 24, 2011


I would condone Bin Laden's killing based on the facts of the first murder of any American citizen that he ever took credit for, and nobody else. Balancing his acts against other war crimes is normalizing the two, which makes good commentary, but lousy justice. And if someone needs a few thousand victims in order to justify his death, then they aren't using reason anyway.
posted by Brian B. at 10:54 PM on May 24, 2011


"The goalposts shall stay put at this: the United States will use force to intervene in a humanitarian crisis if and only if it aligns with our geopolitical goals. I'm not saying that the US military not being in Central Africa proves that it supports what is happening in Central Africa, or implicates Americans beyond our funding of the crisis through conflict minerals. I'm saying that our reasons for being in Iraq and Afghanistan have nothing to do with humanitarian issues there. They are convenient talking points after the fact."

First, you're attempting to prove a negative — that our reasons for being in Iraq and Afghanistan have nothing to do with human rights.

However, the House Resolution Authorizing the Iraq War explicitly mentions Iraq's human rights record, and was prior to the war (hence not "after the fact.").

So, the broadest reading is obviously wrong.

What about a more narrow reading?

You claim that because we haven't intervened in other conflicts, that means that our reasoning in this case regarding the support of human rights is therefore false.

But your conclusion does not follow from your premises — it is trivial to say that the broader context in both Afghanistan and Iraq made intervention possible in ways that aren't in other conflicts.

"Central Africa and other conflicts are examples that support my argument. If you want to save lives, it costs fifty cents per child per day throughout most of Africa. Why isn't the US Government doing that, and spending billions daily on military infrastructure? I think that's a very good question."

It's not a very good question, because the answer is obvious and unilluminating, but even though you're making an argument I'm sympathetic to here, it does not support your conclusion that the humanitarian reasons aren't important, or that humanitarian interventions are inherently bad — which is the persistent bias of both Chomsky and yourself.

"I was using your immature, ridiculous example to show how immature and ridiculous it was. You tossed out rape as a rhetorical device (which is super classy, by the way) and I illustrated that accepting your assumptions still leads to the same conclusion: the United States does not care about human rights until it suits our interests, and when human rights interfere with our interests, they will be summarily ignored."

Actually, you were the one who used rape as a rhetorical device.

I said, "Stoning women to death," and you were the one who went for "raping and mutilating children" as the rhetorical device.

So no, unless you have a time machine, you were not ridiculing my immature example, you were attempting to make an appeal to emotion.

But I'm glad you realized it was an asshole thing to do, and I hope you realize that it's an asshole thing to accuse someone else of. Which is pretty much why I responded by highlighting how absurd the chain of thought was, though I probably should have done so by implying that you supported child mutilation instead of rape if I wanted any claim to being classier than you.
posted by klangklangston at 11:05 PM on May 24, 2011


Well, when a group of people decide that someone is guilty and then execute him without a trial, the term we formerly used for this is lynch mob.

The very concept of justice is a human construct. Now, obviously the whole human isn't about to agree on anything, but ask yourself, if the whole human race (except for one guy!) did unanimously agree that one guy ought to be lynched, is it unjust to lynch the guy? Lynching is a primitive version of justice, and we've improved on it, obviously, but I'm not sure you can argue that just because there's a shiny new version the results from the old version of justice are automatically wrong. Automatically more suspect, sure; there are reasons (and very good ones!) that we stick to trial by jury and not trial by lynch mob. I'm just not convinced that those reasons apply to this particular case. Like I said, I haven't seen anybody questioning whether or not OBL might not've been guilty, or whether he would've/should've gotten off.

Or, to put it on a less abstract level: was there ever even a faint chance of OBL having an unbiased jury of his peers? Is a trial by a jury of 12 people who went into the court room already thinking you ought to die differentiated from a lynch mob by anything other than pomp and ceremony?

In this instance, we didn't even bother to pretend, and I feel the foundation is a bit weaker because of it.

I am, obviously enough, more pragmatic than idealistic; I am more interested in the results a thing achieves than how graceful and civilized it looks like while it's getting them. In my view, the weakness of our foundation lies in how many unjust results our system produces - not whether it at least pretends to be just while it's churning out rights violations. Now you can make an argument that a system which is no longer even capable of pretending to be just has fallen further from one that can still maintain the facade, and I wouldn't disagree with you - but I think all the people in this thread suggesting that it would've been perfectly easy for the US to capture OBL and try him are right, and that's evidence that we can still pretend, we simply chose not to. Now that we've dropped the mask, maybe we can look in the mirror.
posted by mstokes650 at 11:13 PM on May 24, 2011


*the whole human race isn't about to agree on anything (except that I shouldn't leave words out of my posts)
posted by mstokes650 at 11:15 PM on May 24, 2011


Well, when a group of people decide that someone is guilty and then execute him without a trial, the term we formerly used for this is lynch mob.

Right, because a bunch of civilians taking justice into their own hands and getting up a hanging party is exactly like a country's head of state ordering military action against a persistently violent paramilitary antagonist of that country. This comparison is specious in the extreme.

This has nothing to do with American exceptionalism, imperialism, or any of the other political cliches. Any country on earth that is existentially threatened and has the capacity to respond will employ its military to this end. This is a fact of human society, it has been so since ancient times, and will remain so for a long time to come. The entire reason this country is constituted with an executive as well as legislative and judicial branches is to enable such decision-making in response to emergent and often unpredictable situations.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:38 AM on May 25, 2011


Any country on earth that is existentially threatened and has the capacity to respond will employ its military to this end.

And this is exactly what it comes down to. You believe that an unarmed man in a compound in Pakistan is an existential threat to the USA. We believe that permitting extralegal assassinations is an existential threat to the USA. We will have to agree to disagree on this point.
posted by mek at 1:16 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]



And this is exactly what it comes down to. You believe that an unarmed man in a compound in Pakistan is an existential threat to the USA. We believe that permitting extralegal assassinations is an existential threat to the USA. We will have to agree to disagree on this point.


I always assumed that the US would send assassins to take out threats to the country. I always wondered why we never did that to Saddam. It seems more humane that waging war.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 1:19 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mstokes650 wrote: The whole point of due process, a speedy trial, no cruel & unusual punishment, innocent until proven guilty - it's to protect the people who need protecting. I haven't seen anybody (except maybe Chomsky) seriously arguing that OBL [...] really needed to benefit from those rights.

You're absolutely right: the US Bill of Rights isn't there to protect people from the deserved consequences of their acts. It's actually there to protect you. Once you say that anyone may be excluded from the protection of the Bill of Rights then you've effectively neutralised it. If you say that the US Executive may decide whether Anwar al-Awlaki gets a trial then you've effectively said that the same people can decide whether you get a trial.

Here's a real-life example of what has happened to the US legal system. Khalid El-Masri, a German citizen, was kidnapped by the CIA while on a vacation in Macedonia. He was taken to one of your country's secret prisons in Afghanistan and interrogated and tortured for some four months before being released - they had kidnapped the wrong guy. These are of course his allegations - your country's courts refuse to hear his case because your government has claimed that a trial would reveal state secrets.

Fine, I accept that OBL was a wretch and that the world is better without him. The problem I have with his assassination isn't that he was killed; it's that your government has decided that there are people it can kill with impunity, either because they self-evidently deserve it or because it can stymie any investigation by claiming state secrets privilege. That should be something you're concerned about; not because you're another Osama bin Laden but because you, too, might go hiking in Macedonia one day.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:29 AM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Bin Laden was an enemy commander actively directing enemy forces against American troops on at least four fronts. He was located on hostile territory, and there was better than even odds that the ISI and/or Pakistani Taliban would come in, guns blazing, to protect him or to allow him to escape the second they caught wind of what was going down.

That's not "extra-legal assassination" by any sane definition. It was a commando raid to knock out a major c-and-c center, and to remove leadership from the very active Al Qaeda organization.

It's not like he had surrendered, or that Al Qaeda had admitted defeat and was demobilized. There's still a shooting war going on, kids. It's like saying we were morally bankrupt for killing A.P. Hill at Petersberg instead of capturing him. It's stupid.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:50 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


The whole point of due process, a speedy trial, no cruel & unusual punishment, innocent until proven guilty - it's to protect the people who need protecting.

Which is Everybody, without restriction. That's why the Fifth Amendment:


No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.


Now, we can argue about whether or not we're at war, etc, but the important point is that it doesn't say, "No-one who needs to be protected", it says "No person". That means: No Person. Can't get much clearer than that. It *doesn't* say, "No Citizen", does it? And it *doesn't* say, "No Person on US Territory" does it?

Where did people get this idea that it says these things, which it clearly does not say?

that he really needed to benefit from those rights. Nobody suggests he needed a trial because "Hey, what if he was actually innocent?"

Putting aside the implied need to benefit from a right, and that benefits are derived from privileges, not rights generally, I think he needed a trial because it's a good idea to be arraigned on charges, tried, and convicted *before* being executed for your alleged crimes. You know. Just to make sure everything's in order, since you can't un-execute someone.

Legally, Ironmouth has extensively pointed out, those rights don't apply to a guy on foreign soil

Well, I've seen that claim made, but haven't yet heard any responses to my criticism of it earlier, so I don't think you can appeal to that authority so handily.
posted by mikelieman at 2:42 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think that there's no inherent contradiction or hypocrisy in acknowledging the seemingly endless malfeasance in much of the foreign policies of the United States over the past 40 years while still being relieved the Bin Laden is not only dead, but was disposed of like chum.
posted by Hickeystudio at 4:29 AM on May 25, 2011


You're absolutely right: the US Bill of Rights isn't there to protect people from the deserved consequences of their acts. It's actually there to protect you. Once you say that anyone may be excluded from the protection of the Bill of Rights then you've effectively neutralised it. If you say that the US Executive may decide whether Anwar al-Awlaki gets a trial then you've effectively said that the same people can decide whether you get a trial.

Slight difference between planning attacks on the US and being Joe citizen. I'm not sure why you're insisting on equating the two. I get what you saying, but it you're not selling it with that comparison, there's a huge amount of difference between the two.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:35 AM on May 25, 2011


Brandon Blatcher wrote: Slight difference between planning attacks on the US and being Joe citizen. I'm not sure why you're insisting on equating the two.

Because how do we know whether Joe Citizen is planning an attack on the USA? That's exactly what happened with Khalid El-Masri: the CIA confused him with Khalid al-Masri. El_Masri (the innocent one) was allegedly tortured and raped at your country's behest. I think we can presume that your government was really, really sure they had caught the right guy. Except ... in fact they hadn't. They made a mistake and (human nature being what it is) they will undoubtedly make mistakes again. So if you say that terrorist suspects don't get civil rights remember that you might be a suspect some day, as might I or anyone else. If that happens we will still deserve a trial, even if the government is really, really sure we're bad guys. Because maybe it's wrong.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:01 AM on May 25, 2011


First, you're attempting to prove a negative — that our reasons for being in Iraq and Afghanistan have nothing to do with human rights.

However, the House Resolution Authorizing the Iraq War explicitly mentions Iraq's human rights record, and was prior to the war (hence not "after the fact.").

So, the broadest reading is obviously wrong.


No, you're just swallowing political rhetoric hook, line, and sinker. If China listed our prison system as inhumane in their resolution to invade, does that mean they sincerely care about human rights in the United States? You're subscribing to mind-blowing naivete. Every empire lists human rights and other invented and/or skewed stories about their enemy for propoganda purposes. Remember the little girl crying under oath, claiming that Iraqi troops left babies on the floor to die? That was as lie. So were the stories about the "human shredder" and conveniently enough, when Saddam did stand trial, the dirty little secret was that he got the bioweapons to murder his own people from the United States.

The dungeon like prisons where torture, rape, and murder were common were absolutely true. And now we have taken Saddam's place as their operator, specifically instructing our troops not to report human rights abuses.

Not only that, but the US denied that Iraq was responsible when the Halabja gas attacks occurred, since they happened to be our ally at that point. We removed them from the State Sponsors of Terror list in 1982 to sell them weapons, and coaxed Saddam into a war which would eventually kill a million people. All because we didn't like the new government of Iran which had overthrown our own dictator in 1979.

Do I need to continue into the misery and death our sanctions caused in that country from 1991-2003? That fucking pronouncement against human rights in Iraq could not be more empty, more full of hypocrisy, or more delusional. But I'm not surprised at all that you sheepishly accepted it on it's face.

What about a more narrow reading?

You claim that because we haven't intervened in other conflicts, that means that our reasoning in this case regarding the support of human rights is therefore false.

But your conclusion does not follow from your premises — it is trivial to say that the broader context in both Afghanistan and Iraq made intervention possible in ways that aren't in other conflicts.


It's trivial to say because it's bullshit. We invaded Iraq because we wanted access and control over their oil. We invaded Afghanistan out of simple bloodlust. We did not invade Central Africa because they are still selling us conflict minerals, and we don't have to deal with the consequences.

How do I know this?

In 2000, was Congress talking about invading Iraq or Afghanistan to solve their human rights issues? No. We didn't care. In 1994, did we talk about invading Rwanda to stop the genocide? Nope, didn't give a shit. We wouldn't get anything out of the deal.

If September 11th hadn't happened, we'd still be making vague pronouncements against their human rights record, while saying jack shit about Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and the list goes on. Hell, US foreign policy is so depraved that we used the murder of our own citizens to justify a resource grab in Iraq. Ponder that for a second.

There is not a single example that disproves my thesis that the United States rarely does anything material about human rights in the world unless it's congruent with our business interests. If you charted how much money we spend on humanitarian issues versus our military invasions of oil rich nations, you'd see this fact as plain as day. Money talks, bullshit political rhetoric walks.

"Central Africa and other conflicts are examples that support my argument. If you want to save lives, it costs fifty cents per child per day throughout most of Africa. Why isn't the US Government doing that, and spending billions daily on military infrastructure? I think that's a very good question."

It's not a very good question, because the answer is obvious and unilluminating, but even though you're making an argument I'm sympathetic to here, it does not support your conclusion that the humanitarian reasons aren't important, or that humanitarian interventions are inherently bad — which is the persistent bias of both Chomsky and yourself.


It's an excellent question, but you don't like it because the answer is so painfully obvious.

Humanitarian interventions don't have to include invasion. We don't do much about the problems in Africa. We do virtually nothing about the problems in Africa compared to our expenditures in the Middle East.

Actually, you were the one who used rape as a rhetorical device.

I said, "Stoning women to death," and you were the one who went for "raping and mutilating children" as the rhetorical device.

So no, unless you have a time machine, you were not ridiculing my immature example, you were attempting to make an appeal to emotion.


No, I was illustrating the reality of American foreign policy. The rapes and murders in the DRC are no fucking joke. The asshole move you pulled was projecting your own guilt or misinterpretation about my intention, and claiming that I supported such violence, which I do not. I don't support that sort of violence for any reason, not even against our most hated enemies, because I have principles and values that supersede my baser animal instincts.

When you compare the abhorrent practice of stoning people to death, it does not even chart compared to the list of death and mayhem caused by United States foreign policy. Our body count for the past five decades of unnecessary, illegal invasions in in the millions, and every single one was justified by "humanitarian" causes. This has been the case since our invasion of the Philippines in 1898.

This doesn't make America an outlier in empires. We behave exactly as other empires before us, destroying nations and killing people when it suits our national interests. It's quite repulsive and naive to pretend that vague humanitarian pronouncements backed up with less than pennies compared to our military investments carry any meaning.
posted by notion at 6:15 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Question for all the folks who wanted to see OBL get his day in court - what did you want to see him do with his day in court?

Receive zealous representation by defense counsel - said counsel to be appointed for him if he could not afford it. Thanks for asking.

I am, obviously enough, more pragmatic than idealistic; I am more interested in the results a thing achieves than how graceful and civilized it looks like while it's getting them.

Curiously enough, this also describes a lynch mob.
posted by Trurl at 6:38 AM on May 25, 2011


If you say that the US Executive may decide whether Anwar al-Awlaki gets a trial then you've effectively said that the same people can decide whether you get a trial.

I am not in any way suggesting that the US Executive should be able to decide whether anyone gets a trial. What I am suggesting, in fact, is quite the opposite - that the US Executive should not be able to hold hundreds of people without trials, and that we should be mad as hell about that. What I don't think is that giving a trial to one guy, especially one whose trial results were hardly a question, would've made things better. What happened to El-Khasri should never have happened; what happened to OBL would've happened sooner or later anyways. Yet somehow it's bin Laden's death that proves how evil the American Empire is.

Basically: as far as I'm concerned, giving a trial to literally any single individual in Guantanamo who might actually be innocent is a hell of a lot more important than giving OBL a trial, morally. And practically, the latter helps keep people outraged about the former, so much the better.

on preview:

Curiously enough, this also describes a lynch mob.

"Yeah, you know who else cared about results? HITLER!"
posted by mstokes650 at 6:52 AM on May 25, 2011


"Yeah, you know who else cared about results? HITLER!"

Fascist states always promise to return civil liberties once the shadowy enemy is vanquished. I'm not sure why you think it's unimportant.
posted by notion at 6:56 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, and I mean no offense by this - if you would have had the Nazis freed then you're a moral monster. On the other hand, if you say "there's no law under which they could have been found guilty, but my disapproval is justification for killing them" then you're a moral monster.

To defend Ironmouth, he repeatedly has said that he supported Nurenburg. He was making a whole other point with his initial comments on Nurenburg but then that spiraled off into its own discussion and I think the original context was lost.
posted by Falconetti at 7:00 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because how do we know whether Joe Citizen is planning an attack on the USA? That's exactly what happened with Khalid El-Masri: the CIA confused him with Khalid al-Masri. El_Masri (the innocent one) was allegedly tortured and raped at your country's behest.

Again, slight difference between Joe Citizen and Anwar al-Awlaki or Osama Bin Laden.

A lot of times what I see in these arguments is the scare tactic of IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU or THIS THE END OF AMERICA. It's more of a gray area in, IMO, where moral absolutes of "we should never ever do this" fall apart and don't hold a lot of weight. It's ugly and dirty, no doubt, with plenty of room for questioning. But if it comes down to putting a bullet in an unarmed Bin Laden's head or trying to drag him off the trial, I'm not gonna lose any sleep over the former.

As to Khalid El-Masri, that was certainly a mistake, it shouldn't have happened and it sucks that it did.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:09 AM on May 25, 2011


I'd suggest broadening your literature a bit, you're working with some pretty common assumptions here, but they're categorically incorrect.

Look, maybe I've been unfair, but its annoying that Chomsky gets to wrap himself in anarchist cred when it suits him for a particular audience, but then gets the benefit of distance from any association with anarchist thought when it's rhetorically convenient.
And it would just be really helpful to me if Chomsky would put forth some kind of positive vision for what a just/legitimate/humane state might look like.

Not just in terms of the general principles, but also in terms of the actual organizational structures and processes required. It seems to me that his basic conceit is this: We've got to critique the state power structure status quo whatever it might be because, odds are, it's an arrangement that's wrongly exploiting someone or otherwise abusing its authority to advance the interests of some specific power bloc to the detriment of others. I don't wholly disagree with that perspective, but as a starting point, it leaves too many other questions unanswered, and doesn't offer any clear guidance as to what the ultimate political goal should be. Some anarchists consider that a feature, not a bug, but to me, it's reckless and irresponsible.

Chomsky's wonderfully adept at diagnosing the general problems (though he sometimes gets carried away in the rush to present more evidence for his case, and arguably, he doesn't win very many new converts), but it seems to me he doesn't offer any serious suggestions for how to remedy the situation on anything more than an ad hoc basis. What kind of systemic reform does Chomsky support, specifically? It's one thing to break with the anarchist herd and acknowledge that some form of welfare state is required, but as far as presenting a positive, practical vision for reforming the state, Chomsky tends to be very, very vague.

And when there's ambiguity about the goals a political message serves, that message can be twisted around to serve other goals. So, for example, momentum for any serious populist movement to better use the state as a tool for remedying social injustice is undermined by the idea that states in the abstract just might be inherently, irredeemably corruptible. Why bother reforming the state when it might ultimately be better to dissolve all states? I don't think Chomsky necessarily wants that, but he doesn't offer a strong positive case on the other side.

Chomsky seems to believe skepticism of state authority is enough, and I don't think it is, because we've got plenty of that on the right, too. That's the one thing everyone seems to have in common these days: skepticism of state authority in principle. But instead of offering specific, concrete proposals about ways to go about forming a more just state, Chomsky leaves the prescription so vague I for one can't tell what it is.

What I would personally like to see from Chomsky are some specific, positive suggestions for how to make the state more legitimate, just and humane. And I'd also like it if not everyone on both sides of the political debate seemed to think it might be better to drown the state in a bathtub, because whether Chomsky realizes it or not, a lot of those radical right wing privatists in their secret hearts think of themselves as anarchists more or less pursuing the same goals (Norquist famously admires and has a portrait of Mao on his wall), only in practice rather than in theory, and now rather than later. That's why, at least rhetorically, "freedom" is so high on their list of values, too.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:20 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fascist states always promise to return civil liberties once the shadowy enemy is vanquished. I'm not sure why you think it's unimportant.

That has nothing at all to do with what Trurl was saying, which was a pretty straightforward "You know who else cared about [thing]? [Bad people]!" guilt-by-association rhetorical cheapshot. I just picked Hitler as the most extreme and absurd (and arguably, common) example of that ridiculous tactic in action.

I'm really not sure how you got to a fascist states discussion from any of my comments, let alone the utterly baffling idea that I'm unconcerned with civil liberties being eroded. Are you actually reading peoples' comments, or just skimming them looking for something to be outraged at?
posted by mstokes650 at 7:31 AM on May 25, 2011


saulgoodman: "whether Chomsky realizes it or not, a lot of those radical right wing privatists in their secret hearts think of themselves as anarchists more or less pursuing the same goals"

From what I have read (admittedly long ago), Chomsky explicitly addresses this. He is an anarchist in principle and pragmatically opposed to right wing devolution efforts in the current praxis. When I saw him speak I heard him criticize the "starve the beast" philosophy as reactionary and regressive, and have never heard any indication that he supports it.

My impression is that he is really not the "big ideas" type of political activist. He has some guiding principles and is mainly interested in how to intervene in the current political situation for expedient ethical ends, even if the momentary means contradict those principles. So he is an anarchist but he supports federal law or international law when the imposition of that law in the here and now has ethical benefits.
posted by idiopath at 7:52 AM on May 25, 2011


Fascist states always promise to return civil liberties once the shadowy enemy is vanquished

And these are the other characteristics they have in common:

1. Powerful and continuing nationalism.
2. Disdain for the recognition of human rights.
3. Identification of enemies and scapegoats as a unifying cause.
4. Supremacy of the military.
6. Rampant sexism.
7. Obsession with national security.
8. Interwined religion and government.
9. Protection of corporate power.
10. Suppression of labor power.
11. Disdain for intellectuals and the arts
12. Obsession with crime and punishment.
13. Rampant cronyism and corruption.
14. Fraudolent elections.

From this book, chapter 10, Christian Fascism and the War on Reason.
posted by francesca too at 8:06 AM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


what Trurl was saying, which was a pretty straightforward "You know who else cared about [thing]? [Bad people]!" guilt-by-association rhetorical

It's not guilt-by-association. It's argument by analogy.

You're sure that bin Laden blew up the World Trade Center, so you don't care that he was executed without a trial.

Lynch mobs are sure that the black man raped that white woman, so they don't care that he was executed without trial.

You think there's a difference because some black men are falsely accused and bin Laden... well, he's obviously guilty!

You see the problem I hope.
posted by Trurl at 8:15 AM on May 25, 2011


Poet_Lariat, I heard a talk Chompsky gave on the Berkeley website. It was extremely unfocused, jumping from one outrage to another, using incendiary language, making claim after extraordinary claim of United States atrocities, and declaring every other sentence that "This is all documented, you can look this up."

I had the impression that he's been talking about this stuff so long that he can't be bothered to actually make his case anymore. Or that he only bothers to speak to the choir.

I don't know what he's like when he's speaking in his field of endeavour, maybe he's better there.

I think Hawking is a great communicator. Einstein, I don't know. I don't think I've read anything by him.
posted by Trochanter at 8:16 AM on May 25, 2011


It would be awesome if America were actually turning into a fascist state. For those who pay attention to history, there's nothing more handy than when history repeats itself; because when it does, understanding current events is as simple as applying a set of known categories and attempting a familiar solution.

Unfortunately, as I said above, there are different kinds of evil. And the evils we face now are not the same as the evils we faced a generation ago. The second world war left us some unpleasant and difficult legacies, one of which is the habit of seeing fascism as the purest and most refined form of evil, and of seeing fascism in every regime in which we might see evil at all. As convenient as it would be to continue to see the world as a conflict between fascism and freedom, I don't think that apposition is a very useful one at this point in history. In particular it doesn't seem to me to draw the real injustices of the current system; moreover, it induces in us a habit of misremembering the past.
posted by koeselitz at 8:28 AM on May 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Trurl: "You're sure that bin Laden blew up the World Trade Center, so you don't care that he was executed without a trial."

Well, it's complicated here, much more complicated than Chomsky's dismissal of bin Laden's guilt allows. bin Laden claimed he was guilty. He confessed to the act, and he claimed responsibility for the deaths of thousands on September 11. Now, it's entirely possible to laugh off these claims as the rantings of a lunatic, but I don't believe Osama bin Laden was a lunatic; I respect who and what he was enough to believe that he was indeed capable of such a thing.

Noam Chomsky seems to take it as a given that Muslims, or people who take themselves to be Muslims, are simply not capable of destruction and atrocity on the scale that the United States is. That seems somewhat foolhardy to me.

This is not to say that executing bin Laden was or is the correct course of action; but Chomsky doesn't get as far as that question, and in fact seems to imply that it might be just fine to covertly execute those like Bush who are actually guilty of really monstrous crimes. Chomsky instead argues that bin Laden is probably an innocent crank whose rantings can be disregarded. I don't know if that's fair. It sounds about as fair as the widespread insistence just after the tragedy that the perpetrators of September 11, men who apparently did not flinch from a certain fiery death in an airplane crash, were "cowards."
posted by koeselitz at 9:21 AM on May 25, 2011


It sounds about as fair as the widespread insistence just after the tragedy that the perpetrators of September 11, men who apparently did not flinch from a certain fiery death in an airplane crash, were "cowards."

Careful dude. Every time you mention that, Bill Maher loses a TV show.
posted by Trochanter at 9:49 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


You see the problem I hope.

You see a problem; I see an opportunity, an opportunity for you! Find a street corner, or a bar, or an internet forum, and start shouting "That goddamned Obama lynched Osama Bin Laden!" Better yet, find one or more African-Americans old enough to remember actual lynchings and go shout at them. Let me know how that works out.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:49 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


In particular it doesn't seem to me to draw the real injustices of the current system; moreover, it induces in us a habit of misremembering the past.

I get where you're coming from, but I'm not sure I agree. In the 30's and 40's, the IWW and the American labor movement certainly characterized the domestic political forces that opposed their movement as "fascist" and they also lumped the US varieties of authoritarianism and economic elitism in together with the European modes.

Consider Woody Guthrie's popular labor song "All You Fascists" (written in 1942): It's impossible to analyze those lyrics without seeing that, from the perspective of the time, the domestic political forces that supported Jim Crow and opposed the labor movement were viewed as of a kind with the European fascist movement. We may have since refined our understanding of the term, and its only natural the term has taken on more precise, specialized senses in the academic realm, but to me it seems the oft-criticized use of the term by contemporary leftists to describe domestic right wing political forces in the US is entirely consistent with the historical uses of the term in popular political discourse. I think all the hair-splitting over the use of the term is largely a bi-product of cultural revisionism and hindsight.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:04 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're sure that bin Laden blew up the World Trade Center, so you don't care that he was executed without a trial. Lynch mobs are sure that the black man raped that white woman, so they don't care that he was executed without trial. You think there's a difference because some black men are falsely accused and bin Laden... well, he's obviously guilty!

What is this I don't even

*takes deep breath*

How do I say this nicely? This is silly. Really, really silly. I imagine it's probably pretty offensive, too, but I can't and won't speak for black folks on this.

If you're arguing that bin Laden should have had a trial because, you know -- maybe he's not actually guilty, and we totally killed an innocent man who just happened to send us tapes claiming responsibility for the attacks over a ten year period, you may as well just shove it in all the way to the shaft and tell us that 9/11 was an inside job. Frankly, it would have saved people a lot of time.
posted by Amanojaku at 10:15 AM on May 25, 2011


If you're arguing that bin Laden should have had a trial because, you know -- maybe he's not actually guilty...

It's called "presumption of innocence".

Look it up.
posted by Trurl at 10:44 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's called "presumption of innocence".

Look it up.


When soldiers kill other soldiers or official on a battle field, does the presumption of innocence factor into it, or are there different legal standards that apply to active combat and combatants in a declared military conflict?

I know it's still popular to say that congress never really declared war, but I've got a clause of the "Authorization for Use of Force Against Terrorists" legislation that congress passed on Sept 18th that explicitly says otherwise right here:
(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements-
(1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
(2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this resolution supercedes [sic] any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.
If you look up that section of the War Powers Resolution referenced in the law, you'll find this clause basically means congress was explicitly saying that this resolution was meant to be the legal equivalent of a formal declaration of war.

I have yet to hear a single good argument for why this resolution was not a formal declaration of war against al-Qaeda (and by extension, its leader). I've heard lots of persuasive ones for why congress shouldn't have authorized such an open-ended military commitment, and how it's not typical to declare war on non-state actors, etc., but legally, it seems to me the case is pretty clear: we are and have been in a formally declared war against Islamic terrorists like al-Qaeda for years now, and since we've yet to enter into any kind of peace agreement with al-Qaeda, it's pretty clear that legally, we still are.

You and I might not like it, but from a strictly legal perspective, we are very much formally at war with the organization that Bin Laden led.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:21 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


saulgoodman: There's room for debate. Ward Thomas (quoted above) takes a similar position:
While counter-terror efforts must use an array of strategies, non-violent means may not always suffice. Terrorists are immune to most forms of diplomatic and economic pressure and may be beyond the effective reach of judicial procedures. They are difficult to apprehend and to indict and convict without compromising intelligence sources that are important for intelligence gathering to preventing future attacks.... If these individuals are taken alive, of course, they must be tried, but the threat posed by their organizations, while eluding easy categorization, is better understood in military than in criminal justice terms.
David Cole, a prominent critic of the Bush administration:
... the conflict with al Qaeda is not a traditional armed conflict. Al Qaeda is not a state, has not signed the Geneva Conventions, is difficult to identify, and targets civilians. Nevertheless, we are in an armed conflict with al Qaeda. The “global war on terror” is an ill-conceived metaphor or slogan, but the military conflict with al Qaeda is real. Al Qaeda declared war on the United States, and has attacked it both at home and abroad. The attacks of 9/11 were of such a scale that both NATO and the United Nations General Assembly recognized that a military response in self-defense was justified. Approximately 120 nations signed on to the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda’s leader.
Joanne Mariner of Human Rights Watch responds to Cole, arguing that criminal justice processes are adequate:
The first concern—that evidence and testimony collected on the battlefield would be inadmissible in court—is simply a red herring. Alleged al Qaeda operatives are nearly always detained during law enforcement operations, not military confrontations. They are arrested by police in Pakistan, stopped by immigration authorities in Egypt, or—like Ali Saleh al-Marri—picked up at their homes in the United States by the FBI. Moreover, in those cases where evidence or testimony is obtained in an actual battlefield setting, the courts have never rigidly or formalistically refused to admit it. They have not insisted that Miranda rights be read on a battlefield, for example, but instead have taken a practical and flexible approach to ensuring that the right against self-incrimination is respected.

The need for secrecy, while compelling in some instances, is hardly unique to cases involving al Qaeda.
posted by russilwvong at 11:30 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


"No, you're just swallowing political rhetoric hook, line, and sinker. If China listed our prison system as inhumane in their resolution to invade, does that mean they sincerely care about human rights in the United States? You're subscribing to mind-blowing naivete. Every empire lists human rights and other invented and/or skewed stories about their enemy for propoganda purposes. Remember the little girl crying under oath, claiming that Iraqi troops left babies on the floor to die? That was as lie. So were the stories about the "human shredder" and conveniently enough, when Saddam did stand trial, the dirty little secret was that he got the bioweapons to murder his own people from the United States."

Look, I'm sorry that you can't understand reason and argumentation — it would make it a lot easier for you to prove the things that you assert, rather than just waving your hands around and yelling "Propoganda!"

Asserting that there was no humanitarian justification for either of the wars is a lie, and a lie that's easily disproven, and I've done so. None of the things you've said disprove the statement that I've made, and all you can offer is more sound and fury, signifying nothing. And it would take a perverse stupidity to insist that there were no human rights abuses in Iraq prior to the invasion.

Let's parse out your idiotic China example — First off, there'd have to be a demonstrable difference between the human rights record of China's prisons and ours. I don't think you can seriously make the argument that the norms of punishment under the Taliban or Hussein are the same as ours, not without coming off as more of a deranged idiot than you already do. But let's assume that China stops locking up dissidents and reforms its system of justice, and that the norms in the US get generally worse, so that there is a real humanitarian crisis. Is it likely that China would invade solely over that? No, of course not. Is it possible that humanitarian reasons could influence their decision? Yes, of course. Despite the view of China as a monolith, there are still domestic politics to consider, and there are definitely members of the central committee that wouldn't agree to invade without a moral reason to do so as well.

So yes, even as other motivations play into the decision — and factors such as practicality and likely consequences would likely be controlling — it's entirely possible for a sincere humanitarian concern to partly motivate a war.

"It's trivial to say because it's bullshit. We invaded Iraq because we wanted access and control over their oil. We invaded Afghanistan out of simple bloodlust. We did not invade Central Africa because they are still selling us conflict minerals, and we don't have to deal with the consequences.

How do I know this?

In 2000, was Congress talking about invading Iraq or Afghanistan to solve their human rights issues? No. We didn't care. In 1994, did we talk about invading Rwanda to stop the genocide? Nope, didn't give a shit. We wouldn't get anything out of the deal.
"

You sound like a child. "Simple bloodlust"?

Again, that we invaded Iraq at least in part due to their oil doesn't mean that other motivations were absent. But frankly, that's what critics said of the first American Gulf War, and that turned out not to be true — the sanctions effectively barred the US from Iraq's oil. And as a strategy, it wasn't very effective — production went down after the invasion of Iraq, and it destabilized oil supplies globally, leading to a spike in prices.

But in 2000, no one was talking about invading anywhere — one of Bush's consistent criticisms of Clinton was that Clinton was interventionalist abroad, most notably in Bosnia. Public opinion was against interventionism, most strikingly because of the failures in Mogadishu. Clinton had also sought to work through international compacts (UN, NATO) in a way that Bush was contemptuous of.

However, beginning in the late '90s, there were people advocating for military intervention in Afghanistan, mostly through the provision of troops and materiel. The Taliban had refused to surrender Osama Bin Laden — contrary to both your and Chomsky's naive assertions of the later offer (it does amuse me that you're so willfully blind to the idea of competing motivations in the west, yet so wide-eyed in regarding the Taliban, who had repeatedly negotiated in bad faith, as likely to turn over Bin Laden after September 11). Indeed, the sanctions were increasing in part due to the Taliban's attacks on civilian centers in the northeast of Afghanistan, and their refusal to turn over Bin Laden at multiple 2001 deadlines (January 11 being the first).

That we did not intervene in Rwanda is something that both Clinton and Gore have said they deeply regret, and our lack of intervention there was largely due to it being unpopular politically, again due to the failures of Somalian intervention (where, from speaking to someone who was deployed with the UN there, was viewed on the ground as a failure of international organizations to be able to set a clear mission objective, and was viewed by many domestically as a trap Bush I had set for Clinton).

However, it would be idiotic to assert that we got involved in Somalia for any great hope of material gains, and likewise the Bosnian conflict.

Further, simply looking for material motivations shows itself to be a poor lens when historical conflicts are considered. It's hard to argue that America's involvement in Vietnam was seriously motivated by acquisition; instead it was a failed conception of cold war ideals. Our involvement in World War II was helpful for our economy, but it's hard to see that as the primary motivation. Even looking at the other side — while economic concerns motivated Hitler's aggressive wars, the mobilization was different in that it was supposed to be permanent and perpetual. Even earlier, Bismark's conquest of Schlesswig-Holstein and the Alsace region were motivated by a desire to shape domestic opinion and preserve the untenable position of the German empire. Neither was primarily an economic war.

So, you've oversimplified US and international politics so that you can keep chanting a dogma to yourself that confirms your own biases, rather than proving or demonstrating anything.

We invaded Afghanistan for a host of reasons, and mineral rights are at best a small component of that. We invaded Iraq for a host of reasons, and that oil was undoubtedly one of them (much more for Poland than for the US) does not mean that there were not other motivations, nor that oil was the controlling one. We have not invaded other countries for a host of other reasons, ranging from domestic sentiment to logistical problems (invading Central Africa would be incredibly hard compared to the relative "ease" of Iraq and Afghanistan; the OAS is the dominant peace-keeping group in Africa, not NATO).

And, not to keep harping on it, but that we have not intervened in all situations in which we could make a humanitarian case for it does not mean that our humanitarian reasons are specious when we do — it simply means that humanitarian reasons are not the sole reason for invasion, and do not necessarily overcome other utilitarian arguments against.

"No, I was illustrating the reality of American foreign policy. The rapes and murders in the DRC are no fucking joke. The asshole move you pulled was projecting your own guilt or misinterpretation about my intention, and claiming that I supported such violence, which I do not. I don't support that sort of violence for any reason, not even against our most hated enemies, because I have principles and values that supersede my baser animal instincts."

Well, no. I'd hoped that you'd apologize for attempting to paint me as the one using rape rhetoric to force a weak point, but you're too dishonest to admit to that and too stupid to see the point that I was making by reversing it. But again, you were the one that first used rape as a rhetorical point, not me, and it's shameful that you can't admit that you were wrong to do so. Your intention was clear — to make an appeal to emotion in an unrelated argument in order to make your point sound more serious and compelling that it was, and I pointed out that by following your logic that lack of intervention in something terrible was tantamount to supporting it, you support rape. So while you may have principles, they don't include not exploiting rape for rhetorical effect.

Or you're a hypocrite. Either or.

"When you compare the abhorrent practice of stoning people to death, it does not even chart compared to the list of death and mayhem caused by United States foreign policy. Our body count for the past five decades of unnecessary, illegal invasions in in the millions, and every single one was justified by "humanitarian" causes. This has been the case since our invasion of the Philippines in 1898."

Actually, and you can scroll up if you need to refresh your memory, what happened was that Poet_Lariat compared American religious right to the Taliban, and I pointed out that was offensive and stupid by reminding her of what the relative scales were. You then responded with something irrelevant that allowed you to rant about US foreign policy again, over the bodies of raped and mutilated children, because you are incapable of making a reasonable point and need to use the crutch of other people's suffering.

So, given that you've misrepresented what happened a couple of times in order to attack the US, I have to either conclude that you have no interest in the truth of the conversation — which is, again, right here for anyone to read — or that you are not bright enough to follow it. Either way, it sure does make sense that you lionize Chomsky.
posted by klangklangston at 11:32 AM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


When soldiers kill other soldiers or official on a battle field, does the presumption of innocence factor into it...

bin Laden was not a soldier on a battlefield. He was a private citizen executed in his home.

And it's not "atypical" for Congress to declare war on non-state actors. It is unprecedented. And that's because it's a concept they invented for the sake of convenience.

In any case, I'm not especially concerned with the illegality of the assassination. We're long past the point where the executive feels the least bit constrained by what the law says. [Google "libya 60 days".]

The main issue is that it's immoral and - as even imperial triumphalists ought to be concerned about - likely to bite us in the ass.
posted by Trurl at 11:56 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


klang, you need to address these points:

The dungeon like prisons where torture, rape, and murder were common were absolutely true. And now we have taken Saddam's place as their operator, specifically instructing our troops not to report human rights abuses.

Not only that, but the US denied that Iraq was responsible when the Halabja gas attacks occurred, since they happened to be our ally at that point. We removed them from the State Sponsors of Terror list in 1982 to sell them weapons, and coaxed Saddam into a war which would eventually kill a million people. All because we didn't like the new government of Iran which had overthrown our own dictator in 1979.

Do I need to continue into the misery and death our sanctions caused in that country from 1991-2003? That fucking pronouncement against human rights in Iraq could not be more empty, more full of hypocrisy, or more delusional. But I'm not surprised at all that you sheepishly accepted it on it's face.


I know it's more comfortable for you to skip over the meat of my argument, but I'm not going to waste time addressing your points if you can't address mine.
posted by notion at 12:32 PM on May 25, 2011


He was finally located in a heavily fortified, secure paramilitary complex. The man basically always waged war out of his home, if you want to call it that, since his own role was more that of a general than that of an infantryman, and his home was a de facto command center.

Command centers and the leaders who occupy them aren't viewed as out of bounds during other kinds of military engagement, so why should the fact that Bin Laden's command center also happened to be his current personal residence change the basic legal equation (assuming that, like it or not, you accept the legality of congress' formal declaration of war).

It's not as if the heavily secured compound Bin Laden was found living in was his ancestral home or anything; it wasn't even located in his home country. And the place had all kinds of extraordinary security measures in place and barbed wire topped containment walls--in other words, all the trappings of a paramilitary command center or safe house, rather than a private residence.

And if he was killed in what was effectively a military command center, he was killed on the battlefield.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:34 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


saul, according to your logic, the only thing that prevents al Qaeda from legally murdering Obama is that they lack the military capability to accomplish that task.
posted by notion at 12:36 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


"And it's not "atypical" for Congress to declare war on non-state actors. It is unprecedented. And that's because it's a concept they invented for the sake of convenience."

First off, they didn't declare war but rather authorized force. Second off, it's not unprecedented — see the Letters of Marque (right next to the war powers in the Constitution).

Further, as Al Qaida declared war on the US, a precedent can be seen in the two Barbary wars against pirates in the Middle East, who were generally a collusion of state and non-state actors.
posted by klangklangston at 12:36 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's called "presumption of innocence."

Look it up.


Yeah, this isn't getting any less ridiculous. This argument is circular:

"We should have arrested him."
"You arrest criminals. Killing 3,000 people and declaring war on the US is actually, well, an act of war."
"But how do we know he was responsible? We didn't arrest him."

And it's not "atypical" for Congress to declare war on non-state actors. It is unprecedented. And that's because it's a concept they invented for the sake of convenience.

Not so. Every conflict against rebels, militia, mercenaries, or guerrillas, between ethnic or religious groups, and civil wars where only one state exists, is a war against non-state actors. Just because this is the first time we've been attacked by non-state actors and declared war in response doesn't mean we just invented the concept, as the rest of the world throughout all of recorded history can attest.

Get used to this concept: the time when someone declares war on Xe/Blackwater is probably not too far off.

I am brought back to my earlier observation: I have yet to see a solution from critics of this what wouldn't result in those same critics complaining about that, too, had it been implemented.
posted by Amanojaku at 12:45 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


saul, according to your logic, the only thing that prevents al Qaeda from legally murdering Obama is that they lack the military capability to accomplish that task.

Except that al-Qaeda isn't recognized as a legitimate nation or other legal entity with a sovereign right to defend itself under any known version of international law, while the US as a nation is so recognized.
Article 51: Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of collective or individual self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by members in exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:46 PM on May 25, 2011


Also, I stand corrected by klang's example: Not even the first time for us.
posted by Amanojaku at 12:47 PM on May 25, 2011


Killing 3,000 people and declaring war on the US is actually, well, an act of war.

Timothy McVeigh - though committed to the destruction of the US government and having killed an impressive number of people - was not believed to to have "declared war" on the United States. And for the excellent reason that, as a non-state actor, he was not capable of doing any such thing.

He was sought as a criminal, arrested, Mirandized, and afforded due process before being convicted by a jury of his peers.

Then again, he wasn't a Muslim.
posted by Trurl at 12:53 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I know it's more comfortable for you to skip over the meat of my argument, but I'm not going to waste time addressing your points if you can't address mine."

What meat? That you feel obligated to excuse Saddam for the role of the suffering of his people, instead blaming the sanctions? That you think the US is monolithic and that because we supported Saddam for the wrong reasons that means we can't depose him for the right reasons?

That's idiocy.

And it's such pernicious, wrong-headed idiocy that it makes me look like I support the war in Iraq just by pointing out what an incredibly invalid argument you're making.

You simply beg the question that American interests are de facto bad and then attempt to present a circular case justifying them as such; you further insist that while you support military intervention when necessary, you frankly don't ever believe it is necessary, and pretend at a moral purity that allows you to always support inaction in the face of suffering.

But frankly, you're not even honest enough to admit that you introduced the rape rhetoric, so I'm not sure why I should expect any honesty or reason in the rest of your arguments.
posted by klangklangston at 12:55 PM on May 25, 2011


What meat? That you feel obligated to excuse Saddam for the role of the suffering of his people, instead blaming the sanctions? That you think the US is monolithic and that because we supported Saddam for the wrong reasons that means we can't depose him for the right reasons?

No, that the United States knowingly participated in his human rights abuses for ten years before we suddenly decided that it was a bad idea. I know you want to ignore that part of our history with that country, but I'm not going to let you.

You can't one day state that arming Saddam Hussein makes you a Good American, and the next day decide that it makes you a threat to world security. The largest supplier of Iraqi WMD and Iraqi armed forces training was the United States during his worst atrocities. If there is any standard of Law to be applied, shouldn't we apply it to ourselves first? Or is this just all part of your exceptionalist fantasy where we are the only ones allowed to arm dictators to murder their own people and then get away scott free?
posted by notion at 1:03 PM on May 25, 2011


He was sought as a criminal, arrested, Mirandized, and afforded due process before being convicted by a jury of his peers.

Then again, he wasn't a Muslim.


Congress never passed legislation authorizing a military operation against Timothy McVeigh or the organization(s) he represented. On the other hand...
posted by saulgoodman at 1:04 PM on May 25, 2011


Timothy McVeigh - though committed to the destruction of the US government and having killed an impressive number of people - was not believed to to have "declared war" on the United States. And for the excellent reason that, as a non-state actor, he was not capable of doing any such thing.

He was sought as a criminal, arrested, Mirandized, and afforded due process before being convicted by a jury of his peers.

Then again, he wasn't a Muslim.


.. and didn't have an organization of followers that had made multiple attacks and hundreds of millions of dollars to support them. McVeigh was also an American citizen, and as such, subject to our legal jurisdiction. But otherwise, yeah, it must be the Muslim thing.

I also remain baffled as to why non-state actors are incapable of declaring war -- war is not simply conflict between two governments.
posted by Amanojaku at 1:09 PM on May 25, 2011


You can't one day state that arming Saddam Hussein makes you a Good American, and the next day decide that it makes you a threat to world security.

Why not? I'm not sure what's impossible about saying "Here's some weapons to do X with" and then later saying "Oh, you're doing Y, nope, can't have that." Hell, even saying "X is bad now" is realistically possible.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:18 PM on May 25, 2011


"No, that the United States knowingly participated in his human rights abuses for ten years before we suddenly decided that it was a bad idea. I know you want to ignore that part of our history with that country, but I'm not going to let you."

Who's ignoring it? It was wrong then!

Are you literally too dense to grasp that I think human rights abuses are wrong?

"You can't one day state that arming Saddam Hussein makes you a Good American, and the next day decide that it makes you a threat to world security."

Good thing I haven't, then.

Maybe if you spent more time actually reading what I wrote and less time furiously stroking your outrage over what some made up second-person pronoun said, you'd be able to form a coherent argument.

"The largest supplier of Iraqi WMD and Iraqi armed forces training was the United States during his worst atrocities. If there is any standard of Law to be applied, shouldn't we apply it to ourselves first? Or is this just all part of your exceptionalist fantasy where we are the only ones allowed to arm dictators to murder their own people and then get away scott free?"

And once again, you want to take the responsibility for genocide and war crimes off of Saddam and onto the US. As for your question: No, we should apply the standard of law first to those most directly connected with the crime. Ancillary and contributory causes should be secondary, but you're in the "Blame America First" club, so you probably can't understand why I'd say something like that. For you, there is no crime too distant, no injustice too remote, for it to be America's fault.

That pernicious bias pervades your comments on politics, as it does Chomsky's (the man who cast Bin Laden as a blameless victim). It comes across when you invent positions for your opponents, when you resort to rape rhetoric and then attempt to frame others for it, it motivates every interpretation you offer, and it is just as blinkered as any ideologue's totalizing passion, be they Hegelians or Neo-cons.

Your simplistic carping then overshadows any of the reasonable points you could make, and means that where you could find agreement by arguing limited, coherent points, you instead go after everything with a blunderbuss and read like fanatic. I'm frankly surprised that you're not off arguing that 9/11 was an inside job.
posted by klangklangston at 1:44 PM on May 25, 2011


Then again, he wasn't a Muslim.

Well, neither was Jeff Davis or Robert E. Lee and the US made war on them, too. And had McVeigh been hiding in the Rockies with a record of more than one successful attack and an organization that threatened more to come, then I wouldn't have been surprised to see the military go after him, either. Basically, if you say you're at war with the US government and you look like you have the guns, and the organization, and the corpses to back you up, then you shouldn't be shocked if the government takes you at your word.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:55 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


the private citizen thing is a stretch. Some kind of combatant, surely.

Yes, we keep being told how obvious his guilt is.

Yet for some reason, no one seems prepared to demonstrate it in court.

Unfortunately, coming from the US government, "take our word for it" just doesn't carry the weight it used to.
posted by Trurl at 2:36 PM on May 25, 2011


Are you literally too dense to grasp that I think human rights abuses are wrong?

So far, you only seem to care if they are committed by anyone who isn't an American. The Iraqi government that gassed their own people deserves invasion and regime change, but the American government who sold them the weapons and training to accomplish those atrocities seem to bear no responsibility.

Perhaps this is where our disagreement lies: I see a gun shop selling a weapon illegally to a felon as a direct implication in any violence they perform afterwards Do you think we can pretend that it's not the fault of the gun shop as long as they don't pull the trigger? That reminds me of my little sister, years ago. She would put a cup of juice on the floor next to her younger sister, and when the younger sister would kick it over she would say, "It's her fault! I just put the cup there!"

And once again, you want to take the responsibility for genocide and war crimes off of Saddam and onto the US. As for your question: No, we should apply the standard of law first to those most directly connected with the crime. Ancillary and contributory causes should be secondary

Who is indeed responsible for our actions? Our enemies? At least the companies who make a profit from selling weapons to nations with a history of brutal state violence? And why didn't we let some other country sell WMDs to Iraq? Because we wanted him to use them on Iran, because Iran not under the murderous dictatorship of our Shah was considered a threat, and even if we did care that Kurds would die, we accepted their lives as collateral damage in our pursuit of our national interest. Which part am I supposed to be proud of?

When you knowingly give a madman a weapon, you bear just as much responsibility as he does. We cleared the way to sell our WMDs to a man already murdering his own people. No one even got a summons about it. I don't see how you let these sort of things go as "ancillary."

...but you're in the "Blame America First" club, so you probably can't understand why I'd say something like that. For you, there is no crime too distant, no injustice too remote, for it to be America's fault.

I'm in the "Blame Who Profited" club, because money and power usually lead to the right answer. Do you know the reason I can't be in the "Blame The Netherlands First" club, or the "Blame Costa Rica First" club, or even the "Blame China First" club? The reason it's easy to blame America is because we have killed more people than any other nation on earth in the past three decades, and if you only count military adventures, more than any other nation since the Korean War.

This is a significant amount of objective data to overcome and state that we are a just and moral nation when it comes to our foreign policy. (Go ahead and state that just because we kill people doesn't make us bad. That's usually where it goes.)

That pernicious bias pervades your comments on politics, as it does Chomsky's (the man who cast Bin Laden as a blameless victim). It comes across when you invent positions for your opponents... it motivates every interpretation you offer, and it is just as blinkered as any ideologue's totalizing passion, be they Hegelians or Neo-cons.

Quote where Chomsky says that bin Laden is blameless. He's pointing out the obvious: bin Laden was illegally assassinated, if customary international law means anything. And he's pointing out that we would not accept the assassination of any US public figure without due process, but we have different rules for everyone else.

Your simplistic carping then overshadows any of the reasonable points you could make, and means that where you could find agreement by arguing limited, coherent points, you instead go after everything with a blunderbuss and read like fanatic. I'm frankly surprised that you're not off arguing that 9/11 was an inside job.

Well, you learned something from Hitchens...

when you resort to rape rhetoric and then attempt to frame others for it...

I wanted to address this last to point out something. Mentioning the shocking facts about the reality of the DRC is not resorting to rape rhetoric. It's making the uncontroversial point that there are places in the world more in need of intervention that we routinely ignore because it's unprofitable or unimportant to us. I said nothing about you. But let's see what you and I have said in this thread that is inflammatory:

klang: But God, I'm tired of undergrad lefty thinking, and this Chomsky letter was stupid bullshit when it was posted in the Bin Laden thread.

klang: I'm sorry, Cap'n Trickledown, I just don't have the mental energy to pretend that your free-market fellatio is a serious position statement, nor to pretend that you're not just bloviating for the sake of your own ego.

klang: DOES NO ONE IN THIS THREAD HAVE ANY GODDAMN PERSPECTIVE AT ALL?

klang: (3:51 pm) You're right! Just the other day, I saw a girl who was punitively raped for going to school! And I sure can't criticize Islam on the internets! All those freedoms, all gone!

klang: (7:41 pm) COUGH STONING WOMEN TO DEATH.

notion: (7:45 pm) Exploding them with bombs, shooting them during house raids, and burning them to death with phosphorous is okay? In central Africa, they're raping and mutilating and murdering children by the hundreds of thousands. When do we invade to stop that injustice?

klang: So instead of pretending to endorse that idea of of consistency in an attempt to play the rhetorical gotcha game, why don't you say what you really mean? That you'd prefer that those people kept getting raped and mutilated rather than risk US involvement, and also that you think Sudan's sovereignty is worth more than those lives? Glad to see you support rape!


A full four hours before me, you were the one employing that word for rhetoric. But you'd already forgotten about it when you attacked me for the same thing. Perhaps your position on US foreign policy makes more sense to me now. I still maintain that if someone is guilty of inflammatory and juvenile rhetoric in this thread, I don't think it's me.
posted by notion at 2:58 PM on May 25, 2011


"Blame America First" club,

Are much as I disagree with the idea that how we handled bin Laden was wrong, are we seriously at the point where people are using that phrase unironically on Metafilter?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:45 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


The reason it's easy to blame America is because we have killed more people than any other nation on earth in the past three decades, and if you only count military adventures, more than any other nation since the Korean War.

Hey, you got a cite for this? I'm curious.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:49 PM on May 25, 2011


"So far, you only seem to care if they are committed by anyone who isn't an American. The Iraqi government that gassed their own people deserves invasion and regime change, but the American government who sold them the weapons and training to accomplish those atrocities seem to bear no responsibility."

Selling someone weapons isn't a human rights abuse. It may be immoral, or it may be illegal, but the act of selling weapons or training troops isn't human rights abuse — otherwise, we're abusing the people of Taiwan right now.

Your arguments are absurd on their face.

"Perhaps this is where our disagreement lies: I see a gun shop selling a weapon illegally to a felon as a direct implication in any violence they perform afterwards Do you think we can pretend that it's not the fault of the gun shop as long as they don't pull the trigger? That reminds me of my little sister, years ago. She would put a cup of juice on the floor next to her younger sister, and when the younger sister would kick it over she would say, "It's her fault! I just put the cup there!""

It's possible that our disagreement stems from you having a childish conception of culpability, sure. But you know that Iraqis aren't children, right? And that comparing them to children seems a bit, you know, racist? But while the US sold weapons illegally to Iran, they sold them legally to Iraq. And while I don't argue that we should not, generally, have been selling them weapons or training their soldiers — that it was clear to a reasonable person that they would be used in human rights abuses — that still does not make them equivalent.

This is especially true when you note that the US was not the sole supplier of arms and materiel to Iraq, something else you want to ignore because it harms your incessant drumbeat of Blame America First.

"Who is indeed responsible for our actions? Our enemies? At least the companies who make a profit from selling weapons to nations with a history of brutal state violence? And why didn't we let some other country sell WMDs to Iraq? Because we wanted him to use them on Iran, because Iran not under the murderous dictatorship of our Shah was considered a threat, and even if we did care that Kurds would die, we accepted their lives as collateral damage in our pursuit of our national interest. Which part am I supposed to be proud of?"

What are you on about? I said that the actors who should be prosecuted for a crime first are the ones involved in the active commission of it, not the contributory actors (which doesn't remove the possibility of them being prosecuted later).

Further, other countries and corporations from other countries did sell Hussein weapons — there was even a Dutch man convicted of selling them the precursors to VX nerve gas. Likewise, Germany, the Netherlands and several other countries all supplied Iraq with arms. But you only care about America, because you're obsessed.

However, once again, you assert that we are responsible for the actions of the Hussein regime to the exclusion of the actual Hussein regime. Why? Because they were children?

"I'm in the "Blame Who Profited" club, because money and power usually lead to the right answer. Do you know the reason I can't be in the "Blame The Netherlands First" club, or the "Blame Costa Rica First" club, or even the "Blame China First" club? The reason it's easy to blame America is because we have killed more people than any other nation on earth in the past three decades, and if you only count military adventures, more than any other nation since the Korean War."

Oh, OK, so you just totally cop to ad hominem reasoning. There isn't a coherent argument there, but rather a circular assertion of America's intrinsic evil and an endless shuffle of half-assed assertions to back that up. Hence America killed Iraqis with the sanctions, rather than Hussein killing Iraqis by refusing to abide by the terms of the ceasefire. It was America who killed the Kurds, because America killed a lot of other people elsewhere.

Christ, it's like getting stuck talking to a Republican about taxes — they believe taxes should be lower, no matter what, and you believe America is at fault no matter what.

"Quote where Chomsky says that bin Laden is blameless. He's pointing out the obvious: bin Laden was illegally assassinated, if customary international law means anything. And he's pointing out that we would not accept the assassination of any US public figure without due process, but we have different rules for everyone else."

Victim implies innocence. Would you like me to quote where Chomsky says "victim" or would you like to concede that point? And it's not obvious that Bin Laden was assassinated, illegally or legally. It's also not clear that customary international law backs him on this assertion. His analogy to Bush is also weak, for reasons I pointed out above. Again, you start with the assumption of US hypocrisy and discard every single possible interpretation that doesn't fit your preconceived notions (no pun intended).

"I wanted to address this last to point out something. Mentioning the shocking facts about the reality of the DRC is not resorting to rape rhetoric. It's making the uncontroversial point that there are places in the world more in need of intervention that we routinely ignore because it's unprofitable or unimportant to us."

Except that it is using rape rhetoric. And it's not controversial that there are places that need intervention, however arguing that they do not receive that intervention simply because they are unprofitable or unimportant is, again, a specious assertion. We didn't make money on Bosnia, we didn't make money in Somalia.

Why, it's almost like there are a complex web of motivations and constraints on international action, and trying to derive a caricature to declaim against is more important to you than an honest appraisal of facts.

And yeah, you implied through rhetorical question that I thought that "Exploding them with bombs, shooting them during house raids, and burning them to death with phosphorous is okay." I pointed out that by your logic, you think rape is OK. I mean, unless you support intervention in Central Africa. Do you? It seemed impolitic to press the question too much, but since you bring it back up under the pretenses of the reasoned side of this debate… do you?

As for the rest, I don't feel particularly bad about pointing out that the US is not as bad as Afghanistan — that's what the comment was in response to. I note that you didn't bother to disagree with Poet_Lariat about that, likely because it didn't offer you a way to impugn America.

You've offered shifting justifications for your comment — first it was to ridicule mine, then it was to draw some comparison to America, and now, finally, it's not even about the rape, but rather my inflammatory rhetoric. You've now given almost as many reasons as Bush did for invading Iraq. And instead of saying what I did — that it was a mistake but a fair response to someone claiming that the US is equivalent or even remotely comparable to the Taliban, you've dug in your heels, first blaming me (I assume America wasn't available on this one) then denying that you used rape rhetoric, and now trying to reframe it. I repeat: "If you don't like being asked why you support rape, try not to imply that having different priorities and not accepting your simplistic gloss is tantamount to supporting child murder in Africa."

Which goes along with your general inability to counter any points I've made and simply insist on asserting false choices and circular logic.
posted by klangklangston at 3:50 PM on May 25, 2011


notion: Perhaps this is where our disagreement lies: I see a gun shop selling a weapon illegally to a felon as a direct implication in any violence they perform afterwards. Do you think we can pretend that it's not the fault of the gun shop as long as they don't pull the trigger?

I don't think this analogy works in international politics. States can acquire weapons much more easily than a felon can buy a gun. Saddam Hussein had a number of other states supporting him in the 1980s, during the Iran-Iraq war (notably the other Arab states).

It's fair to criticize the US for its direct responsibility in killing people in the wars that it's fought--especially in Vietnam and Iraq, where the US should arguably never have gone to war in the first place. The responsibility of the US for the crimes of other states, on the grounds that the US supplied weapons or provided support for those states, is much less clear.
posted by russilwvong at 3:59 PM on May 25, 2011


Trurl wrote: it's not "atypical" for Congress to declare war on non-state actors. It is unprecedented. And that's because it's a concept they invented for the sake of convenience.

The sad thing is that it's not unprecedented. It's called a "bill of attainder" and it's expressly forbidden by the US Constitution.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:04 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Saulgoodman wrote: the place had all kinds of extraordinary security measures in place and barbed wire topped containment walls--in other words, all the trappings of a paramilitary command center or safe house, rather than a private residence.

Is this satire? I can't tell any more.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:09 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


No.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:12 PM on May 25, 2011


"The sad thing is that it's not unprecedented. It's called a "bill of attainder" and it's expressly forbidden by the US Constitution."

Well, actually, it's not a Bill of Attainder for Congress to declare war against non-state actors, and if you'd read the section on application in US law, you'd see several reasons why.
posted by klangklangston at 4:12 PM on May 25, 2011


Trurl wrote: it's not "atypical" for Congress to declare war on non-state actors. It is unprecedented. And that's because it's a concept they invented for the sake of convenience.

The sad thing is that it's not unprecedented. It's called a "bill of attainder" and it's expressly forbidden by the US Constitution.


That's not a bill of attainder. A bill of attainder is a legislative action which provides a judicial penalty, that's all.

This is an authorization of hostilities against an enemy.

And its also not unprecedented.

The first war under the constitution was against the Barbary Pirates, dude. And it didn't name a state actor and congress authorized it after Thomas Jefferson asked for it. So enough of that "unprecedented" shit.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:24 PM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


And had McVeigh been hiding in the Rockies with a record of more than one successful attack and an organization that threatened more to come,

Eric Rudolph bombed 2 clinics and a gay bar before the Olympic Park bombing in 1996. He hid out in the Appalachian wilderness as a fugitive from the FBI for FIVE YEARS. And there's plenty more decentralized christian identity and white-power groups still causing trouble today.

And we managed to give him a trial.
posted by mikelieman at 4:28 PM on May 25, 2011


And had McVeigh been hiding in the Rockies with a record of more than one successful attack and an organization that threatened more to come,

Eric Rudolph bombed 2 clinics and a gay bar before the Olympic Park bombing in 1996. He hid out in the Appalachian wilderness as a fugitive from the FBI for FIVE YEARS. And there's plenty more decentralized christian identity and white-power groups still causing trouble today.

And we managed to give him a trial.


But where is the line drawn where military action is allowed against a coherent force? In other words, the fact that he was indicted for something (prior to our authorization of military force against him) does not mean that our authorization of military force is not valid.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:32 PM on May 25, 2011


klangklangston: --it's entirely possible for a sincere humanitarian concern to partly motivate a war.

I would suggest that when judging US foreign policy, the question isn't whether US foreign policy is self-interested or not. Of course it's going to be self-interested (*)--who else is going to protect the interests of the US, if not the US itself? It's not like someone else is going to do it for them.

George Washington:
A small knowledge of human nature will convince us, that, with far the greatest part of mankind, interest is the governing principle; and that almost every man is more or less, under its influence. Motives of public virtue may for a time, or in particular instances, actuate men to the observance of a conduct purely disinterested; but they are not of themselves sufficient to produce persevering conformity to the refined dictates and obligations of social duty. Few men are capable of making a continual sacrifice of all views of private interest, or advantage, to the common good. It is vain to exclaim against the depravity of human nature on this account; the fact is so, the experience of every age and nation has proved it and we must in a great measure, change the constitution of man, before we can make it otherwise. No institution, not built on the presumptive truth of these maxims can succeed.
The question is the manner in which it pursues those interests: with prudence, restraint, and due regard for the interests of others (the Marshall Plan comes to mind); or with the blind self-righteousness described by Stanley Hoffmann in 1969.
We do disagree on the subject of American objectives in Vietnam. Professor Chomsky believes that they were wicked; I do not. I believe that they were, in a way, far worse; for often the greatest threat to moderation and peace, and certainly the most insidious, comes from objectives that are couched in terms of fine principles in which the policy-maker fervently believes, yet that turn out to have no relation to political realities and can therefore be applied only by tortuous or brutal methods which broaden ad infinitum the gap between motives and effects. ... What Vietnam proves, in my opinion, is not the wickedness of our intentions or objectives but the wickedness that results from irrelevant objectives and disembodied intentions, applied by hideous and massive means. It has its roots, intellectual and emotional, in elements of the American style that I have been at pains to analyze in detail. The Americans' very conviction that their goals are good blinds them to the consequences of their acts.
I would argue that the US should not go to war for humanitarian reasons. War is an extremely blunt instrument, meaning that you'll end up killing civilians no matter how careful you are. And in the absence of strong self-interest, setbacks are likely to result in a quick exit (see Somalia). Moreover, as George F. Kennan points out, nobody believes it:
... most foreign peoples do not believe that governments do things for selfless and altruistic motives; and if we do not reveal to them a good solid motive of self-interest for anything we do with regard to them, they are apt to invent one. This can be a more sinister one than we ever dreamed of, and their belief in it can cause serious confusion in our mutual relations.
In Afghanistan in particular, US self-interest doesn't seem strong enough to sustain the current level of effort. Rory Stewart.

(*) That said, there's a long tradition of American individuals and non-governmental organizations doing humanitarian work abroad. Norman Borlaug, Fred Cuny, even Herbert Hoover come to mind, as well as the many American missionaries who went to China in the 19th century.
posted by russilwvong at 4:34 PM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Selling someone weapons isn't a human rights abuse. It may be immoral, or it may be illegal, but the act of selling weapons or training troops isn't human rights abuse — otherwise, we're abusing the people of Taiwan right now.

Your arguments are absurd on their face.


Who's torturing and murdering Taiwanese? Address this issue with the example of Iraq... it's the one we're talking about.

But you know that Iraqis aren't children, right? And that comparing them to children seems a bit, you know, racist? But while the US sold weapons illegally to Iran, they sold them legally to Iraq. And while I don't argue that we should not, generally, have been selling them weapons or training their soldiers — that it was clear to a reasonable person that they would be used in human rights abuses — that still does not make them equivalent.

Joe: I'm going to go kill someone.
Bill: Here's a gun. And here's how you use it.
Jury: Bill is completely innocent!

This is especially true when you note that the US was not the sole supplier of arms and materiel to Iraq, something else you want to ignore because it harms your incessant drumbeat of Blame America First.
Iraq's main financial backers were the oil-rich Persian Gulf states, most notably Saudi Arabia ($30.9 billion), Kuwait ($8.2 billion) and the United Arab Emirates ($8 billion)...

Beginning in September 1989, the Financial Times laid out the first charges that BNL, relying heavily on U.S. government-guaranteed loans, was funding Iraqi chemical and nuclear weapons work. For the next two and a half years, the Financial Times provided the only continuous newspaper reportage (over 300 articles) on the subject. Among the companies shipping militarily useful technology to Iraq under the eye of the U.S. government, according to the Financial Times, were Hewlett-Packard, Tektronix, and Matrix Churchill, through its Ohio branch.

In all, Iraq received $35 billion in loans from the West and between $30 and $40 billion from the Persian Gulf states during the 1980s. ( source )
So, the US and their allies funded Saddam's regime and Iraq's war with Iran, just as they funded the proto-Taliban in Afghanistan in their proxy war with Russia. It appears that the United States was also the primary financial supporter of their nuclear and chemical weapons programs. Is it still not worth mentioning?

Let me enumerate the facts so you can tell me how we aren't accountable:

1) The US and our allies (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE) gave the Iraqi regime most of their money in the 80s to wage war and kill anybody they cared to
2) The United States is specifically responsible for the funding and removal of red tape that went straight towards chemical and nuclear weapons research in Iraq
3) The United States was the primary provider of military training in Iraq
4) The United States, as far as evidence is available, made no effort to attach conditions to decrease human rights abuses in Iraq at that time

Further, other countries and corporations from other countries did sell Hussein weapons — there was even a Dutch man convicted of selling them the precursors to VX nerve gas. Likewise, Germany, the Netherlands and several other countries all supplied Iraq with arms. But you only care about America, because you're obsessed.

I don't complain about nations I have no vote in, especially when my nation leads the world in that certain offense. It's a morally worthless exercise.

Oh, OK, so you just totally cop to ad hominem reasoning. There isn't a coherent argument there, but rather a circular assertion of America's intrinsic evil and an endless shuffle of half-assed assertions to back that up. Hence America killed Iraqis with the sanctions, rather than Hussein killing Iraqis by refusing to abide by the terms of the ceasefire. It was America who killed the Kurds, because America killed a lot of other people elsewhere.

That's not ad hominem. The body count of the United States is an historical fact. Similarly, if I tell the jury that this man has killed before, that is also not ad hominem. Ad hominem is when you make unrelated attacks on a person's character.

America knowingly increased the chances of causing starvation in the case of sanctions, and the death of Kurds in the case of our sale of bioweapons and conventional weapons to Saddam Hussein. As Chomsky says, "you are responsible for the predictable consequences of your own actions. You are not responsible for anybody else's." This concept is normally easily and unquestionably understood, until it makes certain facts painfully real.

Christ, it's like getting stuck talking to a Republican about taxes — they believe taxes should be lower, no matter what, and you believe America is at fault no matter what.

No, I believe the only thing we can do anything about is America. It's such a simple idea, I know you can grasp it.

"If you don't like being asked why you support rape, try not to imply that having different priorities and not accepting your simplistic gloss is tantamount to supporting child murder in Africa."

Again, four hours before that word came up, you said the following:
"In a nutshell: He won because the freedoms he purportedly hated us for don't exist any more."

You're right! Just the other day, I saw a girl who was punitively raped for going to school! And I sure can't criticize Islam on the internets! All those freedoms, all gone!
posted by klangklangston at 5:39 PM on May 24
I know why that's why you want to discuss my comment instead of yours, but you can't move the goalposts yet again. You used rape in that case not to state a fact, but as a rhetorical device. This is another stunningly simple fact that I know you are capable of grasping.
posted by notion at 4:51 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I would argue that the US should not go to war for humanitarian reasons. War is an extremely blunt instrument, meaning that you'll end up killing civilians no matter how careful you are."

While I disagree with you about going to war for humanitarian reasons, I do think that you're right about it being a blunt instrument, and not one that should be first off the shelf.

I liked that Rory Steward testimony a lot, as he manages to avoid mistaking the practical problems with nation building with an argument for isolationism.

I do think it's funny how Hobbesian the quote from Washington is. That same reasoning is why Hobbes thought we needed a Leviathan!
posted by klangklangston at 4:59 PM on May 25, 2011


notion: The US and our allies (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE) gave the Iraqi regime most of their money in the 80s to wage war and kill anybody they cared to

This is wrong. Iraq is a major oil producer; the US supported Iraq, but they weren't a major financial supporter.

The Gulf states didn't support Iraq because they were US allies--they supported Iraq because they were afraid of Iran. (Which is also why the US was supporting Iraq.) See the Iran-Iraq War.

Iraq had much closer relations to the Soviet Union than the US; this includes both military equipment and military training.
posted by russilwvong at 5:04 PM on May 25, 2011


But where is the line drawn where military action is allowed against a coherent force?

I blame Nixon for introducing the whole "War on Something" concept. You do not solve a law enforcement problem with an army, and you don't solve a military problem with police. But once you have people dressing up like soldiers and you give them assault weapons, there's really only one thing to do with them.

Unfortunately all to often you then end up shooting people dead in their living rooms while executing "No-Knock" warrants.

Oh, wait, we're talking about Pakistan, not Arizona. Sorry. It's so hard to keep this from getting all jumbled up sometimes...

In other words, the fact that he was indicted for something (prior to our authorization of military force against him) does not mean that our authorization of military force is not valid.

I'm not saying the AUMF-9/11 Terrorists didn't have the ts crossed and i s dotted. BUT it wasn't the best way to go about it. As an example of the continuum, Imperial Japanese Navy attacked us at Pearl Harbor;
The Nazi Government the next day delivered a formal declaration of war to the United States.

That's unambiguous. Some might say it gets a little less clear when you gun down pirates attacking your shipping, but I think that's a clean shoot. But I think at the low end, (non-state actors committing crimes) it's best to arrest, arraign, try, and if found guilty, damned well execute the terrorist criminals.

Maybe they "declared war" on us first, but why would anyone acknowledge their "declaration", granting them legitimacy as anything other than a bunch of criminals worth of prosecution?

And if you don't think treating criminals as legitimate causes problems, I offer Hamas as an example.

Due Process shows that we're morally superior to them, AND THAT THEY ARE NOTHING MORE THAN CRIMINALS. And even though they're that, they still get due process.
posted by mikelieman at 5:11 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Of course Eric Rudolph was arrested while loitering outside the Shop and Save. Not exactly the same as having Seals storm your secret lair.
posted by humanfont at 5:41 PM on May 25, 2011


There was a time, not long ago, in America when it would have been unthinkable that the police could or should take away your car, money or other property without a trial.

There was a time, not long ago, in America when it would have been unthinkable that your telephone and email could be listened to by a police agency without a court order.

There was a time, not long ago, in America when it would have been unthinkable that police could break into your house anytime that they wished to without a search warrant.

There was a time, not long ago, in America when it would have been unthinkable to understand that every one of your internet emails and cell phone calls are being archived by a government agency.

There was a time, not long ago, in America when it would have been unthinkable that a government official could run his hands along your son's or daughter's private parts as a precondition to your being able to fly to Disneyland.

If you don't understand why the erosion of the rule of laws and legal ethics that have to the United States assassinating someone without trial or holding them in prison without trial - leads to ALL the above (and more) then you are too damn young and/or haven't really been paying attention.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 5:48 PM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is wrong. Iraq is a major oil producer; the US supported Iraq, but they weren't a major financial supporter.

This is unfortunately not true:
Howard Teicher served on the National Security Council as director of Political-Military Affairs. He accompanied Rumsfeld to Baghdad in 1983. According to his 1995 affidavit and separate interviews with former Reagan and Bush administration officials, the Central Intelligence Agency secretly directed armaments and hi-tech components to Iraq through false fronts and friendly third parties such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait, and they quietly encouraged rogue arms dealers and other private military companies to do the same:
[T]he United States actively supported the Iraqi war effort by supplying the Iraqis with billions of dollars of credits, by providing U.S. military intelligence and advice to the Iraqis, and by closely monitoring third country arms sales to Iraq to make sure that Iraq had the military weaponry required. The United States also provided strategic operational advice to the Iraqis to better use their assets in combat... The CIA, including both CIA Director Casey and Deputy Director Gates, knew of, approved of, and assisted in the sale of non-U.S. origin military weapons, ammunition and vehicles to Iraq. My notes, memoranda and other documents in my NSC files show or tend to show that the CIA knew of, approved of, and assisted in the sale of non-U.S. origin military weapons, munitions and vehicles to Iraq.
Even through raw numbers from a source in your links, we get these weapons sales figures from 1980-1990:

USSR. : 18.7bn
China : 05.0bn
France: 04.5bn
U.S.A.: 00.2bn
Others: 02.7bn
==============
TOTAL : 31.1bn


This would seem to vindicate the USA and our allies, except for the fact that we gave them 75 billion dollars during that time. Does it really matter that the weapons came from someone else? What did we think they were going to use the money for?

Let's keep going:
Donald Riegle, Chairman of the Senate committee that authored the aforementioned Riegle Report, said:
U.N. inspectors had identified many United States manufactured items that had been exported from the United States to Iraq under licenses issued by the Department of Commerce, and [established] that these items were used to further Iraq's chemical and nuclear weapons development and its missile delivery system development programs. ... The executive branch of our government approved 771 different export licenses for sale of dual-use technology to Iraq. I think that is a devastating record.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control sent Iraq 14 separate agents "with biological warfare significance," according to Riegle's investigators.
Let's keep going:
In 1984, Iran introduced a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council, citing the Geneva Protocol of 1925, condemning Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons on the battlefield. In response, the United States instructed its delegate at the UN to lobby friendly representatives in support of a motion to take "no decision" on the use of chemical munitions by Iraq. If backing to obstruct the resolution could be won, then the U.S. delegation were to proceed and vote in favour of taking zero action; if support were not forthcoming, the U.S. delegate were to refrain from voting altogether...

Representatives of the United States argued that the UN Human Rights Commission was an "inappropriate forum" for consideration of such abuses. According to Joyce Battle, the Security Council eventually issued a "presidential statement" condemning the use of unconventional weapons "without naming Iraq as the offending party."
Let's keep going:
Alan Friedman writes that Sarkis Soghanalian, one of the most notorious arms dealers during the Cold War, procured Eastern Bloc and French origin weaponry, and brokered vast deals with Iraq, with the tacit approval of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The most prominent [arms merchant] was Sarkis Soghanalian, a Miami-based former CIA contractor who brokered tens of billions of dollars' worth of military hardware for Iraq during the 1980s, reporting many of his transactions to officials in Washington. [Soghanalian] was close to the Iraqi leadership and to intelligence officers and others in the Reagan administration. In many respects he was the living embodiment of plausible deniability, serving as a key conduit for CIA and other U.S. government operations.
Can we finally cut the bullshit and be adults about our accountability? Please?
posted by notion at 6:15 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


There was a time, not long ago, in America when it would have been unthinkable that the police could or should take away your car, money or other property without a trial.

Nope. Cause if you were gay, black, a woman or just poor they did that all the time.

There was a time, not long ago, in America when it would have been unthinkable that your telephone and email could be listened to by a police agency without a court order.

Maybe to you, the rest of us got on the PGP bandwagon early.

There was a time, not long ago, in America when it would have been unthinkable to understand that every one of your internet emails and cell phone calls are being archived by a government agency.

Really when was this. Was this before or after you gave all that info to google, apple, skype and AT&T. Some guy yammering into his cellphone at 100 decibels while standing in line suddenly thinks that conversation was private?

There was a time, not long ago, in America when it would have been unthinkable that a government official could run his hands along your son's or daughter's private parts as a precondition to your being able to fly to Disneyland.

There was a time before shoe bombers and 9-11 too. Heck there was a time beforeetal detectors when flying was awesome and just for the privileged. Those days are gone. However in those days we rode on the back of the station wagon to Disney for two days with no touching, talking or bathroom breaks because it was too expensive to fly. Someone touched your junk? My brother gave me wet willies and kicked my seat for 400 miles. You can always go back to the good old days if you want to.
posted by humanfont at 6:28 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Eric Rudolph bombed 2 clinics and a gay bar before the Olympic Park bombing in 1996. He hid out in the Appalachian wilderness as a fugitive from the FBI for FIVE YEARS. And there's plenty more decentralized christian identity and white-power groups still causing trouble today. And we managed to give him a trial.

And I'm not sorry we did. But what about the Americans who, say, committed terrorist acts in aid of the Confederate cause: was there a moral obligation to provide every one of them with a trial? Because the only distinction I can see between McVeigh or Rudolph and Jeff Davis and his pals is that Jeff Davis' threat to make war on the United States was credible while any such threats by the other two weren't. But I don't see any moral or legal distinction between the two. So if the US is morally obligated to treat every one who makes war on the US as a criminal and only as a criminal then there are a hell of a lot more people than Bin Laden who never got their day in court.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:42 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Davis wasn't executed. Davis was indicted, released on bail and then had his charges dropped. I see process. I see trials. Trials and due process everywhere.
posted by Trochanter at 6:50 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


octobersurprise:So if the US is morally obligated to treat every one who makes war on the US as a criminal and only as a criminal then there are a hell of a lot more people than Bin Laden who never got their day in court.

Interesting that you should mention that.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 6:55 PM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


You aren't answering my question. There were a lot of people besides Davis who were just as guilty as he, but who never got any kind of due process. All they got was a bullet. Shouldn't they have gotten a trial, too?
posted by octobersurprise at 6:56 PM on May 25, 2011


I should say "alledged to be as guilty as he." Because how do we know that all those armed men in gray at Gettysburg were guilty of anything without a trial?
posted by octobersurprise at 7:00 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


committed terrorist acts in aid of the Confederate cause

They're not terrorists when fighting in uniform under a flag. They're soldiers.

And in this case, soldiers from an organized government that had formally declared war on us.

Unless "terrorist" is simply now a synonym for "person we wish to kill in our perceived national interest".
posted by Trurl at 7:02 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you talking about rebel soldiers? There was a pardon. Universal clemency. Are you talking about soldiers in the field? Bearing arms? Firing artillery? Are you sure this is even the argument you want to make?
posted by Trochanter at 7:06 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Because how do we know that all those armed men in gray at Gettysburg were guilty of anything without a trial?

I was just there to visit the national park, damn it! And my wife likes grey!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:09 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wearing a military uniform on a battlefield ≠ Wearing a nightshirt in one's bedroom

Any questions?
posted by Trurl at 7:14 PM on May 25, 2011


They're not terrorists when fighting in uniform under a flag. They're soldiers.

So the only difference between a soldier and a criminal is a choice in fashion and a logo? What luck Al Qaeda chose to wear civies, those crafty devils. Now surely you aren't asserting that every Confederate killed was impeccably dressed in uniform. I think we can assume that at least some of them weren't. Was the US morally obligated to give them a trial before shooting them, or do they derive their "soldier-ness" from their proximity to those who are dressed appropriately for the occasion, or maybe from having worn one once before?

soldiers from an organized government that had formally declared war on us.

Impossible. the so-called Confederacy wasn't a legal government. Therefore they were organized non-state belligerents and, as I understand you to be arguing, therefore incapable of "declaring war" on anyone.

There was a pardon. Universal clemency.

There was, but not until after the rebels surrendered. Until that time, the US killed lots of men who had taken up arms against it. They never benefited from that clemency. Didn't they deserve due process, too?

Wearing a military uniform on a battlefield ≠ Wearing a nightshirt in one's bedroom

So your argument is that Osama Bin Laden deserved to be left in peace because he was wearing a nightshirt in his bedroom? Well, it doesn't have the same ring as "if it doesn't fit, you must acquit" but it's a defense. I guess.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:42 PM on May 25, 2011


the so-called Confederacy wasn't a legal government

They thought otherwise.

Let me know when Al-Qaeda issues its own currency.
posted by Trurl at 7:54 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bin Laden deserved to be left in peace

Speaking personally, I wanted a perp walk. A nice orange jumpsuit. Flash bulbs. Chalk drawings of the proceedings. Those kinds of things. Civilized things.
posted by Trochanter at 8:03 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Speaking personally, I wanted a perp walk. A nice orange jumpsuit. Flash bulbs. Chalk drawings of the proceedings. Those kinds of things. Civilized things.

From the sound of so many who seem to know so much, we seem to be in a minority on that issue. But then again, I often feel the same way when I go into my local bar and listen too closely to certain people. Perhaps it's the same thing.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 8:15 PM on May 25, 2011


I'm still left wondering where we were supposed to get a jury of 12 impartial people to actually, you know, try Osama bin Laden. They'd have to have been hiding out in the wilderness or something...

There was a time, not long ago, in America....

I'll leave it to humanfont to take up the issues with these; even if you're wrong about the history, there's no reason not to aspire to a future where those things are as you describe them.

But even if we'd put Osama bin Laden on trial, had the perp walk, the jumpsuit, the flash bulbs, the chalk drawings - even if we'd had all those things, so we could pat ourselves on the back for being so "civilized" - it wouldn't bring back (or create) any of those things you want to be true. That time, if it ever existed, would still be gone - that one grand symbolic trial would simply make it easier for us to close our eyes to unpleasant (but less media-grabbing) facts so we could more easily pretend we're better than all that.

I don't want us to be able to pat ourselves on the back; I don't want us to feel reassured about how civilized we are. Not until it's actually true.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:56 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, but it would have been a sign that we at least still aspired to be decent human beings. I don't even think we try anymore. You don't have any convincing to do to make my outlook bleak. I'm as bleak as Chris Hedges -- maybe worse.
posted by Trochanter at 9:06 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


notion: it's certainly true that the US supported Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War, starting around 1982, when Iran had the upper hand. (You're quoting Wikipedia, right?) The obvious precedent is British and American support for the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany during the Second World War: it doesn't indicate ideological affinity, only a shared interest in opposing a common enemy.

What I'm arguing against is your contention that

The US and our allies (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE) gave the Iraqi regime most of their money in the 80s to wage war and kill anybody they cared to.

My argument is that the US was not a major financial supporter of Iraq during this period. The Gulf states certainly were: they gave Iraq an estimated $50 billion (William Polk, The Arab World Today), but it wasn't because they were US allies--it was because they were afraid of Iran.

Iraq wasn't in the US sphere of influence (unlike Saudi Arabia, pre-revolutionary Iran, or Turkey). It had much closer ties to the Soviet Union.

More generally, when you look at politics in the Middle East, it's a mistake to focus exclusively on the US. There's a lot of significant players, and a great many conflicts that don't revolve around the US (some examples: Arab Cold War, Pan-Arabism, Nasser, Baath Party, Iranian Revolution, Sunni-Shia relations).

You said that the US gave Iraq 75 billion dollars (!) during this timeframe. Where are you getting this figure from? I couldn't find it in a quick Google search. The Congressional Research Service cites a figure of $5 billion in agricultural credits. That's significant (it freed up Iraqi funds to buy arms), but it's not $75 billion.
From 1983 through mid-1990, Iraq received nearly $5 billion in U.S. GSM-102 and GSM-103 export credit guarantees to purchase significant quantities of U.S. agricultural commodities.
William Polk, The Arab World Today, describes the oil export revenue available to the two sides in the war:
From an economic perspective, the war went through similar phases. During the early years of the war, Iran appeared to have a great advantage. Because Iran could interdict Iraqi oil shipments in the Persian Gulf and because its Arab ally, Syria, cut off the Iraqi pipeline to the Mediterranean, Iraq was forced to ship oil by truck through Jordan. Its exports fell to less than 750,000 barrels a day. Iran, meanwhile, able to move in the Gulf, raised its exports to about three million barrels a day. For some time, the only Iraq answer to this situation was to beg or borrow money from Kuwait, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia. It is estimated that about $50 billion came to Iraq in such credits and gifts.

By 1986, however, the advantage had swung to Iraq. By then, Iraq had opened or rebuilt pipelines through Saudi Arabia and Turkey, so that it was able to export about two million barrels a day. More pointedly, the Iraqis began to attack Iran's oil installations and its tankers in the Gulf, particularly on Kharg Island; these attacks did not stop Iranian exports, but they served to make them more dangerous and expensive. The result was a reduction in tonnage, to about half the amount sold abroad earlier. And as the world oil market softened and the price of oil dropped, the real effect on Iran was more like a 75 percent loss of revenue.
posted by russilwvong at 10:46 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


One of the few benefits of being an American is knowing it has that kind of power at its disposal. It's like the big kid at school - he might be a bit of a bully, but he protects you from the other bullies.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:44 PM on May 25, 2011


That's so very comforting, Lovecraft in Brooklyn.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:54 AM on May 26, 2011


Lovecraft In Brooklyn: One of the few benefits of being an American is knowing it has that kind of power at its disposal. It's like the big kid at school - he might be a bit of a bully, but he protects you from the other bullies.

If American cinema has taught us anything, the bully grows up to be an out-of-shape penniless loser who still clings to the glory of his past achievements.
posted by gman at 7:40 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Confederate prisoners at Gettysburg. Not wearing uniforms.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:08 AM on May 26, 2011


I blame Nixon for introducing the whole 'War on Something' concept.

"The War on Poverty is the unofficial name for legislation first introduced by United States President Lyndon B. Johnson during his State of the Union address on January 8, 1964."
posted by kirkaracha at 8:12 AM on May 26, 2011


Is Poverty hiding in a safe house in Pakistan too?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:21 AM on May 26, 2011


"The War on Poverty is the unofficial name for legislation first introduced by United States President Lyndon B. Johnson during his State of the Union address on January 8, 1964."

Ok, so it predates Nixon. But I still blame Nixon, because I'm pretty sure the "War on Poverty" isn't getting people killed.
posted by mikelieman at 9:24 AM on May 26, 2011


The obvious precedent is British and American support for the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany during the Second World War: it doesn't indicate ideological affinity, only a shared interest in opposing a common enemy.

Ridiculous. Nazi Germany literally could have taken over the world. They were in the middle of doing so, and US contingency plans included how to deal with a Europe united under Hitler. Do you think Iran had the same chance? I'm all for sharing a common enemy against existential threats. I'm not a hardline pacifist.

The decisions we made for the Iran-Iraq war had only to do with oil security. It was about money, not a fear that Iran would destroy America. It was a fear that they would disrupt our access to oil and potentially destabilize markets. That is not a valid excuse to kill people, or arm madmen who will torture and kill people for you.

This gets back to my thesis: United States foreign policy will rarely choose human rights over dollar signs, and if it does, it will pale in comparison to what we are willing to sacrifice for maintaining access to markets.

You said that the US gave Iraq 75 billion dollars (!) during this timeframe. Where are you getting this figure from? I couldn't find it in a quick Google search. The Congressional Research Service cites a figure of $5 billion in agricultural credits. That's significant (it freed up Iraqi funds to buy arms), but it's not $75 billion.

I said the US and its allies. We did a similar deal for our proxy war in Afghanistan: the United States secretly funded billions of dollars, which was matched by our allies, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE.
The American decision to lend crucial help to Baghdad so early in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war came after American intelligence agencies warned that Iraq was on the verge of being overrun by Iran, whose army was bolstered the year before by covert shipments of American-made weapons.

The New York Times and others reported last year [1991] that the Reagan Administration secretly decided shortly after taking office in January 1981 to allow Israel to ship several billion dollars' worth of American arms and spare parts to Iran. That intervention and the decision to aid Iraq directly in 1982 provide evidence that Washington played a much greater role than was previously known in affecting the course of the long and costly Iran-Iraq war.

The interventions also raise questions about the White House's often-stated insistence in the early 1980's that it was remaining neutral in the Iran-Iraq war, since the United States was arming both sides in its desire to see neither side dominate the vital oil region...

In the end, officials acknowledged, American arms, technology and intelligence helped Iraq avert defeat and eventually grow, with much help from the Soviet Union later, into the regional power that invaded Kuwait in August 1990, sparking the Persian Gulf war last year.

At one point during Mr. Gates's testimony, Senator Bill Bradley, the New Jersey Democrat, asked whether the intelligence-sharing with Iraq had amounted to a "covert action" that under law should have been made known to the intelligence committees.

"I believed at the time," Mr. Gates responded, "that the activities were fully consistent with the understanding" of the law then in effect, "as it related to liaison relationships." ...

The decision to help Iraq was "not a C.I.A. rogue initiative," a former senior State Department official explained. The policy was researched at the State Department and "approved at the highest levels," he said. The idea, he added, was not to "hitch our wagon to Hussein."

"We wanted to avoid victory by both sides," he said...

Washington also "looked the other way," as a former American Ambassador in the region put it, as American-made arms began to flow into Baghdad from Iraq's allies in the Middle East, starting in 1982.

Jordan and Saudi Arabia sent Iraq small arms and mortars, among other weapons, and Kuwait sold the Iraqis thousands of TOW anti-tank missiles. A former C.I.A. official who worked closely with Mr. Casey recalled that "the Kuwaitis sent lots of money and lots of arms to Iraq, and it was all done with our knowledge." He also acknowledged that by 1982 the Jordanian military was routinely diverting American-made Huey helicopters to Iraq.

American officials made no effort to stop these sales, known to many in the Administration, even though American export law forbids the third-party transfer of American-made arms without Washington's permission. ( source )
Again, cut the apparatchick style horeseshit rationalizations. We paid for and armed both sides of the conflict to get the war that we wanted to keep our cheap, accessible oil. And once again, when the outcome led to unintended consequences, we suddenly remembered the war crimes of our former ally, and simultaneously forgot that we played a crucial role in helping him commit them.
posted by notion at 9:26 AM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


You said that the US gave Iraq 75 billion dollars (!) during this timeframe. Where are you getting this figure from?

Sorry, I realize that I misunderstood: you were quoting from the Wikipedia article on the Iran-Iraq War, which is talking about total loans from the West, the Soviet Union, and the Gulf states, not from the US alone. Tracking back to the source:
Iraq’s indebtedness has been the result primarily of the war with Iran. Iraq traditionally had been free of foreign debt and had accumulated foreign reserves that reached $35 billion by 1980. These reserves were exhausted in the early stages of the war with Iran. ...

Iraq’s foreign debt was comprised of western credit provided for military assistance, development finance and export guarantees. This assistance has been estimated at $35 billion in principal. The former Soviet Union and Russia also provided loans to Iraq via the Paris Club during the 1980s and 1990s for the development and production of military programs (Figure 10). Gulf States such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates provided an additional $30 to 40 billion in financing to fight Iran (Figure 11). Although the Gulf States considered the financial support provided to Iraq to be a loan, Iraq believed that the Gulf States were required to provide help to Iraq in its fight to prevent the spread of radical Iranian fundamentalism.
Looking at Figure 10, the US share of the $35 billion was $4.4 billion. (The Paris Club cancelled Iraq's debts in 2004.)

Also, returning to your larger point: setting aside the question of US responsibility for Iraqi crimes, I think it's fair to say that for the US, human rights is not an important factor in foreign policy. It's not completely disregarded (Bosnia comes to mind), but it's not a major factor. A 2003 radio program:
The Iraqi Kurds had always chafed against rule from Baghdad. During the Iran-Iraq war many Kurdish rebels sided with Iran, hoping to see the end of Saddam Hussein. In 1987, the Iraqi leader unleashed a ferocious campaign against the Kurds, civilians included. It was called al Anfal, the "spoils." Peter Galbraith was on the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time. He saw the effects of the campaign when he visited the Kurdish region with a colleague. ...

Galbraith drafted legislation to bring US sanctions against Iraq. It was now September 1988. By then Saddam Hussein's forces had killed an estimated 100,000 Kurds and levelled thousands of their villages. With the Iran-Iraq war now over, Galbraith couldn't see any compelling strategic reason why the US government should not punish Iraq for its treatment of the Kurds. The Senate didn't either; it passed the bill in a day. But then the legislation ran into trouble. Political scientist Bruce Jentleson says the House watered it down and the Reagan Administration killed it.

Jentleson: "And it did it for two reasons. One, economic interests. In addition to oil, Iraq at that point had become the second-largest recipient of government agricultural credits to buy American agriculture, second only to Mexico, and there was a lot of lobbying in Washington by those interests. And secondly was this continual blinders of the enemy of my enemy is my friend. So it's worth bearing in mind that at that point in time there was not a lot of weight put on the plight of the Kurds."
posted by russilwvong at 9:36 AM on May 26, 2011


Confederate prisoners at Gettysburg. Not wearing uniforms.

That looks like butternut to me. But okay, the yankees always said the rebs were a motley bunch. But they held their formations well, and they charged at you by thousands yelling fit to curdle your blood.

I don't even get this argument. It was a hundred and fifty years ago. They were on a battle field, in battle formation, firing weapons. WTF?
posted by Trochanter at 10:39 AM on May 26, 2011


Brandon Blatcher: "Is Poverty hiding in a safe house in Pakistan too"

After a decades long War On Poverty, Bernard Madoff was found in a Miami safe house. 80 Navy Seals descended in stealth helicopters, shooting an unarmed Madoff in the back of the head, and killing his wife in the process.
posted by idiopath at 10:40 AM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


notion: Ridiculous. Nazi Germany literally could have taken over the world. They were in the middle of doing so, and US contingency plans included how to deal with a Europe united under Hitler. Do you think Iran had the same chance?

No. Iran was a threat to the security of the Persian Gulf, but certainly not an existential threat. Conversely, though, I think it's arguable that Stalin was considerably worse than Saddam Hussein--he certainly killed many more people (Timothy Snyder). It was the Soviet Union which invaded Poland from the east, and the Soviet Union was an ally of Nazi Germany right up until Germany invaded the Soviet Union.

My general question is: To what extent does support for another state make you responsible for its crimes? This was an issue during the First World War, because of the brutality of Czarist Russia. And it was obviously an issue throughout the Cold War: in Europe, the US supported Yugoslavia after Tito broke away from Stalin; there were many dictatorships supported by the US in Latin America; in East Asia, South Korea and Taiwan were dictatorships during a lot of this period, and Nixon established friendly relations with Maoist China.

My own view is that if you want to condemn US foreign policy, the obvious place to start would be the wars that the US fought itself, especially Vietnam and Iraq, and the crimes that the US committed itself--torturing prisoners, for example. The question of responsibility for someone else's crimes is much more ambiguous.
posted by russilwvong at 10:42 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee honorably surrendered in the open, not at gunpoint. They also encouraged their supporters to stand down and worked to re-integrate the south into the Union. Nothing stops Bin Laden's associates from negotiating a peaceful surrender.
posted by humanfont at 10:46 AM on May 26, 2011


The connection you're making is stupid. There were guerrilla fighters in the Civil War, but it was not a guerrilla war.

However, I got thinking about it and there is a Civil War incident involving guerrilla cavalry commander John Morgan that is kind of echoic. Some might find it fun.

From Shelby Foote:

"Around sunup, after a rainy night, Morgan was wakened this Sunday morning by rifle fire, spattering in the streets below his bedroom window, and by a staff captain who brought word that the Union advance guard had arrived by the untended road. He pulled on his trousers and boots and went out by a rear door in an attempt to reach the stable and his horse, but was cut off and had to turn back, taking shelter in a scuppernong arbor that screened the walkway from the house.

"That's him! That's Morgan, over there among the grape vines!" a woman called from across the street to the soldiers pressing their search for the raider.

"Don't shoot; I surrender," Morgan cried.

"Surrender and be God damned — I know you," a blue trooper replied as he raised and fired his carbine at a range of twenty feet.

"Oh God," Morgan groaned, shot through the breast, and collapsed among the rain-wet vines, too soon dead to hear what followed.

"I've killed the damned horse thief!" the trooper shouted, and he and his friends tore down an intervening fence in their haste to get at Morgan's body, which they threw across a horse for a jubilant parade around the town before they flung it, stripped to a pair of drawers, into a muddy roadside ditch."


/Apropos of nothing.
posted by Trochanter at 11:46 AM on May 26, 2011


I don't even get this argument. It was a hundred and fifty years ago. They were on a battle field, in battle formation, firing weapons. WTF?

Let me walk you through it: it's been asserted that Bin Laden could not be a combatant because the US cannot "make war" on non-state belligerents. In support of this proposition, the cases of McVeigh and Rudolph were adduced. Since they were not combatants, it was argued, it's unprecedented (and illegal) to call Bin Laden a combatant. I asked what principle distinguished a combatant from a criminal and proposed that the principle is simply credibility; namely, a combatant is anyone with the resources to make a credible threat of war against the US and the desire to do so, that credibility being measured largely by said belligerent's finances, organization, and successfully perpetrated acts of violence, i.e., by how seriously the US takes the threat. This, I argued, is what distinguishes the army of the Confederacy (and, to a lesser degree, Al Qaeda) from McVeigh, Rudolph, and your average sovereign citizen cooking meth in the woods. Absent that distinction, every rebel-in-arms shot by the Union army was deprived of his due process. In response to that, it was asserted that clothes make the combatant; only those in a uniform, under a common flag, are combatants; also, it was added, such a group must believe it constitutes a state (the legality of said state being irrelevant, apparently). Then I pointed out the haphazard nature of Confederate uniforms and asked if being shot at, say, Gettysburg while out of uniform was a deprivation of due process. I still haven't received an answer to that question, but now, apparently, you are also asserting that a combatant must be on a battlefield and in a battle formation. My question is, in uniform or not?

Obviously, what I'm looking for here is a principle to explain why Bin Laden, the commander of an organization claiming to be engaged in war with the US for the last ten (and reasonably believed to be responsible for a record of violent attacks over the last twenty) years, isn't a combatant and is therefore due all of his rights to trial, while some Confederate redneck who took up arms against his government was and wasn't. Both were combatants, I say. I haven't read any argument to the contrary yet that isn't, frankly, pretty arbitrary.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:55 PM on May 26, 2011


I asked what principle distinguished a combatant from a criminal and proposed that the principle is simply credibility; namely, a combatant is anyone with the resources to make a credible threat of war against the US and the desire to do so, that credibility being measured largely by said belligerent's finances, organization, and successfully perpetrated acts of violence, i.e., by how seriously the US takes the threat.

But as we've seen just in this thread, there is disagreement over whether it is credible to assert that Al Qaeda poses an existential threat to the United States.

For perspective, Al Qaeda has caused the death of approximately 3,000 Americans. This is fewer than the number that die in car accidents in a single month. Shall we declare war on General Motors next?

Try a less subjective principle. A combatant is acting at the orders of and in allegiance to a nation-state while a criminal is not.

Pro Tip: If you have to go back to the 19th century to dredge up a legal justification for why you're killing people [Barbary pirates? Seriously?], you're probably not acting on the side of the angels.
posted by Trurl at 1:50 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


But as we've seen just in this thread, there is disagreement over whether it is credible to assert that Al Qaeda poses an existential threat to the United States.

But his principle isn't based on whether a belligerent poses an existential threat or not. Even if defeat by a given enemy is very unlikely, that doesn't give said enemy license to inflict lesser injuries. By your logic it would impossible for, say, Belgium to declare war on France, because Belgium has little hope of defeating France. But if Belgium were to do so and follow up that declaration with acts of destruction, it would still be a war despite the obvious futility.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:20 PM on May 26, 2011


Lovecraft In Brooklyn: One of the few benefits of being an American is knowing it has that kind of power at its disposal. It's like the big kid at school - he might be a bit of a bully, but he protects you from the other bullies.

You know , Denmark, Norway or Sweden don't have the big armies or the big nukes and they don't have rendition camps and they don't torture their citizens but they DO have free (and/or affordable) college, better public schools, free healthcare, longer lifespans and less infant mortality.

You know, with respects to Franklin, I don't think that sacrificing my freedoms and lifestyle for greater security was a good bargain.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 2:36 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know , Denmark, Norway or Sweden don't have the big armies or the big nukes and they don't have [...]

Denmark, Norway and Sweden were taken over by Germany with minimal effort during WW2. While I am no lover of nuclear weapons, I feel quite confident in saying that they were the primary deterrent to the USSR pushing the iron curtain westwards across Europe. Where I grew up, by the way.

If you lose your security completely, as happened to those countries in WW2, freedom and lifestyle tends to vanish very soon afterwards. I greatly admire the Scandinavian social model, but for all practical purposes they outsource their security. People there still pay for it, just somewhat indirectly through treaty obligations and transfer payments to the EU and so on.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:59 PM on May 26, 2011


anigbrowl: Denmark, Norway and Sweden were taken over by Germany with minimal effort during WW2. While I am no lover of nuclear weapons, I feel quite confident in saying that they were the primary deterrent to the USSR pushing the iron curtain westwards across Europe. Where I grew up, by the way.

Denmark, Norway, and Sweden all maintain military forces. (Denmark and Norway are NATO members, and both have troops in Afghanistan; according to Wikipedia, Norway has the highest military spending per capita in Europe.) I would suggest that their inability to guarantee their own security without outside help is caused less by their welfare-state programs than by their relatively small size. If they spent less on welfare-state programs and more on their military forces, it wouldn't make much difference.

Also, a correction: Sweden wasn't taken over by Germany during the Second World War, it was officially neutral. (It was officially neutral during the Cold War as well, but it turns out that it had a secret US security guarantee from 1960 onward, which only became public knowledge in the 1990s.)
posted by russilwvong at 4:25 PM on May 26, 2011


Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
posted by mikelieman at 4:53 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


"The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat and dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States."

Chicago Times, Friday, November 20, 1863
posted by Trochanter at 5:04 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]



You know , Denmark, Norway or Sweden don't have the big armies or the big nukes and they don't have [...]

Denmark, Norway and Sweden were taken over by Germany with minimal effort during WW2. While I am no lover of nuclear weapons, I feel quite confident in saying that they were the primary deterrent to the USSR pushing the iron curtain westwards across Europe. Where I grew up, by the way.

If you lose your security completely, as happened to those countries in WW2, freedom and lifestyle tends to vanish very soon afterwards. I greatly admire the Scandinavian social model, but for all practical purposes they outsource their security. People there still pay for it, just somewhat indirectly through treaty obligations and transfer payments to the EU and so on.


As I point out to my Australian friends part of the reason they can spend so much on welfare and healthcare and all that is because America spends so much on its military. And I like that idea that if, say, Australia were to fall to fascism or be invaded by China there's at least a chance that America could help.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:12 PM on May 26, 2011


Lovecraft In Brooklyn: the lack of public health care in the US is caused by other problems, not military spending.

Canada's single-payer health care system is considerably cheaper than the US system: in 2006, Canada spent 10% of GDP on health care (public and private), while the US spent 15% of GDP. Wikipedia. If the US was able to reduce its health care spending to the level of Canada's, it'd be able to double its military spending! (US military spending is currently 4.7% of GDP.)

Fiscally, the real problem in the US is the revolt against taxes, not its level of military spending. The deficit is over 10% of GDP; this isn't sustainable. Jonathan Chait.
posted by russilwvong at 5:28 PM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


The idea that American military-industrial escapades in the Middle East are intended to enhance the USA's long-term security is absurd, as the article linked in this post attests to. I would think we are beyond the "we should fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here" rhetoric.

Most importantly, "over there" is the Eurasian continent, and those socialist utopias in the EU are now faced with rising Muslim extremism amongst swelling refugee populations precisely because of American foreign policy. This is what is called "blowback," and Europe and Asia get to enjoy most of it. So, no, the American military is definitely not helping them outsource their budget; quite the opposite. Their reckless military invasions and ideologically-driven financial deregulation are wreaking havoc with the global markets. Anyone who is paying the slightest bit of attention to news outside of North America should be aware of this.
posted by mek at 5:40 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Their reckless military invasions and ideologically-driven financial deregulation are wreaking havoc with the global markets. Anyone who is paying the slightest bit of attention to news outside of North America should be aware of this.

All those European economies were so fiscally responsible. I mean an store your saving in an Icelandic Bank, or a Greek Bond, those people know how to manage money. It is also good that countries such as the United Kingdom carefully avoided a housing bubble. Yes yes blame the Americans. It was all our fault, not the artificially low value of the RMB. All that money in sovereign wealth funds built up on petrodollars and poured into more and more exotic mortgage backed securities had nothing to do with it. Besides those investors with their armies of analysts and access to enormous information were completely unable to see what was in front of them. It was all the AMERICANS fault. Especially when we colonized the Indian subcontinent, and fostered ethinc tensions between the muslims in Hindus to retain our Raj. When we drew the map of countries in the Middle East based on our colonial ambitions, not with the consent of the local people, what were we thinking. Yes BLAME IT ALL ON THE USA. We did it. We made the mess of the world while the enlightened Europeans were busy hugging and sharing the love in in Sarajevo and Kosovo.
posted by humanfont at 7:27 PM on May 26, 2011


No. Iran was a threat to the security of the Persian Gulf, but certainly not an existential threat. Conversely, though, I think it's arguable that Stalin was considerably worse than Saddam Hussein--he certainly killed many more people (Timothy Snyder). It was the Soviet Union which invaded Poland from the east, and the Soviet Union was an ally of Nazi Germany right up until Germany invaded the Soviet Union.

Of course Stalin was worse than Saddam. But we didn't need Saddam to survive. We chose him to save money.

My general question is: To what extent does support for another state make you responsible for its crimes?

As far as your support made their crimes possible. This is not a difficult question. In the case of Iraq, we illegally armed Iran, and then arranged financing and arms for Iraq so they could fight each other to a bloody stalemate so we could keep our access to their oil. Our propping up of Saddam and piss poor diplomacy -- "we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts" -- also probably precipitated their invasion of Kuwait.

My own view is that if you want to condemn US foreign policy, the obvious place to start would be the wars that the US fought itself, especially Vietnam and Iraq, and the crimes that the US committed itself--torturing prisoners, for example. The question of responsibility for someone else's crimes is much more ambiguous.

So as long as we have plausible deniability, we're scott free? As long as someone in the CIA is willing to put together the money and weapons and training through a third party, we bear no responsibility? I can't believe this is a position you consider to be serious.
posted by notion at 7:36 PM on May 26, 2011


Humanfont, if you knock down those straw men any faster we might have to up your meds.
posted by mek at 7:38 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lovecraft In Brooklyn: the lack of public health care in the US is caused by other problems, not military spending.

Military spending accounts for half of the discretionary Federal budget, and eclipses the rest of the world combined, despite our share of the world GDP being only 22.5%.

Your numbers probably include Social Security as an expense, but it is a trust that we pay into and receive money from, not an expense. Once that red herring is removed from the equation, the cost of our military adventurism (including the ever-increasing costs of the interest payments on our past wars) is obvious.
posted by notion at 7:47 PM on May 26, 2011


A combatant is acting at the orders of and in allegiance to a nation-state while a criminal is not

I'm sure it would've come as news to members of the French Resistance, or to the Italian partisans, or to the Boston colonists at Concord, or in fact, to insurgents anywhere that they were criminals, not combatants. While it may be true that any of these groups may have acted in the name of a hoped-for or envisioned state, none of them acted at the orders of a legally recognized state. So you can certainly propose that principle, but historical evidence suggests that parties have never behaved as if it were so.

If you have to go back to the 19th century to dredge up a legal justification for why you're killing people [Barbary pirates? Seriously?], you're probably not acting on the side of the angels.

Heavens, yes, who would ever go back 200 years for a legal justification for anything! It's unthinkable!

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent ...

Dude, you're the one who thinks Osama Bin Laden is Emmanuel Goldstein and the US is Oceania, don't embarass yourself by copypasting Lincoln (a man who suspended habeas corpus, btw) in a cheap grab at gravitas.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:53 PM on May 26, 2011


Speaking about upping meds:

As I point out to my Australian friends part of the reason they can spend so much on welfare and healthcare and all that is because America spends so much on its military. And I like that idea that if, say, Australia were to fall to fascism or be invaded by China there's at least a chance that America could help.

what are you on?
and so much for Australia's health care.
posted by de at 9:37 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


So what your saying is that Obama should run for re-election on single payer and doubling the defense budget. Imagine we'd finally have the money to finish the job in Vietnam.
posted by humanfont at 12:27 PM on May 27, 2011


That is definitely not what anyone in this thread is saying. If you're going to argue with yourself, can you do it in private? You're shitting the place up.
posted by mek at 2:23 PM on May 27, 2011


Poet_Lariat: "Your gratuitous false dichotomy aside, Ironmouth has already spoken for himself via his posting history. He hates Media Matters (effing truth-tellers ruin it for everybody), believes in the Afghan war, believes Wall Street has not committed crimes worthy of investigation (hates Taibbi as well), promotes American killings of suspected terrorists without trial, believes we should cut back on social spending...."

Uh, you sure about that?

The only time he's mentioned Media Matters on here:
The problem is that for too long, people have underestimated the power of calling out people on bullshit. They are afraid that the bullshitters will make them look bad. But, even if that happens, continuing to call people out works. The one thing the O'Reilly's of this world know is the power of repetition. Why the other side cannot learn that is amazing. Only recently have things like the Daily Show and Media Matters for America begun to systematically and continuously go after the "lying liars" and their ilk.
Supporting Afghanistan is right-wing? Iraq, sure, but Afghanistan was generally seen as a justifiable intervention in a state sponsor of terrorism.

I don't get the sense he doesn't support social spending. He counts the stimulus package as a major accomplishment, for instance.

The rest of it (Wall Street, targeted killings overseas) seem to me more like gripes with the often hyperbolic or inaccurate takes on the situations by writers like Greenwald and, yes, Taibbi.

I don't necessarily agree with him on these points, but I think your summation of his views aren't accurate.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:07 PM on May 27, 2011


I asked: To what extent does support for another state make you responsible for its crimes?

notion: As far as your support made their crimes possible. This is not a difficult question.

In the case of the Iran-Iraq War, then, what do you believe would have happened if the US had not gotten involved? Do you think that Iraq wouldn't have attacked Iran in the first place? Or that the Gulf states wouldn't have provided Iraq with financial backing, allowing it to continue the war?

[My answer is that Iraq would still have attacked Iran, and the Gulf states would still have provided it with the financial backing to fight the war. Iran wasn't an existential threat to the United States, but it certainly was to the Gulf states.]

If you divide the world into countries which are satisfied with the status quo, and countries which are unhappy with the status quo, I think it's fair to say that most countries in the Middle East are extremely unhappy with the status quo. It's not just a matter of specific grievances, such as the Arab-Israeli conflict. In some ways the Arab-Israeli conflict is a symptom of an underlying problem, namely the current weakness of the Arab countries, in the same way that China's ignominous defeat in the 19th-century Opium Wars was a symptom of its weakness.

I'm not claiming that the US is blameless (certainly it's been heavily involved in the region since the earliest days of the Cold War, and even more so since the end of the Cold War)--I'm only trying to point out that there's inherent reasons for the Middle East to be unstable, independent of the US. Even if the US adopts a more restrained and prudent policy with respect to the Middle East (and frankly, I'm not optimistic), I would expect continued conflict in the region. The peaceful revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt are reason for hope, but I haven't yet seen any indications of the East-Asian-style rapid economic growth which has moderated the bitterness and grievances felt by China.

Charles Burton Marshall, The Limits of Foreign Policy (1953):
I stress the obvious but often overlooked externalness of foreign policy. The fundamental circumstance giving rise to foreign policy is that most of the world is outside the United States. The areas in which our foreign policy has its effects are those lying beyond the range of our law. They include about fifteen-sixteenths of the world's land surface and contain about sixteen-seventeenths of its peoples. We cannot ordain the conditions there. The forces do not respond to our fiat. At best we can only affect them.
posted by russilwvong at 5:30 PM on May 27, 2011


[My answer is that Iraq would still have attacked Iran, and the Gulf states would still have provided it with the financial backing to fight the war. Iran wasn't an existential threat to the United States, but it certainly was to the Gulf states.]

Did you typo Iran when you meant Iraq here? I don't understand how anyone (other than pro-Israel propagandists, of course) could claim Iran constituted an existential threat to other Gulf states. You're talking about a country that hasn't invaded another country in hundreds of years. The USA was just cynically playing Iran and Iraq against each other to impair their development. That was what "dual containment" was all about. If the West genuinely wanted secular democracy in the Middle East, all they had to do was leave Iran alone. But no, they wanted their oil. That is the only thing Iran ever posed an "existential threat" to: American corporate interests. This kind of Iran boogeyman rhetoric is just pure propaganda.

The USA has been fucking up both of these countries ever since Israel was created, and we can't just pretend that away. What if the USA hadn't taken a policy of constant intervention to preserve their strategic interest in Israel? Things would look radically, almost unimaginably different. Write an alternate-history novel about it if you like. But don't try to reduce a very real history to mood-ring politics.
posted by mek at 7:04 PM on May 27, 2011


mek: You're talking about a country [Iran] that hasn't invaded another country in hundreds of years.

?!

Obviously there's a pretty big gap between my understanding of Iran and yours, which puzzles me.

Where did you hear this from? What sources of information are you relying on? (*) Iran is one of the largest and most powerful countries in the region, far more powerful than the Gulf states, several of which have sizable Shia minorities. Of course it's going to have ambitions. Iran claimed the whole of Iraq (which has a Shia majority) up until 1937. The two countries fought a proxy war in the 1970s. It was Iraq that started the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, but if Iran had defeated Iraq, it would indeed have been able to dominate the Gulf states. (**)

I know about the numerous disasters of US foreign policy in the region (although I would point out that Britain was more influential in the region than the US until the 1950s, and that Iraq was a Soviet ally rather than a US ally). I'm asking a more specific question, about US support for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War. If the US had not supported Iraq during that war, do you believe that the war would not have occurred?

(*) My primary source of information on the Iran-Iraq War is William Polk, The Arab World Today (1991).

(**) I'm definitely not arguing that the US should attack Iran, as urged by the Gulf states recently. My view is that the US should recognize reality: Iran's a major regional power, and it's not going anywhere. The US should back off from trying to challenge Iran in its sphere of influence. An earlier discussion I had with some right-wing commenters on Megan McArdle's blog.
posted by russilwvong at 10:40 AM on May 28, 2011


Getting back to bin Laden's death:

Obituary of Osama bin Laden by Doug Saunders.

Also by Saunders: We're killing the Afghans we should be speaking to.
... The death of Osama bin Laden has created a new sense that the war can be won outright, if enough force is applied.

“If I were Mullah Omar, I would certainly be worried,” Major-General Richard Mills of the U.S. Marines said after the Abbottabad raid, referring to the leader of one branch of the Afghan Taliban. “It shows that the Americans are focused – once we’ve targeted you, we’re going to maintain our focus on you until the mission’s accomplished.”

As if to drive home that point, commanders announced plans to increase targeted attacks against senior Taliban commanders in Afghanistan, in order to create a patch of scorched earth upon which democratic governance can thrive.

When I hear such lines coming from a military official, I often think of a British diplomat who would raise his eyebrows, bide his time, and then sidle up to journalists and explain that, no, this is not the way things really work in Afghanistan. Not at all: The Taliban and al-Qaeda aren’t connected that way, and to treat them the same is to risk disaster. And he’d have the fieldwork and research, from the most impressive advisers in the country, to prove it.

Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, until last year the British ambassador to Kabul, was one of a small group of foreign officials in Afghanistan who produced truly informed and independent thinking. On the occasions when I spoke with him in Kabul, or in off-the-record gatherings in Britain, he had a rare ability to gauge the conflict from a rational distance, free from the deluge of optimistic propaganda and Byzantine PowerPoint models.

He has now placed those views on the record, after quitting the public service, in his memoir Cables from Kabul. It is a shockingly frank record for a man who was a top diplomat just months ago.
posted by russilwvong at 10:50 AM on May 28, 2011


The US should back off from trying to challenge Iran in its sphere of influence. An earlier discussion I had with some right-wing commenters on Megan McArdle's blog.

Yeah, so, we agree on the conclusion, at least. Unfortunately that doesn't seem to be in the cards.
posted by mek at 11:51 AM on May 28, 2011


Spheres of influence? There is only one sphere. We took a picture from the moon to confirm it. Cast off your antiquated views.
posted by humanfont at 4:51 PM on May 28, 2011


mek: “The USA has been fucking up both of these countries ever since Israel was created, and we can't just pretend that away. What if the USA hadn't taken a policy of constant intervention to preserve their strategic interest in Israel? Things would look radically, almost unimaginably different. Write an alternate-history novel about it if you like. But don't try to reduce a very real history to mood-ring politics.”

I may be misreading what you're saying here just to serve a tangential notion I have about this, but: one thing that bothers me in these conversations is the ever-dominant emphasis on the United States and its role in the world. The fact, I think, is that the middle east – Iran, Iraq, Israel, etc – stands on its own, and while the US has a role to play that role certain is not and has not directly determined events in the region.

This is certainly not to say that the US was ever right in playing Iraq off of Iran through underhanded gifts of money and weapens; nor is it to say that our utterly abysmal attempts at diplomacy which have been characterized by Carter's relationship with Iran from the beginning are good signs for the future.

All I mean is this: people talk as though "Saddam Hussein could never have existed without the US!" or "Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran was the creation of the United States!" Lots of people talk like this – particularly far-left liberals like Noam Chomsky. That always sort of pisses me off; it's almost like a kind of stealth exceptionalism, insisting that the US must have a major role in every important world event, even if that role is negative or even tragic.

The fact is that, to take the example of Iran, Ruhollah Khomeini was a brilliant political theorist who envisioned the first Islamic democracy and provided a theoretical groundwork that could have utterly remade the entire middle east and brought it onto the world stage. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with his writings knows that his plans were remarkable and monumental. The tragedy of Iran for the past three decades has been the fact that, while Ruhollah Khomeini was a brilliant political theorist, he turned out to be a very bad leader prone to rationalizing away tragic mistakes that hurt his country deeply. But I don't believe that that terrible leadership negates all the good Khomeini did. Personally, I believe that we're only now seeing some of the truly positive aspects of his legacy; for he introduced the Islamic world to revolution, to the idea of taking to the streets and demanding a democratic system that ensured justice and gave the people what they deserved as free citizens.

And very little there has to do with the United States. I guess that's my only point; I really do not believe that the United States is responsible for every little thing that happens in foreign regions. I think the United States has often supported terrible regimes, and given money and weapons to people who have done harm; but, even if only out of respect, I think it's necessary to accord to other peoples the responsibility for their own actions, whether those actions are good or bad.
posted by koeselitz at 5:30 PM on May 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Noam Chomsky has just won the Sydney Peace Prize.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:15 PM on June 1, 2011


He's an interesting choice for a peace prize. Asked later whether he regretted supporting those who said the Srebrenica massacre was exaggerated, Chomsky said “My only regret is that I didn’t do it strongly enough.”
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:22 AM on June 2, 2011


I don't support it, but the Left here is... very Left.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:29 AM on June 2, 2011


Joe, that's an interesting choice to attempt to discredit Mr. Chomsky, since it was retracted by the Guardian because it was completely false. The Guardian's readers' editor, Ian Mayes, said today in a corrections and clarifications column printed in the paper, that no question in that form had been put by interviewer Emma Brockes to Prof Chomsky and that "the headline was wrong and unjustified by the text". The Guardian retracted the statement and apologised.

I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you made an honest mistake.
posted by mek at 11:14 AM on June 2, 2011


Mek wrote: I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you made an honest mistake.

That is ever so nice of you, thanks. When I linked to a current post in a left-wing blog I had no idea that people might think I'm part of a shadowy cabal trying to discredit the great man. By the way, you might like to read this web page responding to the apology.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:08 PM on June 2, 2011


Talk about moving the goalposts! Well, I appreciate you replacing your facile comment with a link to an interesting criticism. Here's what your link has to say about your "quote" of Chomsky's interview:

You [The Guardian] rightly point out that no such direct question was put to Professor Chomsky and that what therefore seemed to be a verbatim exchange was no such thing. An error of judgement of this sort was indeed worthy of correction.

Thanks in advance for not repeating that false quote in the future.
posted by mek at 9:20 PM on June 2, 2011


Jeepers. Talk about missing the point. Mek, you need to learn the difference between style and substance.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:14 PM on June 2, 2011


Anigbrowl, your bias is repeatedly evident in your comments in this thread, and your failure to address the content of my posts has been a chronic failure in your replies. I'll kindly ask you to not use my name unless you care to address what I say. The fact remains that Joe in Australia falsely quoted Chomsky, dodged the issue when I called him on it, and you are simply piling on to attack me while I am merely observing the fact that he was wrong.
posted by mek at 11:24 PM on June 2, 2011


Considering that this is the first one of your posts that I have replied to, your complaints of chronic failure appear to be based on a sample size of one. You have seized on the admitted inaccuracy of the quote, and ignored the explicit and much longer treatment of how and why the authors considered it an accurate characterization of Chomsky's position.

You rightly point out that no such direct question was put to Professor Chomsky and that what therefore seemed to be a verbatim exchange was no such thing. An error of judgement of this sort was indeed worthy of correction, but the reason given for such an error in the following sentences actually manages to be incorrect itself.

Why did you see fit to alter the meaning of this extract by omitting the qualifying clause and editing the punctuation to obscure this omission?

[...] We shall argue that the information in this part of the correction is factually wrong and show that the headline was actually a fair summary of Chomsky’s support for Johnstone. Your error, in our view, was compounded by the two most unacceptable sentences in your column, which read, “Ms Brockes’s misrepresentation of Prof. Chomsky’s views on Srebrenica stemmed from her misunderstanding of his support for Ms Johnstone. Neither Prof. Chomsky nor Ms Johnstone have ever denied the fact of the massacre.” Our case is that Ms Brockes didn’t misrepresent Professor Chomsky’s views, didn’t misunderstand his support for Ms Johnstone (that misunderstanding, in fact, being yours) and that Ms Johnstone certainly, and Professor Chomsky effectively, deny the fact of the massacre.

You may disagree with the authors of this critique, but to selectively quote only the support for the verbatim correction while overlooking the substantial criticism is to miss the point entirely. Chomsky's open letter of 2003, quoted at length in the piece, demonstrates support for Johnstone's position as well as her general right to free speech, and reduces the concept of genocide to a rhetorical bargaining chip.

I suggest you rethink your approach to this topic.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:12 AM on June 3, 2011


I was only replying to the "quote" which was a fabrication. If you want to have a nuanced debate of Chomsky's support of Johnson's work, that's another matter entirely. That's not what I was replying to, and honestly, I strongly doubt either you or I have sufficient historical knowledge to have a meaningful debate on that topic. I'm not going to pretend to know as much as either Chomsky or Johnson on that topic, so, argue with them, not me. Become a scholar, discredit their work, write some books, make a million dollars. I don't care. A one-line attack deserves a one-line rebuttal, especially when it's an outright lie.

Which is precisely why that linked "rebuttal" and your attack on me are so contrived; they move the goalposts completely, as Joe in Australia also attempted to do. If one wants to make an academic argument against Johnson's work and Chomsky's support of it, fine, but that has zero relevance to the Guardian's reporting and the veracity of the quote. The Guardian is only concerned with their own journalistic integrity, which was threatened by the publication of a false quote. You're the one that is reducing a complex position to a rhetorical bargaining chip, not me. I am simply pointing out lies when I see them. The argument that "Ms Brockes didn’t misrepresent Professor Chomsky’s views" even though she faked a fucking quote is both funny and sad.

TL;DR: False quote is false. If this is your Waterloo, have at it.
posted by mek at 2:33 PM on June 3, 2011


There'll (always) be more to say. " ... after the Spring, there will be summers, and autumns, and winters to follow", ends Fatima Bhutto: Nations on the verge of nervous breakdown
posted by de at 1:02 AM on June 6, 2011


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