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That’s when I lost my country
September 14, 2011 2:37 AM   Subscribe

Three days late, The War Nerd looks back on 9/11 and mourns.
posted by clarknova (79 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
my dreams arent stupid, fuck you war nerd
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:39 AM on September 14, 2011


It was a strange time. You couldn’t be too loud or too dumb. I know it scared me. Kind of a sci-fi scenario, with everybody around you turned into an insect.

God bless you, War Nerd, for going more towards the Nerd than the War.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:57 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


twoleftfeet: " Kind of a sci-fi scenario, with everybody around you turned into an insect. "

That's how I feel every day about living in America.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:08 AM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


preaching to the choir / circle-jerk / tell me something i don't already know

looking forward to watching history repeat itself, whenever that is.
posted by victory_laser at 3:11 AM on September 14, 2011


Other than the bizarre misogyny directed towards Princess Diana (which really bothered either me, or the part of me that is a moralizing Greek chorus made up entirely of imaginary Mefites, can't decide), this is exactly how I feel about 9/11 and everything that has come after.

Thanks for screaming ineffectually into your computer, War Nerd. It ain't much, but it's the best we got.
posted by Poppa Bear at 4:41 AM on September 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


Man, remember when this sort of thing showed up in newspapers?

Me neither....
posted by cthuljew at 4:51 AM on September 14, 2011


I've been thinking about this post by Tristero on Digby's Hullabaloo about Bill Keller, former editor of The New York Times. It basically makes the point that a whole bunch of people knew that invading Iraq was a bad idea but in the American media that point of view was decried when it wasn't silenced. Bill Keller was, as he puts it himself, a member of "The I-Can’t-Believe-I’m-a-Hawk Club." Tristero says: "It all sounds like a lark, a disagreement among campers over which team to join, the Eagles or the Hawks rather than a discussion about whether or not it achieves some kind of super-ordinate goal to kill lots of people. And when you put it that way, it sounds morally corrupt to label the advocates of such murderous behavior as mere members of a club."

To me and my friends, it seemed self-evident that the invasion of Iraq was a stupid idea that would result in the deaths of thousands upon thousands. It wasn't some Nostradamus-like prognostication. It was the obvious, logical outcome. I'm still angry, all these years later, at the various media figures who argued for war with such flippancy and complete disregard for the lives of their fellow human beings. Bill Keller is one, Tom Friedman and David Remnick are two others. I could go on for a while but it's just too depressing to think about for long and I'd rather go enjoy some lovely September sunshine.
posted by Kattullus at 5:14 AM on September 14, 2011 [24 favorites]


What do Princess Di and 9/11 have in common? No, this isn't the setup for a joke. It's that there is at their core an actual experienced tragedy, but then they get taken over by others and used for different purposes, becoming symbols instead of felt events. Most recently, with 9/11, it seems to be a device wherein a country that has been largely a perpetrator can get to feel the innocence and righteousness of victimhood.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:15 AM on September 14, 2011 [26 favorites]


Well, on the bright side, the USA is probably too broke to be able over-react to that degree again. Unfortunately, if (and when) they do, they'll be winning the war on behalf of the terrorists.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:25 AM on September 14, 2011


Heh...
Best joke I heard over the weekend...

Q: What's the difference between 9/11 and a cow?
A: After 10 years, you stop milking the cow.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:26 AM on September 14, 2011 [56 favorites]


Q: What's the difference between 9/11 and a cow?
A: After 10 years, you stop milking the cow.


I like that. The whole thing seems unseemly to me, but equally it is obviously important to a lot of people, so who am I to pee on their parade?
posted by Forktine at 5:34 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's something annoyingly constructed about war nerd's prose. I can't put my finger on it, reads like James Elroy perhaps.
posted by the noob at 5:37 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


noob: It doesn't flow like it should; it doesn't have the cadence of a proper rant. I like most of the sentiment but reading his prose is like ascending a poorly constructed staircase.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:41 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Looking back, it's hard to believe they could get away with some of the outrageous nonsense they spouted in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Here's just one sample (via those trustworthy sould of Fox News).

Whenever Bush, Blair, Cheney or their underlings try to argue that "we didn't lie, the intelligence on WMDs was murky and we had to err on the side of caution", think of that an other propaganda that was disseminated at the time...
posted by Skeptic at 5:56 AM on September 14, 2011


I'd just like to say: don't be so down on yourself, America. You're actually a pretty great nation, full of pretty great people. We still love you, America.

Do you remember when we first met that day in the park, and you gave me that daisy and we shared our first kiss?

I still remember that day, America. It's a memory I will always treasure.

And do you remember the second time we met, at Sweden's party, and we got drunk on tequila and I let you put your hand down my top?

I would have let you go all the way if you wanted to, America.

Now, you've had a few problems, and you're feeling pretty low. But that bright, eager nation I once knew - a beautiful, athletic nation with a single-minded determination to make the most of life - that nation is still in there. I know you'll bounce back, and when you do, I'll be waiting for you. You were always the one for me.

I mean, I'm fucking Paraguay right now, but that's just a sex thing. Once you get out of rehab I will totally dump that country and we'll be right back on the tequila shooters. That is my promise to you.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 5:57 AM on September 14, 2011 [28 favorites]


thanks Kid. Can we borrow a few bucks before then? Just to kill the pain...
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:05 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


> it doesn't have the cadence of a proper rant

A good rant is a bludgeon. A good essay is a vivisection.

War Nerd keeps trying to get the reader where it hurts, so he keeps stabbing over and over, hoping the knife occasionally gets through the ribs, but he can't tell if it has.
posted by ardgedee at 6:07 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


related
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:12 AM on September 14, 2011


Ugh. Did you notice how he leads with a bunch of random slut-shaming about Princess Diana (yes, the whole "oh it's so tragic" thing was stupid; no, it isn't okay to be all "and she was a slut") and then goes all "and crying is for girls" and then goes all "I only regret the dead when they are high quality warriors!" I had kind of thought that this would be, you know, actual war nerderie about the fine points of this or that, but instead it's someone who enjoys the very skeeviest variety of woman-hating, plus a little fakery about manliness.
posted by Frowner at 6:27 AM on September 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


Can we borrow a few bucks before then?

Yeah ... thing is, it's, like, Paraguay's birthday next week, and I spent all my spare cash on a present ... but like I said - totally just a sex thing. Uh ... yeah.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:30 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


New Yorkers hamming it up the way they’ve been doing for ten long years

In my experience, those in New York ten years ago have been the least hammy of anyone. This guy is a clueless bufoon.
posted by exogenous at 6:37 AM on September 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


...those in New York ten years ago have been the least hammy of anyone.

With the exception of Rudy Giuliani.
posted by TedW at 7:10 AM on September 14, 2011


I mean, I'm fucking Paraguay right now, but that's just a sex thing.

I read the first half of this sentence and thought you were writing from the perspective of Paraguay (as in, "I am Paraguay (fuck!)"), and thought that was an interesting choice of perspective to write a letter to America from.
posted by kaibutsu at 7:20 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The same amnesia she got happened in the press: no apologies, not even an admission. I tried once and someone told me, “There’s no point playing the blame game.” Blame game! If only McClellan had had the PR agency that made that one up. “There’s no point playing the blame game, Mr. Lincoln, just give me another two million troops and I’ll try again.” There’s plenty of goddamn point in playing the blame game when you’re talking about the people who cheer-led you into a disastrous invasion.

There is the occasional point in there. I feel this is a big one.
posted by The Whelk at 7:26 AM on September 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


New Yorkers hamming it up the way they’ve been doing for ten long years

In my experience, those in New York ten years ago have been the least hammy of anyone. This guy is a clueless bufoon.


Proof - Bloomberg took a lot of shit for not allowing clergy or politicians to speak on Sunday. If we NYers wanted hammery, we would have had the whole freakin circus down there milkin it.
posted by spicynuts at 7:26 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


With the exception of Rudy Giuliani.

You omitted my phrase "in my experience." Apart from living in the city when he was mayor, I have no experience with that bozo. Anyone who takes him for a typical New Yorker is deluded.
posted by exogenous at 7:34 AM on September 14, 2011


And something else that I've been thinking about amid all the anniversary stuff is just that - does no one remember the whirlwind of meaningless bullshit we got trapped in during the lead up to the Iraq disaster? Are we not talking about that? It's like reading the e-mails you sent your ex-girlfriends while drunk except instead of being red-faced the next day, people got their limps blown off. I mean, for fucks shake I remember reading something comparing Al Qaedia to the Simpsons but we're actually Ned Flanders and they're just resentful. And these were not minority opinions! Have we all just decided to forget we were massively lied to and that the majority of us ate it up unblinkingly?
posted by The Whelk at 7:34 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The article talks about that a lot the Whelk. Maybe you should READ IT ALREADY awwwww snapppp

daaaamnnnnnnnn OOOOOOOOOO u got TOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLD
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:36 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not the War Nerd at his best, I'll agree. It's part persona, which is where the whole measuring the dead by height and warrior qualities thing is coming from. And c'mon, the whole princess di thing was pretty damned stupid...

The end of that para the Whelk quoted was pretty much classic War Nerd:
Me, I’m for blood purges where you line up every editorial writer in front of a mass grave, read them what they wrote back in 2003, and then mow them down, but I’m willing to settle for hard labor for life. Cheney on the Chain Gang. Has a ring to it.
posted by kaibutsu at 7:36 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Relevant conclusion "Two dozen spoiled unemployable dimwits managed to lobotomize my country, bankrupt it, make it such a nasty alien place I didn’t even feel part of it any more."
posted by The Whelk at 7:39 AM on September 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


seriously though I didn't like this at all until i got to his evisceration of the media and political scene before the Iraq war. he's dead on about the mass hysteria that was prevelant.

its funny how everyone blames the media but refuses to take any blame themselves. I'm always the only one around who says: 'Actually I 100% supported the Iraq war, and the president.' I knew lots and lots of liberal and/or intelligent people who did the same. I can't at all tell you why I did really. But I know it wasn't an unpopular war in any way. It was what America wanted, and we got it. In our grief and collective rage, we fucked up big time, and we're paying the price for it now. If I were fucking Paraguay, or any other country, I'd be a little bit sympathetic towards us, or at least try to learn from our mistakes.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:41 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Two dozen spoiled unemployable dimwits

Yeah, see that's what I mean, I think that's wrong. More like '200 Million Regular Sane People Went Nuts and Demanded Blood'. It was shameful, and I for one regret heavily my lack of insight.

It's very greek drama in a way...where the Chorus calls for revenge, the hubristic protagonist delivers in spads, upon which the gods smash him and his city and the Chorus goes OOOOOH shit.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:49 AM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Another war nerd discusses 9-11, and Bin Laden's failure to rouse Islamic revolution across the Middle East.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:58 AM on September 14, 2011


... that bright, eager nation I once knew - a beautiful, athletic nation with a single-minded determination to make the most of life - that nation is still in there.

I really don't think it is.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:04 AM on September 14, 2011


The Princess Di stuff is gross, and has nothing to do with the topic of the essay. That's bullshit, and I won't give this essay one more second of my time, starting now.
posted by Kwine at 8:11 AM on September 14, 2011


In case you're curious, War Nerd is written by poet John Dolan (his poetry is pretty good, incidentally). If you want to know more about Dolan, here's an interesting interview with Dolan.

I think the main thing to keep in mind when reading the War Nerd columns is to think of them as fiction. Not in the sense that everything is false, but that Dolan uses fiction to look at the world from a perspective that can be hard to get to through straight op-ed writing.
posted by Kattullus at 8:11 AM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Forktine: "Q: What's the difference between 9/11 and a cow?
A: After 10 years, you stop milking the cow.


I like that. The whole thing seems unseemly to me, but equally it is obviously important to a lot of people, so who am I to pee on their parade?
"

If you were at ground zero, if you had loved ones there, if you know people who were affected in some way by it (in a direct sense, not "MY COUNTRY WAS ATTACKED! GRRRRRR") then I won't piss on your parade. If you use it as an excuse to support totalitarian policies and war and all the horrible things done in the name of 9/11, then I'll piss on your parade. I'll Shit on your parade, I'll menstruate all over your parade (and I'm not even a woman). Every bodily fluid I can muster, except tears for your crocodile sympathy. Oh, I may shed a few tears for the loss of liberties since 9/11, for the outright support of torture and hatred of "the Other".

I feel sad for the people who had to suffer, but no more than any other tragedy. I don't make 9/11 to be more tragic than the Japanese Tsunami, than the Haiti Quake, than the Indonesian Tsunami, or even other terrorist attacks around the world, or any other military attacks by any state actor.

--------------

I've mentioned it in a post before, but I'll spread it here, because I want to spread the meme.

"Fountain of Innocents": A memorial. White stone dome. Coming out of the top center, a small spout that pushes red colored water/fluid to wash over the dome, day and night, non stop.

A memorial for all the innocents, in all the wars, and terrors, regardless of who is killed or who did the killing. From the beginning of time to now, and in the future.

OK.
posted by symbioid at 8:12 AM on September 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


The Cost of War was a pretty good, less ranty, and more numbers based assessment.

I liked the essay in the FPP. The Princess Di and Warrior-Height-Comparison is all part of his gimmick. I can see how you might not like it, but it's not an honestly held belief.
posted by codacorolla at 8:16 AM on September 14, 2011


preaching to the choir / circle-jerk /

Yeah, that's more or less my take. The War Nerd is not on my radar and exposure to this article won't change things much. A little too much like waking up hungover and looking myself in the mirror.

tell me something i don't already know

Like the War Nerd, I had no particular interest in talking-9/11 on the day. But I did end up digging through some old emails, and came across one in particular (sent by an old journo friend on 9/12/01) that concluded with this nugget:

We ended up just sitting around, talking, drinking, toking, surfing the net, where Lawrence found the Hindustan Times headline (from Indian somewhere, I'm assuming): FORTRESS AMERICA BREACHED. Of course, they were condemning the attack, but there was something else going on as well: a kind of giddy recognition that the most super of superpowers is suddenly looking awfully exposed and vulnerable. Nobody really loves an overdog, do they?

NOW … it's the day after. Sept 12.01, a little after 10 AM. About an hour or so ago, I saw something on TV that I'd been waiting for with some interest. The first commercial breaks in news coverage. CNN HEADLINE NEWS. A computer ad. A hotel ad (that may or may not have included a brief glimpse of the World Trade Towers, as two businessmen shook hands in the foreground), and then a driver safety ad c/o SHELL. And then something for tooth polish. This flashed me back to my first Molson Indy motor race, the one that saw the rather horrific death of a track worker captured in horrific detail on the big screens around the track. I remember how a palpable sense of shock and deep horror sort of settled on the warm afternoon. And I remember how it lifted slightly when the track broadcast suddenly cut to a bunch of commercials. Call it relief, slowly working through the crowd. It was as if we needed to be firmly reminded of who and what we were: an accumulation of good consumers who really just needed to be told what to buy.

Duty now for the future.

posted by philip-random at 8:48 AM on September 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, the War Nerd is pretty clearly a satirically over the top character, but it's never clear where exactly the top is supposed to be (but, naturally, any given reader might find the obnoxious bits no more palatable for being calculated.)
posted by Zed at 9:37 AM on September 14, 2011


Today, Sep 14th 2011, is the 10th anniversary of Rep Barbara Lee's (D, Cal. 9th) solitary vote against authorizing "W" to make war as Dick Cheney & posse saw fit. Here's the speech she gave from the floor of the House before the 420-1 vote in favor of unleashing the Hounds of Hell™ in reaction to grief and anger on a national scale.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:01 AM on September 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


its funny how everyone blames the media but refuses to take any blame themselves. I'm always the only one around who says: 'Actually I 100% supported the Iraq war, and the president.' I knew lots and lots of liberal and/or intelligent people who did the same. I can't at all tell you why I did really. But I know it wasn't an unpopular war in any way. It was what America wanted, and we got it.

Look I know this is your little swords-into-plowshares moment of imagined "we're all the same, if ya think about it" contrition but seriously...

If you were over the age of say 14 in 2003 then I'm afraid you have no excuse and you're just dense. Incredibly dense.
No sane person not cowing to idiotic nationalism and flashy flag-lapel-pin tribalism (or owning stock in a huge military contractor) could possibly have gotten on board that moron train to war and no you dont get a pass for being "liberal" or "intelligent", though I suspect you may be working from very different definitions of those two words than I am.
Shit, we had one of the largest days of worldwide protest in history so you cant really cop to it not being an unpopular war at the time.
Sure it was a dark time full of jingoistic asshole pundits and Leni Reifenstahl half time shows by Toby Keith, but those are precisely the times when people that should fucking know better have a responsibility TO know better. I'm not a terribly educated man and even I knew at the time that it was all a bunch of bullshit.
What I find so toxic about your comment is that it plays part-mea culpa, part revisionist history. Like when right wingers say "derp, lots of Dems voted for the war too! So whaddayagonnao?" as if it was just some mass-fever that we all got hit with at the same time.
It wasnt. It was stupid. It was transparent. It was the acme of obviousness that it was a stupid war and there were LOTS of us that werent so blinded by wanting to keep the peace at the dinner table at the holidays that we actually said and did things about it.

Not that it did us any good at all, but lets not pretend that there was anything at all understandable about supporting that bullshit war.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:20 AM on September 14, 2011 [25 favorites]


I think the main thing to keep in mind when reading the War Nerd columns is to think of them as fiction. Not in the sense that everything is false, but that Dolan uses fiction to look at the world from a perspective that can be hard to get to through straight op-ed writing.

So he's ripping off T. Herman Zweibel, then.

Also: nice to know you can call dead women "sluts" if it's satire.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:38 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, the Iraq war was what America wanted. It also spawned one of the largest days of worldwide protest ever. These are hardly contradictory truths.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:38 AM on September 14, 2011


The War Nerd hits the nail on the head. Again.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:01 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


For me it will always be the image of Colin Powell showing a fucking cartoon to the UN that drove home just how little we knew and how thin our justification for war was.

We had CIA the NSA the FBI and the PTA and all we could come up with was an artists interpretation !!

Fuck Bush and anyone who supported his efforts for that war.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 11:05 AM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


One of the things that strikes me about the War Nerd article is how conspiracy-free it is. One of the hallmarks of 9/11 is the conspiracy theory, but the article posits something different: there's no greater conspiracy than a bunch of stupid, flabby, legacy-rich folks with no long-term vision, and a bunch of like minded friends. What's more frightening? That there's a shadowy conspiracy at the helm of the last 10 years, or that there's no one driving and the spoils go to those with the most funds and the least morals?

I think that part of the allure of a conspiracy is two-fold:

1) It makes you powerless to stop it, since the conspiracy is always growing, and bigger than you could ever imagine. This abdicates you from responsibility, because a conspiracy is infinitely more evil and powerful than you could imagine.

2) It suggests that even if you aren't personally in control, then someone is.

Even the real-life conspiracy that started this decade, the plan to blow up the WTC, isn't really as much a conspiracy as a happy accident. In the War Nerd's model of our decade Al Qaeda was just a bunch of losers who tacked their feelings of social impotence onto militant religious fundamentalism (like the commander of a fleet in Eve, or something). The fact that the plot to fly airplanes into buildings worked so well, and caused America to absolutely lose its shit so much, was just a fortunate (for them) accident.

The ripples outward from this accident weren't the carefully plotted machinations of a shadow government cabal - they were just like vultures finally swooping in as they see the cow taking its last staggering steps.

But Americans can't accept the fact that the most important event of the new century could just be the unfortunate culmination of an aggressive foreign policy mixed with the dumb luck of a bunch of neckbeards in the Afghani wastelands - there had to be something bigger behind it all, which is what Cheney and Bush were more than happy to provide in the stock figure of all-powerful Sadam Hussein. America was looking for a cartoon villain, and they handed those idiots a blank check to find one. The more complicated, reality based explanation wasn't nearly as satisfying, and placed entirely too much blame on America itself. Now both of our cartoon villains are dead (Bin Laden and Hussein both turned to the deflated corpses of old men through American efforts) and things aren't really any better. You still have the messy reality of a bunch of short-sighted, rich-boy idiots to deal with.

That's my reading of it, anyway.
posted by codacorolla at 11:38 AM on September 14, 2011 [13 favorites]


I really thought this was one of the best things I've read from the War Nerd. Once you get used to his asshole persona, you realize he's usually got some good points to make—or at least some cogent observation on the state of play in any given martial conflict. But reading this article really did take me back to those days of 2003-2004 and the hand-shaking ANGER I felt at the fucking idiots who bought the obvious bullshit being sold to start the Iraq war. And make no mistake, it was obvious bullshit. I got more politically involved than I have ever been before or since. I almost got fired from my job for arguing with my boss (who actually admitted to me that I had been right, eventually). And that's the reason I ended up supporting Obama in the last presidential election. There was no way I would ever cast a vote for Hillary Clinton for one reason: she voted for the Iraq war. I will never cast a vote for anyone who supported the Iraq war, because that, right there, tells me everything there is to know about them. They are unfit to hold office. I will and have forgiven supporters of the Iraq war who have come to their senses, but I have not and will not forgive anyone who held elected office at the time and supported the war in any way. There's way too much blood on their hands, and treasure missing from the coffers for me to do that.
posted by vibrotronica at 12:22 PM on September 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


Also: nice to know you can call dead women "sluts" if it's satire.

You can do pretty much anything if it's satire.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:31 PM on September 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


KokuRyu: Also: nice to know you can call dead women "sluts" if it's satire.

It's not satire, it's fiction. It's not okay to call Princess Diana, or anyone else, a 'slut,' but fictitious characters routinely say and do worse. Fiction has different rules from real life. Gary Brecher is a character created by John Dolan. Dolan writes columns in his voice. Brecher is a down-at-heel character whose main interest in life is war. Dolan uses him to discuss the modern world from the perspective of someone who is only really interested in warfare, tactics, strategy and the various tools of war.

I don't know Dolan, so I can't lay claim to any sort of first-hand knowledge, but as I understand it the Brecher character is a way to look at the world in an abstract way, ignoring a lot of the mores and nuances of modern life, to explore often ignored nuances and forgotten parts of the world.

Personally, I sighed when I got to the part about Princess Diana. It annoyed me, but it was probably meant to annoy someone like me, a Nordic social-democratic novelist. So I continued and got to a striking examination of the terrorist destruction on the World Trade Center and the response to it by the US government.

The War Nerd columns are fiction, and I read them as such. I judge them the way I would judge any other literary text. I think they're well written and Gary Brecher is an interesting character and his perspective is frequently, even after all these years of reading him, unexpected and thought-provoking.
posted by Kattullus at 1:44 PM on September 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


The part where someone who supported the war 100 percent excuses the error by calling himself "intelligent" and noting that many other "intelligent" poeple like himself did ... might want to go for a little bit more humility there, dude. You made a mistake, own up to it, don't use your smarts or anyone else's smarts as a disclaimer.
posted by raysmj at 2:43 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I made a mistake, I own up to it. I'll only say that I didn't buy the Saddam=Osama line of argument; that was clearly bullshit. I did, however, believe that there was going to be some form of WMD program that would have retroactively justified the exercise, and I lay that at the feet of Colin Powell and others who played the role of responsible water-carrier.

I don't know why the Princess of Wales jab got everyone so riled up, but then it was intended as bait -- just not to the likes of you all. Whatever her personality and her victimization in that whole soap opera, at the heart she was an upper-class twit with a primary ambition being to marry up, and when she did it was into an anachronistic system that should engender little worship by Americans, yet you almost see more nostalgia for it here than there. Her son may have saved the institution for another century (we've yet to see, of course), but good grief, she was no saint.
posted by dhartung at 4:00 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


BUT SHE WAS SO PRETTY!!!
posted by Senor Cardgage at 4:34 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


>KokuRyu: Also: nice to know you can call dead women "sluts" if it's satire.

It's not satire, it's fiction. It's not okay to call Princess Diana, or anyone else, a 'slut,' but fictitious characters routinely say and do worse.


Yeah, yeah, no need to spell it out - I'm not a moran. Just never heard of the War Nerd before, and, as they say, context is everything, you bunch of dick faces.*

*I am a satirical fictitious internet stranger
posted by KokuRyu at 4:53 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is my other favorite War Nerd article, if you are interested enough despite the Di stuff in the 9/11 thing.

I don't follow his blogging at all but every once in a while somebody links something he has to say about a major news event and it just seems to really capture the mood.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:57 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I got to the point about Di and was confused and then kept reading and then came over here because I figured that it must be satire because nothing like that makes mefi if it's serious about the slut thing but a lot of people are agreeing, and I am very confused. Can someone explain The War Nerd to me as if I am new to the internet?
posted by NoraReed at 5:34 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Once you get past the Princess Di thing the article gets amazing.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:45 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ha! After doing some research, I understand!
posted by KokuRyu at 6:53 PM on September 14, 2011


I'm not sure if anyone is even interested, but this NYT piece by Bill Keller is an explanation of a person who turned hawk for 9/11 and is able to admit that he was wrong.
posted by codacorolla at 6:53 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, someone was interested.
posted by bonefish at 2:03 AM on September 15, 2011


The Princess Di bit is interesting not so much for whether it's something the author sincerely believes, or whether it's something the character sincerely believes, or whether author or character are using it to get attention as for what it does to the rest of the piece. It doesn't matter so much whether the casual misogyny is part of the persona or is emerging through the persona - it tees up that "casual misogyny" is part of the narrative.

So, when "Gary Brecher" then talks about his issues with a woman senior to him in his office, I'm reading that thinking "so, part of the thing about this persona is that he has issues with women, right? How is that supposed to affect my reading of this account? How reliable is the narrator, here?" Which I suspect is not the author's intent, although I may be wrong.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:55 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't like the way the Iraq war was sold, and I certainly didn't like how the post-war occupation was handled, but I'll 'fess up: Given the facts on the ground, I still don't think there was any good option w/r/t Iraq.

The embargo and no-fly zones were doing nothing to remove Saddam from power and served only to hurt the Iraqi people and inflame anti-US resentment in the Arab world. (Yes, the Kurds were doing okay under the status quo pro bellum. Nothing's ever simple, is it?) There was a broad, bipartisan consensus on the goal of regime change in Iraq, and it had been in place since at least the late 90s. I agreed with this goal because I believed Saddam was a source of instability throughout the world and would have provided the next haven for Al Qaeda once they were driven out of Afghanistan.

Now, it's one thing to want regime change like a pony and it's another thing to commit blood and treasure. (See also: Everybody wants to go to Heaven but nobody wants to die.) If there was some realistic alternative to eventually going to war with Iraq, nobody ever discussed it.
posted by whuppy at 7:42 AM on September 15, 2011


Here's the more realistic alternative to going to war with Iraq: Not going to war with Iraq.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:34 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Vibrotronica, a good start. Now please explain why you would have been okay with Saddam staying in power. For extra credit, provide a plan for unwinding the sanctions and no-fly zones. Bonus points if you can provide for protection of the Marsh Arabs.
posted by whuppy at 8:44 AM on September 15, 2011


Here's one alternative I floated at the time: Lend the IAEA a Marine Expeditionary Force and perform weapons inspections to everyone's satisfaction. I don't know how realistic an idea it was, but I think we can all agree on the intermediate goal of somehow getting solid intelligence before going to war.
posted by whuppy at 9:03 AM on September 15, 2011


Yes, someone was interested.

thanks for the reminder, Bonefish, as this part of Kattullus' comment didn't seem to penetrate my brain yesterday ...

To me and my friends, it seemed self-evident that the invasion of Iraq was a stupid idea that would result in the deaths of thousands upon thousands. It wasn't some Nostradamus-like prognostication. It was the obvious, logical outcome. I'm still angry, all these years later, at the various media figures who argued for war with such flippancy and complete disregard for the lives of their fellow human beings. Bill Keller is one,

To me, what he's touching on here is reflective of much of what Noam Chomsky gets at in Manufacturing Consent -- the notion that Big Media, by its very nature, filters out potential rabble-rousers (truth tellers?) long before they ever chance to get near the big kids table. That is, if you're the kind of person who's going to cry foul and make a stink about (and not even buy into the discussion of) the latest new clothes the Emperor's buying into, well good luck even getting your first job in journalism -- that's just not the right field for you.

Because the news biz wants folks who are going to accept the reasonable boundaries of discussion for any given story and humbly live within them. In the case of the ROAD TO WAR we were all on back in 2001/2002, that meant you had to accept that there was somewhere a good argument for the war, it just had to be presented ... as opposed to the possibility (now revealed to be the reality) that the whole atrocity was being manufactured from scratch by shadow agents (and the kind of pompous, self-important suckers who do their bidding).

I can't say I believe in Satan but if I did, I'd have a hard time imagining he wasn't right at the poisonous heart of it all.
posted by philip-random at 9:06 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, you explain how getting rid of Sadaam was a higher prioroity then getting Bin Laden. You explain how spending trillions of dollars and killing tens of thousands of people and trashing our goddamned country along with Iraq was a better idea than letting Sadaam stew powerless until the Arab Spring let his own people deal with their own problems. You explain why all that was worth lying to start a war. You're the one who wanted the pony, not me.
posted by vibrotronica at 9:10 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agreed with this goal because I believed Saddam was a source of instability throughout the world and would have provided the next haven for Al Qaeda once they were driven out of Afghanistan.

You forgot the part about "I was actually completely wrong about this and listened to people who had their heads up their asses on this subject". Lots of us believed the people who said "Saddam is a secularist authoritarian and al Qaeda are Sunni fundamentalists and they don't fucking get along in the least, so the idea tha Iraq would harbor Bin Laden-types is fucking ludicrous." That message was out there at the time, and believing it rather than the bush/Cheney lies was an option many of us exercised.

Now please explain why you would have been okay with Saddam staying in power. For extra credit, provide a plan for unwinding the sanctions and no-fly zones. Bonus points if you can provide for protection of the Marsh Arabs.

-There are lots of evil dictators that are abusing people out there. Most of them we don't think it reasonable to go to war over. Life sucks that way, but we're not the world's magic-wand-make-things-better to wave.

-Unwinding the sanctions and no-fly-zones are as easy as having the will to say "We're ending these now. They are immoral and ineffective and we're not the world's policeman, especially when this beat is all the fucking way on the opposite side of the world.

Protecting the Marsh Arabs is a noble goal. But there are lots of noble goals and abused peoples out there. And back home our country is falling apart. Sorry, but not our responsibility.

I so fucking resent the "There was no option/everyone was in favor of it". Lots of us here in Barbara Lee territory were not in favor of the war from the get go. That's why she has such high approval reateings and keeps getting re-elected. Lots of us believed Scott Ritter when he told us that Iraq had no WMD programs and the run-up to the war was liles and bullshit.

Americans love war, and ONCE AGAIN, lots of Americans bought the propaganda about why this latest war was justified and signed on with the UNLEASH THE HOUND OF HELL™ folks.

But lots of us realized that NOT going to war meant someone was going to get the short end of the stick and we still said "No, you're wrong to support this war, and it's not worth it, gonna end badly, and is based on lies". And we were right from the get go.

So yeah, everyone who supported the war (especially liberals) should mea culpa like "whoa" because you were tragically wrong in the face of the evidence.

But I'm wearing my "NOT MY WAR SINCE BEFORE IT WAS A WAR AND FUCKING SAID SO" pin real fucking prominently.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:12 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Next time someone trots out the "What about bad thing "X" that bad man "Y" is doing all the way across the globe, point them to The Case For Restraint by Barry Posen:
Since the end of the Cold War 16 years ago, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have been running an experiment with U.S. grand strategy. The theory to be tested has been this: Very good intentions, plus very great power, plus action can transform both international politics and the domestic politics of other states in ways that are advantageous to the United States, and at costs it can afford. The evidence is in: The experiment has failed. Transformation is unachievable, and costs are high.

The United States needs now to test a different grand strategy: It should conceive its security interests narrowly, use its military power stingily, pursue its enemies quietly but persistently, share responsibilities and costs more equitably, watch and wait more patiently. Let’s do this for 16 years and see if the outcomes aren’t better.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:33 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


P-B-Z-M, I don't disagree with your sentiments but I don't think your prescriptions are realistic. The pre-war situation, IMHO, was untenable and was eventually going to lead to some sort of confrontation with Iraq.

Vibrotronica, as I noted above, I agree that the war was sold on lies and that the post-war situation was tragically botched.

Even though it's many years and lives too late, I am still looking for some sort of discussion of how we should have handled Iraq. I am not satisfied with the answers given by either side.

Are we willing to discuss hypotheticals? Let's say Bush the Lesser didn't steal the election and the 9/11 plot was thwarted. What could President Gore have done about Iraq? What should he have done?
posted by whuppy at 9:49 AM on September 15, 2011


It would have been better and cheaper just to maintain the sanctions and drop in some cruise missiles every once in a while like Clinton did. I think Saddam knew pretty well what would happen if he pissed everyone off again.

If there was a crisis that meant we had to invade at some point, well do it I guess, but the pre-emptive nature of the Iraq War was the biggest and most obvious failing.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:11 AM on September 15, 2011


Are you saying that the war was based on lies (which you agree mirrors reality) and that the war was therefore inevitable? The war was inevitable because people believed the specifically crafted lies and "He's a Hitler" talk. They believed he had WMD because the people saying he did also did their best to silence/discredit those who said "The best evidence is that they ended their WMD program".

What should Gore have done? Not invade Iraq, which involves leaving Saddam in place to abuse his people atrociously.

The Arab democracy movements in Tunisia and Egypt and Libya all happened without the US backing them. We probably would have made things worse had the US been intimately involved. Non-zero chance that the Iraqis might have seen what their fellows across the region were doing and actually risen up against Saddam's government on their own.

Or maybe he continued to grind it out as a brutal dictator.

The American Century is over, and there's every reason to believe we're receding from Superpower status to Great Power status (see Posen link above). Whatever we would like, it seems our ability to make that happen falls short of our aspirations.

And the difference is filled in with blood and destruction and econopopcalypse.

What should Gore have done? Not invade Iraq, leave Saddam to abuse his people, and have the national Guard ready and on hand when Katrina hit. Not piss away gajilions of dollars right before Wall Street's ponzi schemes and fraud catch up with us.

Stuff like that.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:15 AM on September 15, 2011


furiousxgeorge, thanks for your reply. I agree that that's the hypothetical's most likely outcome. But I question whether we would have the political will to sustain the sanctions and no-fly zones for generations, as we have for Cuba and North Korea.

P-B-Z-M, nice to see we agree on most things but I said nothing of the sort. My read of the situation at the time was that it would remain a wellspring of pan-Arab resentment and that there was no way either side could back down. That is why I viewed an eventual confrontation as unavoidable.
posted by whuppy at 10:33 AM on September 15, 2011


Also, P-B-Z-M, regarding:
What should Gore have done? Not invade Iraq, which involves leaving Saddam in place to abuse his people atrociously.
I obviously disagree but I do respect your candor.
posted by whuppy at 10:40 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


My read of the situation at the time was that it would remain a wellspring of pan-Arab resentment and that there was no way either side could back down. That is why I viewed an eventual confrontation as unavoidable.

We could always change our behavior in ways that don't make people in the region so resentful. That too is an option:
The Eleventh Day confronts what the West refused to face in the years that followed 9/11. "All the evidence ... indicates that Palestine was the factor that united the conspirators – at every level," they write. One of the organisers of the attack believed it would make Americans concentrate on "the atrocities that America is committing by supporting Israel". Palestine, the authors state, "was certainly the principal political grievance ... driving the young Arabs (who had lived) in Hamburg".

The motivation for the attacks was "ducked" even by the official 9/11 report, say the authors. The commissioners had disagreed on this "issue" – cliché code word for "problem" – and its two most senior officials, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, were later to explain: "This was sensitive ground ...Commissioners who argued that al-Qa'ida was motivated by a religious ideology – and not by opposition to American policies – rejected mentioning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict... In their view, listing US support for Israel as a root cause of al-Qa'ida's opposition to the United States indicated that the United States should reassess that policy." And there you have it.
If we acted less like an Empire practicing gunboat diplomacy, there would be much less resentment. If we started treating Israel as a grown-up ally on the US taxpayer's teat with rights and responsibilities as a nuclear power, rather than a nation-sized Eric Cartman in an Afrikaans accent with tanks and jets and The Bomb and a guaranteed US veto in the Security Council no matter what, there'd probably be less resentment regionally. If we stopped preferring friendly dictators (whom we arm and support while looking the other way @ their abuses) to local democratically-elected leaders (whom we sicc the CIA on to overthrow), there'd be less resentment

Lawrence Wilkerson, in this series of videos, gives a lecture where he points out that we're basically running our Empire on credit and IOUs, and the ability for America to project force across the globe can, and probably will, shrivel up sooner and faster than many people are expecting. Because bullets and jet fuel cost money.

Conflict was/is only inevitable if we conceive of America as an Empire. Within that framework, yes, there was no option. The option was to choose a different framework to see America and our role in the world.

And how much of it we can afford to pay for. Because paved roads and repaired bridges and fixing Vermont while all their N.G. helicopters are off in Iraq when Irene hit, those cost money too.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:15 AM on September 15, 2011


P-B-Z-M, I like your style. I sincerely hope you get your trans-dimensional jet-powered flying pony that craps rainbows.
posted by whuppy at 12:14 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't forget the "Patrick Swayze Centaur" aspect for the tattoo. ;-)
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:21 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fight of the Living Dead: Like zombie banks that made bad loans, supporters of the Iraq War have dug in their heels on past mistakes.
posted by homunculus at 6:24 PM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


What I would have done about Saddam Hussein in 2002: Reality TV show.
posted by wobh at 6:05 AM on September 17, 2011


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