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On London
July 16, 2005 4:31 PM   Subscribe

"At this moment, I am proud to be a citizen of a country that has done more than most to help the US get rid of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. And I think that it would do other Europeans some good to think again about what their countries have achieved, if anything, to try to stem the tide of dictatorships and terrorism around the world. They should wonder whether they are really asking themselves the hard questions. Or whether they are shrugging their shoulders and blaming America because that is what they have been brought up to do." A thoughtful & conflicted post from the anti-war Englishman in New York reflecting on the London bombings.
posted by dhoyt (119 comments total)

 
It's pretty sad that he moved to the States and changed his mind about all this thanks to the eminent and respectable American media, of all things.
posted by mek at 4:41 PM on July 16, 2005


"Not suicide bombers but homicide bombers! It all makes sense now!"
posted by mek at 4:42 PM on July 16, 2005


"Conficted," is a good word for how a lot of people feel about this war. I just went out do my laundry, and during the dry cycle I had a beer at my local bar. A kid about 2 walked wearing desert fatigues. I asked if he was in the service. He said yes, and that he was just back from Iraq. I told him flat out that I was a gainst the war, that I had in fact marched against it. He said "it's not too popular with us out in the feild either."

It's a blunt illustration, but it sums up how a lot aof people feel. After 9/11, Madrid and London, it's difficult for any sane person to surmise that the people behind such acts represent anything but fascism with an Islamic excuse. But, watching the nightly news from Iraq, seeing the casualties American, Allies and Iraqi, it's difficult to wonder if it's doing any good. It's profoundly depressing, is what it is. But the question is: what do we do?

on preview: mek, STFU.
posted by jonmc at 4:44 PM on July 16, 2005


sorry, the kid was not 2, but 22. typo.
posted by jonmc at 4:44 PM on July 16, 2005


mek, could you explain your comment? I didn't see the phrase "homicide bombers" in the link.
posted by gwint at 5:02 PM on July 16, 2005


A few decades ago, they would have backed any despotic ruler if it meant they could have their way. Well, they learned their lesson.

Wow. What a stupid thing to say.

Regarding the London attacks - the men behind these were a) educated British Muslims, b) eager to die for their cause. You do not weaken or demotivate these men by attacking their spiritual homeland. You strengthen their resolve. There are only two broad policies that can prevent these attacks - improved national security and surveillance, and a process of integration and openness to the global Muslim community, rather than one of mutual antagonism. The policy advocated by the Project for a New American Century and friends is that of Orwellian perpetual war against a faceless enemy named Terror. It is the childish desire to be seen striking out revengefully against anyone, no matter how distant, after those who have truly wronged you have already taken their own lives.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 5:03 PM on July 16, 2005


here
posted by Pretty_Generic at 5:04 PM on July 16, 2005


You do not weaken or demotivate these men by attacking their spiritual homeland. You strengthen their resolve.

I agree. But how do we deal with the very real threat such people represent to innocent lives? I'm honestly asking.
posted by jonmc at 5:06 PM on July 16, 2005


gwint: a sarcastic rail against the bias of the American media vs. the BBC.

How is one "conflicted" about the Iraq war? Is it considered, perhaps, messy but necessary? Effective but with unfortunate side effects? To support the Iraq war at all requires acceptance of the premise that it is somehow effective at stifling terrorism (which is what we're REALLY at war with, wink wink), while it's much more likely the opposite is true. Enter fallback excuses of saddam-wasn't-very-nice. Irrelevant by now as the USA is now on par with that evil dictator in terms of Iraqi casualties.

anyway, Iraqfilter.
posted by mek at 5:09 PM on July 16, 2005


I don't believe there are answers apart from the ones I gave. If your enemy is eager to die, you have to find a new and more pragmatic way to do battle.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 5:10 PM on July 16, 2005


But how do we deal with the very real threat such people represent to innocent lives? I'm honestly asking.

We take them bowling.
posted by xmutex at 5:10 PM on July 16, 2005


Don't be a smartass, xmutex.

Right after 9/11, two youg guys I knew in Florida joined the Marines. One of my freinds (and a mentor in terms of technology) was a gunners mate in the first gulf war, and I worry about him being called up. The kid I drank with tonight said he was a fucked-up deliquent until 9/11 convinced him he had to do something to protect his city and his country. I completely understand where he's coming from, even if I hate where our government has led that rage.
posted by jonmc at 5:14 PM on July 16, 2005


the US get rid of the Taliban

Well, someone's setting roadside bombs and shooting down helicopters. Could it be...Satan? Or maybe a resurgent Taliban?
Violence has increased sharply in recent months, with a resurgent Taliban movement mounting daily attacks in southern Afghanistan, gangs kidnapping foreigners in the capital, and radical Islamists orchestrating violent demonstrations against the government and foreign-financed organizations.
There have been more coalition casualties this year than in any year so far. Time to send more British and Australian soldiers.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:17 PM on July 16, 2005


I'm sure nobody here doubts the good intentions of the average American soldier. It's their orders that we have issue with.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 5:19 PM on July 16, 2005


I'll just take this moment to remind everyone that global terrorism is diminishing, as is global violence. But, by all means, join the Marines and go shoot brown people in Iraq.
posted by mek at 5:21 PM on July 16, 2005


mek, maybe winning penny ante arguments on the internet is more important to you than being a compassionate human being, but forgive me if I feel for that guy and my friends. And understanding what led them to do what they did. Not everyone has the luxury of sophisticated political analysis and an emotionally uninvolved box seat to witness it from.

Feel free to keep polishing your halo.
posted by jonmc at 5:28 PM on July 16, 2005


By all means be compassionate but doesn't it dilute rather than illuminate the issue?
posted by mek at 5:29 PM on July 16, 2005


mek: Do you really believe that most U.S. soldiers go to Iraq so they can "shoot brown people"? If you don't support the war, do you believe the U.S. should leave immediately? If so, do you think events like today's suicide bombing that killed 60 Iraqs and 2 U.S. marines would decrease? Do you think that most Iraqis support the insurgency? Do you think most members of the insurgency are ordinary Iraqis (i.e. not ex-members of Saddam's secret policy, Sunnis, and foreign jihadis)?

"Conflicted about the war" could mean, for instance, being against starting the war, but once it happened, putting the proper amount of resources forward to try to bring about peace. It could be believing in the posibility of peace but being sickened but certain aspects of the war (Abu Ghraib), etc.
posted by gwint at 5:32 PM on July 16, 2005


it's difficult for any sane person to surmise that the people behind such acts represent anything but fascism with an Islamic excuse
Maybe I'm totally insane, but I personally surmise that the people behind such acts are anything but sociopaths whom we give way too much credit for having fascist capabilities.
posted by wendell at 5:34 PM on July 16, 2005


It seems to me that we're going to protect our oil interests no matter what the costs to the local population (and I can't protest that as I am an active consumer of the product). The question is whether we invade and control the oil fields leaving the rest of Middle East to its own devices or if we try to affect change in the region that benefits our interests. My thought is that the previous and current US policy of propping up friendly regimes has been failing and will inevitably fail completely.
posted by mullacc at 5:35 PM on July 16, 2005


By all means be compassionate but doesn't it dilute rather than illuminate the issue?

From your perspective maybe, but not from mine. We both have the same goal (ending this war) but your difficulty understanding what led to it is only hindering that cause.

on preview: wendell, you're probably right, but they used Islam as their excuse, so that drags it into the fray.
posted by jonmc at 5:36 PM on July 16, 2005


Damn, ignore that.
Maybe I'm totally insane, but I personally surmise that the people behind such acts are NOTHING but sociopaths whom we give way too much credit for having fascist capabilities.

-wendell
founder of the "Under 1K Mefites Succumbing to Galloping Senility"
posted by wendell at 5:36 PM on July 16, 2005


jonmc, as always, I appreciate your non-knee-jerk thought about politics and the war. Thank you.

And the linked essay is quite interesting -- the writer is clearly experiencing a slow-motion epiphany. Fascinating.
posted by davidmsc at 5:37 PM on July 16, 2005


Those who support "putting the proper amount of resources forward to try to bring about peace" should probably advocate those resources going to Afghanistan, simply by virtue of the fact they're first on the list of "countries the USA mucked up recently".

Of course, Iraq gets a lot more press...
posted by mek at 5:38 PM on July 16, 2005


Pretty_Generic: I generally have the same thought, but then I replace the phrase "average American soldier" with "average American 18-25 year-old" and I have doubts.
posted by mullacc at 5:39 PM on July 16, 2005


thanks, dave. As a decent guy in the military I also urge you to give consideration to what the more thoughtful anti-war people here are saying, as well.
posted by jonmc at 5:40 PM on July 16, 2005


jonmc, I don't say that they aren't dragging their religion into the mess, but I still think calling them 'fascists' just gives them too much credit for totalitarianistic organizational ability...
posted by wendell at 5:45 PM on July 16, 2005


mek: I agree about Afghanistan, in fact, that's a big reason why I had doubts about the war from the beginning. But the fact remains that we're in Iraq as well. I would suggest a modest purposal along the lines of: Have Bush go on national television and admit that we need more resources in both places and therefore we must raise taxes. That would be an honorable move. Also, this statement:

"Irrelevant by now as the USA is now on par with that evil dictator in terms of Iraqi casualties."

is completely out of the ballpark wrong.

mullacc: If you believe that the U.S. is doomed to fail in Iraq, how is that helping our oil interests?
posted by gwint at 5:46 PM on July 16, 2005


and what I mean by that, dave, is this: mrs. jonc teaches at a ghetto high school in the bronx. military recruiters have been hitting that school with a vengeance, and most of the pitch (as anyone can tell from recent advertising) is less than forthcoming about what enlisting would involve right now. She's convinced all of her student's to put themselves on the "don't bother me" list and I applaud her for it.

No offense at all, to those who have joined up or who did so under different circumstances.
posted by jonmc at 5:46 PM on July 16, 2005


dhoyt, thanks for posting this. It's rare and refreshing to see someone actually thinking rather than regurgitating their comfortable, well-worn attitudes ("US bad! out of Mideast!" "US good! terrorists evil!"). This in particular is a question everyone has to try to answer, and if they can't come up with a good answer maybe not be so cocksure of their righteous opinions:

Would the world be a safer place if the people who bombed Bali, New York, Madrid, and London, were in power in Africa and the Middle East? If not, how do we stop them?

As usual, kudos to jonmc for his stubborn humanity. And mek, you sure like the sound of your own voice.
posted by languagehat at 5:47 PM on July 16, 2005


gwint: Presumably those carrying out the war don't believe it's doomed to fail. And, actually, I don't necessarily think so either. What I think will fail is our reliance on Israel and the House of Saud to protect our oil interests for us.
posted by mullacc at 5:50 PM on July 16, 2005


It's rare and refreshing to see someone actually thinking rather than regurgitating their comfortable, well-worn attitudes

Couldn't agree more. If you're familiar with it, Englishman in New York is a thoughtful blog so seeing this contradictory & conflicted piece after the London bombings was no surprise. I can appreciate him nakedly saying what he feels rather than what he thinks everyone wants to hear ("US bad! out of Mideast!" "US good! terrorists evil!").

jonmc, as always, I appreciate your non-knee-jerk thought about politics and the war. Thank you.

We should all be jonmc disciples. His unfashionable & unpartisan analyses have been bright spots on MeFi since the site began. He's sort of the inverted South Park Republican ("Liberals are really annoying, but Conservatives are really really annoying") and I've always wished I could say what he says without getting tempermental; his fuse is a bit longer than mine, I suppose.

/did it just get homoerotic in here?
posted by dhoyt at 6:05 PM on July 16, 2005


/did it just get homoerotic in here?

you look nice tonight...

I kid. I just think we all need to listen to eachother, on all sides of this fucking mess. Domestically, the political climate is beginning to look a lot like a rerun of Vietnam, in it's divisiveness, but the crucial difference is that in this particular conflict, there is a genuine threat we have to deal with.

Plenty of people on every side of this have compelling arguments, emotionally and intellectual, and we should listen to them. We just have to keep from letting our emotions from keeping us from listening to reason (on one side) and from showing compassion (on the other).

And I've been as guily as anyone here of failing to meet that standard. Both fold_and_mutilate and dios have things worth hearing to say about this mess, and we should all listen.
posted by jonmc at 6:13 PM on July 16, 2005


I don't think the Iraq war has anything to do with terror, and I have no conflicts about this matter whatsoever. I was against the war from Day 1 and still am, and am not remotely ashamed of it. Does that make me less human?
posted by raysmj at 6:18 PM on July 16, 2005


I was against the war from Day 1 and still am, and am not remotely ashamed of it. Does that make me less human?

not in the slightest, ray. But, I feel the same about those who might have been (warily, from everyone I've known) in favor of it. And feeling for the young men and women American and Iraqi, who are doing the dying, dosen't make me or anyone else a warmonger. (I figure that you don't think so either, my freind, but the point needs to be stated.)
posted by jonmc at 6:21 PM on July 16, 2005


Anecdotes aside, all this talk of compassion seems misplaced, and given the number of Iraqi dead I would even say it is offensive.
Sure, the US soldiers in Iraq are trying their best in a bad situation, but their lot does not compare with what the average Iraqi citizen faces. The number of Iraqi civilians, especially women and children, who have been killed in this war is staggering. Period.
posted by derangedlarid at 6:31 PM on July 16, 2005


Anecdotes aside, all this talk of compassion seems misplaced, and given the number of Iraqi dead I would even say it is offensive.

Compassion is never offensive, if it's in the aim of bringing an end to violence. I actually said to the kid I met tonight, "Try to stay alive, but don't kill any kids, you know?" and he nodded soberly. Whether he was sincere or not, I couldn't tell you, but let's not be judgemental from the comfort of our computer chairs.
posted by jonmc at 6:39 PM on July 16, 2005


Say, jonmc, maybe it's time for you to fire up the ole "View From The Counter" or the "Cockeyed Absurdist" again...your politics, your passion for all things edible, your knowledge of all things musical -- would be quite a good read on a semi-daily basis again.

/more homo-eroticism?
posted by davidmsc at 6:41 PM on July 16, 2005


But if you have to lie to your electorate in order to go to war, then perhaps you are not going to war for the right reasons in the first place.
. . .
far from being playground bullies, Americans are actually do-gooders with very heavy hands.


Two interesting thoughts from the posted link.
posted by caddis at 6:42 PM on July 16, 2005


far from being playground bullies, Americans are actually do-gooders with very heavy hands.

bingo. We have a winner.
posted by jonmc at 6:43 PM on July 16, 2005


What's so great about even being thought of as a "do-gooder?" A thoughtful person who looks at empirical data in crisis situations, and makes the most well-considered judgement is the superior human being. To do otherwise is to potential make a bigger mess, or to end up bringing serious harm to those you're supposed to be helping. That you fee more "human" in bringing this help would just make you a self-centered shithead, frankly.
posted by raysmj at 6:56 PM on July 16, 2005


What's so great about even being thought of as a "do-gooder?" A thoughtful person who looks at empirical data in crisis situations, and makes the most well-considered judgement is the superior human being.

Agreed, ray. Our job is to convince the well-meaning populace of that. And the current techniques of snactimony and condescension arent doing the trick, however much they might make us feel better, so maybe we have to try another approach, like appealing to prgamtism or (gasp) peaoples better natures. I could be wrong, but I'm just making a plea.
posted by jonmc at 7:09 PM on July 16, 2005


It is a conflicted situation. If you care about the people of Iraq, you'd understand that they are between a rock and a hard place. The war there created chaos. Having the US and other forces leave without first creating something stable will result in (I believe) even worse chaos, and most likely another oppressive government, at least that's what history seems to indicate (Beirut, Somalia, Soviets in Afghanistan, etc).
If the goal is to stabilize Iraq, then the best course of action would seem to have some non-American force (e.g, UN) to replace the US forces there to provide security (not observers, but a security force). Failing that, then the only other option is for the Multi-national forces there to try to build an Iraqi security force and reestablish some modicum of trust.
Which, in general seems to be the policy there (very poorly executed at times though).
posted by forforf at 7:20 PM on July 16, 2005


More than a few people tried that tack all along, but nobody cared. It was impossible to get heard over the war chants, and dubious commentary about how America was seen as a paper tiger, etc. A lot of lefties made serious mistakes, certainly, and sanctimony doesn't work when one's not a part of the majority or, worse, on the fringes. But I'd imagine that going back and looking at the debate, or lack thereof, that took place before the war in most parts of America would prove instructive on a number of levels. First, there wasn't much talk of spreading democracy, at least not outright. It was all WMD and suggested terror connections. Secondly, people who argued against it were mowed over by opponents or written off as being soft on terror or partisan, given that Sept. 11 had "changed everything."

Well, the American political landscape had shifted, and the previously outrageous was seen as worthy of discussion, even if it involved stupid arguments like, "If we don't attack, they'll all think we're pussies." But little else about the world changed, human psychology didn't. The Iraq was a disaster just like plenty of us more pragmatic-minded persons thought it would be.
posted by raysmj at 7:23 PM on July 16, 2005


Convince the well-meaing populace of Iraq that we have good intentions??? What evidence is there that we do? Has the Coalition Provisional Authority done a good job?

According to the Iraqi Revenue Watch Project:

An analysis of the data suggests that of $1.5 billion in contracts, the CPA awarded U.S. firms 74 percent of the value of all contracts paid for with Iraqi funds. Together with its British allies, U.S. and U.K. companies received 85 percent of the value of all such contracts. Iraqi firms, by contrast, received just 2 percent of the value of contracts paid for with Iraqi funds. "Government favorites such as Kellogg, Brown and Root benefited at the expense of Iraqi companies whose workers badly need jobs," said Tsalik.
posted by derangedlarid at 7:24 PM on July 16, 2005


wendell: Maybe I'm totally insane, but I personally surmise that the people behind such acts are NOTHING but sociopaths whom we give way too much credit for having fascist capabilities.


Not insane just wrong. To view these attacks as simply the work of isolated nutters is to miss something profoundly important about them; namely that there is a totalitarian ideology driving a global movement. The bombers may or may not have been sociopaths in addition to being fascists, I have no idea, but the ideology behind this terrorism is one which sees the future of the world (or as much of it as possible) being under Islamic governance.

This is from Wiki on Ibn Qutb:

His commentary on the Qur'an has been extremely influential; some see him as the central theorist of twentieth-century Islamism. There is anecdotal evidence that Sayyid Qutb and Shaykh Taqi-ud-deen an-Nabhani founder of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, influenced each other. According to Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, "In a century in which some of the most important writing came out of prisons, Qutb, for better or for worse, is the Islamic world's answer to Solzhenitsyn, Sartre, and Havel, and he easily ranks with all of them in influence. It was Sayyid Qutb who fused together the core elements of modern Islamism.... Qutb concluded that the unity of God and His sovereignty meant that human rule – government legislates its own behavior – is illegitimate. Muslims must answer to God alone." [Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, The Age of Sacred Terror: Radical Islam's War Against America (New York: Random House, 2002) p. 62] ISBN 0812969847. This point is central to most modern Islamists, in their assertion that all forms of governance over Muslims are illegitimate except the Islamic state Khilafah
posted by Ugandan Discussions at 7:24 PM on July 16, 2005


Our job is to convince the well-meaning populace of that. And the current techniques of snactimony

Snactimony is when one feels superior for not buying the store brand potato chips.
posted by longsleeves at 7:33 PM on July 16, 2005


the store brand is a tool of state hegemony, longsleeves. ;)
posted by jonmc at 7:36 PM on July 16, 2005


Sometimes when a friend is gone, things come along which remind you of the loss. This thread is one of those things.
posted by caddis at 7:40 PM on July 16, 2005


Ugandan: But is the philosophy of the Islamic theorists really what's driving those who carry out the terrorist acts? I suspect that what truly drives the young men who actually commit acts of terror is the radical Islamic rhetoric combined with the desparate realities of their everyday lives. Imagine if the West were to fully withdraw from the Middle East. Do you think the radical Islamic clerics would really be able to motivate the youth to take the war to the West? I suspect that it's the daily provocation brought on by a life fully of occupation, sanctions and bombings that seals the deal.

Now, of course, the problem with a withdrawl is that we can't take the oil with us.
posted by mullacc at 7:41 PM on July 16, 2005


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

How the war was sold by its architect... so much for the nobility of our actions.

I'm not even going into the retarded thesis above that the islamofascists are blowing up things for global dominance. Just seems like something the likudniks would cook up to sell their own eliminationalist policies to the West.

At any rate, if we are truly in a global war, we're not exactly fighting it too well at the moment, what with our Coalition of the Billing down to, what, 3 nations or something.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 7:49 PM on July 16, 2005


mullacc: The perpetrators of the London bombings did not live in desperate oppression. They were employed, educated and lived in middle class areas.

As to the point about Western involvement in the Middle East driving the fight to the West, I take that point to some extent. The daily images of carnage on TV would have fed the sense of Islam being under attack. However, without ideological underpinning what they did would be unthinkable.

A full withdrawal now, aside from any oil factors, would project an image of weakness and defeat. It would only strengthen the conviction that the ideology is correct and yielding dividends.
posted by Ugandan Discussions at 8:03 PM on July 16, 2005


Which is the same argument that got us into the war, at least in part--see my post above. It's a non-serious argument. I think we should definitely downscale and give Iraqis more control over a whole myriad of areas, but ultimately stay because we a responsibility to the Iraqi people at this point. The "we'd be looked at as pussies" argument is moronic and beside the point.
posted by raysmj at 8:12 PM on July 16, 2005


I'll just sputter cliches now and say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. That average Marine might have good intentions, as might the average voter. It doesn't mean that they've brought about any good. And if our actions have had greater harm than no action at all, who do we have to blame but ourselves and our good intentions?

With regards to Saddam vs. the USA, that's of course blaming all the increased fatalities due to general conflict on the USA while they weren't directly responsible for them, AFAIK.
posted by mek at 8:13 PM on July 16, 2005


They should wonder whether they are really asking themselves the hard questions.

Although many Americans had hoped that Al Qaeda had been badly weakened by American counterterrorism efforts since Sept. 11, 2001, the facts indicate otherwise. Since 2002, Al Qaeda has been involved in at least 17 bombings that killed more than 700 people - more attacks and victims than in all the years before 9/11 combined...

No matter who took the bombs onto those buses and subways in London, the attacks are clearly of a piece with Al Qaeda's post-9/11 strategy. And while we don't know if the claim of responsibility from a group calling itself the Secret Organization of Al Qaeda in Europe was legitimate, an understanding of Al Qaeda's strategic logic may help explain why that message included a threat of further attacks against Italy and Denmark, both of which contributed troops in Iraq.

The bottom line, then, is that the terrorists have not been fundamentally weakened but have changed course and achieved significant success. The London attacks will only encourage Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders in the belief that they will succeed in their ultimate aim: causing America and its allies to withdraw forces from the Muslim world.


Al Qaeda's strategy

Suicide bomb attacks in Iraq have averaged at least one per day since the announcement of a new government in April, according to data gathered by the US military.

A suicide attack every day in the new Iraq

And, for a fact, there were no suicide attacks in Iraq before we invaded.

Nearly 40,000 Iraqis have been killed as a direct result of combat or armed violence since the US-led invasion, a figure considerably higher than previous estimates, a Swiss institute reported today. The public database Iraqi Body Count, by comparison, estimates between 22,787 and 25,814 Iraqi civilians have died since the March 2003 invasion, based on reports from at least two media sources. No official estimates of Iraqi casualties from the war have been issued, although military deaths from the US-led coalition forces are closely tracked and now total 1937.

The new estimate of 39,000 was compiled by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies and published in its latest annual small arms survey, released at a UN news conference. It builds on a study published last October in The Lancet, a British medical journal, which concluded there had been 100,000 "excess deaths" in Iraq from all causes since March 2003.


Continuing violence has killed 39,000 - survey

Iraq lost hundreds of thousands dead to the Iran-Iraq war and to the various massacres Saddam's forces committed under his reign but killings on a mass scale ended around 1991. Oh, he was still killing Iraqis after 1991 all right but in the hundreds and not the hundreds of thousands. Far more Iraqi's have died violent deaths since the invasion than those who died by violence in the decade before the invasion. The meter is yet running and those numbers are closing in on Saddam's total pre-invasion.

Oh, there are some hard questions to ask--I will agree with that. For one, what good will being able to say "Well, we got rid of Saddam, at least...' do if if we killed more people than he killed to do it ? There's one, right there. I can think of several others.
posted by y2karl at 8:20 PM on July 16, 2005


raysmj: i agree with the main point in comment 1- that the Iraq War had little to do with terror.

As for comment 2, I was talking about a withdrawal from the Middle East per se, in response to Mulacc. A fazed withdrawal from Iraq is inevitable and necessary and right. How best to do it? I don't know. The Iraqis need security. The point about looking like a pussy is not irrelevant. The terrorists are remarkably media savvy and we need to be so too.
posted by Ugandan Discussions at 8:22 PM on July 16, 2005


How is one "conflicted" about the Iraq war?

I believe that ultimately, Iraq and the middle east will probably be better off (politically and socio-economically I mean - families who lost members will never be better off), but I fear those visible gains (assuming they materialise) might not match the unseen consequences of severely weakening and retarding the fragile steps made so far towards law and order on an international scale.

I think that pouring Americas wealth into Iraq would probably have a larger and better effect on more people's lives overall than pouring it into America, yet that wealth is merely being wasting because instead of building infrastructure, it has been spent on destroying infrastructure, and then on rebuilding previously-existing infrastructure - lots of money gone, as yet little net gain to show for it. Right down the toilet.

I am conflicted by the horrible thought that killing so many people could be good in the sense that it ended sanctions that were possibly resulting in more deaths, when so many alternatives were availible and screaming to be taken.

I conflicted by elections here which suggest people support an administration that makes Nixon look pristine, yet if we are in this mess, I am glad the people decided to have it so, as it at least slows the deniability and buck-passing. Any bad developments in a war overseen by two administrations just means The Other Guy Caused That, no thought, reflection, or accountability required.

I don't know, I'm conflicted...
posted by -harlequin- at 8:23 PM on July 16, 2005


If you do what's in your national interest, and lead by example and you do what is right and best based upon empirical data, show some self-retraint, etc., and don't get your forces into ridiculous messes like this in the first place, you will never have to fear being seen as a pussy. The "issue" is not the least bit relevant.
posted by raysmj at 8:29 PM on July 16, 2005


Ugandan: And like the London bombers, the perpetrators of 9/11 were able to extract themselves from the Middle East and receive Western educations. But they came from a place that still suffered from occupation and despotic leaders and, I believe, that's what opened their minds to the radical Islamists and from there to terrorism.

If the West were not involved in the Middle East I just can't imagine that the grandiose rhetoric of the clerics would actually drive these young men to come to the West to overthrow its governments. Perhaps eventually, but only when the countries grew strong enough to raise a capable military that could venture outside the region.

But you have a point about admitting defeat - the Spanish reaction to the bombings in Madrid must have guaranteed that something similar would happen in London. But it dramatically increased the likelihood that it wouldn't happen again in Spain.
posted by mullacc at 8:31 PM on July 16, 2005


An addendum: Well, sometimes you make mistakes anyway, no matter how hard you try, no matter how good your data is. But the Iraq thing . . . It was so easy to see trouble coming! That Americans could lean in favor of a war at all was a result of post-9-11 fear. Meantime, we'll be paying for this for years to come, even if the best-case scenario. The nation has a responsibility to keep its forces for an indefinite time longer, if on a smaller scale, but I just see us muddling through, at best. It's just something we have to do.
posted by raysmj at 8:38 PM on July 16, 2005


mullacc: The London bombers were born and educated in the UK. Three of them were of Pakistani origin, in that their parents are from Pakistan and the fourth was of Jamaican extraction. None, except the man they are calling "the Chemist", had any obvious connection to the Middle East, other than their religion. I know all that sounds pedantic but it is not the case that these men saw oppression with their own eyes or suffered because of Western policies. They were motivated by something else to murder others and kill themselves. To see their grievance as limited to some geographical dispute or other is a mistake.
posted by Ugandan Discussions at 8:41 PM on July 16, 2005


They were motivated by something else to murder others and kill themselves.

There are plenty of rebels searching for a Cause. Don't underestimate those who can offer a Cause :)
posted by -harlequin- at 8:53 PM on July 16, 2005


What a moronic attempt at an inflammatory post.
posted by mediareport at 8:59 PM on July 16, 2005


You sure of that, Uganadan?
posted by raysmj at 9:02 PM on July 16, 2005


hahaha it's just, uh, McGovern hahaha. I just got that.
posted by nervousfritz at 9:19 PM on July 16, 2005


I know all that sounds pedantic but it is not the case that these men saw oppression with their own eyes or suffered because of Western policies. They were motivated by something else to murder others and kill themselves. To see their grievance as limited to some geographical dispute or other is a mistake.

In contrast to the first-wave explanations, this article shows that suicide terrorism follows a strategic logic. Even if many attackers are irrational or fanatical, the leadership groups that recruit and direct them are not. Viewed from the perspective of the terrorist organization, suicide attacks are designed to achieve specific political purposes: to coerce a target government to change policy, to mobilize additional recruits and financial support, or both.

The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism PDF

At Beeston's Cross Flats Park, in the center of this now embattled town, Sanjay Dutt and his friends grappled Friday with why their friend Kakey, better known to the world as Shehzad Tanweer, had decided to become a suicide bomber.

"He was sick of it all, all the injustice and the way the world is going about it," Mr. Dutt, 22, said. "Why, for example, don't they ever take a moment of silence for all the Iraqi kids who die?"

"It's a double standard, that's why," answered a friend, who called himself Shahroukh, also 22, wearing a baseball cap and basketball jersey, sitting nearby. "I don't approve of what he did, but I understand it. You get driven to something like this, it doesn't just happen."...

What makes the message of conservative movements especially compelling, Dr. Waheed, Mr. Kahn and others say, is that they articulate the fundamental anger of many British Muslims that more mainstream movements seem incapable or unwilling to discuss.

That anger stems not merely from unhappiness with the situation of Muslims in Britain, but also solidarity with what they see as the aggressive and unjust treatment of Muslims abroad, and not least from Britain's part in the war in Iraq.

For instance, at a small meeting hall in Birmingham last Sunday, Dr. Waheed, who now serves as the group's spokesman, and about 100 other members, discussed the London bombings. Unlike most Muslim groups, which have been seeking to reach out to other communities and stem the fallout of the bombings, this gathering was decidedly unsympathetic.

"We know that the killing of innocents is forbidden," Dr. Waheed said. "But we don't see two classes of blood; the blood of Iraqis is just as important to us as English blood." He emphasized that they in no way condoned the bombings. "But when you understand things from that perspective, why should we condemn the bombing?"


Anger burns on the fringe of Britain's Muslims
posted by y2karl at 9:32 PM on July 16, 2005


If the young suicide bombers in London were so concerned about Iraqis dying, maybe they should have gone to Iraq and blew themselves up at a meeting of fellow suicide bombers instead of the London subway, considering how, as y2karl so lengthily pointed out, there's been a suicide bombing every day since January, and the vast majority of the victims have been Iraqi civilians (although since so many have been Shia, perhaps not viewed as Muslim in the eyes of Al Qaeda followers.)
posted by gwint at 9:44 PM on July 16, 2005


In the grim days since last week's bombing of London, the bulk of Britain's political class and media has distinguished itself by a wilful and dangerous refusal to face up to reality. Just as it was branded unpatriotic in the US after the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington to talk about the link with American policy in the Middle East, so those who have raised the evident connection between the London atrocities and Britain's role in Iraq and Afghanistan have been denounced as traitors. And anyone who has questioned Tony Blair's echo of George Bush's fateful words on September 11 that this was an assault on freedom and our way of life has been treated as an apologist for terror.

But while some allowance could be made in the American case for the shock of the attacks, the London bombings were one of the most heavily trailed events in modern British history. We have been told repeatedly since the prime minister signed up to Bush's war on terror that an attack on Britain was a certainty - and have had every opportunity to work out why that might be. Throughout the Afghan and Iraq wars, there has been a string of authoritative warnings about the certain boost it would give to al-Qaida-style terror groups. The only surprise was that the attacks were so long coming.


It Is an Insult to the Dead to Deny the Link with Iraq
posted by y2karl at 9:49 PM on July 16, 2005


Whereas the press lost no time in labeling these bombers irrational zealots, terrorism specialists offered a more nuanced appraisal, arguing that suicide terrorism has inherent tactical advantages over "conventional" terrorism: It is a simple and low-cost operation (requiring no escape routes or complicated rescue operations); it guarantees mass casualties and extensive damage (since the suicide bomber can choose the exact time, location, and circumstances of the attack); there is no fear that interrogated terrorists will surrender important information (because their deaths are certain); and it has an immense impact on the public and the media (due to the overwhelming sense of helplessness). Dr. Ramadan Shalah, secretary- general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, summarized the chilling logic of the new terror tactic: "Our enemy possesses the most sophisticated weapons in the world and its army is trained to a very high standard. . . . We have nothing with which to repel killing and thuggery against us except the weapon of martyrdom. It is easy and costs us only our lives. . . human bombs cannot be defeated, not even by nuclear bombs."...

Moreover, suicide terrorism, both ancient and modern, is not merely the product of religious fervor, Islamic or otherwise. Martha Crenshaw, a leading terrorism scholar at Wesleyan University, argues that the mind-set of a suicide bomber is no different from those of Tibetan self-immolators, Irish political prisoners ready to die in a hunger strike, or dedicated terrorists worldwide who wish to live after an operation but know their chances of survival are negligible. Seen in this light, suicide terrorism loses its demonic uniqueness. It is merely one type of martyrdom venerated by certain cultures or religious traditions but rejected by others who favor different modes of supreme sacrifice.

Acts of martyrdom vary not only by culture, but also by specific circumstances. Tel Aviv University psychologist Ariel Merari has conducted the most comprehensive study of individuals who commit acts of suicide terrorism. After profiling more than 50 Muslim suicide bombers serving in Hezbollah, Amal, and secular pro-Syrian organizations in Lebanon, as well as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Israel, he concluded that there is no single psychological or demographic profile of suicide terrorists. His findings suggest that intense struggles produce several types of people with the potential willingness to sacrifice themselves for a cause. Furthermore, Merari maintains that no organization can create a person's basic readiness to die. The task of recruiters is not to produce but rather to identify this predisposition in candidates and reinforce it. Recruiters will often exploit religious beliefs when indoctrinating would-be bombers, using their subjects' faith in a reward in paradise to strengthen and solidify preexisting sacrificial motives. But other powerful motives reinforce tendencies toward martyrdom, including patriotism, hatred of the enemy, and a profound sense of victimization.


Rational Fanatics
Ehud Sprinzak
Dean of the Lauder School of Government, Policy, and
Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel.
Originally from Foreign Policy - the Magazine of Global Politics, September/October 2000


And look where it is hosted now....
posted by y2karl at 10:06 PM on July 16, 2005


Get your own fucking content, y2karl.
posted by tweak at 10:08 PM on July 16, 2005


"Conficted," is a good word for how a lot of people feel about this war. I just went out do my laundry, and during the dry cycle I had a beer at my local bar. A kid about 2 walked wearing desert fatigues. I asked if he was in the service. He said yes, and that he was just back from Iraq. I told him flat out that I was a gainst the war, that I had in fact marched against it. He said "it's not too popular with us out in the feild either."

Which means what jonmc? Nice story, but it's useless as a meaning of anything. How many troops are in Iraq? You find one guy who says it it's not "too popular" and you read something into it? And if I find someone who says differently it means what (not to meantion not popular doesn't necessarily mean 'against') ?

Believe what you want about the war, but I find the prevalent view (not just from you) that "I know soldier A and he believes B so C" a little simple minded.
posted by justgary at 10:11 PM on July 16, 2005


Islamic radicals are incensed by the violent deaths of their fellow Muslims-- unless at the hands of other Muslims?

y2karl, you might want to do some research as to where in London those bombings took place-- the target was as much "Westernized" Muslims as anything else.

on preview:

One of the difference bettwen suicide bombers and Tibetan self-immolators and Irish political prisoners is that the more suicide bombing, the less support there is for the cause.

And look where it is hosted now....

Um... thanks to you, on Metafilter?
posted by gwint at 10:13 PM on July 16, 2005


This entire post is based an the same old false dichotomy, and I'm pretty damn sick and tired of it--especially since our lives depend on getting this straight.

Look, dhoyt: the Islamofascist bastards are BAD. No kidding. That doesn't mean that having people on our side who then try to exploit terrorist badness for their OWN evil purposes is OK.

It also doesn't mean that you ignore half a century of semi-clandestine skullduggery (like, say arming Saddam to the teeth, looking aside while he gassed people that we then complain about later, arming and training "freedom fighters" in Afghanistan and finding out later that Osama bin dickhead was among them... etc.)

To maintain our liberty, we have to fight on multiple fronts: one is against the external threat of so-called Islamists. The other is against the internal threat of Neocon/Theocon authoritarians. Failing to do both simultaneously means that we lose. Both of these enemies are united in one thing: they are enemies of modernity, enemies of the enlightenment, and enemies of liberty as we have come to know it in post WWII America. We need to protect America from external enemies and we need to hold those who got us in this mess accountable. Note the word "and". I'm not saying "one" or "the other". I'm saying BOTH.

You've got to understand what you're fighting. Failure to do so means defeat for the America we know and love. Understanding is not weakness. It is the key to victory.

I will go further. What I'm talking about is beyond partisan politics. The time is coming when patriotic liberals and conservatives are going to turn on the self-interested treason of this administration, and unite to take back control of our foreign policy. The Rove scandal is just the leading edge of this phenomenon. I hope.

posted by mondo dentro at 10:34 PM on July 16, 2005


It's a blunt illustration, but it sums up how a lot aof people feel. After 9/11, Madrid and London, it's difficult for any sane person to surmise that the people behind such acts represent anything but fascism with an Islamic excuse.

Um, right because communists, anarcho-syndicalists, confucians, and western liberals have never used violence to further their causes.
posted by delmoi at 10:35 PM on July 16, 2005


Ugandan: I confess my ignorance about the birthplace of the London bombers. However, some of the most strident Zionist are those born and raised in Brooklyn. I'm not surprised to learn that some of the most militant terrorist were those who never actually had to live in the Middle East. They can inflate and romanticize the struggle of their brethren without having to butt heads with the reality of actually living it.

But while I may believe that Western occupation and interference dramatically increases reception of the Islamists' teachings, I don't necessarily think that means the West should withdraw. Even if we forgot for a moment our need for their oil, to allow these Islamofacists to have their way with the populace of the Middle East is tantamount to ignoring the rise of Nazi Germany or other genocidal regimes in the world. It's just a bitch of a problem to solve.
posted by mullacc at 10:37 PM on July 16, 2005


Reading this hit home with me. I remember when I watched the first Gulf War coverage with my parents. It was scary and exciting and I was full of questions that my parents shushed me about so they could hear the answers from the TV. I also watched coverage of the second invasion, on TV and online, skipping classes that day, in the hope that I could recreate that feeling. I mean, it was a war! Yeah it was tragic and stupid, but whoo! Invadin'!

Instead I just didn't care. I fell asleep after two hours of watching shaky cameras and badly dressed reporters. For the last two years, whenever I've read news or discussed about the Iraq situation, I've felt like Napolean Dynomite. Ren. Archie Bunker. I've wanted to go all Louis Black on these people. They're all terminal morons. They should be tied up and kept as guard dogs for cattle by the Dinka, because that way they'd be more productive than they are now. There were no fucking weapons, there are more fucking terrorists, there's a giant fucking budget deficit, and for fuck's sake my neighbor at home who has a fucking kid has to fucking go to Iraq for his second fucking tour of fucking reserve duty.

I guess my attitude sometimes is that we should just stay away from the dictators sometimes, and invest our money in propaganda. The idea of the US is an amazing one, and along with the other liberal democracies in the world that idea is an amazing one. I imagine that a few well-placed radio towers and clean hands could bring down North Korea a hell of a lot faster than what we've got now. While in the past, dictators and despots had to make shit up about the free world and invent ridiculous ideologies to get people to believe their system was the best, now all they have to do is open up the NYT and pluck out the choice bits for reprinting.

There's wisdom in the idea that the best revenge is living successfully. If we had just picked up, said, "We'll just build the towers again", and moved on with being insular blissfully ignorant Americans, it would have stopped any more terrorist attacks. I mean, that's a pretty good life. And unlike a lot of poorer, less democratic countries, we in the US can afford to live like that with a little careful planning. That is how you defeat terrorism. From what I can tell, the US is strong enough to deal with threats like this if they become routine. America has pretty much stopped stuff like this from happening again. But we flatted a fly with a wrecking ball when we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. That shit was, more than anything, completely unnecessary and totally stupid, even if it was in the name of doing good. And we totally missed the fly. The London bombings were just one more attack encouraged by the zealous, overcompensating pencildicks on their side rather than the ones on ours.

And all this theorizing is also kind of ignoring the fact that sometimes, you just can't get the credibility to democratize a country no matter what you do. The Russians got the same treatment in 'Ghan in the 80's that the US is getting today. Some areas are so violent that you can't get the violence to stop long enough for you to spread your gospel of democracy. If the goal of spreading democracy is a worthy one and if spreading it by military occupation is worthwhile, then you need to know that there will be enough peace and quiet after the invasion to make democracy seem attractive. In some regions, like Iraq, that's just not going to happen. Nobody's going to listen to Fat Albert tell them how to exercise, and they're not going to listen to diplomats who can't even be fucked to learn Arabic shouting from the windows of armored buses and from inside the green zone. To Iraqis and Afghanis, I imagine most Americans kind of look like Dorothy did to the munchkins after she landed on the wicked witch. "Cool, witch is dead, ding dong. So, uh, who the hell are you? Oh, you mean you landed the house there on purpose? and now you want to tell us how to live? Uhhh, I'm gonna have to check with the other munchkins..."

It's obvious that this London guy is starting to get his head screwed on straight again. If there's one lesson that this war has to teach, it's this - when you get a bunch of rich, ambitious, self-righteous twats together, give them guns, and then give them a mandate to do something philanthropic and compassionate where there's a bunch of conflicting interests for them, bad things happen. It ain't worth the effort when there's not an unselfish ear on either side of the conflict.

And while I'm thinking about it: The only occupations I've ever heard of done right are Japan and Germany. That's how you rebuild a country and introduce democracy, dammit, and we did it before. What's different this time? Is there something wrong with committing? Our halfass involvement in both situations already makes us look like pussies.

You know that sigh Napolean Dynomite did after his brother told him he wouldn't bring him his chapstick? Yeah, that's pretty much what I'm doing right now.

/Seeeeeethe
posted by saysthis at 11:08 PM on July 16, 2005


Islamic radicals are incensed by the violent deaths of their fellow Muslims-- unless at the hands of other Muslims?

I heard NPR coverage of the suicide bombing in Iraq where all those children were killed. One of the grieving women was quoted as saying This is all the American's fault for coming here! She was there on the spot after a suicide bomber attacked and children died and she saw it as the fault of the Americans. That really struck me when I heard it. See above: We know that the killing of innocents is forbidden, [b]ut we don't see two classes of blood; the blood of Iraqis is just as important to us as English blood... when you understand things from that perspective, why should we condemn the bombing?"


y2karl, you might want to do some research as to where in London those bombings took place-- the target was as much "Westernized" Muslims as anything else.

That is an oft repeated talking point of late but since the bombers are dead and their handlers still at large, it is only speculation as to what the target was as much as anything else.

Um... thanks to you, on Metafilter?

No, on a web site called Tamil Nation. It seemed noteworthy to me.

On review:

And while I'm thinking about it: The only occupations I've ever heard of done right are Japan and Germany. That's how you rebuild a country and introduce democracy, dammit, and we did it before. What's different this time?

Once again:

But no law of nature says a democracy is incapable of supporting terrorism, so even if every Islamic capital were to become a kind of Westminster with curlicues, the objective of suppressing terrorism might still find its death in the inadequacy of the premise. Even if all the Islamic states became democracies, the kind of democracies they might become might not be the kind of democracies wrongly presumed to be incapable of supporting terrorism. And if Iraq were to become the kind of democracy that is the kind wrongly presumed (and for more than a short period), there is no evidence whatsoever that other Arab or Islamic states, without benefit of occupying armies, would follow. And if they did, how long might it last? They do not need Iraq as an example, they have Britain and Denmark, and their problem is not that they require a demonstration, but rather their culture, history, and secret police.

If we could transform Germany and Japan, then why not Iraq? Approximately 150,000 troops occupy Iraq, which has a population of 26 million and shares long open borders with sympathetic Arab and Islamic countries where popular sentiment condemns America. The Iraqi army was dispersed but neither destroyed nor fully disarmed. The country is divided into three armed nations. Its cities are intact.

In contrast, on the day of Germany's surrender, Eisenhower had three million Americans under his command--61 divisions, battle hardened. Other Western forces pushed the total to 4.5 million in 93 divisions. And then there were the Russians, who poured 2.5 million troops into the Berlin sector alone. All in all, close to 10 million soldiers had converged upon a demoralized German population of 70 million that had suffered more than four million dead and 10 million wounded, captured, or missing. No sympathizers existed, no friendly borders. The cities had been razed. Germany had been broken, but even after this was clear, more than 700,000 occupation troops remained, with millions close by. The situation in Japan was much the same: a country with a disciplined, homogenous population, no allies, sealed borders, its cities half burnt, more than three million dead, a million wounded, missing, or captured, its revered emperor having capitulated, and nearly half a million troops in occupation. And whereas both Germany and Japan had been democracies in varying degree, Iraq has been ruled by a succession of terrifying autocrats since the beginning of human history.

To succeed, a paradigm of "invade, reconstruct, and transform" requires the decisive defeat, disarmament, and political isolation of the enemy; the demoralization of his population and destruction of its political beliefs; and the presence, at the end of hostilities, of overwhelming force. With U.S. military capacity virtually unchanged since the Clinton years, and a potentially heavy draw upon American forces in other crises, the paradigm is untenable. Though against all odds it may succeed temporarily in Iraq, it is premised upon succeeding in far too many other places of fierce and longstanding antipathy to what we represent.


Written On Water
posted by y2karl at 11:17 PM on July 16, 2005


y2karl writes "I heard NPR coverage of the suicide bombing in Iraq where all those children were killed. One of the grieving women was quoted as saying This is all the American's fault for coming here! She was there on the spot after a suicide bomber attacked and children died and she saw it as the fault of the Americans."

Suicide bombers were something people in Iraq just didn't have to deal with before the US put themselves "in charge" of the place. For someone living there it would be very difficult not to associate terrorist attacks and US presence.
posted by clevershark at 11:50 PM on July 16, 2005


If the goal of spreading democracy is a worthy one

The US was talking a good line about spreading peese and freefdom in SE Asia in 1965-1972, too.

Turns out the Pentagon Papers disclosed the true thinking: 70% saving face, 20% keeping China out of the Mekong Delta, and 10% peese and freefdom.

I suspect the rationales were similarly structured wrt going into Iraq: 70% saving face by not getting jerked around by Hussein, 20% keeping China (and France, Germany, and Russia) out of the Persian Gulf, and 10% peese and freefdom of the Iraqi people.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:05 AM on July 17, 2005


"They're crying over 50 people while 100 people are dying every day in Iraq and Palestine," -- a muslim friend of a bomber

That, I think, is the beginning and end of wisdom wrt this incident. Granted, this is an incredibly complex situation and I've been no closer to the mideast than, well, London, but I think this adequately exposes the global islamofascist totalitarianism movement argument:

namely that there is a totalitarian ideology driving a global movement

as bullshit, that the extremists do have a rational case to present, and that we can respond to, should we choose to.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:14 AM on July 17, 2005


y2karl: To succeed, a paradigm of "invade, reconstruct, and transform" requires the decisive defeat, disarmament, and political isolation of the enemy; the demoralization of his population and destruction of its political beliefs; and the presence, at the end of hostilities, of overwhelming force.

Damn straight. The article is a little flag-waving for my tastes, but that's an important point that needs to be paid more attention. There's a cultural learning curve, and along that curve the only thing that can encourage change in a culture is fresh, vivid shared memory of some kind of dramatic failure, plus new tools to enable change from the bottom without mass slaughter (as in, machetes weren't exactly great mechanisms for ensuring tribal parity in Ethiopia). When there is interference that doesn't cause precisely that, it gets all too easy to blame failures on others, and that's exactly the mechanism that will retard Iraqi and Afghani social progress for the next few decades. Even when the US has left, the Neanderthals who'll fill the power vacuum will all be able to say that it's bad today because the Americans made it this way today it's not our fault we're authoritarian we just have to be to fix the damage they caused while they were here and that's why you have to be drawn and quartered for drinking alcohol and that's why your wife has to wear a giant potato sack. And ironically, they'll be right.

If you're going to go in and change a society, you either have to go all out (which unilaterally is usually pretty genocidal and horrific and not all that moral, re: Rome kicking the Jews out of Israel) with millions and millions of troops and contracts and commitments and national consensus and world support and stability, or you have to just nudge the culture in the right direction from the outside and hope (in which case you can't be too pushy, or you self-fulfill the prophecies dictators will make about you). The American foreign policy in this region has been waaay too selfish for too long to have the Zen-like resolve for either.
posted by saysthis at 1:09 AM on July 17, 2005


@ Heywood Mogroot

> the extremists do have a rational case to present

What, in spite of the fact that the British government has been consistently one of the biggest critics of Israel and US policy with regard to the Palestinians, and have probably done more than anyone to move the situation there forward?

In spite of the fact that most of the current deaths in Iraq are primarily caused by Muslim insurgents?

Sorry, but their case doesn't sound all that rational to me.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:12 AM on July 17, 2005


9/11 happened before the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and before the Intifada started.

Heywood, do you have to be an offensive twat every time you write something?
posted by Ugandan Discussions at 4:08 AM on July 17, 2005


The US was talking a good line about spreading peese [sic]and freefdom [sic] in SE Asia in 1965-1972, too.

We probably would have been better off spreading peas.
posted by caddis at 5:35 AM on July 17, 2005


What a moronic attempt at an inflammatory post.
posted by mediareport at 11:59 PM EST on July 16


The mind boggles at the degree of blindness and delusion required to make a moronic, inflammatory comment like that without even seeing the fact that you're spitting into a mirror. Then there's the more civilized version:

This entire post is based an the same old false dichotomy

WTF? This post is an attempt to get beyond the same old false dichotomy; the problem is that the usual gang of ideologues are trying their best to drag it back to a nice predictable exchange of closed minds, repeating the good old mantras like "Coalition of the Billing" as if stating one's fixed beliefs for the ten thousandth time will convince anyone who isn't already in the choir. It's sad that so few people are willing to credit the honest difficulty many people have in finding a position they can feel comfortable with on this subject, and beyond sad that so many have more regard for their own positions than for actual human beings, whether those who go do the fighting (on either side) or those who suffer the consequences. Don't tell me you care about human beings if you respond to jonmc's "anecdote" about talking with a soldier with "Fuck him, he's a killer—I care about the human beings in Iraq!" No you don't; I'll lay odds you've never met an Iraqi, and for all you know the entire country could be a media invention. If you don't care about a confused young man put in an impossible situation (yeah, yeah, I know, "he put himself there"), then you don't care about people, period, you just like listening to the sound of your own ideology quacking. (Note: the "you" in the preceding sentences is not directed at a particular commenter in the thread but is a convenient personification of a type I see too much of here; if you feel it might be aimed at you, however, you may have a bit of quack in you.)

I have to correct this overstatement from one of y2karl's quotes:
Iraq has been ruled by a succession of terrifying autocrats since the beginning of human history.

In fact Iraq had a shaky but functioning democracy for a brief while after WWII; the elections of early 1953 were some of the freest in the Arab world. If it hadn't been for General Kassem's bloody coup of 1958, the country might have developed very differently. Of course,
From 1958 to 1960, despite Kassem's harsh repression, the Eisenhower administration abided him as a counter to Washington's Arab nemesis of the era, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt - much as Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush would aid Saddam Hussein in the 1980's against the common foe of Iran.
In conclusion, Ugandan Discussions has provided the perfect tagline:

MetaFilter: do you have to be an offensive twat every time you write something?

posted by languagehat at 5:47 AM on July 17, 2005


I have to correct this overstatement from one of y2karl's quotes:
Iraq has been ruled by a succession of terrifying autocrats since the beginning of human history.

In fact Iraq had a shaky but functioning democracy for a brief while after WWII; the elections of early 1953 were some of the freest in the Arab world.



Good point. My thought when I read that was it was a bit of rhetorical flourish. Its territory has seen various peoples and cultures organized in various nations and empires ruled by various more or less terrifying autocrats over milennia but Iraq itself is a very recent invention as a nation state.
posted by y2karl at 6:20 AM on July 17, 2005


this guy is not asking himself the hard questions like what country has done more to raise the tide of dictatorships and terrorism.
posted by 3.2.3 at 6:29 AM on July 17, 2005


Ugandan Discussions:
9/11 happened before the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and before the Intifada started

Come on, be serious. 9/11 was after the US lobbed missiles into what later turned out to be a civilian aspirin factory, (primarily because a paid informant had an axe to grind).

And after the US Secretary of State, on being asked about suggestions that half a million children had died as a result of Iraq sanctions, replied "We think the price is worth it".

And after the US overthrew popular democracies in order to replace them with puppet dictators.

You can't seriously claim that it began with 9/11. (Or with aspirin factories either), this shit goes way back. Legitimate greviances go way back. We've got some, they've got some. Thinking 9/11 was out of the blue is only suggestive of not paying attention. If you're an angry young man, there were (and are) plenty of legimate causes to pick from to bring illegimate violence to.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:07 AM on July 17, 2005


And yet here I am, another Englishman in New York, having considered every single one of the issues raised by my compatriot there (and a hell of a lot more besides, it seems) who has reached there conclusion that there isn't one - not one - justification for the invasion of Iraq that stands at all; that such justifications that were provided were lies, distortions or a shamelessly hypocritical application of alleged moral pronciples; that sickening double standards abound throughout; that far, far more harm has been done than good; that terrorism - actual and potential - has been terrifyingly exacerbated by USUK's actions and that both Bush and Blair are war criminals by any sane and consistently-applied understanding of what that term means.

Vive la difference, mate.
posted by Decani at 7:24 AM on July 17, 2005


Decani, and I'm Irish in New York and came to the same conclusions as yourself (I'm also a little boggled by the fact that apparently coming to the States (from Russia?) led him to the epiphany that UK media is biased, but vive le difference, as you say).
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:45 AM on July 17, 2005


In fact Iraq had a shaky but functioning democracy for a brief while after WWII; the elections of early 1953 were some of the freest in the Arab world.

Some 52 years ago, for the record, under the auspices of a ruling monarchy.
posted by raysmj at 8:24 AM on July 17, 2005


I have to agree with Harlequin here, additionally, I feel the "psychopath" and "islamofascist" labels are just that, hollow labels. They both serve to simply dismiss the movements that these people belong to without a shred of analysis. It is lack of analysis and understanding of situations that will continue to get us killed.

No, I don't advocate giving in to demands of these extremist groups, but we should also at least try and figure out where those demands are coming from. Interestingly you'll find that they neither come from mental illness or any form of fascism.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:31 AM on July 17, 2005


Some 52 years ago, for the record, under the auspices of a ruling monarchy.

Your point being? To refresh your memory, I was responding to:
Iraq has been ruled by a succession of terrifying autocrats since the beginning of human history.

Now, are you claiming that there's no such thing as democracy or free elections under a monarchy (see: several European states), or that 52 years ago does not contradict "since the beginning of human history"?
posted by languagehat at 8:55 AM on July 17, 2005


How does that affect Iraq in the present, languagehat? The point was, How much of an argument is that? It's more like nitpicking.
posted by raysmj at 9:21 AM on July 17, 2005


What sort of tradition was started though this? Had the Iraqis any substantial experience as a unified people? Etc., etc.? The 1953 elections point may be technically correct, but as for having much to say about Iraq's chances for democractic self-rule today goes, well, it doesn't mean jack. What you talked about was a blip on the screen as far as the big picture goes.
posted by raysmj at 9:26 AM on July 17, 2005


In Imperial Hubris, CIA analyst Michael "Anonymous" Scheuer lists these policies that Osama bin Laden cites as anti-Muslim:
One of the greatest dangers for Americans in deciding how to confront the Islamist threat lies in continuing to believe -- at the urging of senior U.S. leaders -- that Muslims hate us and attack us for what we are and what we think, rather than for what we do. The Islamic world is not so offended by our democratic system of politics, guarantees of personal rights and civil liberties, and separation of church and state that it is willing to wage war against overwhelming odds to stop Americans from voting, speaking freely, and praying, or not, as they wish....In the context of the ideas bin Laden shares with his brethren, the military actions of al Qaeda and its allies are acts of war, not terrorism; they are part of a defensive jihad sanctioned by the revealed word of God, as contained in the Koran, and the sayings and traditions of the Prophet Mohammed, the Sunnah. Bin Laden is out to drastically alter U.S. and Western policies toward the Islamic world.
When we invaded Iraq (which is the second-holiest place in Islam) and our stated reasons turned out to be wrong (no WMD, no ties to al Qaeda), that played right into bin Laden's view that we are at war against Islam. (I don't believe that we are, but I can see how people could plausibly think we are.) Citing Iraq's violations of UN sanctions as a reason for the invasion can be seen as a double standard since the US isn't going to invade Israel and has a history of vetoing UN resolutions against Israel. Spreading democracy and freedom doesn't really jibe with planning to rig the Iraqi elections.

British relations with Iraq have also given Iraqis potential reasons to be resentful. Despite saying "Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators," when they entered Baghdad in 1917, the British creation of Iraq "was shaped not by the needs of the Iraqi people or principles of justice and self-determination, but by the interests and ambitions of British imperialism - to help insure British control of the Middle East for its strategic location at the crossroads between Africa, Asia and Europe, and its vast and oil reserves." Britain created the boundaries of Iraq despite antipathy between the three regions of the country and ignored Iraqi claims on Kuwait, suppressed a rebellion in 1920, and attacked Iraq in 1941.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:55 AM on July 17, 2005


What a moronic attempt at an inflammatory post.
posted by mediareport at 11:59 PM EST on July 16


Uh, y'all, I'm sorry for that comment, which was posted while *extremely* drunk. I could explain more, but I'm way too embarrassed by that particular contribution to this community and will slink away in silence. Please forgive the awfulness of that one; I promise to do better.
posted by mediareport at 11:23 AM on July 17, 2005


How much of an argument is that?

Jesus Christ, does everything have to be an argument? I saw a misstatement and corrected it. y2karl, who posted it, agreed with me. If you don't want to learn anything about the history of Iraq but would prefer to continue the cycle of fruitless back-and-forthing, be my guest. (And I suspect most Iraqis would disagree with you about the irrelevance.)

On preview: Well done, mediareport. An honest apology wipes away most sins. Drink some water and lie down until the spinning stops.
posted by languagehat at 11:26 AM on July 17, 2005


I already knew that, languagehat. Sorry if I took your comment the wrong way (that y2karl said whatever shouldn't mean I automatically meant I share his sentiments, but that's another story . . . ), but the 1953 argument is often used by those arguing that a democracy can last in Iraq. And I don't see how that brief and "shaky" democratic experiment is at all relevant. If anyone does want to have a discussion about Iraq without getting into ideological disputes--your point in getting after y2karl, I'm guessing-- the significant of that experiment has to be cast aside, or at least marked down as trivial as far as the big picture goes.
posted by raysmj at 11:47 AM on July 17, 2005


Ah, I guess I hadn't run into those citations of '53 in that context -- I assumed the elections had been pretty much forgotten, so I was just trying to set the record straight (because I've heard too much about the supposed lack of any background for democracy). I wasn't "getting after y2karl," just correcting a misstatement, which I tend to do whenever I see one (I am an editor, after all). You and I may disagree about the significance of pre-Saddam Iraqi history, but other than that we have no beef with each other, as far as I can see. Peace out.
posted by languagehat at 12:02 PM on July 17, 2005


OK!
posted by raysmj at 12:08 PM on July 17, 2005


seeing what 12 months watching Fox "News" and reading Christopher Snitchens in New York did to this poor guy, let us pray Allah that he doesn't move to Alabama, or he'll soon think that the earth is 6,000 old.


anyway, from the main link:
But in the past 12 months I have slowly come to understand that the wordview I held was tainted by a media that sees the problems in the world (dictatorship in Iraq, authoritarianism/terrorism in the Middle East, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, global warming) as being the fault of the United States.
we all remember how it was the liberal media, and not Ronald Reagan, who decided to give Saddam Hussein all the weapons he wanted (many of them nonconventional), and then some more, like it was his birthday.
it was also the liberal media who blocked the UN's attempts to censure Saddam Hussein after his massacres of Iranians and Kurds, not Ronald Reagan
it was also the liberal media, not Reagan's State Department, that removed Iraq from its list of States supporting international terrorism in 1982, thus making Saddam eligible to receive U.S. dual-use and military technology
oh, and it was of course the liberal media, not the CIA, that provided Iraq with data from U.S. satellite photography to better assist Saddam in his bombing raids, some of them with mustard gas

damn liberal media. who knew the 1980's would come back in fashion someday.

I also loved this bit:
Or whether they are shrugging their shoulders and blaming America because that is what they have been brought up to do
ah, the favorite straw man of the uninformed and the dishonest.
because, maybe, just maybe, pointing out the terrible consequences of certain US Presidents' decisions (say, Reagan, or Bush II) equals "blaming America" out of some irrational hate for America that all those non-USians suffer from, as I read in the Wall Street Journal and in various War-On-Terrah Neanderthal blogs.

but don't misunderstand me, I loved this passive-aggressive, "reformed lib'rul who finally saw the Light" post. I am also sure that, if somebody forwards it to former Sen. Miller's retirement home or to Sen. Lieberman's office, they will really love it. not as much as they'd love the "see, Saddam really did 9-11, or something" post form the other day, but still.

if only all liberals were as well-informed as this British guy. who, by the way, named his blog after a Sting's song.
his taste in politics seems terribly similar to his taste in music.

________

And I suspect most Iraqis would disagree with you about the irrelevance

bah, they must be too busy trying to stay alive until sundown. that's also probably why they're so fucking ungrateful to their Liberators, I suppose.
posted by matteo at 12:11 PM on July 17, 2005


Peace out.

if only. where?
posted by matteo at 12:12 PM on July 17, 2005


This thread is going surprisingly well.
posted by sklero at 12:15 PM on July 17, 2005


I almost forgot:

I look forward to the further linking of the left to the Black Death, the Trojan War, and perhaps even the asteroid impact that killed off the dinosaurs

posted by matteo at 12:35 PM on July 17, 2005


What Decani said. Underscored and in italics.

No offence to this Englishman in New York fellow, but stuff like this ---

far from being playground bullies, Americans are actually do-gooders with very heavy hands

--- isn't the result of a thoughtful examination of the facts; it's a result of falling for the argument, massively exploited by the lying hateful greedheads currently in charge of the US government, that because many, many Americans (including American soldiers like the one jonmc encountered) are decent, well-meaning, moral folks, America as a geopolitical entity is the same thing writ large. Which is the most odious strain of bullshit, and is very much part of the problem.

And until those decent, well-meaning, moral Americans recognize that their nation is in the hands of zealots whose track record in spreading peace and liberty and democracy indicates a massive contempt for those concepts and remove these divisive hatemongers from power, things are almost certainly going to keep getting worse.
posted by gompa at 12:56 PM on July 17, 2005


Jesus Christ, does everything have to be an argument?

Um, not to be a buttinsky, but I think your reaction may be a bit misplaced here, languagehat...

From my perspective, the term "Argument" wasn't being used in this case to mean a dispute in the quotidian sense of "we were arguing about whose turn it was to do the chores." In the context of rhetorical discourse (what we're doing now) an argument isn't some kind of social unpleasantry to be avoided--it's the coin of the realm, the stuff discussions are made of. Arguments are what link statements together to create a meaningful context; without them, we'd all just be stringing together non-sequiturs without coherent meanings or relationships to one another when we discuss things. The denotations of the term "argument" that seem to apply in this case are the following (from the American Heritage Dictionary):

1. A course of reasoning aimed at demonstrating truth or falsehood: presented a careful argument for extraterrestrial life.
2. A fact or statement put forth as proof or evidence; a reason: The current low mortgage rates are an argument for buying a house now.
3. A set of statements in which one follows logically as a conclusion from the others.

I really wish our educational system and popular culture placed a greater emphasis on rhetoric and critical thinking. So much of the current cultural and political mess seems to be exacerbated by our culture's impoverished knowledge of the basic principles of formal logic and rhetoric, but, you know, whatever... I guess we go into history with the culture we have, not the culture we'd like to have, so there it is...
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 1:30 PM on July 17, 2005


because many, many Americans (including American soldiers like the one jonmc encountered) are decent, well-meaning, moral folks, America as a geopolitical entity is the same thing writ large. Which is the most odious strain of bullshit, and is very much part of the problem.

Well, there you go. What we have here is a goverment who's goals and motivations are utterly divorced from those of it's citizenry and it's costing us and the rest of the world in a big way. The question is, what do we do about it?
posted by jonmc at 2:15 PM on July 17, 2005


me: the extremists do have a rational case to present

What, in spite of the fact that the British government has been consistently one of the biggest critics of Israel and US policy with regard to the Palestinians, and have probably done more than anyone to move the situation there forward?

good point. The Palestinian side of the equation doesn't apply so much in the UK case, I guess, tho I do not follow this to any great degree.

In spite of the fact that most of the current deaths in Iraq are primarily caused by Muslim insurgents?

This is the core nut of the issue. By choosing to intervene in another country's internal affairs the US & UK brought upon themselves ALL responsibility for ALL fallout effects, regardless of who-killed-who arguments.

TMK, this involves more than foofy utilitarianism, but the legalisms of state sovereignity, and was actually one of my arguments for NOT intervening in 2003. It's serious shit messing around with other people's states, and the US and UK went WAY over the line in 2003.

From my reading, the US compounded the error with a truly impressive level of incompetence in staffing and implementing their carpetbagging Green Zone occupation in the latter half of 2003.

Not to mention the fact that "most" in your above is not "all"; the US has unfortunately waxed thousands of innocent Iraqis, certainly more civilians than OBL managed to kill on 9/11.

Sorry, but their case doesn't sound all that rational to me.

here comes the helicopter -- second time today
everybody scatters and hopes it goes away
how many kids they've murdered only god can say
if i had a rocket launcher...i'd make somebody pay.


The state of affairs is complex, and there is a lot to answer for on all sides. While many on the right look at this as "blaming america first", we all need to remove the logs from our own eyes and walk in the other guy's moccasins a bit.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:23 PM on July 17, 2005


According to Robin Cook's editorial in Friday's Guardian (my emphasis):
Heavy-handed US occupation is not the solution to the insurgency but a large part of the problem. US army rules of engagement appear to give much greater weight to killing insurgents than to protecting civilian lives. It is alarming testimony to its trigger-happy approach that statistics compiled by the Iraqi health ministry confirm that twice as many civilians have been killed by US military action as by terrorist bombs. The predictable result is that the US occupation breeds new recruits for the insurgency at a faster rate than it kills existing members of it.
Also, the Boston Globe reported today that:
New investigations by the Saudi Arabian government and an Israeli think tank -- both of which painstakingly analyzed the backgrounds and motivations of hundreds of foreigners entering Iraq to fight the United States -- have found that the vast majority of these foreign fighters are not former terrorists and became radicalized by the war itself.

...

Foreign militants make up only a small percentage of the insurgents fighting in Iraq, as little as 10 percent, according to US military and intelligence officials. The top general in Iraq said late last month that about 600 foreign fighters have been captured or killed by coalition forces since the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections. The wider insurgency, numbering in the tens of thousands, is believed to consist of former Iraqi soldiers, Saddam Hussein loyalists, and members of Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority.

...

Obaid said in an interview from London that his Saudi study found that 'the largest group is young kids who saw the images [of the war] on TV and are reading the stuff on the Internet. Or they see the name of a cousin on the list or a guy who belongs to their tribe, and they feel a responsibility to go."

Other fighters, who are coming to Iraq from across the Middle East and North Africa, are older, in their late 20s or 30s, and have families, according to the two investigations. 'The vast majority of them had nothing to do with Al Qaeda before Sept. 11th and have nothing to do with Al Qaeda today," said Reuven Paz, author of the Israeli study. 'I am not sure the American public is really aware of the enormous influence of the war in Iraq, not just on Islamists but the entire Arab world."
posted by kirkaracha at 3:22 PM on July 17, 2005


Well, there you go. What we have here is a goverment who's goals and motivations are utterly divorced from those of it's citizenry and it's costing us and the rest of the world in a big way. The question is, what do we do about it?

Well said, jonmc. Unfortunately, it looks more and more as if our democratic system of checks and balances is coming up woefully short on both checks and balances. At this point, what can we really do? Why doesn't our political system include some sort of failsafe mechanism (a special election process by public petition, or something along those lines) to hold leaders accountable for the outcomes and consequences of their policies in extraordinary circumstances?

Consider a hypothetical example, to illustrate the general problem: Suppose we elected a politically and personally well-connected president who inspired fierce, almost cult-like loyalty from his supporters and the other members of his administration (I'll leave aside the question of whether or not this has happened already), and a few months into his term, he fell briefly ill for undisclosed reasons, and returned to work with obvious signs of psychosis. Though no formal diagnosis has been made, a few medical professionals even speculate he's in the late stages of neuro-syphillis and the condition has left him literally deranged. Whatever the case, our hypothetical president has suddenly started making bewilderingly bad policy decisions that seriously undermine the nation's economic and security interests. What steps could we take in such a case, given the current structure of our political system? Impeachment might seem like a good option, but that's only an option when overwhelming public support exists. And even if such support existed, assuming the congress and vice-president were also highly-committed loyalists, impeachment proceedings would likely be largely ineffective (as they proved to be during the Clinton administration).

This example illustrates why it's so important that citizens and political leaders in an American-style representative democracy don't become too loyal to any one particular president or party. I suspect the foundational concept of "a nation of laws not of men" was intended to help mitigate these kinds of risks, but the original spirit of the idea has since eroded to the point where many are unapologetically more loyal to Bush, the man, and to his oxymoronic strain of radical conservatism, than to the rule of law. IMO, this trend--encouraged by the current administration--represents a dangerous shift in the role of the president and executive branch in American democracy, and moves us much closer to authoritarianism (please, before I get attacked: I'm not saying we're quite there yet, I'm just pointing out that this seems to be the direction we've been trending in recent history).
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 3:42 PM on July 17, 2005


As I said the other day, and probably shamelessly ripped off from someone else somewhere, "My country right or wrong has become my party right or wrong." This does lead to some of the bizarre behavior described in all-seeing eye dog's comment.
posted by caddis at 3:50 PM on July 17, 2005


he fell briefly ill for undisclosed reasons, and returned to work with obvious signs of psychosis

This kind of makes me ponder Reagon's later years as president as he went senile, it sounds like there was an tight net of associates and assistants deciding policy and trying to keep him on their rails (either for the greater good of all, or opportunistic manipulators, depending on who you ask), just like the court of a mad king.

I think if/when your scenario happens, the party in power will definitely try to hide it in order to keep their popular mandate - appearances and speeches are kept to a minimum and are pre-recorded where possible, bad decisions are manipulated until the guy thinks he suggested something else, or something else entirely is done regardless, and "misunderstanding" claimed when he finds out, "but it's in motion now - it's too late to change course". etc.

And there is also the argument that if the people have a way to oust an elected leader mid-term, then electioneering will never stop, no work will get done, hard/contraversial decisions will be put off for the next guy, and next, until crisis becomes inevitable, etc.

The solution is to fix your democracy so you dont have a monarch-like president. The way to do that is simple - proportional representation. If 11% of people in the country voted nader's party (or whoever), that party gets 11% of the seats. (Right now, 11% voting that party is more likely to result in 0% of the seats, and a (sometimes dictator-like) majority in one of the two major parties instead). As soon as you get proportional representation, people's votes actually count for something, and the two main parties find their support slashed as people vote for parties that actually stand for something. (I've watched this happen with electoral reforms elsewhere).
Suddenly, there is no party big enough to ram through their idealogical crap, parties actually have to consult other parties and come to agreement over whether new legislation is a good thing, and suddenly the old voting-against-any-legislation-that-isn't-ours playground tactics don't work any more. Suddenly, with more parties in power, there more than two points of refernce for politics, and citizens start to outgrow their childish left-vs-right misunderstanding of politics, and some mainstream nuance results.

Some political instability results for a few years while old-guard politicians are unable to comprehend the new game of cooperation across idealogy instead of backstab th other guys, but their inability to grasp the more productive system soon results in them either adapting, or their careers dying, as young blood flows into the system, particularlly through new parties that were previously always exlcuded by the broken old election system.

So, yeah, some growing pains and stumbles to go through, but electoral reform is the best thing ever for fixing a broken old obsolete system like this one.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:40 PM on July 17, 2005


From my perspective, the term "Argument" wasn't being used in this case to mean blah blah blah... The denotations of the term "argument" that seem to apply in this case are blah blah blah... our culture's impoverished knowledge of the basic principles of formal logic and rhetoric...

What the holy fuck are you going on about? Did you even read the rest of my comment? I wasn't expressing a distaste for argument in the abstract (if I didn't like arguing, I wouldn't hang out here, now would I?), I was pointing out that in the specific instance raysmj cited, I was merely correcting a misstatement from one of y2karl's quoted articles. Now that I've gotten that straightened out with raysmj, you drop by and want to make a megillah out of it? Gey kak af'n yam, as my nonexistent Yiddishe bubbele would have said.

By the way, your alleged "Homepage URL" doesn't even have the right syntax to be a URL. Mistake or eeeeevil? You're not by any chance a sockpuppet, are you? (One of EB's, judging by the length and pomposity of your comments...)
posted by languagehat at 5:09 PM on July 17, 2005


-harlequin-: I agree completely on the point that what's needed is a discussion of real, substantive election reform, and not just the kind that focuses on whether we should be allowed to have voting machines that verifiably record our votes accurately (it's absurd we should have to have that conversation at all). At this point in history, moving to a system of proportional representation sounds like such an appealing alternative to what we've got now... In hindsight, my previous "special elections" trope was probably not the best direction to take the discussion in (but it was only a trope...)...

Of course, the next problem is that the current two-party system is so firmly entrenched as to approach sacrosanctity, and for some reason, support for meaningful, structural election reform just never seems to gain any popular momentum (maybe because the two parties who set the nation's political agenda never focus on the issue--can't imagine why they wouldn't!--and the mainstream press pretty much lets the parties set the pace and direction of political issues coverage in this country)...
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 5:24 PM on July 17, 2005


all-seeing eye dog:

I think Canada is considering electoral reform, that might have the effect of bring the concept to American attention, or it might have the effect of making Americans smugly assume that Canada had to fix it's system because their founding fathers weren't as smart. Also, the rockiness of the first couple of terms may give Americans the impression that the system is a joke, and then when it settles down and really starts working, it won't be noticed (precisely because it is working well), and thus the mistaken first impression lasts.

But... Giving Canada 10 years to change (sheer guess - no idea if it even will), it would probably take at least 15 years for the US to follow suit, so we're probably looking at 25 years minimum :-(
posted by -harlequin- at 12:25 AM on July 18, 2005


What the holy fuck are you going on about? Did you even read the rest of my comment? Etc...

Sorry--you're right. I got confused for a minute there and did take your comment out of context (I thought you were referring to the use of the word "argument" in the quote you were riffing off of). Believe it or not, I've actually encountered real cases of the argument/argument confusion that my pompous and wordy diatribe was intended to dispell on MeFi before, and it's kind of a pet peeve of mine.

Wish I could blame alcohol, but no such luck--just carelessness and maybe a touch of stress-related dementia (but cut me some slack: I'm going through a rough time personally at the moment). I'm definitely not a, um, "sockpuppet" tho. And I'm pretty sure I don't know who or what an EB is.

Eh, you know what? On second thought, fuck off anyway. You were right to point out my mistake, but you didn't have to be such a condescending ass about it, so forget the apology (although on review, my use of the word "buttinsky" was unforgiveable).
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 2:23 AM on July 18, 2005


Oh, calm down. Apology accepted, and try to see it from my point of view -- I'd just been through it with one guy, and you come along and start biting my ankle for no reason I could see. Now that I understand what was going on, we're good. And I'm perfectly happy to cut you some slack, since I've needed some myself lately.
posted by languagehat at 5:31 AM on July 18, 2005


Oh, okay--all's forgiven.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 6:15 AM on July 18, 2005


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