Michael Kelly nails it.
October 3, 2001 12:48 PM   Subscribe

Michael Kelly nails it. Are "pacifists" inherently relying on others to defend their right to protest the war? Or do they wish to live in a nation where we pledge allegiance to Saddam and Osama?
posted by prodigal (68 comments total)
Wow, that is depressing. Take a decent premise (That war is sometimes necessary to preserve overall peace) and smother it in so much right-wing loathing that any sensible point you might make is lost in the torrent. Too bad.
posted by donkeymon at 1:10 PM on October 3, 2001

Nails what? His mother?

The first is that much of what is passing for pacifism in this instance is not pacifism at all but only the latest tedious manifestation of a well-known pre-existing condition: the largely reactionary, largely incoherent, largely silly muddle of anti-American, anti-corporatist, anti-globalist sentiments that passes for the politics of the left these days.

What about the largely jingoistic, largely short-sighted, largely childishly sarcastic Red-baiting that we thought went out with Senator Joe, but is largely the stock and trade of right-wing editorialism these days?

"Have you now, or have you ever thought that bombing the Middle East into oblivion isn't the best idea? You have? Friggin' PACIFIST!!"
posted by jpoulos at 1:18 PM on October 3, 2001

I did think that "dread Series of Letters" bit was pretty funny.
posted by mrmanley at 1:20 PM on October 3, 2001

“Does Michael Kelly wish to live in a country that has been defeated by Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein? Does he wish to live in a United States that has been defeated by any foreign force? Does he wish to live under an occupying power? Does he wish to live under, say, the laws of the Taliban or the Ba'ath Party of Iraq?


If the United States did as Michael Kelly wishes -- if it waged an unmitigated war on percieved and real, but hidden, threats -- it would, at some point, be conquered by a foreign regime. What stops this from happening is that the government and generally the people of the United States do not heed the wishes of Michael Kelly.”

Spinsanity critiqued Kelly’s previous column. Welcome to media literacy, kiddies.
posted by raaka at 1:25 PM on October 3, 2001

Kelly has some (weak) points. But there is an obvious pacifist option other than standing idly by while Bin Ladin takes over the country that he very conveniently ignores: Pacifists could turn the other cheek, while expecting our country to do everything possible to fix the problems of hopelessness and rage that are the breeding ground of terrorism.

Would this work? Who knows, it isn't likely to be our response, but Martin Luther King and Ghandi are pretty strong examples of the success that non-violence can have.
posted by jonnyp at 1:29 PM on October 3, 2001

No, he didn't "nail it." He didn't even come close to nailing it, because there isn't an "it" to nail. I'm not going to defend the anti-war movement, as that would take too much time, but attacking assholes like Kelly is a simple and necessary task.

For one thing, not everybody who is against the war shares the same opinion. It's possible to be anti-war without being a pacifist, as is the case with the thousands of people who think taking out only the terrorist groups themselves is preferable to making the rubble bounce in all of Afghanistan. It's possible to be anti-war without being anti-america, or even, *gasp*, without being liberal.

Further, the reasons for being against the war, or being pacifistic are so much more complex and varied than Kelly is making them out to be that the laughable description he gives them can't even pretend to real journalistic integrity.

He also calls the peace movement reactionary, as opposed to the war movement, which was the product of careful deliberation. Based only on my own experience, it certainly seemed like the instinct for revenge was the first thing most Americans had. In fact, I didn't even see anyone calling for peace, or even consideration, until the 12th. Just look at the archives on Metafilter and other blogs if you want to see the course of public opinion.

Finally, he seems to say that the opinions of those who would not fight in the war are invalidated. Putting aside how this totally disregards the principles our country stands for, if those who would sit out a war don't count, then that would silence not only 'peaceniks,' but pudgy, middle-aged writers for the Washington Post, too, along with the vast majority of the decision makers in this country. Better by far that everyone gets a say in this democracy, and nobody's opinions are dismissed out of hand or insulted. Right?
posted by Hildago at 1:31 PM on October 3, 2001

Kelly is dead on. He isn't proposing that the peacemakers not have a right to be idiots; only that they are idiots. His views are hardly extremist.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:45 PM on October 3, 2001

I sickens me that the very idea that violence is bad somehow is antiAmerican. Violence is bad. Period. We have allowed ourselves to be left with no alternative to violence. That is America's failing. We can and should deal crippling blows to the network of terrorists that we have (apparently) allowed to grow but we should NEVER allow ourselves into this position again. How's that for pacifism?
posted by shagoth at 2:00 PM on October 3, 2001

It's baiting. And I have heard it before. Because I am anti-war I am "not willing to fight for anything" so I should just "leave the country" because otherwise I am a hypocrite who takes full advantage of the good things about the US.

*roll eyes*

Whatever dude.
posted by terrapin at 2:03 PM on October 3, 2001

Wow, Kelly shook the peacenik tree and look what fell out! I never realized that these mefi pacifists were so aggressive! All Kelly really said was; you have the right to protest in this country and you do not have that same right in Afghanistan nor in Iraq. It is somewhat amusing reading the words that the mefi's are putting in his mouth.
posted by Oxydude at 2:05 PM on October 3, 2001

Ugh---can you say "strawman"?? I honestly didn't think he could get more pointlessly vapid than he did in his last anti-pacifist editorial, but this one is really quite a load of choleric horseshit.

If he's going to harp about the "intellectual dishonesty" of the antiwar movement, can we talk about the idiotically naive belief that America was attacked by people who "hate freedom and democracy"? Or how about the startling ignorance of the people who refuse to acknowledge the rich history of failed military campaigns in central Asia in general and Afghanistan in particular? Or how about the blindness of those people who can't seem to get through their thick skulls that retaliatory violence has failed repeatedly to deter terrorism in Israel and Northern Ireland?

It's not that I think everyone who's pro-war is stupid; but if I'm expected not to conflate the ignorant babblings of a few hawkish dunderheads with the general sentiment of the pro-war camp as a whole, I expect the same courtesy in return.
posted by shylock at 2:11 PM on October 3, 2001

Oxydude: Probably because *rarely* does anyone reads the linked articles. Folks just prefer to spew off their opinions and hear themselves talk sometimes. ;)

Sometimes I wish there was a feature that required one to click through to the article before they could post :)
posted by terrapin at 2:15 PM on October 3, 2001

What Shylock said! Bravo!
posted by terrapin at 2:19 PM on October 3, 2001

Thanks, prodigal, for the textbook example of the false dilemma (also frequently called a "false dichotomy").

Kelly's implication is that either you support all-out war against terrorism, or else you support complete surrender to terrorism. I leave the proof of the existence of other options as an exercise to the reader.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:23 PM on October 3, 2001

I saw a young woman on a bike the other day with a big green sign taped to her backpack.


While that may be true by definition, war has allowed her to post that sign on her backpack. At some level she has to respect that. Doesn't she?
posted by geoffrey at 2:23 PM on October 3, 2001

No, Oxydude, that's not all he said. Both of his "propositions" about the nature of the opposition movement are baseless generalisions. "I propose that the pacifist left is as the bellicose right defines it. Agreed?" Sorry, let's get all Francis Bacon about this and say that arguing from false premises is bullshit.

He should really stick to insulting fat people. Anything more demanding, and he gets out of his depth. Next week: Gandhi, that objective imperialist.
posted by holgate at 2:26 PM on October 3, 2001

His central premise is that the U.S., if it does not respond to terror or to Saddam Hussein, will be overrun by these men, at some point.

What point is that? Is it not possible to defend ones own country without becoming involved in foreign campaigns? This strategy seems to have worked for many other nations, why not the US?

I do support some military action, but Michael Kelly lacks any authority-- he writes poorly, does not feel the need to qualify his statements with evidence, and seems to exist solely to provoke and to jostle with 'enemies' of his own creation.
posted by cell divide at 2:28 PM on October 3, 2001

Are "pacifists" inherently relying on others to defend their right to protest the war?

Sure. And Kelly's relying on others to defend his right to be a pompous windbag. And I'm relying on others to defend my right to hold all sorts of crazy opinions.

I did think that "dread Series of Letters" bit was pretty funny.

Spot on. That's why the pacifist movement will never have the political clout of, say, the NRA.

Seriously folks, pacifism is a continuum not an either/or proposition. The pacifists here are not people who believe that we shouldn't fight even if we are invaded; they are people who believe that even the WTC attack is not a sufficient inducement to wage war.
posted by boaz at 2:31 PM on October 3, 2001

How come if you're not "anti-war" (or, more specifically anti-this war), you're considered "pro-war"? That's a joke. I'm not against the government taking military action in this case because I think that force is the only possible way to prevent another 6,000 (or more) innocent Americans from dying, and I happen to think the American way of life is worth preserving over the misogynistic, murderous Taliban society. But I'm not at all "pro-war." I hate war -- hate the concept of it, hate that it happens, hate that humans kill each other at all.

Another thing that bothers me (and this applies to both sides). No one is even capable of acknowledging that this is just a bad situation all around. For Kelly's part, everyone who disagrees are "liars" and "frauds." For many MeFi'ers part, Kelly (and those that agree with him) are "jingoistic," "short-sighted," "childishly sarcastic," assholes," "pudgy," "pointlessly vapid," "choleric horseshit," and so on, ad nauseum. I don't know about you, but when the ad hominem attacks start flying, I tune out.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:34 PM on October 3, 2001

do they wish to live in a nation where we pledge allegiance to Saddam and Osama

oh jesus christ. WHY must all points of view be reduced to either "annihilate Islam" or "I want to have Osama's baby"?

oh yes. because it's MetaFilter. I forgot. Silly, silly, silly me. Thanks for the reminder, prodigal.

I speak for no one but me, but *my* involvement in un-Americanism, I mean, anti-war action is NOT to protest action against the people who are responsible for what happened Sept. 11, but to speak up about my fears that yet more innocent people will die when we take that action. What, New Yorkers are inherently more valuable than Afghans?

To re-iterate. Osama's head on a stick: good. The death of *any* innocent citizen of Afghanistan, who has suffered *more* than enough: bad.
posted by Sapphireblue at 2:36 PM on October 3, 2001

Sapphire, actually that line was taken from Kelly's article. Looking over his archives, that's what he excels at: turning any complex issue into something well beneath the subtlety of your average MeFi discussion. And he has a week at least to come up with this tripe, wheras we just make it up as we go along.
posted by cell divide at 2:40 PM on October 3, 2001

respectfully disagree, cell divide: it wasn't a direct quote, but rather a paraphase that miraculously managed to be even more offensive and condescending than Michael Kelly's grossly distorted caricature of the people and ideas behind the current anti-war movement.
posted by Sapphireblue at 2:45 PM on October 3, 2001

Oops, went back and re-read it, you're right. He wrote:

Do the pacifists wish to live in a United States that has been defeated by Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein?
posted by cell divide at 2:47 PM on October 3, 2001

JonnyP: MLK and Gandhi succeeded because they were fighting governments who believed in the concept of natural rights. MLK in particular challenged the US to act in accordance to the principles it professed to support -- an expansion of scope, not an adoption of completely new beliefs. Moreover, both the British and the Americans acknowledged human rights as well as national rights; in a non-free society, both men would just have been hauled out and shot before they gained enough of a following to be seriously troublesome. As it happens, we don't believe that's a good thing to do, and neither do the Brits (not to say it hasn't happened, but we at least think that it shouldn't).

"Solving hopelessness and rage" isn't going to cut it. For one, we've been trying to do the humanitarian aid thing in Afghanistan and the peace-broker thing in Israel/Palestine for several years now, but they seem to be distinctly lacking in gratitude. For another, if terrorism is bred by a combination of American "imperialism", poverty, and social chaos, why don't Haiti, Panama, Nicaragua, and El Salvador pose serious terrorist threats to us? For a third, if it's our support of Israel that indicts us, why are we the "Great Satan" and Israel the lesser?

You cannot engage in rational discussion and diplomatic solutions with people -- or peoples -- who do not acknowledge the validity thereof, and that includes bin Laden and the Taliban both. The former has forfeited his claim to meaningful discussion by deliberately and with malice aforethought murdering 6000 innocent people; the latter, by their complete and utter disregard for our previous attempts to engage in meaningful dialogue about their little human rights problem. What more will it take for you to understand that talking this one out just isn't going to work?

Geoffrey: War = military forces targeting each other. Terrorism = deliberate targeting of innocent civilians. Therefore, War != Terrorism, by definition and by practice.
posted by atlee at 3:03 PM on October 3, 2001

wow what a turd. dissent is what drives and defines our great nation, brings clarity to its principles and maintains a balance.....wait no it doesn't. because there isn't enough of it. because bastards like this are working for the washington post. the reason the "left" was so inflamed is because the media and government was full of militaristic thoughtless and insultingly simple rhetoric from the second the shit hit the fan. mike kelly and the countless dolts in this country who share his ignorance aren't being critical or thoughtful with regard to our country's politics. and that's not gonna help the innocent people of our world. what a fricking turd. i went to school with idiots like this. i was wondering where they were working now.......
posted by aLienated at 3:08 PM on October 3, 2001

Kelly completely misses the point of pacifism, especially since he seems to consider "pacifism" and "anti-war" synonyms.

Do I wish to live in a country that has been defeated by Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein? Do I wish to live in a United States that has been defeated by any foreign force? Do I wish to live under an occupying power? Do I wish to live under, say, the laws of the Taliban or the Ba'ath Party of Iraq?

Of course not -- no one does. But I am not willing to kill to prevent it. It's nice to live in a country that allows its citizens to protest, but I'm not a pacifist so that I can talk about it. As far as my right to be a pacifist goes, America has no advantages over any other regime in history, because no one stop me from not killing. Sure, they may arrest me, jail me, or kill me -- but pacifism is the valuation of the lives of others above all else.

We have to remember that civil disobedience is not a right that America grants us, by definition -- it is simply the refusal to do (or not do) something which you are ordered to in defiance of your own personal beliefs. America may soon decide that I do not have the right to be a pacifist -- in which case you will see me exercising my power, not right, of civil disobedience in jail or in Canada. We must remember that the most important and powerful of our "rights" are not given to us by a generous government, but rather are inherent powers of our own free will. If we allow our government and those such as Kelly to force us to forget this, we cease to be truly "free," and merely become slaves of a particularly lenient master.
posted by tweebiscuit at 3:13 PM on October 3, 2001

To me it seems like the new pacifist movement are exactly the same groups of people that were the anti-globalization movement...i.e the same "pacifists" that set Seattle, WA on fire in 2000 and Gothenburg, Sweden and Genoa, Italy this year.

Is this true? Or are those completely different groups of people?
posted by tjomme at 3:16 PM on October 3, 2001

Thanks for the comment, Pardonyou?, I agree with you completely. War is a bad thing, but sometimes bad things are necessary to uphold all the good things in our life, i.e. boarding a plane and not having to worry about a terrorist taking it over and running it into a building, or, working in a really tall building and having to worry about a plane, hijacked by terrorists, will, out of no where, fly right into your office. People may perceive the US to be the big, bad world bully, and they may be right; but, a country has every right and obligation to respond to attacks on its integrity. If the US has no response, then who are we? Every little piss ant country or group would suddenly think, hey, its okay to attack the US, what are they going to do about it anyway? If you want to choose not to fight, fine, don't fight unless we really need you, like in WWII. If you still don't want to fight, then go to some other country that you would fight for, 'cause we don't need you anyway.

Back to the article, while Kelly may not have addressed the issue appropriately, I think his point is valid. Pacifism, in a time and place where action is needed, is nearly the same as fighting for the other country. Think of it this way: If you are with a friend, minding your own business, and a person decides to assault your friend while you are standing there, then not fighting and watching your friend get his or her ass kicked is just as close as kicking your friends ass yourself. How many of you think the Germans (the ones living in Germany) were wrong for doing nothing about the holocaust? How many of you thing they were wrong for supporting Hitler? How many of you disagree with the Germans who decided to be pacifists, and not do a thing?

Disclaimer: While I agreed with Pardonyou?'s post, I in no way intended my post to represent his ideas.
posted by Uncle Joe's Brother at 3:23 PM on October 3, 2001

atlee, it's just a much more complicated picture than you're presenting.

However perhaps we could frame the debate inside the nice way you started the article, how MLK and Ghandi fought for America and Britain to follow through with the ideals they preach.

In Israel/Palestine, we have not been an "honest broker" but have instead represented one side against the other consistently. Instead of trying to find justice and ultimiately peace, we have worked for security for Israel. We have not applied the same principals we would on our own border, nor intervened when Israel broke international law time and time again.

In Iran, which is who I believe coined the term "the great satan" we overturned democratic rule and installed a pro-western leader who also turned out to be a crook and a murderer. When the Islamic Revolution came, we got the hell out.

Our unconditional support for an Israeli regime that on its good days is one of the only democratic countries in the region, but on its bad days is in violation of every human rights accord on the book is daily thorn, and direct evidence that we don't care about peace or justice or the democratic ideals we preach. In Panama, Haiti, etc, there is nothing like that situation going on daily. Remove that problem and the terrorists vs. the just angry folks comes into far sharper relief.

As for Afghanistan and the terror groups that operate there, well on that count I agree with you 100%. There is no negotation possible there. The Taliban's internal problems are complex and come after years of one of the most disgusting wars the planet has seen, rife with rape, torture, and murder, but the bottom line is that they're on the wrong side in this case, and that's just too bad.
posted by cell divide at 3:26 PM on October 3, 2001

Of course not -- no one does. But I am not willing to kill to prevent it.

Tweebiscuit, are you serious? You aren't willing to fight for your right to live? What kind of a life would that be?
posted by Uncle Joe's Brother at 3:27 PM on October 3, 2001

Correct, UJB -- assuming that by "fight" you mean "kill." No, I'm not. I've written a lot about this in the other pacifism thread, and on my weblog, so you can read up more there, if you like. But in short, think of it this way: you know how we heroize American soldiers who "died for what they believed in?" (in this case, for America.) Well, I believe that I shouldn't kill people, and I'm willing to die for that belief. There you go.
posted by tweebiscuit at 3:40 PM on October 3, 2001

Hey tweebiscuit, will you make me a sandwich?

Sorry, I don't mean to be petty. Well, maybe I do, but do you believe that the terrible people in history (the Stalins, Hitlers, etc. . .) should be allowed to live? If the answer is yes, then how are you planning on removing them from power? How do you justify the deaths caused by them?

Tweebiscuit, imagine yourself in this situation (very hypothetical, never would happen, but hey, you never know). You are sitting in a remote area, and walk upon a scene where a single man is torturing ten innocent lives, you know, cutting there toenails off, slicing their skin, all that painful torture stuff. You know that he will eventually kill his victims, because there are already five other dead bodies ten feet away. You can stop this, tweebiscuit, if you take the gun the bad many accidently left near the doorway where you are standing, and shoot him in the head. In your hands lie the salvation of these innocent people. You know there is no way to peacefully resolve the situation otherwise. Alerting the man and trying to talk him out of it won't work for obvious reasons, I mean, you know, he's crazy. Fighting him won't work either, not only is he twice your size, he has an armory of torture devices to use as weapons. If you lose, you get to join the group. If you walk away, ten people are slowly killed by a madman. What are you going to do?
posted by Uncle Joe's Brother at 3:50 PM on October 3, 2001


With all due respect, Kelly's point is that the only reason you have the society you enjoy today is that other people were willing to kill to defend it. That's not very hopeful, but it does accurately describe human history. And you, being an intelligent rational person KNOW this. So you are enjoying the fruits of something which you have not to date, been asked to pay for. Where it becomes hypocritical is when you continue to enjoy the freedoms, knowing you would never pay the tab. Furthermore, you are vocal in asserting that we should all roll over and continue to enjoy being the unwitting targets of madmen. This is what I don't understand.
posted by prodigal at 3:56 PM on October 3, 2001

False delimma. There are certainly quite a few other choices beyond either kill them all with extreme prejudice, or "roll over and continue to enjoy being the unwitting targets of madmen." You, being an intelligent rational person KNOW this.

By all means, most comitted pacifists are quite willing to die in an attempt to secure the basic fruits of liberty. What pacifists are not willing to do is kill.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:06 PM on October 3, 2001

cell divide: I don't agree that we've been as uniformly pro-Israel as you do, or that we've not attempted to find justice and peace. We were the ones who dragged them (kicking and screaming) to Oslo; had it not been for American diplomatic efforts, the "peace process" would have disintegrated long since. In that process, we've tended to side with the Palestinians and have been instrumental in Yasser Arafat's transformation from autocratic thug to Nobel Peace Prize holder. Again, such would not be the case had we unconditionally backed Israel, nor would Bush have spoken today in support of a Palestinian state. In fact, it seems to me that we were condemning them a month ago for their new policy of .... assassinating known terrorists without harming any innocent bystanders!

You're entirely correct that we have not applied the same principles we would expect from Canada and Mexico. If Canada and Mexico routinely suicide-bombed pizzerias and then put up commemorative art exhibits, I think we'd make Israel look like a model of self-restraint. True, the Israelis have their "bad days", but from where I sit it looks like they have less of them than anyone else in the region. They are not "one of the only" democratic countries in the region -- the are THE ONLY ONE, period, and that includes Arafat's Palestinian Authority (which supports such human rights as making official, government-delivered death threats to American journalists). The Palestinian Authority is not the same thing as the Palestinian people -- it's not a democracy -- but I think we're being awfully patient with a government which wishes to wipe another from the face of the earth.

I don't think our actions in the region justify the widespread hatred we encounter, but I also don't think said widespread hatred actually results from an honest evaluation of American acts and policies. Again, ordinary citizens of the various Middle Eastern countries are *not free*, and they don't generally have access to a wide range of viewpoints with which to judge rationally. All our interaction with them -- in both directions -- is filtered through official lenses. They hate us because they are told that they should, and their governments strongly suppress information that might make them think differently. The thorn in their side is not American policy, but their leaders' relentless insistence that America is Bad and Evil.

The blame for the whole situation largely lies with the heads of the various nation-states, who as a rule aren't much interested in honest and open debate. Arafat and his crew were Marxists once upon a time, and would probably heartily dislike American on those grounds alone (much the same can be said for Syria and Lebanon). The rest are either Islamic fundamentalist types, royal families, or dictators, all factors which argue against their being unbiased rational actors. Simple demonization of America is about as close as Hafez Assad and co. get to critiquing America for its policies -- at least in front of their citizens. If they bothered to explain how we were betraying our own democratic ideals of truth and justice, their people might get the idea that democracy, truth, and justice were good things. Instead, they save those explanations for Western audiences -- their habit of making one statement in English and a completely different one in Arabic is pretty well documented, which casts some serious doubt on the veracity of terrorist types who use the same rhetoric.
posted by atlee at 4:20 PM on October 3, 2001

Tweebiscuit, are you serious? You aren't willing to fight for your right to live? What kind of a life would that be?

A life that believes people shouldn’t be used as a means to an end. The terrorists believed the opposite; they thought indiscriminate killing to achieve a goal is a perfectly valid political response. How will the US show itself to be different than terrorists? From the looks of it, it’ll use a fairy tale about good vs. evil which sounds shockingly similiar to the rhetoric bin Laden used in his declaration of war.

To a Martian, it’d be hard to tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys.

Non-violence is a practice civilized societies can use to show they are different from terrorists. Personally, I’m not total pacificist, I believe there are times when violence serves a purpose higher than itself. The current situtation doesn’t seem to be one of them.

prodigal, you are vocal in asserting that we should all roll over and continue to enjoy being the unwitting targets of madmen.

Saying “I won’t kill you” is not the same as saying “please kill me.” No wonder you liked Kelly’s editorial, you’re willing to attribute falsehoods to others. For shame.

Uhm, Sapphire and cell divide, you realize I was satirizing Kelly’s editorial to show how he’s attributing falsehoods to his ideological oppenents, right? Or were you even quoting me?
posted by raaka at 4:22 PM on October 3, 2001

So far I've only heard about what the pacifists DON'T want..i.e war.. but what do they WANT? Would anyone care to enlighten me about what kind of solution the pacifists would like to see ?
posted by tjomme at 4:23 PM on October 3, 2001

atlee, I think we're being awfully patient with a government which wishes to wipe another from the face of the earth.

Oh you mean Israel wiping Palestine off the Earth, right? Those peace processes you hold in such high regard didn’t uphold a certain UN resolution calling for a Palestinian state. That resolution is supported by the entire planet, at least every country recognized by the UN, except for two: the US and Israel.

Americans consider self-determination a birth-right. Why aren’t you willing let Palestinians have the same? Palestinians creating violence certainly shouldn’t exclude them, as Israel is one of the most violently oppressive democracies on the planet. They constantly thwart the Geneva Convention which mandates against collective punishment (tanks encircling Ramallah), assassinations (high level PLO officers killed by American made helicopters) and torture.

tjomme: A nonviolent solution. Usually that means diplomatic. Had the US given our ally Afghanistan as much support as France had given the US back in the day, we probably wouldn’t have a Taliban to deal with.
posted by raaka at 4:34 PM on October 3, 2001

My desire to see the terrorists responsible tried and sentenced in a tribunal of law doesn't even exist within the framework of Kelly's ill conceived rant. Has the propaganda of the government and media, in their lengthy misapplication of metaphors for a "war against drugs" or a "war against crime" made us forget what a real war is? Or is it just easier for Kelly to make us believe that we are at war by pushing his "you're either for us or against us?" Oh wait, forget that. That was GWB who said that.
posted by bragadocchio at 4:52 PM on October 3, 2001

I wonder how many christians agree with Kelly. I haven't heard the christian right once claim that we should turn the other cheek, or forgive the terrorists. Am I missing something?
posted by Doug at 5:05 PM on October 3, 2001

Oh you mean Israel wiping Palestine off the Earth?

Let's be a little reasonable here. In 1948 the UN declared the division of Palestine into Israel and a Palestinian state. The Jews declared themselves an independent state and were immediately attacked on all sides by the surrounding Arab nations and the Palestinians. Mind you, Palestine was _not_ an independent state prior to 1948--it had belonged to the Ottoman Empire and was given to Britain to administer following World War I. Britain did their best, found themselves incapable or unwilling to deal with Arab resentment to the Jews who were relocating there and the Jewish resentment of the Arab resentment, threw their hands up in the air and turned the mess over to the UN. The UN decided partition, with an international Jerusalem was the best bet.

Good link with some quotations from Arabic leaders of the time:

I'm not saying Israel's nose is clean, but claiming Israel wants to wipe the Palestinians off the face of the map seems a little, well, historically ironic to me. All of the fighting between Palestinians and Arabs and Israel seem just to be an ongoing extension of the original War in 1948.

Usually that means diplomatic. Had the US given our ally Afghanistan as much support as France had given the US back in the day, we probably wouldn’t have a Taliban to deal with.

I must not be reading this right at all. If we had supported Afghanistan we wouldn't have the Taliban now. Wait, wait what about... Oh, nevermind.

My desire to see the terrorists responsible tried and sentenced in a tribunal of law doesn't even exist

That's a noble goal, however it's anything but a solution. How, though, do you propose we get him to put him on trial? Pakistan is the Taliban's bestest friend in the world and they can't get them to turn him over.
posted by Swifty at 5:10 PM on October 3, 2001

Sorry, the link I mentioned above is here.
posted by Swifty at 5:12 PM on October 3, 2001

Raaka: Arafat isn't willing to let the Palestinians have it, either. He rejected Barak's July 2000 offer of a divided Jerusalem, "right of return", handover of 95% of the territories in question, and abandonment of most of the settlements. He didn't make a counter-offer or attempt to use that deal as the basis for more negotiations -- he turned it down flat, left the table, and started a new intifada instead. As for who wants to eradicate whom, I've not heard of the Israelis advocating the extermination of the Palestinian race on state-controlled TV. Israel destroys buildings and bulldozes fields (sometimes killing civilians in the process), but does not deliberately target exclusively civilian installations with bombs or machine guns. Palestinians, by contrast, blow up pizza parlors, buses, and shopping malls.

I'm perfectly willing to let the Palestinians form their own government -- please note the distinction I drew in my last post between the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people. My quarrel is with Arafat, a former terrorist currently running a police state. The rhetoric he permits or encourages calls for the complete eradication of the nation of Israel. Either Arafat cannot maintain an adequate enough grip on the reins of power to stop the terrorism -- as he claimed in his latest press release, acknowledging that the most recent breach of the cease-fire was his fault -- or he will not; in either case, he is not fit to be the ruler of a nation-state.
posted by atlee at 5:22 PM on October 3, 2001

Atlee, it's been apparent for quite a while that the offer made to Arafat was not what you claim it to be, but rather something far, far less. An ungoveranable state divided into cantons and without water rights or air rights. There have been quite a few articles that have proven this beyond doubt, here is the first one I could find: click

While Palestinian rhetoric has certainly been more extreme of late, what is far more telling is actions. Israel has continually gained territory, while Palestinian aspirations have continually shrunk. The PLO's sole mission is to establish a viable state inside the 1967 borders. The fact is, settlement building is illegal and immoral, and Israel continues it unabated, in violation of numerous international laws and treaties

The United States is clearly biased on that factor alone-- we are opposed to settlements, and yet each year our government sends around $5 billion dollars to Israel. We have not made any significant attempt to control settlement building or enforce the peace accords that have been signed.

As far as calling for the eradication of the Palestinians, this has been an Israeli goal from the start. Witness this quote attributed to Israel's founder:

"We walked outside, Ben-Gurion accompanying us. Allon
repeated his question, What is to be done with the
Palestinian population?' Ben-Gurion waved his hand in a
gesture which said 'Drive them out!'" Yitzhak Rabin, published in the New York Times, 23 October 1979.
posted by chaz at 5:45 PM on October 3, 2001

I wonder how many christians agree with Kelly. I haven't heard the christian right once claim that we should turn the other cheek, or forgive the terrorists. Am I missing something?

One theologian--I think he was a Baptist--argued in USA Today last week that "love thine enemy," "turn the other cheek," etc., only governed individual behavior. Such dicta had little or nothing to do with governments, which would be destroyed by following Christ's principles in the Sermon on the Mount. People can be Christians; governments can't. This is not a new argument; it appears in the writing of conservatives like Michael Novak, and I've tripped over the same point in nineteenth-century arguments over the nature of "Christian civilization." (Of course, one could argue that most Christians don't find the Sermon on the Mount workable at a literal level, either. I recently read a book on Baptist missionaries in India that included an amusing anecdote about one leading missionary and some thieves; after he had some thieves arrested, some Indians argued that he clearly did not believe in his own religion, as he had just contradicted what Christ said about theft in the Sermon...)

That being said, traditionally pacifist denominations like the Society of Friends and the Mennonites aren't exactly gung-ho about the war rhetoric.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:55 PM on October 3, 2001

Saying "I won’t kill you" is not the same as saying "please kill me."

No, but it certainly has the same result.
posted by kindall at 5:56 PM on October 3, 2001

Problem with the argument that those protesting the war should realize what hypocrits they are because their very right to protest was guaranteed by war:

If we assume that wars are fought for a reason, and not just for the hell of it, then every war has a purpose higher than itself; something which it ultimately defers to and admits subordinance to. If the wars which the United States have fought in the past were fought, even in part, to guarantee the American way of life, of which freedom of speech and freedom to protest are such a large part, then the protestation of war and the exercise of free speech do not fly in the face of the lives of those who died to consecrate those rights. On the contrary, it.. blah blah blah. Who is listening?

If you say that someone died to protect my right to protest this war, then you'd better not turn around and imply I shouldn't be doing it.
posted by Hildago at 6:23 PM on October 3, 2001

Chaz: Drive them out != kill them all, and it also != glorifying suicide bombers and creating art exhibits celebrating their deeds. If we're going to play moral equivalence here, I think crimes against property (settlement building) carry less weight than crimes against people, and that unwarranted eviction is less contemptible than murder.

I saw no mention in the Salon article of air/water rights or of the geography of the proposed Palestinian entity. I did see an assertion that Arafat "would not be able to agree to these conditions for a peace settlement ... His people would not sanction it, nor would they give up their "Intifada of al-Aqsa"" -- an intifada which was not begun until two months after the Camp David meetings. A quick trip to Google was also unable to provide me with any objective information about the specifics of air/water rights and territorial continuity in question at Camp David (objective meaning provided by neither the Palestinian Authority nor the Israeli government nor by a source openly derogatory of either side). Do you have some more definitive sources?
posted by atlee at 6:28 PM on October 3, 2001

Michael Kelly on Pacifists: (from mediawhoresonline.com)

Bob Somerby of the "Daily Howler" has covered both this, and last week's, ranting Michael Kelly columns- making the key point that in both articles, Kelly neglects to actually point out any examples of these alleged flag-burning, terrorist-hugging pacifists he so loathes. And regardless of the validity in his broader viewpoints about a military response, Kelly commits just about every anti-logical atrocity in the book, from 'false dilemma' to 'unrepresentative sample'. Which is par for the course for that insipid twit. :)
posted by hincandenza at 6:42 PM on October 3, 2001

Israel has continually gained territory, while Palestinian aspirations have continually shrunk

While that's not true of Israel (think Sinai Peninsula), it is true that the USA has continually gained territory, while Native Americans have suffered shrunken aspirations. Maybe you own some land you think should be given to them.

The PLO's sole mission is to establish a viable state inside the 1967 borders.

Here's a link to the PLO charter so people can judge the truth of that statement for themselves.
Additionally, Here's a copy of the Hamas charter, another organization with broad popular support among Palestinians. I particularly enjoy where it says, "Leaving the circle of struggle with Zionism is high treason"

Ben-Gurion waved his hand in a gesture which said 'Drive them out!'

Perhaps we should deal with actions not rhetoric; Arabs still living within the 1948 borders following the War of 1948 were granted Israeli citizenship.

The fact is, settlement building is illegal and immoral, and Israel continues it unabated

Suicide bombing is illegal and immoral and Palestinians continue it unabated. And it's a neat example of the non-equivalence of "drive them out" and 'call for their destruction'.
posted by boaz at 6:51 PM on October 3, 2001


There is no false dilemma. There is no choice to make. My point concerns those who claim they will not kill, while enjoying freedoms provided, i.e. protected, by those who have killed. These are historical facts, not debatable points.

Saying “I won’t kill you” is not the same as saying “please kill me.”

kindall's response says it better than I could: they lead to the same result

I enjoyed Kelly's article because I thought it articulated nicely a provocative point. The number of defensive posts and rampant equivocation leads me to think he's largely correct. Too many doth protest too much.
posted by prodigal at 7:30 PM on October 3, 2001

Too many doth protest too much.

so what do you propose then, protest vouchers?

not a bad idea, really. every college student could be issued two per semester to redeem at the protests of their liking, but if they run out they just have to wait until they are given more, no matter what the wrong-doing is that they have to condone in the meanby.

anyways, I must admit kelly does have a point. the only reason I'm against war is because I think it's time we let some new zealots call the shots.
posted by mcsweetie at 7:57 PM on October 3, 2001

I support war on the particular individuals who committed this crime. I do not support "war" against the people of Afghanistan.

If you believe that bombing the people of Afghanistan into starvation will somehow make terrorism impossible, you are mistaken. Afghans are already starving. This is a country without electricity in most areas. If we wage "war" against them, it will be a one-sided war. Being a landlocked country, Afghanistan has no navy or air force, and a weak army. Agriculture is difficult, to say the least. Afghanistan has no military allies (Pakistan, their only ally, is being urged to take military action against them by the US). A war is something that takes place when both sides fight each other. Should we declare war on Afghanistan, we will be fighting a war, and they will simply be dying.

Take that however you like. I, personally, think the risk of slaughtering defenseless people is a good reason to be a pacifist.
posted by girlscantell at 7:59 PM on October 3, 2001

And if we're going to start attacking whether or not people really believe what they say they do about this issue, or whether they're just buying into an attiude, we should also talk about the patriotism that's been expected from everyone at the risk of being labeled a terrorist-lover. When Congress voted to let President Bush use "all necessary force" to keep America safe, only one woman dared to vote against the proposition...although, afterwards, various members of the house approached her and thanked her for expressing their real views on the measure.

Maybe we should just debate the specific arguments people make on this board, because calling a whole movement of people hypocrites implies that you understand a whole group of people explicitly...which Mr. Kelly does not.
posted by girlscantell at 8:52 PM on October 3, 2001

I am unsure if this hasn't been addressed already; if so I apologize. 54 posts is quite a few for me to read before I respond.
Where in the article does Kelly advocate total war against Afghanistan? He nevers calls the Afghan people as a whole evil, never says they hate democracy. He says that bin Laden and the Taliban do. He further calls for a response against them, not against Afghanistan as a whole.
I am not against the anti-war protestors because they are anti-war; I am against them because, as Kelly says, they are reactionists. Barely was September 11th halfway over, and protestors were already screaming for world peace. The product of careful deliberation indeed.
Further, it seemed to me that Kelly was not against all anti-war protestors, either; rather he was against those that continue to exhibit a bad knee-jerk reaction to any violence. Kelly has written columns about extremists on the right, as well. In all cases he calls them fools, yet acknowledges their right to be fools.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 9:12 PM on October 3, 2001

With all due respect, Kelly's point is that the only reason you have the society you enjoy today is that other people were willing to kill to defend it.

With all due respect, prodigal, you're just reiterating Kelly's flawed premises. The main reason we (meaning the well-insulated denizens of the developed world) have the society we enjoy today is that for most of the past 50 years other people were willing not to kill to defend it, by seeking alternative resolutions to disputes that came damn close to the big fuck-off boom. Or, from a wider and more cynical perspective, to ensure that it was other people doing the killing (and dying) on their behalf.

Dear me, this witless hack isn't worth a thread this long.
posted by holgate at 9:16 PM on October 3, 2001

ensure that it was other people doing the killing (and dying) on their behalf.

"The object of war is not to die for your country but to make
the other bastard die for his." -- General George S. Patton.

However, I'd like to point out that the US was never invaded during that past 50-year period, holgate, and thus we never had to defend. If others hadn't died to defend it earlier, neither you nor I nor anyone else would have this society.
posted by aaron at 9:24 PM on October 3, 2001

idiotically naive belief that America was attacked by people who "hate freedom and democracy"?

Study social psychology. Study the development of totalitarian regimes in the last couple of centuries and their respective underlying ideologies. This is not only a plausible scenario, but one with significant historical precedent. Who's being naive?
posted by lizs at 9:54 PM on October 3, 2001

kindall, No, but it certainly has the same result.

That is a point worthy of debate, not Kelly’s “pacificists are terrorists” silliness.

atlee, you said Israelis don’t go around honoring suicide bombers. No, what Israelis do is elect a prime minister whom is commonly regarding as being responsible for the Sabra and Shatilla massacres. That is about as clear a message as an exhibit about a suicide bombing.

You’d never heard of Israel calling for the death of Palestinians. I’ve read the occasional comment to that effect, but Moshe Dayan got the closest to what Israel really wants with the Palestinians. He asked his government to advise the Palestinians, “You shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave.”

I agree with you, we should evaluate the participants’ stance by their actions. Palestinians, except for some crooks in the PLO, do live like dogs. Israel has the power to change this, so I guess they’re getting what they want.

As for the July ’99 peace plan, you’re not going to find a mass media outlet that got down to specifics. You’ll have to settle for some think tank’s presentation.

The bottom line is Israel and the US have proven themselves unable or unwilling to find a peaceable solution that doesn’t include a free Palestine. Arafat has proven himself a crook and unable or unwilling to reign in terrorists. (Why anyone thinks a highly unpopular leader can tell his people to heed his word is beyond me.) The UN created Israel, it should be up to them to solve the problem there. The US and Israel need to get out of the way and let them try.
posted by raaka at 12:05 AM on October 4, 2001

tjomme: "Would anyone care to enlighten me about what kind of solution the pacifists would like to see?"

See, now that's the question that Kelly ought to have asked in the first place. And I'd like to ask the same question in return--what military plan would the antiantiwar suggest to deal with the long-term problem of international terrorism? I have yet to hear a feasible plan of military action that doesn't involve a lot of dead civilians or a lot of dead American servicemen.

The plan that I have most often heard outlined by antiwar groups I'm in contact with:

Phase one
First--eradicate the present threat. Convene an international tribunal with power to prosecute bin Laden's organization. (In my opinion, which does not necessarily represent the mainstream antiwar sentiment, this will require the UN empowering a multinational force with police powers and a broad mandate to use whatever intelligence sources necessary to root out the members of al-Quaeda and arrest them. YMMV.)

Try the terrorists, using legal principles that respect due process and the rights of the accused. Yeah, I know the terrorists don't respect due process. But that's no reason to abandon principles that are at the cornerstone of the American system of government. Bin Laden is vermin, but you've still got to demonstrate that you've got enough evidence to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Drop a cruise missle on his head without giving him his due process, and you make him into a martyr. Blow up training camps full of trainees and you lose informants who can tell you where other camps are. It's not just better ethically to stick to our legal principles here, it's a better security policy.

I want to make this clear here--nobody with half a brain thinks we can negotiate with bin Laden. That's not what we mean by a "diplomatic" solution. It just means that the US should not be seen as pursuing a unilateral course of action that doesn't take international law into account. That would just confirm what the terrorists already believe about us.

Phase two. Prevention of further terrorist attacks. The Bush administration's move to seize the assets of terrorist organizations is a great thing. More of the same.

Most of us antiwar folks also think we should improve our covert intelligence system, although there's a significant proportion who aren't comfortable with the idea of beefing up the powers of the CIA, FBI, and NSA. My own opinion is that we at least need to figure out how it's POSSIBLE that an attack of this scale, with dozens of people involved and a paper trail as wide as the Ganges could have gone unnoticed for so many years.

Phase three. Long-term goal--building a sustainable peace. I don't think there are any simple answers to why we were attacked. But there were reasons, and it behooves us to figure out what they were. Some people have suggested that this was the Arab-Israeli conflict spilling over onto the shores of Israel's biggest ally. Others think it's the empoverished citizens of the third world striking out against a capitalist system that exploits them for the benefit of the developed world. Still others think it's the gays' and the ACLU's fault. Whatever. Let's figure it out, for christssake, and fix it.

What is abundantly clear to me, however, is that retaliatory military action cannot address the root causes of terrorism and only serves to aggravate the situation. If there's nothing else we gain from the lesson of Northern Ireland and the occupied territories, let's at least learn that state-sponsored asassinations and punitive measures against entire populations don't work.

Look, the antiwar movement is a broad coalition of voices from all over the political spectrum. We're not all Quakers, we're not all the WTO protesters, we're not all America-bashers. But we do all believe that military action is not the right course of action to take in this situation. Can we at least agree to talk about issues, rather than dismissing one another with broad generalizations?
posted by shylock at 1:09 AM on October 4, 2001

There is no false dilemma. There is no choice to make. My point concerns those who claim they will not kill, while enjoying freedoms provided, i.e. protected, by those who have killed

I would challenge anyone to show how any of the "wars" America has waged between 1814 and the present (excluding WWII) have protected the "American way of life." Frankly, our country, and our way of life hasn't been threatened substantially since British soldiers marched on Washington, or Hitler ruled Germany. It's not threatened much now either, terrorists lack the advanced planes or equipment to launch large scale attacks on the US.

Instead, by pushing for another war, we're doing more to limit the things that make America a great place to live (Oh say... The first amendment).

Why did we fight WWI?
posted by drezdn at 1:31 AM on October 4, 2001

If others hadn't died to defend it earlier, neither you nor I nor anyone else would have this society.

Which came first, the war or the peace? Both of us can point to a one that set in place the conditions for ther other, and so on back ad infinitum until we're arguing over the original state of nature. To assume that either war or peace on its own has "guaranteed" anything is to give history the same overview as Lord Nelson gave his fleet. But you don't have to eagle-eyed to appreciate that the conditions of "this society" owe more, immediately, to 50-odd years of peace than the previous six years of war.
posted by holgate at 1:42 AM on October 4, 2001

People, I'm not American, I don't live in the US, but... doesn't Kelly realize that he lives in a country that supported Saddam and created the Taleban?
posted by talos at 2:16 AM on October 4, 2001

To answer a previous point: as a Christian, I do believe in forgiveness and turning the other cheek. I also believe in the protection of the innocent and weak.

I do not support a strike of retaliation. I do not believe in revenge, and consider "getting back at bin Laden" contrary to my beliefs. I would strongly oppose such action.

I do firmly support action which will prevent further suffering by innocents. I would fight, die, or kill to protect my family, my freedom, and my right to worship my God.

Turn the other cheek, yes. Protect my children, yes. As long as the threat remains, I must do what I can to protect them. Anything less makes me unworthy to be a parent. (I have a strong suspicion that most of you anti-war folks are young, and have no children of your own. Let me just say, you cannot understand. You're still children yourselves.)
posted by terceiro at 8:43 AM on October 4, 2001

atlee: well stated. Note that I was voicing the fact that pacifists have SOME options other than rolling over. I'm not a pacifist. I think some measured response is needed. Probably against any state sponsors of terrorism. I DO think that we need to understand the environment that we engage in meaningful ways, something we have not always been very smart about.

We are actively engaging the Northern Alliance in our anti-Taliban efforts. I know next to nothing about them, what I DO know is that they may be yet another example of us picking the lesser of two evils that we will end up paying for 10 years down the road.
posted by jonnyp at 10:06 AM on October 4, 2001

Talos brings up a good point. Maybe instead of focusing on US foreign policy in places such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, we should think about actions such as funding Saddam Huessein and the Taliban.

Is it un-American to question those decisions?
posted by cell divide at 10:10 AM on October 4, 2001

It's un-American not to question decisions.
posted by Skot at 10:29 AM on October 4, 2001

posted by tweebiscuit at 4:07 PM on October 4, 2001

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