a quote for saturday


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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21 Responses

  1. Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

    Truth is something we pursue, not something we ever fully possess. When we come to the point where we think that we have the truth, that truth is contained in our way of thinking, then what happens? We stop pursuing truth. The person who has lost his way may at least still move toward finding it. The person certain he has found all he needs to find has stopped moving.Report

  2. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Well said, Kyle. All of which informs my beliefs on tradition as well – the notions of “living” traditions vs those succumbed to inertia…Report

  3. Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

    So: what white hot truths did Sullivan discover that made him turn 180º on the war in Iraq and support of Israel? What lies? What new evidence?

    I wouldn’t care about anyone’s staunch support for Obama if it was based on anything rational. I defy you to find anything in Sullivan’s Atlantic love-letter to Obama that fits that criteria and can’t be boiled down to Obama’s face—as Sullivan himself puts it—plus Hope n’Change.Report

  4. Avatar Seth Owen says:

    Roque Nuevo, Sullivan and exhaustively and openly documented it all, far more than a simple reply can hope to cover, so just look.
    But simply stated, the ENTIRE rationale for the War turned out to be a lie, that Saddam Hussein had WMDs and posed an immediate threat. I, like Mr. Sullivan, trusted that my government would not send us (and me personally as it turned out) to war without good, solid reason and unless there was no choice. Instead, we were betrayed and the war was sold with untruths and half-truths. The new evidence has been piling up despite the best efforts of the perps to cover it up, bury it under politically motivated misuse of security classifications and selective leaks. Just look.
    Despite the fact that people like Sullivan and myself disagree with most of Obama’s policy ideas, the criminality, dishonor and incompetence of the “conservative” movement has given us no choice.
    No one will be happier than us (and other principled conservatives) when the Right rediscovers its principles.
    That there are Americans DEFENDING ABUSE of captured persons (let alone defending TORTURE) is profoundly disturbing. Basic American values are under attack not just by Jihadists but by our own misguided countrymen.
    Sullivan and a few others on the right such as Daniel Larison are, fortunately, showing that being a conservative does not necessarily mean you support torture, aggressive war, disappearing people, unrestrained executive power or other radical deaprtures from American traditions.Report

  5. Avatar Brian says:

    I think Sullivan is right to be categorically against torture and for the prosecution of American officials who abetted it. But his histrionics about it read unseemly, not because torture is not as serious as he believes it is, but because he’s grandstanding with the issue. He has a word that he can use to excoriate almost anyone who disagrees with him, particularly about Bush’s foreign policy, which Sullivan feels guilty about initially supporting. Sullivan turns every disagreement into the equivalent of “I’m against rape” and “You are not against rape,” therefore, I am pure and you are worse than filth.

    He quoted the Catholic doctrine to bolster his position: “whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself […]” So I emailed him:

    ***Framing the doctrine as he did might imply that Catholicism judges the “bad cop” in any kind of “good cop, bad cop” routine as a torturer. This left me confused as to your fundamentals on this issue.

    Could you tell us whether you think any kind of “good cop, bad cop,” — even making a detainee think that the interviewer is his ally among a host of others who are uncertain and may represent a threat (which seems to be part of the secret of the gentle Nazi Air Force interrogator you alluded to) — is a form of psychological torture? If you don’t think it’s torture, why not? If you do think it’s torture, do you think it only “better” by degree than, for example, waterboarding?***

    No reply this time, and it occurs to me that he is more interested in the word “torture” as a spiritual perjorative than he is in clarifying what is right and wrong when we have a prisoner.

    Until the last few months, I had a lot of respect for his intellectual integrity and his ideological flexibility, but now I see him underplay important arguments contrary to his positions (ex. the Freeman affair) and I see his positions being driven by his own guilt over his past opinions.

    When Nietzsche wrote about torturing convicts, he saw it as a symptom of the torturers’ resentment, but he also saw the same instinct of resentment at work in religious moralism, the sadistic desire of a clergyman to torture the conscience of peoples with the idea that they are reprehensible creatures, unless they follow his creed. Andrew has that unhealthy instinct.Report

  6. Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

    Seth Owen:

    the ENTIRE rationale for the War turned out to be a lie, that Saddam Hussein had WMDs and posed an immediate threat.

    False: The entire rationale for the war was not based on the WMD threat. There were many others. For example, the twelve or so UNSC resolutions that came after the Gulf War, which Saddam violated; the rampant human rights abuses perpetrated by Saddam in his Republic of Fear; the fact that a megalomaniac was sitting on top of so much oil with WMD capability. There are more. Any one of these would be a legitimate causus belli.

    The WMD threat was not a lie. It was a mistake. The difference is apparent for a five-year old, so one would think that Mister Nuance could understand that if he weren’t blinded by so much admiration of his own appreciation of nuance. The whole world believed Saddam had the WMDs, not just Bush/Cheney. If this wasn’t true, then where was the debate about it at the time? The only reason we know today that he didn’t have the WMDs is because we invaded. To this day, no one can really explain what happened, since Saddam isn’t talking. I haven’t seen any evidence at all to refute this, so point me in the right direction. If true, then I’m switching sides right away. But until then, I maintain the position I took back in 2002-03, which was to support the invasion for a whole “package” of reasons. I have seen nothing in in the interim that contradicts it. This is the main reason why I lost all respect for Sullivan: he waffled on his support because of secondary issues (whatever they were). The reasons he gave to support the war back in 2002-03 are just as legitimate now as they were then.

    Even so, the WMD rationale was not based on Saddam’s “immediate threat,” like you say it was. It was based on the Bush preventative war doctrine, which means that war is legitimate to prevent a threat from becoming immediate. Saying that Bush lied because he was touting an immediate threat that wasn’t there is a lie in itself.

    How was it that the government sent you to Iraq? I thought that we had an all-volunteer army. If you joined up, then the government owned you no matter what. If you didn’t want the government to own you, then why did you join up?

    You imply that war should only be the last resort. This is a truism. But in practice, its a judgment call as to where to draw the line simply because we can never exhaust more peaceful methods of resolving a conflict. That’s just using logic. These decisions are not made on the basis of some kind of scorecard, where you use up all your diplomatic chips and then must resort to violence. Bush made his call. It was his job to do so. So did the Congress and Andrew Sullivan. They all rejected further diplomacy for one reason or another, even though it was readily at hand: this is exactly what the UN debate was about, not about the existence of WMDs.

    I object to you putting yourself and Sullivan in the category of “principled conservatives” and others in the category of incompetent and dishonorable criminals. That’s the key element of Sullivan’s style. It’s self-serving and dishonest to dehumanize one’s opponent. It shows a lack of principles and honor.

    Just as the “war of last resort” is based on someone’s drawing the line where others wouldn’t, so the use of waterboarding, slapping, stress positions, etc etc are as well. Nobody is defending abuse or torture. Bush administration defenders are simply drawing the line where you and Sullivan would not. Your black-and-white approach to this whole problem may help you feel like you’re on God’s side in this fight, but it’s useless for analytical purposes. All it does is raise the level of the shouting when the situation demands a political solution. We are under attack by jihadists. We need to adapt to the problem of asymmetric warfare. The interrogation techniques we use are part of this adaptation. We can’t adapt if everyone’s shouting at everyone to show that he or she is on the side of truth and justice.Report

  7. Avatar Roque Nuevo says:


    This is fantastic! I’m kicking myself for not thinking of it myself.

    When Nietzsche wrote about torturing convicts, he saw it as a symptom of the torturers’ resentment, but he also saw the same instinct of resentment at work in religious moralism, the sadistic desire of a clergyman to torture the conscience of peoples with the idea that they are reprehensible creatures, unless they follow his creed. Andrew has that unhealthy instinct.

    You turn the tables on the “losing our souls” crowd and make it look easy! You must be a pro.Report

  8. Avatar Squid Vicious says:

    I don’t have any problem with people changing their minds, and credit is due to Sullivan for having admitted to himself, much sooner than many of us did, that GWB was bound for failure and ignominy.

    That said, I completely, 100% do not buy his self-branded “Conservatism of Doubt.” Doubt, by its very nature, implies something less than total certainty, yet Sullivan repeatedly engages in hectoring, bullying attacks that imply quite the opposite. Sullivan has openly attacked almost anyone he perceives as being in opposition to him, up to and including the very people on the right who he once found common cause with (witness his recent, odd attempts to instigate a conflict with Glenn Reynolds). At times, this leads him to utter self-parody, such as his increasingly strident demands for Sarah Palin to prove her innocence in a plot that would have involved a false pregnancy complete with stomach padding, conspiring press and physicians, and her daughter Bristol conceiving a second child before secretly giving birth to the first.

    Why should we believe that there is any thoughtful level of “doubt” or self-examination of his opinions when his writing and attitude towards others indicate just the opposite?Report

  9. Avatar Seth Owen says:

    Saying the war was not about WMD is being revisionist. America would not have gone to war to bring Democracy to Iraq or just because Saddam was a bad guy. We went to war because we were told that if we didn’t we might face a “mushroom cloud.”
    I don’t think the theory of “Preventative War” has fared very well. It’s of doubtful legitimacy as it seems like any tinpot dictator could claim that he was preventing some possible future threat. Unless the threat is immediate then going to war is hard to defend.
    And it’s true I signed up, but that doesn’t mean that the nation’s leadership wasn’t responsible for using due care in deploying us into combat. Loyalty is due down the chain of command as well as up the chain.
    Perhaps the WMD reason for war was a simple mistake. I believed at the time that Iraq had WMD. This was a reasonable thing for all of us to believe based on what the public knew at the time. If it was a mistake then the administration should have admitted it. Instead The Bush administration assured us it was a “slam dunk” that Iraq had WMD and implied that they had evidence that they couldn’t share with us. It appears now they didn’t have real evidence, merely false evidence derived from torture, forgeries and Chalabi. This is what turns a mistake into a lie.
    And while you are not defending torture, there are plenty of people on the Right (in power and paid pundits) who are and until they stop then conservatism is in danger of being tainted for a generation.
    Sullivan is, by his own admission, prone to go overboard on subjects he feels passionately about. But while his style may not be conservative, his message is. And he does feel guilty about supporting the war. He admits that. Thousands of Americans have died in that war. Tens of thosuands of Iraqis have died. An entire country has been ravaged by that war. Our country’s economic health has been threatened by that war. Our military has been dmaged and our strategic situation eroded. And on top of that we’ve been distracted from winning the war we HAD to fight.
    Who can honestly say that they would have supported the war if they had suspected what it would have really cost?
    It’s not surprising that Sullivan feels guilty about supporting such a disaster. The wonder is that more people who should know better apparently don’t feel guilty about it.
    Conservatism used to be based on reverence for American values, honor, respect for the law and for experience. I see scant evidence for any of that on the Right currently. Torture and war are hardly the only issues where the Right has lost its bearings, but they may be the most fundamental. A state that can torture anybody is not a state that can sustain liberty.Report

  10. Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

    Seth Owen,

    At first I thought you were a kid in high school or something. I thought that you were too young to really remember the 2002-03 debates that led to the invasion of Iraq and were getting your information from Sullivan. Is it really true that you’re 54 and a journalist?

    You should learn to read more carefully so as not to put words in my mouth. Then, you make me clarify, which is an extra effort for me. I don’t like that. An example is, “Saying the war was not about WMD is being revisionist.” I didn’t say that the war wasn’t about the WMDs—how could anyone ever do that? Are you calling me stupid or what? I said that the WMDs weren’t the entire rationale for the war, as you tried to show. Plus, do you know what the word “revisionist” means? You’re not really using it correctly here—another reason I thought you were a high-school student.

    You say, “If [the WMDs] was a mistake then the administration should have admitted it.” Of course they have admitted it over and over again. What follows next is an anachronism (another reason why I had thought you were too young to have actually remembered the debate): “Instead the Bush administration assured us it was a “slam dunk” that Iraq had WMD and implied that they had evidence that they couldn’t share with us.” All this happened before the invasion. How could they possibly admit their mistake before the invasion? The invasion is the only reason that we now know Saddam didn’t have the WMDs. You say, “It appears now they didn’t have real evidence, merely false evidence derived from torture, forgeries and Chalabi.” I don’t know what you mean by “real evidence.” I guess you mean, “evidence that supported the truth.” This is just fallacious, as I’ve explained to you here. Of course whatever evidence they had turned out to be “false” because we never found the WMDs. That’s why it’s called a “mistake” and not a “lie.” You should review the whole UN inspection regime under Blix so that you understand that Bush didn’t get all his evidence from “torture, forgeries and Chalabi.” Blix also believed Saddam had WMDs, even if he didn’t believe that this justified an invasion. This goes for the French, the British, and other allies, as well as the Clinton administration before that.

    You say, “I don’t think the theory of “Preventative War” has fared very well.” Well,so what? I brought that up to show you that saying that Bush had claimed Saddam posed an “immediate threat” was either a lie or a mistake, depending. If you’re a high school student, it’s a mistake and you didn’t do your research properly. If you’re an adult who was following the debate at the time, then at the very least it’s negligent ignorance, if not a lie.

    Of course the nation’s leaders are responsible for using “due care” before sending you to fight in a war. But that doesn’t mean that you get to whine about it if you disagree with them once they do. I say they did use “due care” and I suppose that a lot of soldiers and marines agree.

    I really don’t care what Sullivan’s message is. It doesn’t mean anything to me that he feels guilty. Too bad for him! He can eat shit for all I care. I just wish he’d quit parading it in front of everyone because, even if I don’t read his bullshit anymore, I’m still subject to it through people like you. I stopped reading him years ago, even to disparage him. He’s a disgrace. I canceled my subscription to the Atlantic because his presence there degrades that venerable magazine. My point about him—here we go again repeating stuff you didn’t read correctly the first time—was that he’s an intellectual coward. He backed down from supporting the war, not because any new information came out that falsified Bush’s rationale, but because of the reasons you listed (the economic and human costs). These are good reasons to argue that Bush was incompetent, but not to retract his original support. Back in 2004, I was convinced of Bush’s incompetence myself, and I wished that the Democrats had argued that point and reaffirmed their original support for the war back in 2004. If they had done so, and had come up with a better plan to win, they might have won the elections—even with a nebish like Kerry. The only Democrat who came out of that with her head high was Hillary. She never backed down, although she did come close. She had my vote for sure, just for that reason alone. Instead, they started saying they had been misled and lied to by Bush. Strange that such a stupid individual could cheat such a light in the intellectual firmament as Kerry. Or not? All of Sullivan’s reasons for backing down amount to “if I had known then what I know now…” That’s just childish. It’s an historical fallacy. It’s a complete waste of time to even entertain this line of thought—even in one’s personal life. People have to do the best they can with what they have. You can analyze their mistakes if you want to, but you’re limited to analyzing the information they had available at the time, not future events. If you can’t accept that, then I’m just sorry for you. Sullivan just jumped on the bandwagon, that’s all. I think the explanation was peer pressure. It takes a strong personality to stick to one’s guns to face ridicule and worse from one’s friends and comrades. Just ask Christopher Hitchens. Sullivan just doesn’t have these qualities and substitutes moral preening for them.

    You ask, “who would have supported the war if they had suspected what it would have really cost?” I can’t answer that. Probably a lot of people, though. But this is what ED Kain calls a “bullshit hypothetical.” Let me ask you the same question the other way around: “Who would have opposed the war if they had suspected what Saddam would have done if we hadn’t invaded?” Do you imagine that the situation in Iraq would have stayed the same somehow forever? Think back to before the invasion. He was a true ticking bomb. Just one element of this bomb to illustrate my point: the Oil for Food scandal. This was the biggest scam in human history (until the Obama stimulus/budget/bailouts, that is). The situation was building up so that the sanctions were doomed. At that point, the money scammed off the UN would have kicked in. All the post-invasion investigations agree that Saddam had WMD programs that could have been reactivated at the right time. That time was coming along fast. Even I was aware that Oil for Food was a massive scam at the time, just from reading the press. I’m sure that Bush knew a lot more than I did. This is a situation where an opponent of the war could say, “If I had known then what I know now, I would have supported the war.” This would have been a case where new information came out that changed the original calculus. I can’t see anything equivalent in Sullivan’s position. You for sure haven’t even hinted at anything.Report

  11. Avatar Cascadian says:

    “I’m doing this versus is those who lack the wrong sort of confidence – who make of confidence not a virtue but a vice; who make a mockery of certainty, and create instead a sort of facade. ”

    Couldn’t happen here…. Ultimately, that sort of mentality mixed with an absence of credibility is lethal.Report

  12. Avatar Brian says:

    Do you think Sullivan was really trying to out a “faked pregnancy” with all his demands for medical records? I don’t think that was it at all, although the “faked pregnancy” allegation was the Republican’s straw man.

    IMO, Sullivan was trying to out Palin for continuing with a pregnancy for a baby that she knew would be special needs and taking risks (plane rides, etc.) that could result in a late-term miscarriage.

    Sullivan wanted to out her as a moral hypocrite, if the medical records could lay out a case.Report

  13. Avatar Seth Owen says:

    Have you ever heard the saying “Don’t piss on me and tell me it’s raining?”

    I was, indeed, not in High School during the run up to the war. And I followed the argument for the war intently at the time. First as a citizen and then as a soldier about to enter a war zone. So don’t tell me now that it wasn’t about the WMDs — at least publicly. THAT was the rationale used to win public support for the war. No other reason than the threat of WMDs would have been sufficient to go to war, so any other justifications are unimportant. What the administration’s REAL reasons for the war has yet to come to light, fully, but it’s beginning to look unsavory.

    When the administration didn’t have the evidence they needed to make their public case, they didn’t re-evaluate their plans, which would have been the prudent (dare I say conservative) course of action. When the evidence came up short the proper course of action would have been to A) perhaps consider that they were wrong and/or B) wait longer until the evidence appeared. Why the rush?. In hindsight we know that there was no need to rush for a fact, but even at the time there were many who questioned the rush. Instead the government manufactured evidence including using torture to elicit false links. This is what turned a “mistake” into a “lie.”

    It is not “whining” to expect the commander in chief to do his duty. It’s accountability, which used to be a conservative principle. There are people dead here. I’ve been to a soldier’s funeral. I’m no pacifist. I didn’t spend decades in uniform thinking war didn’t mean killing and dying, destruction and tragedy. But I also didn’t avoid service through deferments and then think nothing of sending American boys and girls into harm’s way or, even worse, sullying their honor by associating them with abuse and torture.

    Sullivan is far from perfect, but I think he deserves credit for being willing to change his mind when faced with new evidence. What do you do?

    I don’t think he was cowardly to change his mind. Indeed, it would have been much easier to stay with the party line, like so many others. Sure, he’s with the crowd now, but he was one of the first in line and it was pretty lonely back then. He caught a lot of flak for his positions.

    I became disillusioned with Bush before 2004. To me his evident failures meant he didn’t deserve another term, even though I was unhappy with the Democratic alternative. Indeed, the Democrats have not climbed even a single rung on the ladder in my esteem throughout this entire sorry era. They failed as an opposition party to check the Republican excess, largely because sticking to principles in not their forte. No, I only came to prefer that the Democrats get a turn simply because the Republicans turned out to be so abysmal. They could hardly be worse.

    The lies and delusions that led us into the war also ensured that its execution would be flawed. The incredible incompetence of the war’s aftermath is inexcusable. AT THE TIME there were plenty warning of the dangers. They were ignored. The administration deliberately silenced and ignored subject matter experts. At the time I assumed that Bush was weighing the best advice possible because we was going to war and betting his entire presidency on its outcome. I’m still astounded that they were so reckless and unserious. Who would have thought that?

    It’s ONLY because of the skill, professionalism and dedication of our military people that, against all the odds, we have salvaged something from this debacle. But that doesn’t mean it was worth doing in the first place. Dunkirk was a story of great heroism too, but it was still a defeat.

    You don’t like Sullivan, fine. Who cares? Even a twit can be right. He’s not alone. The question facing conservatives now is how to move beyond Bushism and reclaim the things that make conservative principles most attractive such as prudence, analysis, clear-headedness, reverence for law and honor, limited but effective government and a decent respect for tradition and well-established truths. The essence of Sullivan’s critique is that Bush didn’t represent conservatism at all, but a sort of radicalism attired in the language of conservatism. Even William F. Buckley became disenchanted with the Bush crowd before his death.

    Instead of attempting to defend the indefensible, how about making a constructive critique from the Right of the Bush era? Instead conservatives are laregly ceding the field to the Left. It’s not like the Left’s ideas were proven correct, it’s just that they are left standing on the field in the wake of the Bush wreckage. Until the Right comes to terms with the Bush disaster instead of defending it they will have no credibility to resist the Left’s inevitable overreach.

    I mean, WTF. How can the GOP say anything about fiscal discipline after what they did when THEY were in power? They may be right, but no one believes them. That’s not the Democrats’ fault. Everyone expects them to spend money. That’s what they do. They’re not betraying their principles, they are living up to them. It’s the Republicans who betrayed their prinicples.Report

  14. Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

    Seth Owen,

    I’m getting tired of repeating myself to you. You’re 54, a journalist, and an ex military officer. You should know better. But, for the last time, I never said, or even implied, that “it wasn’t about the WMDs.” I said that saying that they were the ENTIRE reason for the war was false (your screaming all caps). There were a whole package of justifications besides the WMDs s. If you were so intently focused on the debate at the time, you’ll remember Bush’s September, 2002 speech to the UNGA. He listed all of these reasons there for the whole world to see.

    I thought at the time that the WMD issue was the only one of the above “package” that had any chance in the world of getting UNSC approval, which was why I thought Bush emphasized it, among other reasons. So much for the unilateralist, though.

    You say that the government failed to get enough evidence of Saddam’s WMD capabilities before the invasion, but went ahead anyway. How much more evidence would you require if the UN, EU nations, and the former Clinton administration agreed that he had the WMDs. I just can’t remember anyone seriously questioning this at the time so refresh my memory for me.

    You say, “the government manufactured evidence including using torture to elicit false links.” I guess that the “links” refers to evidence of Saddam’s possession of WMD capabilities. What evidence are you referring to, specifically? This is the kind of thing that would convince me, like I said before, if that means anything to you. I do change my mind when faced with new evidence. I just haven’t seen any yet and neither has Sullivan and neither have you. I don’t remember anything like manufacturing evidence, least of all through torture. So, again, what are you talking about?

    Sullivan changed his mind back in 2004, when just about everyone else was. That was the in-crowd. He was far from the first, though.

    Until you prove me wrong, I maintain that Bush did the due diligence you require before asking Congress for authorization to invade Iraq. In that case, yes, you’re whining. Commanders are responsible for sending their men to their deaths if necessary. Even I know that. You were an officer so you must know it better than I do. How would you describe a soldier or marine under your command who started complaining about people getting killed in an operation you were responsible for?

    You say, “It’s ONLY because of the skill, professionalism and dedication of our military people that, against all the odds, we have salvaged something from this debacle.” Again with the all-caps hyperbole! Why don’t you try and calm down? I can think of another reason, off the top of my head: Bush himself refused to quit and upped the ante instead. Then he threw all the support he could to the military to accomplish what he was demanding. And, if you look at Iraq today, it’s far from the debacle you say it is. In fact, we salvaged a victory, which isn’t just “something.” We handed al Qaeda a defeat—a major reason why they’re still living in caves instead of in some palace.

    I’m still waiting for you to cough up some details about the lies Bush told that got him his war resolution and irresponsibly put your life at risk. So far, no good.

    And I’m not interested in debating conservative principles in general with you or the prospects of the Republican party. Please stick to the subject, Mister Journalist.Report

  15. Avatar Brian says:

    I have to be fair, and add that I did just get a response from Sullivan on a related question about the meaning of torture, and whether any kind of physical or psychological stress qualifies.

    His answer is more specific than anything he’s written on his blog. He defines coerce as to bring someone “to the point where he has no choice but to tell his captors what they want to hear.”

    It would might be hard to identify sometimes when a person’s choice has been taken away, but I appreciate his clarification of his position.Report

  16. Avatar Seth Owen says:

    And I’m rather tired of being insulted. How about dealing with my points instead of accusing me of being a high schooler or someone who “should know better?”

    Indeed, I do know better, which is why I am so critical of Bushism and torture apologists.

    As a soldier and a journalist I’m a proud member of “reality based” communities. Reality, my friend, used to be a conservative principle, not something worth mocking.

    You admit that WMDs was the only issue that would fly for justifying the war at the UN (or with the US public, I would argue). I agree, which is why it’s so damaging that it turned out to be untrue. This is not a minor point. It’s the crucial point. The entire rationale for the war lay behind it. Without a WMD threat there would be no war. Do you seriously maintain otherwise?

    I’m not going to waste my time going over all the evidence that has mounted over the way Bush and his administration manipulated the country into this war. This is just a blog comment section. You can read it at the orginal sources as well as I. You can start with the Senate report that documents that we waterboarded detainees to get evidence of a link between Saddam and 9/11 even though interrogators didn’t believe the detainee knew of any such link and indeed, there’s no evidence at all there ever was a link.

    You’re also not content with insulting me, but also insulting people in uniform. You object to my crediting the military for salvaging something from the Iraq debacle. No, according to you Bush deserves the credit for his “throwing all his support” behind the military. More pissing and calling it rain.

    This is the same Bush who didn’t send enough troops in the first place and then obstinately refused to beef up the Army until eventually forced by Congress. The war in Iraq (not to mention Afghanistan, which was negelected in the meantime) may be the only time in history when a country embarked on a major war without increasing the size of its Army. It’s surely the only US war where it happened.

    This incompetence has had consequences. For example, besides subjecting soldiers to multiple combat tours, turning our reserve component soldiers into near full-time warriors, depleting our strategic reserve and wearing down the Army, there are many hidden costs.

    We have sailors and airman acting as prison guards. We have artillerymen and engineers acting as infantrymen. Perishable combat skills are atrophying by making a routine practice of measures that should be reserved for emergency use. After six years it’s not an emergency anymore. And this is directly due to the bad decisions of the previous commander in chief.

    Finally, yes. This topic riles me up. I wore the uniform proudly for many years. The fact that these idiots made the “dirty f*****g hippies right pisses me off to no end. And to be lectured to about how “commanders are responsible for sending men to their deaths” by someone who has so little clue about the responsibility of command is admittedly quite irritating.

    It was my good fortune that I never had to order someone to their deaths, but I did have the honor at several points during my career of being in command of American soldiers. I don’t need you to spout off about the topic. It’s easy to be brave and belligerent and make light comments about sending people to die or kill while your on a keyboard in your pajamas.

    You will note that opposition to these measures was overwheming among the uniformed military and apparently strong among the career CIA as well. It was political appointees, most of whom who never wore a uniform, who advocated for this abusive course. Indeed, according to their own testimony they were so monumentally ignorant of history that they didn’t even know waterboarding was a court martial offense. Why are they worth defending?Report

  17. Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

    You insist on misreading me. I can’t explain why. What’s in it for you?

    First misreading: You say I “object” to your giving credit to the troops for “salvaging” a victory out of the war.

    Remember that you had said that this was “ONLY because of the skill, professionalism and dedication of our military people?” I said: “I can think of another reason, off the top of my head: Bush himself refused to quit and upped the ante instead. Then he threw all the support he could to the military to accomplish what he was demanding. My emphasis” Another reason doesn’t mean that your reason (the troops) is not a reason. It means that, along with the troops, there were other reasons. I’m not denying your reason (how in the name of Pete could anyone do that?). I was just giving, well, another reason. Few things have ONLY one explanation or are ENTIRELY based on anything. We’re always part of some situation or other, which consists of different elements related to one another somehow.

    Second misreading and for the last time: I don’t deny that WMDs were a justification for the war. I just say they weren’t the ENTIRE justification. I never “maintained otherwise.” This is maybe the fourth or fifth time I’ve had to say this. I have agreed all along that without a WMD threat, there would have been no war—although there were other reasons. You even quote me saying so and then go on to say that I deny it. How can you do this?

    Third misreading—really the most important one because this was the point that elicited your original comment on my posting: I keep asking you to tell me what new information you have that shows that Bush/Cheney knew all along that Saddam didn’t have the WMDs. You just repeat that we never found the WMDs that Bush/Cheney said were there. I already knew that. You have to show that they knew all along that they weren’t there. Then you’d have to show how they fooled the French, the UN, the former Clinton administration as well because they all thought Saddam had them too. The problem is, and again this is the second or third time I’ve had to ask you: what new truths do you know now that show that Bush/Cheney lied about the WMDs, instead of making a mistake. You don’t have to go over all the evidence. Just a few quick examples will be enough for me and I can read the rest on my own. If you’re right, then I’m changing sides right away. I told you this before.

    On the other hand, it looks to me like you’re the one who should be changing sides right about now. If you can’t come up with anything to show I’m wrong and that Bush lied, etc etc, then you don’t have to concede anything to the “dirty f*****g hippies” that you hate so much. On the contrary, you can proudly tell them to kiss your ass. Wouldn’t that feel a whole lot better for you?

    Here’s an example that maybe will clarify things for you. The Gulf of Tonkin resolution. Johnson told the congress and the nation that US Naval vessels in international waters had been attacked by N Vietnam and requested and got authorization to escalate the war on that basis. This was later shown to be a lie. So, if I had supported the war, I’d be justified in changing my mind, calling Johnson a liar and a cheat, and saying that Americans had been sent to be killed and maimed under false pretenses. And they were “sent” back then by the Selective Service Agency.

    There is nothing about the WMD issue that resembles this in the least. Unless you show me that there is. I’ve asked you over and over again and get nowhere.

    I already told you that I agreed that Bush was an incompetent CIC up through 2006. You just give a lot more detail about it but I already said I agreed. So what do you imagine we’re arguing about here?

    Now you’re off on another tangent: the Saddam/al Qaeda connection. Can we save this for later?Report

  18. Avatar Seth Owen says:

    It’s rather difficult to prove a negative. eh? I can’t prove what Bush and Cheney didn’t know. However, as the decision to go to war is a serious one, I would think the burden of proof would be be on them to be very certain that there were WMD. They implied that there was proof and that they had it, they simply couldn’t share it publicaly because it would damage national security. We know now that they actually didn’t have proof because there wasn’t any WMD. The public (we) trusted them and they let us down.

    Apparently we agree about the WMDs being the cause of the war, you object to my characterizing it as the ENTIRE reason for the war because there were other reasons proffered. On the other hand you agree that without the WMD threat there would have been no war. To me, I consider that as being the entire reason for the war, as no other reasons would have been sufficient. The fact that there were other, auxiliary reasons is immaterial as they were not enough for war, even put all together.

    It’s true that it may be overstating things to claim that the ONLY reason a debacle was perhaps averted in Iraq was due to the efforts of the military. Life is not so neat as to be summed up comprehensively in a blog comment post. Maybe a few percentage points of the credit can go to some Iraqis. But giving Bush credit when it was his blunder in the first place seems rather much. Especially because he refused to change course until after the 2006 elections for transparently political reasons. Corrupt behavior in a CinC, in my opinion.

    As CinC it was his job to insist on results and sack subordinates until he got them. If Lincoln had been as shy about sacking McClellan we’d all be whistling Dixie by now.

    Was the decision to go to war in Iraq as much of a lie as Tonkin Gulf? We don’t know yet. We didn’t find out about a lot of that until many years later. Given other factors such as the use of torture, excessive secrecy, misuse of security classifications, sidelining of expert opinion and the suppression of internal dissent that characterized the Bush administration I’m not hopeful that we’ll look back on the 2002 process fondly. What we do know is that the decision was made recklessly and, even worse, was executed recklessly.

    Yes, I do despise the dirty F-ing hippies. I’ve been arguing with them for 40+ years when they slandered the US and claimed the US was commiting war crimes, claimed that the US supported torture and that the government lies. It sticks in my craw that they were right this time.Report

  19. Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

    Proving that Bush/Cheney lied is not proving a negative, as the Gulf of Tonkin situation illustrates. Johnson said the US was in international waters and they weren’t. It was easy to prove that, with the right information. That’s not proving a negative.

    It’s the same thing here. You could prove that Bush/Cheney knew that Saddam didn’t have any WMDs if you had the information. You don’t. You finally admit it, which is progress of some sort, I guess.

    The fact is, they were very certain and so was everyone else. They and everyone else was wrong. But they didn’t lie. You could easily convince me just by pointing to people who said that Saddam didn’t have WMDs. These people don’t exist. Or, if they do, I think Bush would be justified in taking the vast majority as support enough to be certain enough about it.

    That’s why I said that they took “due care” before asking Congress for authorization for the invasion. Given that they did take “due care,” which you now admit, you’ll understand why I said you were whining. For example, if this was 1968 and you were an officer in Vietnam, you would not be whining if you said that the president had put your life at risk for nothing but a lie. Here the situation is the opposite.

    They did have proof. It’s just that the proof itself was a lie. But the lie wasn’t propagated by Bush/Cheney, which is why the whole world believed it at the time. It’s a crazy situation because we were dealing with a crazy man: Saddam. Even members of his inner circle thought he had WMDs and he didn’t. He was the one who lied about his own WMDs.

    Think about it: possession of WMDs was a crime and Saddam was faking it. Who would ever fake guilt of a crime? The system is set up to find the opposite, or people faking innocence not guilt. If anyone wants to fake guilt, they’ll find it really easy to do so but they’d be crazy. I could go out today and fake guilt of just about any crime there is and everyone would believe me.

    Why would Saddam do such a thing? This is just speculation, but to me it’s easy to answer. He didn’t really need the WMDs as much as he needed people to believe he had them. It was just a bluff. Bush called his bluff, which Saddam wasn’t expecting. This is where he was crazy, not about the bluffing. Saddam wasn’t expecting Bush to call his bluff because no one had ever done it before. He got overconfident. He was relying on the French, in particular, since they were living in his pockets through the Oil for Food scam, to block Bush. They sure gave it the best try they could, so Saddam really doesn’t have a case against them for betrayal.

    If you’ll bear with me a bit longer, I can extend this line of thought for you. It will help you in the end because it will end your abasement to the fucking hippies, so it may be worthwhile for you.

    The thing is, Saddam’s guilt was a key element in his hold on power. If people had known he didn’t have the WMDs, then quite probably he would have had rebellions and invasions on his hands, and not just from us.

    What if the world had found out that Saddam was innocent? He could easily have proven that he was. Would the Shia population and the Kurds have risen up against him? Would Iran have invaded, or at least used the Shia as a proxy against Saddam? Would Saddam have run for the hills? Would this have created a power vacuum in the middle of the most volatile region on Earth? As a result, would Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and others have gotten involved? Would the US then be obliged to intervene? Would we have then intervened under conditions that would have been impossible for us to deal with? Would we then have been up shit creek without a paddle?

    This is the kind of thing that the fucking hippies never think about. They assume that if we hadn’t invaded, things would have stayed just as they were, except that we wouldn’t be involved in a war. This is the best illustration of the historical fallacy that anyone could ever invent—but they don’t have to invent it because the fucking hippies are confronting them with it every day.

    That’s why I have to repeat: you don’t have to abase yourself to the fucking hippies anymore. You can be proud that you served in a noble cause. For sure I am proud of you, even if you’re not. I don’t hate the fucking hippies like you do—they sell me the drugs I require to get through the night so I won’t bite the hand that feeds me. But if you want to hate them, go right ahead. But make it stick to them like shit off the fan. Don’t go around feeling sorry for yourself anymore. You did the right thing.Report

  20. Avatar Seth Owen says:

    “They did have proof. It’s just that the proof itself was a lie.”
    Doubleplus Good thinking there, my friend.
    If they had exercised “due care” they would not have invaded because they would have found out that there was no WMD threat! Of course, they wanted there to be a threat, so they had no interest in being accurate.
    Yes, most of us thought that Saddam had some kind of WMD. As it turns out there were some who said he did not. They were right, we were wrong. You said to poiint out womeone who said there was no WMD. You recall Scott Ritter? He exists, but of course the fact that he exists will be dismissed by you for some reason or other.
    The pathetic Bush/Cheney clique was reduced to turning over stones looking for rusty chemical weapons in hopes of finally finding SOMETHING so they could say “aha!” Even though chemical weapons, while WMDs by definition, were not a threat worth going to war over. And, of course, they couldn’t even find that, because it wasn’t there.
    You keep arguing that they were right, even though it turns out they were wrong!
    There’s really no arguing with that kind of stone-stupid obstinacy. Some standard like actually winning is unimportant.
    Go ahead and keep defending failure. Mission Accomplished Roque Nuevo! Good job! Pat yourself on the back. You sure showed that whiney military officer who dared to criticize the manly man Bush team for failing to succeed. They sure deserve credit for effort, thought. It’s hard work being president. They deserve the praise of all those brave pajama keyboard warriors who bravely call for torturing anybody who might possibly be a threat. Keep us safe whatever the costs.
    Who need quaint standards like honor, accountability or effectiveness anyway? Those are just for whiners.Report

  21. Avatar Roque Nuevo says:


    You’re impossible. You just willfully misinterpret what I say.

    I have said over and over again that I know they were wrong about the WMDs. How can I get you to understand this? I just differ with you on how and why they were wrong.

    When you say “If they had exercised “due care” they would not have invaded because they would have found out that there was no WMD threat!” you’re saying essentially that if they had known then what we know now, they wouldn’t have invaded. I agree but that’s irrelevant. I say there is no way they could have known, short of invading, because Saddam didn’t want us to know.

    The proof, or evidence, of Saddam’s WMD possession was produced by Saddam. He was lying about it, not Bush/Cheney. Why is is so Orwellian to say so?

    How could they ever have found out that Saddam didn’t have WMDs if he was using this to keep power? I repeat: the only reason we now know he didn’t is because we invaded. Show me the Orwellian nature of this.

    I remember Ritter. I’m not dismissing him either. It does turn out that he was right. Is this supposed to show that Bush lied?

    I have said over and over again that I know they were wrong about the WMDs. How can I get you to understand this? I just differ with you on how and why they were wrong.

    Let’s look at it another way: post-invasion investigations agree that Saddam had the WMD programs, but not the WMDs themselves. They say he was waiting for the right time to reactivate them.

    I have said over and over again that I know they were wrong about the WMDs. How can I get you to understand this? I just differ with you on how and why they were wrong.

    Once the Oil for Food scam had done its work and the sanctions were removed—which was the tendency back then—the right time would have arrived. Then it would be too late to do anything about it. I’m not saying that this was a reason to invade. Do I have to repeat this so you’ll understand? I’m saying that in hindsight, which is what you’re using most of the time anyway, I can still justify the invasion on that basis.

    Now then, when did I defend torture, reject honor, accountability, and effectiveness? Who are you talking to?

    I have said over and over again that I know they were wrong about the WMDs. How can I get you to understand this? I just differ with you on how and why they were wrong.Report