Tuesday, October 11, 2005

If you're not with us, you're agin us!

Right, this is a reference to DM's main blog which references Blackfive's blog. I didn't get a chance to read the comment that annoyed DM as it seems deleted from blackfives blog, so I'll just quote DM:
What did Blackfive say again?
At some point, you have to pick sides. Not choosing a side is choosing not to be on our side.
In other other words (ones that are connected to reality), maintaining some bizarre sense of impartiality or neutrality (or objectivity, which would probably be okay if any of the Old New Journalists knew what that word meant), in the face of brutal inhumanity is to be on the side of evil. When a terrorist intentionally targets innocents, women and children, families, any form of non-combatant, they are not deserving of any sympathy or respect. And to remain non-judgmental about them is to condone and tolerate evil. And that, my morally tone-deaf friends, puts you on the other side.
Okay, so very quickly, I'm going to duck the media part of it per se, I've beaten that one to death right here and overall from out comments its beaten to death everywhere.

Here are my objections to the argument:

1. There is nothing so simple as two sides. Even the AIF are not all on the same side. There are (as I've noted in the past) clear examples of terrorists in the AIF, but also groups that do not intentionally target civilians. If the Iraq war in particular had been (or even was currently) as simple as Al Qaeda (still can't spell it right) vs. the people of the United States, and it was an Al Q government, it could be argued perhaps more successfully that there are only 2 clear-cut sides to the war. But then as many have pointed out, Iraq was very low down the list of state sponsors of terrorism, low on the list of know WMD producers/researchers and is only recently becoming the themepark for every sadist wacko and devout/homicidal Islamist in the east...

2. Bush killed this expression for the foreseeable future. He said you're with him or with the terrorists. At the time he said it the debate was not at all about supporting the terrorists, it was about HOW to beat the terrorists and his plans were not the ONLY plans that were conceivably workable to prevent future 9/11s and punish the people responsible. He also used this line on Canada (we do not miss our last US Ambassador BTW, seemed to think we were some kind of vassal) and it did not go over well. We chose "not with you" but never for a second accepted that this made us bad people or terrorist supporters. In fact we continued our part on the war on terror in Afganistan (we're in a hot spot there right now BTW), we continue to work co-operatively with the US government on domestic antiterrorism, signals intelligence and the million other issues we need to co-operate on as neighbours, allies and key trading partners. But we weren't about to join the Iraq war, and still aren't.

3. The administration has a very selective view of which evil murderers of innocents should be taken to task, and for that matter the US government over time can be similarly criticized. Some evil dictators have been quietly ignored by the US government. Some have been supported, even lionized. Similarly some very nasty "insurgents" or "freedom fighters" have been supported by the US government. If what people do to pursue their goals should *consistently* be the compass of the sides the US picks, then you're looking at a HUGE realignment in US foreign policy.

4. In the case of DM or B5, which side is YOUR side? I'm not going to be on your side politically. You're soldiers but also far on the right in general. Although we acknowledged in a previous discussion the US military is probably majority right wing at this point, that shouldn't mean 'support our troops' means 'vote Republican'. So if your government is giving you a mission that some folks believe is wrong, CAN they oppose the mission without opposing the troops? CAN they support the mission yet oppose the methodology laid out to achieve it?

5. There's nothing morally tone deaf about refusing to paint just some people as evil. Speaking for myself as a person on the left, what I find annoying is the selectivity of the current administration's use of the word evil. I find a LOT more evil in the world than Mr. Bush talks about, and I hate it when bad people or governments are tolerated and NOT named as evil because they are key allies in another area. A LOT of key allies in the war on terror are dictatorships or monarchies. Many of them have TERRIBLE human rights records. Some, like for example Pakistan, support terrorism in Kashmir and India. Some, like some of the warlords serving as regional administrators in Afghanistan, are the worst sort of murderous, drug-dealing thugs. Plus as a fellow Christian like Mr. Bush, it strikes me odd he doesn't take a stronger tone on the persecution of Christians in allied Muslim countries. I can't think of anything more evil to me than suppressing God-fearing brothers and sisters or encouraging that hate with simplistic fundamentalist muslim schools of indoctrination in those nations, the very schools I might add that were a key part of the Taliban's Afghanistan, and many of whose graduates joined Al Q and the Taliban.


Dadmanly Responds:

Man, I picked a bad time to pick a fight ;) I'm exhausted from the increased Operations Tempo (OPTEMPO), to which any who have deployed or redeployed in a command position will relate.

I really can't give this the justice it deserves, but I'll poke at it a bit until I need to lie down.

By the way, you must know I'm being tagged teamed by an anti-war blogger and commenter from over at Blackfive. (It's my own fault, I went and put a stick in the hornet's nest.)

1. I would strenuously object to your characterization of Iraq or the enemy we fight here. I believe your facts and assumptions to be it to be in error, though widely reported in the press. Stephen Hayes ahs done an excellent job marshalling substantial evidence of the very real possibility that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11 specifically and worldwide terrorism more generally, more widely than has been acknowledged by mainstream media.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, the "insurgent" who was at one time part of the Iraqi Army or Baathist government is almost non-existent. Foreign fighters predominate, with criminal elements a more distant second destabilizing force.

2. Bush killed this expression for the foreseeable future. He said you're with him or with the terrorists.

That's actually not what he said. The speeches you are referring to specifically were addressed to state sponsors of Terrorism (you know, Axis of Evil type countries with a long history of funding, sponsoring, directing, and protecting terrorists.

3. The administration has a very selective view of which evil murderers of innocents should be taken to task, and for that matter the US government over time can be similarly criticized. Some evil dictators have been quietly ignored by the US government. Some have been supported, even lionized. Similarly some very nasty "insurgents" or "freedom fighters" have been supported by the US government. If what people do to pursue their goals should *consistently* be the compass of the sides the US picks, then you're looking at a HUGE realignment in US foreign policy.

Ah, the old "You didn't do anything about Pinochet, so why go after Noriega?" argument. By that logic, we are forever constrained by mistakes in our past. Thank God we are beginning to truely align our foreign policy with our ideals and values, and not with the weepy impotence of a Jimmy Carter who left our reputation in tatters. Or a pecadillo-enmeshed Bill Clinton who could make deals with the Chinese in exchange for campaign contributions, watch Bin Laden gain power, and make empty deals with North Korea that let themn get nukes, while pretending to abide by meaningless agreements.

And wouldn't you say that the current foreign policy, so adroitly navigated by Secretary Condi Rice, was in fact just the sort of "huge realignment" you say would be necessary to navigate consistently by the compass of our ideals?

4. In the case of DM or B5, which side is YOUR side?

Far to the right? That's an gross exaggeration. Many of my fellow bloggers are not at all socially conservative (some, like me, are). As I said, many would consider the Democratic Party if Patriotism wasn't equated with Jingoism, and a victim and rights philosophy (couched in political correctness) didn't pervade every aspect of political discussion. We may be Republican, but only because no one else is meeting us even a quarter of the way towards a strong national defense, based on true security, and not hope.

Many soldiers were doubtful of the Cold War (I was, until I started seeing first hand evidence of how the USSR maintained control in Eastern Europe for 4 decades). Many have a "this ain't worth American lives" ethic, even those who are here and want us to kick butt. Once the men and women are deployed and at risk in the battle space, I think those who actively oppose the war are a day late and a dollar short. They tried to influence the decision, and lost. Their advocates lost, and keep losing.

5. There's nothing morally tone deaf about refusing to paint just some people as evil.

We start where we can. There is much evil out there. Our efforts in Iraq have already paid dividends in Lebanon, Egypt, the rest of the Middle East, and even Asia. Libya is arguably off the path of memberhsip in the Nuclear Club.

Would the left really tolerate us going after the rest? You can't be serious. If this administration has any skill at all, it is being able to make the most out of less than any in recent memory. They have anbout pushed a divided country and its opposition just abolut as far as they can probably go, and a draned sight farther than anyone would have wagered on back in 2000.

BW rebuttal:

1a) Fair enough, former Baathists as a group are mostly used up. There is still however nothing close to solidarity among non-government armed forces in Iraq. If you will grant no other distinction, at least grant the clear divide between Shia militias who are for the most part not attacking the government or US forces (but not ruling it out), and the more Sunni/Wahhabist individuals aligning with Al Q. Even that is however simplistic from my reading of actual milblogs from various parts of Iraq (I am in this case getting my info from you lads not the MSM).

1b) I'm well aware that a great deal of effort has gone into spinning yarns of how Iraq *might* *maybe* have been involved *in some way* in 9/11. But what we know for a fact is that Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia were much more obviously involved. Saudis got a free pass though...

1c) My point regarding two sides was perhaps not clear enough. Being opposed to how Bush has been conducting the war on terror does NOT mean that one supports terrorism or wants nothing done about it, but that is implied by presenting us-or-them choices. Arguments for massively increased human intelligence, targetted arrests and assassinations and increased attention to improving the US' image in Middle East are not crackpot theories to be dismissed out of hand.

2) I am afraid you stand corrected. Bush did in fact use that expression repeatedly in conjunction with threats both implicit and explicit. It was most decided targetted at his political adversaries and foreign nations of all stripes. He began to revise in May/June 2002 to the meaning you are using, but when he began to use it in the months after 9/11 he made it quite clear it was his way or risk being considered an enemy of the United States.

3) You concede my point that Republican presidencies from which Bush takes many of his staff, his vice president and many of his ideas were amoral at best in this regard. I will in turn concede yours that Democratic presidencies were probably no better in this regard. As for your assertion that the United States is operating with a clear moral compass now, I defy you to demonstrate that. States that are closely allied with the US still get a free pass regardless of their human rights records (Saudi Arabia, the new Afghan Government (also here), Turkey, Pakistan (and here for a pile of links re. the plight of our Christian brothers and sisters specifically) and in the case of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia their sponsorship of terrorism. Nothing has changed. Oh and don't get me started on China, which still gets the best trading status possible with the US while Cuba is under a punishing, and in my opinion immoral economic embargo. You tell me how China has the moral high ground over Cuba. Please.

4a) Okay, fair enough. You're somewhat to the right, but far to the right was unfair. Blackfive is however another story. As Dave has noted in the comments, Blackfive's choice of sponsors is extreme right wing, from the insult to pacifists everywhere (footprint of the American chicken t-shirts) to the whole "annoy a liberal" line of products designed basically to offend everyone on the left just on sight. Some are especially over the top (ACLU spelled with a Soviet sickle) while others are amusing to me but designed to offend others (Peace symbol turned into a B-52 labelled "PEACE: through superior firepower". I don't even read Blackfive regularly anymore as the right column is so nauseating it spoils the whole blog for me.

4b) My question still stands. How can people oppose the current policies of the government and still support the troops? Or is the only way to accept every decision once the President makes it?

5a) If the goal of the United States following the Afghan campaign was removing the threat of rogue states with WMD, the first target should have been North Korea. Everyone who knows anything about the North Korean situation is scared shitless about that raving lunatic's nuclear program. Plus the plight of the average North Korean is undoubtedly worse than the plight of the average Iraqi pre-OIF. They're not only brutally oppressed by a mad, homicidal dictator, they are also starving by the truck load due in large part to their evil leader's policies.

5b) If the goal was suppressing state sponsors of terrorism, stomping Saudi Arabia flat and installing a democratic government would have been a good start. Or Pakistan (speaking of dictatorships with nukes), or Iran. Or Sudan? Or Yemen? I could go on here. The official list before Bush came to power lists 7 state sponsors of terror (although they leave a lot off), with IRAN named as the worse offender, and Iraq listed only because they supported the Palestinian intifada (like a lot of Arab countries did and still do) and because they supported a group of Iranians who used terror against the government of Iran (not much different than Iran's funding of armed Shia militants in Iraq I might add). The report even says "
The [Iraqi] regime has not attempted an anti-Western terrorist attack since its failed plot to assassinate former President Bush in 1993 in Kuwait." Incidently Libya is noted in the same report as being well on the way to international compliance LONG BEFORE 9/11, with a declaration of an anti-terrorism stance and no suspicion of involvement in new acts of terrorism.

5c) My main point here is that morally tone deaf when applied to the left and/or the media was a bit of a cheap shot, and or to mix metaphors a stone thrown from the balcony of a glass house. "And to remain non-judgmental about them is to condone and tolerate evil." is a lesson that should be applied much more broadly than it is now, or has been by all American governments in recent memory, both blue and red. The White House claming the moral high ground now is nothing more than disingenuous sophistry.


At 2:44 PM, Blogger BW said...

Okay, I'll wait for you to get some rack before I post my rebuttal. I will have lots to say. Short term, is there a place I can find a copy of the "with us or against us" speech so I have something besides our respective memories and perspectives upon which to draw?

At 2:59 PM, Blogger BW said...

Er, you're busted here DM. " PRESIDENT BUSH: I am going to the United Nations to give a speech on Saturday. And I am going to praise those nations who have joined our coalition. But a coalition partner must do more than just express sympathy; a coalition partner must perform. And our coalition partner here has performed; we work together.

And that means different things for different nations. Some nations don't want to contribute troops, and we understand that. Other nations can contribute intelligence-sharing, and for that we're grateful. But all nations, if they want to fight terror, must do something. It is time for action. And that's going to be the message of my speech at the United Nations.

I have no specific nation in mind, at least as I stand here now. Everybody ought to be given the benefit of the doubt. But over time, it's going to be important for nations to know they will be held accountable for inactivity. You are either with us or you are against us in the fight against terror. And that's going to be part of my speech at the United Nations. "

That's right from whitehouse.gov

so is "And we're just going to have to enforce the doctrine, either you're with us or against us. You join the coalition of freedom, or you're on the other side of the fence."


" It provides us with valuable information and sends a clear message to global financial institutions: you are with us or you are with the terrorists. And if you're with the terrorists, you will face the consequences."

Those are just the first three quotes my search of whitehouse.gov showed for the President being saying word-for-word "you are either with us or against us". And NONE of them are referring to state sponsors of terrorism.

Bush used that expression over and over again, putting pressure on individuals, organizations and governments to align with what he wanted to do or be considered an enemy of the United States.


PS. I'm honestly going to give it a rest now, do some paperwork, and give a full response tomorrow.

At 6:02 PM, Blogger Dave Johnson said...

Can I join in? My primary objection in my own post is the association of the military with "conservative movement" Republicans the way it is done at the Blackfive site and in similar posts and articles at various outlets. Our military has a proud tradition of political neutrality and I really object to the association between the military and the far-right that is projected by, for example, running ads that say things like "The Treason Lobby: "Want to make liberals angry? Defend the United States." That dishonors the traditions of our military and is, frankly, dangerous to our liberties.

I object to the whole right-wing "liberal media" schtik and the "treasonous media" ideology being injected into a military identity.

The placement of so many ads like that on that site, and the use of association between the Republican Party and the military mixes up in the reader's mind their admiration of military values with support of a particular political ideology.

It's the very same thing as the Republican Party's efforts to associate themselves with Christianity in people's minds. It's offensive to the very ideas behind Christianity that a political party would manipulate people like that. It's just as offensive that they are similarly doing this with military values.

And many in the military are Democrats and liberals. Certainly many of their families are as well. Most Democrats are Christians. These manipulations might gain a few votes today but they are divisive and harmful to our country in the long-run.

At 4:18 PM, Blogger dadmanly said...


I very much appreciate your last but alas I am at wits end again, after a too long working day then an hour IMing with the Mrs. (And still a post to finihs and a Carnival to promote.)

I promise I will try to re-rebut this last, but I may lose (easy and available) connectivity starting tomorrow, and be limited in how much on-air time I get from now on...

At 10:44 PM, Blogger BW said...

Rgr that. Mission and family first :)



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