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August 30, 2005

Comments

Sebastian- I don't see how you can justify blaming the Clinton White House for "kicking the North Korea can down the road."

1 Every US administration since the 50s kicked that can.

2 North Korea now claims to have nuclear weapons, which they didn't during the Clinton administration, but as they haven't conducted a nuclear test yet, their claims look like simple posturing.

3 The processing of spent fuel rods for plutonium began on Bush's watch, in response to Bush breaking agreements with North Korea.

I don't think any of this was what you wanted to talk about with your post, but you need to get your facts at least somewhat straight if you want to have a serious conversation.

They kicked it at a very key nuclear proliferation stage.

"The processing of spent fuel rods for plutonium began on Bush's watch, in response to Bush breaking agreements with North Korea."

You have some nerve saying I need to get my facts straight if you think this is a fair assessment of why the Agreed Framework failed. It failed, in short, because the North Koreans were continuing nuclear programs despite being paid not to. Bush ceased the payments which were not doing their agreed work.

Sebastian: I suspect we're going to get into a North Korea tangent. (Well, not 'we', since I will shortly go to bed.) As I understood it, N. Korea pledged not to develop plutonium; it did not pledge not to enrich uranium. I also thought its tossing out the Agreed Framework was in response to: (a) the Bush administration's decision to put it on hold pending reevaluation, (b) the axis of evil speech and the preemptive war doctrine.

On the main point, though: back when Karl Rove made his remarks about liberals wanting to offer therapy to the terrorists, people went back and dug up polls from Sept. and Oct. 2001 that showed very large majorities of Democrats and liberals in favor of going to war with Afghanistan. That's our attitude towards fighting people with a demonstrated desire to kill us. Likewise, a lot of us opposed Iraq on the grounds that those very same people who wanted to kill us had not yet been captured, and we did not want to divert attention from them; and also on the grounds that we thought it would be, in all likelihood, disastrous for American interests. I really wish I had been wrong, but I don't see that I was. I do completely reject the idea that it was back-door pacifism that made me oppose this war.

I think there are people on the left (and some on the right) who oppose war either in all cases or in all but a vanishingly small number of cases. But there are also lots of people on the left (like me) who hate war (who doesn't?), but who are also prepared to fight wars when it's necessary, and also in some cases (Kosovo, Rwanda) when it's not, but when a clear humanitarian objective can be met with the limited application of force.

In other words, I think you're probably right about conservative suspicions (I mean, you'd know better than I would), but I don't think those suspicions are better founded than the ones I mentioned. (Recall: none of the candidates who did well in or primary were in favor of pulling the troops out, though some had opposed the Iraq war in particular. And God knows none had opposed the war in Afghanistan.)

As to why people tried to understand al Qaeda: one reason, I think, was that it seemed fairly clear, at least from news coverage, that a lot of people supported them, many more than supported McVeigh. (I mean, there were no reports of people celebrating in the streets of American cities after Oklahoma City.) I don't really think people would have felt the same had it seemed as though bin Laden was leading a bunch of nutcases that virtually no one had any sympathy with -- had he, for instance, been a sort of Middle Eastern version of Aum Shinrikio: an odd cult without a large following. It was the fact that apparently lots and lots of people cheered him on that made me, at least, want to understand. (And, fwiw, I've always been more interested in understanding the psychology of recruits to al Qaeda like Atta, and the people who cheer them on, than understanding bin Laden himself; and I don't think I'm atypical here.)

"in or primary" = "in our primaries." Definitely bedtime.

"had he, for instance, been a sort of Middle Eastern version of Aum Shinrikio: an odd cult without a large following."

make that: had he been the leader of a ME Aum Shinrikio...

(I mean, had he himself been a cult, that would have been very odd.)

Good night ;)

Your analysis seems to be based on a number of prejudices -- this leaves the arguments dangling.

I definitely think that many liberals tend toward excusing other cultures from responsibility,

Think that if you wish, but its still made up hooey. And how about the conservative love of nurturing and excusing the death squad cults of various fascistic states? That far exceeds any liberal tendency to "excuse other cultures from responsibility."

I think that conservatives worry that the explanations are used to disguise a back-door pacifism or lack of will to fight against people who want to kill us.

Again, a myth conservatives choose to believe, without any basis in fact. Liberals in office have a better military service record -- its not an accident. Another generation ago, Republicans loved to talk about "Democrat wars" -- how quaint that seems now. In the 90s, the Republicans regularly engaged in rhetoric against Clinton's military efforts which they now call treasonous when spoken by Democrats. Who lacked the will to fight in the 90s?

The flip-side liberal point of view is that too many conservatives are basically warmongers, which recent events tend to show as true. And the whole chickenhawk phenomena only compounds the ugliness of advocating war while avoiding personal sacrafice to wage it -- a far uglier sin than inappropriate pacifism.

And liberals pretty much play into those fears--Clinton and Carter on North Korea is a classic example. However bad it would have been to try to deal with North Korea in 1994 and I have no illusion that it could have been awful, kicking it downstream until they actually had nuclear weapons made it far worse.

And the Republicans advocating this in 1994 were...? What was Bush I doing 1988 to 1992? Plus funny how five years of Bush II looks exactly like Clinton policy, without the diplomacy. And they didn't have nuclear weapons in 2000. Funny how since 2000, a policy of ending diplomacy and threatening war makes your adversaries more anxious to arm themselves, rather than the opposite.

The Sheehan example is demonstrative. I'm pretty sure that somewhere there is a vocal mother of a dead soldier who isn't so much of an appeaser * * * Is this because the left agrees with her? I strongly pressed, some will say no. But only if really pushed.

Baloney. Most do not identify with her policy views, and have no problem saying so. It is the right that goes nuts over it, and wants to pretend that her nuttier views are why she has attracted so much support.

As many times as it has been explained to you, you ignore the one real thing about Sheehan. She is a grieving mother for whom you are unable to justify her loss, which demonstrates the evil of this war and the mendacity of Bush. Even the true believers on the right are lamenting his weak rhetoric justifying the ongoing war effort -- their error is concluding that its just a rhetorical problem rather than the odor of rot in the policy itself.

Sheehan could believe in the abominable snow man, the Atlantis theory, UFOs, or the power of crystals, and it does not matter. BECAUSE IT IS NOT RELEVANT. Does shouting help you understand this?

And your McVeigh comparison? Why not the Unabomber, too? McVeigh was a spoiled white kid gone nuts over right-wing crazy propoganda and actually acted on the violent rhetoric -- for what? The Unabomber -- similar nuttiness about left-wing crazy propoganda. There is not much point to trying to understand the motivations of these people. There is plenty of reason to try to understand the motivations of literally millions of Islamists who hate us, resulting in many hundreds of thousands willing to engage in violent jihad. Once you grasp the difference, you will see the silliness of your McVeigh example.

I'm not getting into the Korean tangent more than this last comment because it really isn't the thrust of my post, but this is wrong:

"As I understood it, N. Korea pledged not to develop plutonium; it did not pledge not to enrich uranium."

In the Agreed Framework North Korea (again, which really should have been a clue) agreed to live up to the requirements of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the entirely different North-South Joint
Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The North-South Joint
Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was of course intended to remedy the fact that North Korea was not living up to the NPT. There were to be Light-Water reactor nuclear facilities, but the North Korean government repeatedly thwarted attempts to make sure that systems could be in place to keep such reactors from being able to make nuclear material for weapons. Which is why the LWR part of the agreement broke down. But in any event the uranium enrichment was in violation of the North-South Joint
Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula which was re-ratified by the Agreed Framework.

But this has been well hashed out in the past, and isn't the topic of the post anyway.

"Recall: none of the candidates who did well in or primary were in favor of pulling the troops out, though some had opposed the Iraq war in particular. And God knows none had opposed the war in Afghanistan."

What about Kerry? He made pulling our troops out the centerpiece of the foreign policy debate. He talked (ridiculously) about having troops replaced by UN troops and most of the US out in a year or two.

1) don't construe my silence on North Korea as acquiescence

2) I have said repeatedly that it is NOT BIN LADEN'S GRIEVANCES THAT INTEREST ME. I am interested in:
--what grievances (real or perceived) AQ leaders find most useful in brainwashing young men into killing themselves.
--what grievances (real or perceived) lead people who won't actually murder for AQ to provide financial support
--what grievances (real or perceived) lead to Bin Laden's high favorability ratings from many Muslims who do not participate at all in AQ, and cheers on the streets of Arab countries after 9/11
--what grievances (real or perceived) lead to those who reject bin Laden saying "a pox on both your houses" rather than actually working with the U.S.

etc. etc.

You can substitute "Zarqawi" or whoever else for Bin Laden as needed.

McVeigh did not have public support. Bin Laden does.

Also, you are once again noticeably short of examples of the U.S left of the present day confirming these things. You have cited arguments in a left-of-center English paper. I should think it would be obvious why the Guardian published fewer editorials about Oklahoma city.

The left isn't attacking Cindy Sheehan's foreign policy views on Afghanistan because a) she lost her son, b) she's the one who chose to go public, c) she's been effective, d) she is talking about Iraq, not Afghanistan, e) no one is mistaking her for a policy analyst, f) she's getting attacked enough as it is, g) distancing ourselves from her and marginalizing her would be both heartless, and politically stupid. It has nothing at all to do with secret agreement with her position on Afghanistan.

And you know, I think you damn well know that, so I don't know why you felt the need to imply otherwise.

"I definitely think that many liberals tend toward excusing other cultures from responsibility,

Think that if you wish, but its still made up hooey. And how about the conservative love of nurturing and excusing the death squad cults of various fascistic states? That far exceeds any liberal tendency to "excuse other cultures from responsibility."

I was thinking more along the lines of huge demonstrations all over colleges about South Africa (with heavy Western influence) while very little went on about Communist depradations and tribalized warfare at the same time in Africa.

But if you want to go there--Communism. 1930s academics through the 1980s. I'd prefer not to go there, but I will with quotes if pushed. While I know Duranty has been inappropriately used on this site in the past, I won't hesitate to use him appropriately if need be. And I believe his reporting was popular enough to win a rather prestigous prize that you might have heard of. What Latin American travesty would you like to compare to the intentionally (and if Jesurgislac is lurking I would like to point out the proper use of the word 'intentionally') induced starvation of 5-10 million in the Ukraine? What would you like to compare to the initial denials and explanations for the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia? Shall we talk about academic justifications of China's Cultural Revolution. Shall we talk about how you can still hear ridiculous ideas like "Russia couldn't have industrialized without Stalin" or "at least Castro provides good health care" as if you couldn't provide good health care without putting people with AIDS in camps and locking away journalists and playwrights for half their lives.

Or if you want to go there we can talk about romanticized views of the Aztecs and Incas before the Spanish arrived.

I didn't just make up the idea that liberals can be softer on the viciousness of other cultures. God, every single freshman in my college was forced to attend a class where we talked about how it was "ok" in certain cultures to be a hunting cannibalist. I didn't create that syllabus as a rhetorical strawman, it really existed.

" definitely think that many liberals tend toward excusing other cultures from responsibility,

Think that if you wish, but its still made up hooey."

Oh give us a break.

If you're not "excusing other cultures" then you'd be judging them by the same standards.

Abu Ghraib, anyone?

Sebastian: What would you like to compare to the initial denials and explanations for the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia?

It would certainly be interesting to compare comments made by (for example) Noam Chomsky in the 1970s on Pol Pot, to justifications for supporting Pol Pot in the 1980s.

There may still exist people from Reagan's administration who could explain or try to justify the Reagan's administration's support for the Khmer Rouge, but no one interested is able to press them for an explanation, and no one able is interested in hearing why, knowing that the Khmer Rouge were genocidal maniacs, Reagan still supported them. But assuming that we could ever get an honest answer out of Henry Kissinger, it would certainly be interesting to hear his justification for killing about half a million Cambodians between 1969-73, and (if we could ever get an answer from any of those who were in power then and are in power now) why Reagan's administration supported Pol Pot through the 1980s. (cite)

We can compare the morality of actually supporting genocidal maniacs to merely discussing the reasons why genocidal maniacs were able to come to power, of course.

"McVeigh did not have public support. Bin Laden does."

This is why I find the argument nearly impossible. Whenever I mention public support among Muslims for Al Qaeda I get SLAMMED for being insensitive and war-mongering. I get constantly blasted because of course most Muslims don't support bin Laden. And of course they don't. But a large enough percentage do that 'most' is not the most useful word to worry about. Please Katherine, have that discussion with Jesurgislac, dutchmarbel and Edward and get back to me on your results.

I have said repeatedly that it is NOT BIN LADEN'S GRIEVANCES THAT INTEREST ME. I am interested in:
--what grievances (real or perceived) AQ leaders find most useful in brainwashing young men into killing themselves.
--what grievances (real or perceived) lead people who won't actually murder for AQ to provide financial support
--what grievances (real or perceived) lead to Bin Laden's high favorability ratings from many Muslims who do not participate at all in AQ, and cheers on the streets of Arab countries after 9/11
--what grievances (real or perceived) lead to those who reject bin Laden saying "a pox on both your houses" rather than actually working with the U.S.

I strongly suspect that lumping real and perceived together is going to prove a serious problem in dealing with this issue. The vast part of the problem is that the Muslim world is awash in ridiculous anti-Jewish conspiracy theories in a desperate attempt to explain why their culture is so disasterously unsuccessful in modern times. Their propaganda makes the NAZIs look practically sane by comparison--and in no way am I implying that NAZI propaganda should look sane. Even if you think that MEMRI cherry-picks, it still finds hundreds of articles in state-controlled (I'm going to repeat that for emphasis--state controlled) media. It isn't like it is just random wing-nuttery by an independent press.

If the contention is that liberals aren't afraid to criticize culture, lets go. Modern Arab cultures are really really awful. They are going to keep pumping out dangerous terrorists until something very deep and very fundamental changes. They think it is perfectly appropriate to stone or hang homosexuals and they actually bother to do it. I don't hear fundamentalist Christians saying that, and when they supposedly took over America I didn't seem them doing it. Yet I am constantly barraged by "like fundamentalists in Iran, the US has fundamentalists too with the comparison invariably being in favor of Iran!

When Jesurgislac spouts off on one of her rants the only one on the left I ever see bother to contradict her is Gary but heaven help me if I am doing something else and Timmy the Wonder Dog says something stupid. If I don't respond right away I get tarred with agreement by silence and I am far less silent about those who are sort of on my side than most.

"It has nothing at all to do with secret agreement with her position on Afghanistan."

For many that is true. For 'all' or even 'nearly all' it certainly is not. The problem is that those who do agree with her crazy foreign policy ideas aren't up front about it any more than pseudo-conservatives who want to kill Arabs because of race are up front about that. But I have to fight the racist charge publically practically every other week (sometimes implicitly and annoyingly sometimes explicitly) and frankly I think repeatedly repudiating racists is good, so let's tone it tone and realize that we are more likely to effect change on our side than the other, so make it count.

Even Patrick Buchanan--general high-profile wack-job conservative--didn't try to explain McVeigh.

Don't know about McVeigh, but in 2000(!) Patrick J Buchanan said this:


For ten years, the U.S. has played the dominant role in maintaining rigid sanctions on Iraq. By one UN estimate, these sanctions have resulted in the premature deaths of 500,000 children. Will the parents of those children ever forgive us? Even our European Allies recoil. By keeping these sanctions fastened on Iraq, we flout every tenet of Christianity's Just War doctrine, and build up deposits of hatred across the Arab world that will take decades to draw down. One day our children shall pay the price of our callous indifference to what is happening to the children of Iraq.
...
Because of our sanctions on scores of nations, cruise missile strikes upon others, and intervention in the internal affairs of still others in the wake of the Cold War, a seething resentment of America is brewing all over the world. And the haughty attitude of our foreign policy elite only nurses the hatred.
...
And how can all our meddling not fail to spark some horrible retribution? Recall: it was in retaliation for the bombing of Libya that Khadafi's agents blew up Pan Am 103. And it is said to have been in retaliation for the Vincennes' accidental shoot-down of that Iranian airliner that Teheran collaborated with terrorists to blow up the Khobar towers. From Pan Am 103, to the World Trade Center, to the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar - have we not suffered enough not to know that interventionism is the incubator of terrorism? Or will it take some cataclysmic atrocity on U.S. soil to awaken our global gamesmen to the asking price of empire?

Pretty sharp for a 'wack-job' guy, ain't he?

You are aware that Reagan was one of the first US politicians in the 1970s to speak out against Pol Pot? Right?

Abb1, Chomsky is pretty smart for a whack-job too. Being smart and being a whack-job aren't mutually exclusive. The fact that Buchanan's foreign policy would have let Hitler take over all of Europe and Japan all of Asia, doesn't exactly make me a fan.

Sebastian: You are aware that Reagan was one of the first US politicians in the 1970s to speak out against Pol Pot? Right?

And then in the 1980s, Reagan supported Pol Pot.

I don't know about you, but Reagan's speaking out against Pol Pot would have looked a lot more impressive if he hadn't then jumped to support him. (Just as the current administration's speaking out against Saddam Hussein would look a lot more impressive if so many of them hadn't been happy to support him in the 1980s. Just as the current administration's fulminations against terrorism would look a lot more impressive if it wasn't that so many of them have a track record of supporting terrorism in South America.)

But I have to fight the racist charge publically practically every other week

1. Publicly.
2. No, I don't think you're a racist.
3. (need to get rid of that tag I attached to my name)

Sebastian, that's incorrect, Hitler did take all of Europe.

Quite the contrary, Mr. Buchanan argued that the West should've been more consistent in appeasing and encouraging Hitler to do his 'drang nach osten' by sacrificing Poland more decisively than they (the West) did. According to Buchanan, Hitler and Stalin would've then bled and eventually destroyed themseves and the rest of Europe would've been saved from the scourge.

There's nothing particularly whacky about this idea, because this was, of course, The Plan A in the first place, only poorly executed.

abb1: Hitler did take all of Europe.

*waves* Not quite! There was one small European archipelago out on the edge which he didn't take quite all of, though I grant you he got the Channel Islands, and Ireland was neutral. ;-)

Sebastian, two points.

First, I suspect that your reply to Katherine above reveals the reason why you wrote this post. In particular

When Jesurgislac spouts off on one of her rants the only one on the left I ever see bother to contradict her is Gary but heaven help me if I am doing something else and Timmy the Wonder Dog says something stupid. If I don't respond right away I get tarred with agreement by silence and I am far less silent about those who are sort of on my side than most.


Second, I think you should go read Peter Daou's The Ethics of Iraq: Moral Strength vs. Material Strength which sums up this issue quite nicely with respect to your rants about how we on the left don't take the "problem with Muslims and how're they're worse than Nazis" seriously.

I may be wrong, but it seems to me that McVeigh was raising important positions, insofar as he was basically pursuing a far-right-wing libertarian agenda. Now, few Americans spoke up in support of understanding McVeigh's opinions, but then, very few Americans speak up in support of understanding any opinions which differ from the mainstream. (Surely it's no accident, Sebastian, that when you seek courageous opponents of the government printed in the mass media, you have to look to Britain.)

Fortunately, McVeigh was an army of one. However, the opinions which he held appear to me to have become very much mainstream. I can't say that I'm surprised about that, and I wonder whether part of it isn't simply because most Americans are not exposed to the implications of extreme xenophobic right-wing libertarianism.

Mr. Holsclaw--

This surprises me:

"But on the whole lots of people didn't care why [McVeigh] did it. Those who did typically analyzed it from a "he's crazy" point of view. In other words they would explain things purely from the point of view of what he thought--not from the point of view of trying to analyze the thoughts as legitimate grievances."

I do not remember the coverage in detail, but I had thought that there was quite a lot of pop-psychological hand-wringing about his motivations and what they showed about American politics. Indeed, the fact that it was the *militia* movement that suffered shows that he was understood, not simply as an anomalous nut-case, but as someone representative of a line of thought and a package of grievances.

What I seem to recall was that the exploration of his motives came to a screeching halt when it became clear that he was simply putting into practice the government-hating rhetoric that Reagan had made into the political currency of the Republican party. It wasn't so much that the militia movement had to disown him, as that the Reaganites who had inspired the militia movement (Watt, Meese, et al.) had to try to distance themselves from it as a whole. We hate the government, the government is always the problem, if you see somebody from the government they are trouble and bad news, you should be afraid of the government, etc. etc. Oh, but somebody blew up a government building? Well, let's not delve too deeply into his sick and crazed mind.

And still the "small-government" right has not come clean on the ugliness of its stance, nor has the Republican party done enough to purge itself of them. Norquist fantasizes about drowning the government in a bath-tub, and he is at the center of Washington's power elite. Well, McVeigh took him at his word.

I don't know how central to your larger point the details of McVeigh's case really are. Accordingly, I don't know whether it makes sense for me to disagree with what you say about McVeigh in particular, or whether I should just pass over that and try to discern the larger point. (I'd be grateful if you would draw the moral about more explicitly).

But when you ask:

"Where is the Guardian article which says: Terrorist action is of course reprehensible, but one must really understand that McVeigh is raising important issues about the interaction between governmental power and its citizenry? "

All I can say is: for god's sake, I was fed a steady diet of nothing *but* that line during the Reagan years, and I can still find it every week in the Wall Street Journal editorial page.

Sebastian:

"....it was O.K. in certain cultures to be a hunting cannibalist"

Well, I'm just a little curious in a funny sort of way about whether the syllabus actually said it was okey-dokey. I mean, did the college you attended have a fraternity devoted to cannibalism or was it just a suggestion in the school diversity code?

Or did it just point out that cannibalism once existed in certain parts of the world? And that gradually, either through self-policing or outside intervention, folks developed a taste for cassava and dog instead. Maybe that's just the way things happened.

The self-policing might have taken the form of a tribal ombudsman suggesting one day that, hey, instead of eating our cousins in the village right here, why don't we kidnap those tasty people on the other side of the ravine who we don't know? Then further innovation took place and pretty soon some entrepreneur introduced sheep as the meal of choice, both for the family meal and those required sacrifices to the Gods, you know, like Abraham and the nearly unfortunate Isaac.

Outside intervention took place of course by disinterested enlightened folks who eschewed political correctness (plus they thought people were kind of stringy) and wanted to civilize the cannibals. Plus, we hear there might be gold in them thar hills.

On a related topic, I always thought head-hunting was a gruesome way to pass the time, until I spent some weeks with some former headhunters (heads on belts for the delighted but enlightened tourist) in the mountains of the Philippines and heard how those fearsome warriors terrorized the Japanese during WWII with the mere thought of head removal and subsequent shrinking. (Cut to Bob Hope gripping his throat with one hand and swallowing hard at the mere thought of it)

I thought the cannibalism in "Alive", the story of the soccer team whose plane crashed on the Andean snowfield was O.K., but I don't want to talk about it anymore.

Yes, and what Tad Brennan said about McVeigh and the more civilized and much more effective but on the whole, equally contemptible and ruthless Grover Norquist, who may have been that third guy in the composite sketch.

And, what's with the "drowning babies" theme? That's just not right, but it seems to be in the Republican rhetorical syllabus.
"Drowning blastocysts in the bathtub" has more music to it.

Of course, Democrats have always eaten their own, which is not an endorsement or advertisement for cannibalism.

Tangential to your main point, but requires a response:

kicking it downstream until [North Korea] actually had nuclear weapons

It's outrageous to pin this on the Clinton administration when it so completely characterizes what's happened on the Bush "watch". That they suppressed this information until after the Iraq war vote just rubs salt in the wound.

I assume that all right-wingers are looking for excuses to murder, kill and lynch other human beings. (In the name of God and Country, of course)

And that they always love authoritarian leaders.

Funny things---these assumptions and stereotypes.

Now, NeoDude, that's a bit unfair, don't you think?

After all--Mr. Holsclaw wasn't trying to *justify* vicious right-wing slurs about liberals. Just *explain* them.

And another thing…were any of you right-wingers complaining about the tactics of jihadist in Afghanistan against the Soviets?

You right-wingers embraced Islamofascism with amoral glee. America was fully on board when the mujahadeen was cutting off the heads of Russians and kidnapping and torturing Afghani communists. So the Right-Wing’s sudden emotional attachment to human rights and "moral values" is a most devious move, indeed.

Talk about questionable values.

(just saw your post, Tad...and that last post was not directed at you)

Having once briefly met Sebastian, Neodude, I can attest that he didn't try to lynch me, nor did exhibit amoral glee.

And, we both eschewed cannibalism and instead chewed on cinnamon rolls. Being the politically correct liberal, I, of course, felt bad for the cinnamon roll. Sebastian ruthlessly wolfed his down.

"...it would certainly be interesting to hear his justification for killing about half a million Cambodians between 1969-73, and (if we could ever get an answer from any of those who were in power then and are in power now) why Reagan's administration supported Pol Pot through the 1980s. (cite)"

Before responding to this, a bit of personal context: there was never a time I didn't oppose the Vietnam War. My parents took me to marches against it in NYC circa 1968. I vividly remember when we went to Washington for the Moratorium in 1969, even though I was only ten years old; the heat was incredible, but everyone was sharing canteens and water bttles and passing out salt pills. I went on later marches against the war. I had been reading news obsessively since '68. I continued my fascination with politics and history and international relations and what have you, and continued to read every book that came out on the Nixon Administration, and for a couple of decades later, I continued to read in depth about every aspect of what happened related to the Vietnam War. I later took an editing job where, among other duties, I was the assistant editor in the mid-Eighties on the Avon Books Vietnam line; aside from the hundreds of books on the topic I'd read, I also read hundreds more manuscripts and hardcovers and small press books by professional historians and veterans.

So I learned a bit about the War and its context. While I could provide differing advice for each year America was in Vietnam as to what, in retrospect, would have looked like the best course of action, I never became convinced that any of the arguments about about the U.S. "could" have won or should have won made much sense other than in a very abstract sort of way. Generally speaking, the war was a, partially well-intentioned, tragic mistake that was, practically, not really winnable under the conditions of reality available.

So I'm not exactly a defender of Richard Nixon, Henry Kissiner, or the War. Or the Cambodian/Laotian "incursion." Then, or now. We're all clear on that? Good.

So, having said that: Pilger's account is about as balanced and fair as is Henry Kissinger's. It's omissions and distortions are numerous and gross.

In his account, the North Vietnamese simply don't exist as actors. They don't. Read it and see. Apparently the U.S., simply out of imperialistic insanity, randomly decided to bomb and invade Cambodia, apparently for no reason whatever: sheer whim and evil, I guess.

Nor would anyone easily detect from Pilger that when the bombing went on, Pol Pot was fighting against the Cambodian faction the U.S. did support, the palindromic government of Prime Minister Lon Nol.

The bombing was wrong, for various reasons, but it did have, if one accepted the logic of the war, a perfectly valid military target, in theory, at least (in practice, of course, sure, a lot of empty jungle was also bombed): the Viet Minh (they never called themselves the "Viet Cong") troops in Cambodia. The bombing was wrong, but it was neither purposeless nor random nor unprovoked.

If North Vietnam hadn't made the strategic decision to use Cambodian and Laotian territory, there would have been little reason for the U.S. to involve themselves, and certainly it wouldn't have been involved heavily in those two countries.

This is, as I say, not to defend the U.S. in conducting the "secret" war in those two countries; but it is to say that they didn't take a major inititive in doing so, and when the common phrase "widened the war" is used, the impression conveyed that it was the U.S. who took such initiative, that is wrong, and the impression that the U.S. did so for no reason, is wrong.

Nor is this a mystery:

Had the United States and China allowed it, Cambodia's suffering could have stopped when the Vietnamese finally responded to years of Khmer Rouge attacks across their border and liberated the country in January 1979. But almost immediately the United States began secretly backing Pol Pot in exile.
Well, gee, we were still enemies of North Vietnam, which, much though their regime was infinitely preferable in a moral sense to that of Saloth Sar, they were a) still a pretty nasty bunch; b) had gone ahead an conquered South Vietnam, violating all of their agreements (hardly a surprise, but also not precisely admirable and honorable); c) were conducting a hegemonistic policy in their region, which China found alarming enough to subsequently invade Vietnam over (and got their asses kicked, but that's another story). But we really didn't "back" Pol Pot.

Pilger cites this terrible "support":

Two U.S. relief aid workers, Linda Mason and Roger Brown, later wrote, "The US. government insisted that the Khmer Rouge be fed ... the U.S. preferred that the Khmer Rouge operation benefit from the credibility of an internationally known relief operation." In 1980, under U.S. pressure, the World Food Programme handed over food worth $12 million to pass on to the Khmer Rouge. In that year, I traveled on a U.N. convoy of forty trucks into Cambodia from Thailand and filmed a U.N. official handing the supplies over to a Khmer Rouge general, Nam Phan, known to Western aid officials as The Butcher.
Yes, the U.N. gave them food. Food aid is supposed to be given without politics. How evil!

And, before we get too far past it in the narrative, the notion that the earlier American bombing, during the active war, helped create the conditions for the Khmer Rouge is correct, but it's long since reached such a stage of mythology on the left that the context tends to be left running far behind, unable to catch up. It's not as if the U.S. bears full responsibility , and the amount of responsibility is rather debatable, and certainly needs to be spread among other actors, including the North Vietnamese, the Cambodian government, and all the factions in Cambodia.

With Vietnamese troops preventing the return of the Khmer Rouge and a Hanoi-installed regime in Phnom Penh, a UN. embargo barred Cambodia from all international agreements on trade and communications, even from the World Health Organization.
Well, gee, the country had just been conquered: what should policy have been? Pat the Vietnamese on the hat and say "we give you a mandate to run the country"? It's difficult to reconcile objecting to the U.S. invasion of Iraq with support for the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia, unless one takes the stance that the Vietnamese government is more humanitarian-minded and able than the U.S. government, isn't it?
At the insistence of Washington and Beijing, the Khmer Rouge was included in the UN operation as a legitimate "warring faction"; the rationale was that they were far too powerful to be left out.
Well, who now favors trying to gain the support of Sunnis in Iraq, but thinks that the people in the Khmer Rouge, who remained a significant organized fighting force and alternative political force if not dealt with, should have not been acknowledged as that? Anyone?

In other words, if the Vietnamese do what the U.S. does, it's okay, in Pilger's eyes, and presumably in the eyes of those who cite his view approvingly, even though it's bad if the U.S. does it. And negotiation with and attention to the fact that a violent, highly ideological armed group needs to be taken into view in a peaceful resolution in a civil war is necessary in Iraq, but was good in Cambodia if the group supported Vietnam, but bad if they didn't.

Very objective Pilger is in his views, indeed.

The West, with the UN as its vehicle, brought to Cambodia elections, the "free market," AIDS and massive corruption....
Yes, very bad, having elections, and it's the West responsible for the rest of the above horrors. Instead, they should have...?

But let's conclude with Pilger's final piece of wisdom, which is precisely on par with most of the rest of his views:

Are the Khmer Rouge now finished? I doubt it.
And so his view has been borne out!

Er, right?

Yup, good cite. John Pilger, objective critic of the West and the U.S. Take all your political guidance from him, as well as his acute and fair-minded historical analysis, why don't we?

Or maybe not.

I should have known that of course it was the Republican Party that supported McVeigh and that they were never sufficiently repudiated. Whatever.

I don't think that's a fair characterization of what Tad said at all.

What really “kills” me about the Right is its critique of “moral relativism”.

We are constantly reminded by The Right, that there are transcendent laws that are not relative to culture.

So, when Leftist/Liberals/Humans remind them of these transcendent laws (mass murder because they are scared, rape and torture to get information, killing children to get at suspects that scare you, etc.) we get accused of moral relativism.

So…what’s up with that, Sebastian? Why do you believe morality is relative to culture?

Mr. Holsclaw--

I'm sorry that my answer displeased you. I had *thought* your question was: where was the liberal reaction to McVeigh? I gave you one liberal's reaction, along with a guess at the reason why there was less scrutiny of McVeigh's motives on the national level, in any public venues. If I answered the wrong question, I can try again.

But mostly I would be grateful for your attempts at fleshing out what I take is the core of your post, which goes something like this:

1) liberals respond one way to Islamic terrorists;
2) liberals responded a different way to domestic terrorists;
3) that differences shows an incompleteness in hilzoy's discussion of explanation and justification.

I think--hope--I have the rough outline correct. But I am having great difficulty in filling in the details or seeing the sequence of thought.

as regards NK, the only real alternative, now, during Bush I, Clinton and Bush II's first term is starvation and war.

I think Cap Weinberger had an oped during the Clinton admin arguing for war with NK; i don't recall that it got much republican support. nor much south korean support.

which gets to the larger issue. as SH points out in comments, there are many places in the world with atrocious governments. and while we used to be able to ignore these failed states, we can do so no longer:

"They are going to keep pumping out dangerous terrorists until something very deep and very fundamental changes."

to which there is a very simple response: We tried war-on-the-cheap, and it isn't working. Before you ask liberals to jump on board with your desire to remake the world, get your own house in order. Persuade your party that we need a radical change in course.

the second response is: This is a democracy. Unless you can persuade 51% of the people that the US needs to remake the Middle East by war, then you should join a NGO trying to build political parties in Eygpt.

"So, when Leftist/Liberals/Humans remind them of these transcendent laws (mass murder because they are scared, rape and torture to get information, killing children to get at suspects that scare you, etc.) we get accused of moral relativism."

Gosh, I wish there was somewhere, oh somewhere where you could find some conservative on ObsidianWings who comes out against torture and who has specifically said that the line justifying torture spreads too easily to killing or torturing the children of suspects to get information. And if only such a person had somehow believed that the argument was talking about torturing the children as a bad thing instead of a good thing. How lamentable that no such person or persons exist.

Tad, I strongly suspect that the domestic/foreign terrorist distinction is not the basis for differential explorations into motives. It may be as simple as large scale movement vs small but it isn't just that McVeigh was white.


back when i used to read Tacitus, i noted that a discussion wasn't complete, no matter what the topic, until it had started at least one thread on Vietnam.

it's nice to see people keeping-up the old traditions.

--

we can ignore the fact that almost all of her foreign policy issues are framed like those of a raving lunatic

and you should ignore them, because she's not in any position to create or implement policy - as i'm sure you know, she's not a government official nor does she sit on any advisory board. but, i suppose moaning about her awful policy recommendations is a handy way to demonize her and change the subject from the policies drafted and implemented by the professionial fnckups who started and advocated Bush's War - you know the one, the one Sheehan is trying to get Bush to explain.

Trying to explain McVeigh

Saturday, 12 May, 2001, 11:13 GMT 12:13 UK ... His [Dr John R Smith's] version of the real McVeigh was unexpected: An agreeable young man to meet, with good social skills. Dr Smith believes McVeigh was motivated partly by a childhood hatred of bullies.

McVeigh believed the Federal Government had become a bully because of what happened at Waco, Texas. There, an assault by federal agents on an obscure cult, the Branch Davidians, left about 80 people, including 20 children, dead. McVeigh had also served with the US Army in the Gulf War where he fought and killed some Iraqis. That experience, Dr Smith said, could have left him with mild post-traumatic stress disorder.

One further thing Dr Smith told me: Tim - as he called him throughout - was not a racist. He believes McVeigh wanted to be known as a young man who struck a blow for freedom. He also says that to understand is not to condone.
...

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw | August 30, 2005

So your answer is appeasement, when it is being practiced by your culture?

I'm afraid you are going to have to be clearer about how criticizing torture is appeasement. Did Islamists suddenly come out against torture? Someone should tell Iran.

A "critique" in the face of tyranny certainly seems like appeasement.
Like your some kinda UN diplomat...Stop the torture, it’s coming from your people. Your people are committing acts of an immoral character and you offer a "critique" while you continue to support the perpetrators of depraved behavior?

Sounds like appeasement to me.

Sebastian Holsclaw: But you take the easy route, Sheehan is available so hop on the media circus, and we can ignore the fact that almost all of her foreign policy issues are framed like those of a raving lunatic.

Isn't this overstating just a little bit?

She clearly has all the tendencies conservatives fear are hiding in the liberal background, and she is embraced quite easily and very publically by almost the entire spectrum of the left. Is this because the left agrees with her? I strongly pressed, some will say no. But only if really pushed.

Huh? This site's comments are chock full of lefties who have readily noted their disagreement with Sheehan's position on Afghanistan. We just don't see it as material to her protest, nor do all of us find convincing your assertion that Afghanistan, supportable as the overthrow of the Taliban was, represents the easiest possible case for war. The easiest case for war against another nation is the invasion of U.S. territory by that nation, followed closely by an attack by agents of that nation. Afghanistan is less cut and dried: a state harboring a multinational group which attacked us on our own soil. I think Afghanistan is a clear case (which we appear to have botched), but that doesn't mean that anyone who disagrees is a nutjob.

Mr. Holsclaw--

So you don't think the foreign/domestic split is the place to look--sorry if I misunderstood that part of your post. And you don't think it is the white/ brown split either. (I think I used the word "domestic" partly to abstract somewhat from the details of McVeigh, thinking that not *all* of his peculiarities were relevant to your train of thought. But it looks as though I abstracted away the wrong stuff).

Perhaps in trying to think through what *causes* the differential reaction, it would help to say more about what *constitutes* this differential reaction. What is it, exactly, that the liberals do differently vis a vis McVeigh and the Islamic terrorists? What is said in the one case but not the other? Nail that down a bit more and it might aid the search for the causes of that difference.

And re Sheehan--

I realize that ObWi liberals are not typical liberals--far more broad-minded, temperate, reasonable, and good-looking--but when von started a thread in which he criticized her substantive policy proposals, pretty much all he heard back from ObWi liberals was "well of course you're free to criticize her policies--who said we were defending her policies?"

Gary, I think Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia was justified. It has little to do with whether their personal motives were noble--Pol Pot's government was, if I recall correctly, shooting across the border and as everyone will admit, Pol Pot was killing at an increasing rate as his rule went on. It seems odd that we felt we had to give recognition to the worst regime of its time. Well, odd until you notice how often we actively support mass murderers when it suits our interests.

I think Pol Pot's latest biographer, Philip Short, says the same thing, but I'm not sure. One of the Ben Kiernan books I have says the US support for Pol Pot began with Jimmy Carter and Brzezinski, as part of an alliance with China (a Pol Pot supporter) against Vietnam. I think Reagan continued this alliance.

On the bombing, Ben Kiernan cites CIA sources that say the US bombing of villages recruited for the Khmer Rouge and made their propaganda a lot more plausible-sounding. That doesn't mean the US bombing caused the Khmer Rouge genocide because the US was just as brutal to other people without evoking that reaction. But it does explain part of the reason Pol Pot was able to recruit child soldiers. Incidentally, the bombing itself was an enormous war crime in its own right, not only for the role it played in increasing Pol Pot's following.


The left does have a record in the 30's of supporting Stalin and you find steadily decreasing examples of similar things in the decades following. The right, I think, was rather soft on Hitler during the 30's because they admired his anticommunism and also on Franco for the same reason and on numerous rightwing thugs ever since and has to be dragged kicking and screaming into the recognition that the US is doing anything wrong every time the issue comes up. Orwell wrote a lot about hypocrisy on both sides of the spectrum and I'd quote him except people might mistake me for Hitchens. In general I think most of the left learned its lesson much better than the right and that's why groups which try very hard to be impartial and accurate, like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, are perceived to be leftist and human rights groups within societies (B'Tselem, for instance) are probably thought of as being on the left.
There may be some moral relativists on the left --I'm not sure if I'm using the correct term. Anyway, the kind of people Sebastian describes, who think cannibalism is okay in some cultural context or who might defend genital mutiliation. But the human rights left generally doesn't see eye-to-eye with these people.

On McVeigh (I've got an opinion on everything, but will soon cut way back on clogging up Sebastian's threads), I remember it much as Ted Brennan did, but would add that the militia movement's complaints were about things like Waco and the shooting of Randy Weaver and how this was supposed to show that the Federal Government was a gang of jack-booted thugs. I didn't and don't take that last conclusion seriously, but I was open to the possibility that the government might have been wrong in the shooting of Weaver and in what happened at Waco. I never was never interested enough myself to read enough to form an opinion. (Um, not that lack of knowledge always stops me.)

But anyway, if the Federal government really was going around wantonly shooting people with fringe political or religious beliefs, then the anger of the militia types would be something that I as a lefty would feel obligated to understand. It wouldn't justify Oklahoma City. The thing about Muslim fundamentalists is that there really are some legitimate reasons for anger at the West which they can exploit for their own purposes and again as a good little lefty I think we should understand those reasons and in some cases admit that they have a point. (Though no justification for killing innocent people.)

Cleek, re Ms. S.'s policy recommendations: "...and you should ignore them, because she's not in any position to create or implement policy"

So your recommendation is that everyone should ignore Cindy S.'s policy recommendations?

My thoughts continue to evolve, rather than being intelligently designed from the get-go, on the military's methods of discrimination.

I now believe the military should not allow people to serve whose parents are raving lunatics and might protest the death of their loved ones. Only the offspring of parents who are NOT raving lunatics and who question no decisions from the Commander in Chief should be allowed to be cannibalized.

NeoDude says to Sebastian re American torture:

So your answer is appeasement, when it is being practiced by your culture? [...] A "critique" in the face of tyranny certainly seems like appeasement.
Like your some kinda UN diplomat...Stop the torture, it’s coming from your people. Your people are committing acts of an immoral character and you offer a "critique" while you continue to support the perpetrators of depraved behavior?

Sounds like appeasement to me.

What do you suggest is the proper moral approach to U.S. torture that people on ObWings should follow, given that most do little more than offer a "critique"? (I except CharlyCarp for his legal work, and perhaps Katherine, but most of us don't have law degrees.)

I have to say that people leaping on Sebastian, because he is the token "conservative" here, as if he were a cardboard stand-in for Donald Rumsfeld and the entire Bush Administration, while an understandable psychological impulse, seems largely unjustified; why not stick to debating what he says, rather than over what someone Direly Suspects He Must Secretly Think?

But look, this thread was not supposed to be about Sheehan, or Pol Pot, or North Korea, much less Walter Duranty.

The point was supposed to be about how we could gain more insight into the explanation/justification split. Could we hear more about that? And could we try to ensure that bickering about the illustrative examples does not swamp the central point? (First request to Mr. Holsclaw--second request to everyone, self included).

"Could we hear more about that?"

Apparently no, but the nice thing about this thread is apparently we now have a nicely populated sample showing that confusion between justification and explanation doesn't just occur on the right.

I think frankly that you are imputing views to the left about Afghanistan that you only WISH they held, because you would prefer to debate that than Iraq. On the one hand we have the poll numbers and the statements from a large majority of actual liberals here; on the other we have your unsupported conjecture about what liberals REALLY think.

"I strongly suspect that lumping real and perceived together is going to prove a serious problem in dealing with this issue. The vast part of the problem is that the Muslim world is awash in ridiculous anti-Jewish conspiracy theories in a desperate attempt to explain why their culture is so disasterously unsuccessful in modern times."

Right, well, whether their grievances are based on fact or anti-semitic and anti-American propaganda, or a combination, is also crucial. But a lot of people in the Middle East honestly and in good faith believe those lies, and that's important to know & relevant in determining our public diplomacy.

So first you look at their subjective beliefs about their grievances, and then you separate out the real from the perceived. Obviously, if a view about you is false, you can't directly change it by changing policy. Israel doesn't have a policy of committing genocide or using Palestinian children's blood to make matzoh. But there is a difference between a false, anti-semitic, honestly held belief that actually does motivate terrorists, and something that is just a completely insincere post-hoc justification. Also, the grievances that are legitimate and based on accurate beliefs CAN be addressed by changing policy. And if they are not, if they are whitewashed like the torture scandals have been, this undercuts our ability to convince Muslims that the other stuff is false.

I think "explanation" shades into "justification" only when:

--someone says that a certain grievance motivated an act of violence, when the evidence shows that this is not likely or even plausible as a description of the murderer or terrorists' subjective motivations.

For instance, when Cornyn suggested that the recent attacks on federal judges might have been motivated by activist judges--the facts surrounding the shootings made it clear that they were motivated by no such thing.

--someone argues that the correct response to an illegitimate grievance or a grievance based on false information is to change our policies.

So your recommendation is that everyone should ignore Cindy S.'s policy recommendations?

yes - because a lot of them are silly, and thankfully, she's in no position to implement any of them. she does have some authority in one area, though: as a grieving mother demanding answers. i think she'd be better off sticking to that and laying off the policy stuff. YMMV.

"Gary, I think Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia was justified. It has little to do with whether their personal motives were noble--Pol Pot's government was, if I recall correctly, shooting across the border and as everyone will admit, Pol Pot was killing at an increasing rate as his rule went on."

I wouldn't argue that Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia was the worst thing that could have happened, and should have been opposed uber alles, either.

And while there are few known leaders in history to compare to Saloth Sar -- he is sui generis in many horrifying ways -- it's interesting to read the above paragraph and then note that, of course, Saddam Hussein had no history whatever of shooting across his borders, or of engaging in massive slaughters of his own citizens, or that he was in the process of diminishing his inhumane policies of violence in 2003, isn't it?

One can debate scale; are the principles so different, though, between the two cases?

Mind, I obviously don't excerpt the U.S. invasion from questioning, condemnation, or assert there isn't a legitimate argument for having opposed it; I believe there was and is. But I wouldn't treat Vietnam or any other nation by a different standard, myself. Should I assume neither would you?

Regarding the U.S. government's invasion of Iraq, would you also say that your judgment about it "has little to do with whether their personal motives were noble"?

If not, why not?

"What do you suggest is the proper moral approach to U.S. torture that people on ObWings should follow, given that most do little more than offer a "critique"?"

1) Note that most of my work on this issue has been factual, not legal, and did not require a law degree.

2) As far as what is to be done now--I have three not-particularly earth shattering suggestions:
(a) trying to convince other people in a sustained way that this is really happening and that it is not acceptable

(b) trying to convince our elected representatives that this is really happening, that it is not acceptable, and that it is politically safe to oppose torture and politically dangerous to look the other way as it continues--both in general and for specific pieces of legislation.

(c) trying to change the composition of Congress so that there is some possibility of it acting on this issue. This could mean supporting candidates like McCain and Graham instead of Cornyn and Inhofe and Hastert and Frist in primaries. But there are very few contested primaries. Basically, the only way for anti-torture legislation or genuine anti-torture investigations to have a chance in Congress is for the Democrats to take control of one House or the other, and get subpoena power. As far as I'm concerned, Republicans who aren't willing to even consider this don't show that they support the administration's policies, but they do show that changing them is not any sort of a priority.

I realize, of course, that one's vote is exceedingly unlikely to make a difference in flipping Congress. But if you won't do (c), you also undercut (b) by showing that there really isn't a political risk to supporting torture, because no one who would otherwise have supported you will vote against you based on this issue.

I have to say that people leaping on Sebastian, because he is the token "conservative" here, as if he were a cardboard stand-in for Donald Rumsfeld and the entire Bush Administration, while an understandable psychological impulse, seems largely unjustified; why not stick to debating what he says, rather than over what someone Direly Suspects He Must Secretly Think?

Cause I'm a lazy nihilist (with a dash of irony and sarcasm) and Sebastian is a tough "mutha fucka".

Fair enough...I need to stop avoiding my work.

Katherine--

mostly agreement. But I'll offer an amendment.

I don't think that offering an unlikely or implausible account of a malefactor's motivations means ipso facto that explanation has shaded into justification. Sometimes it's just an unlikely or implausible account, no more, i.e. it's more or less an innocent mistake on the part of the person who offers the account.

But what you say does sound right to the extent that, when the account does such a *bad* job as explanation, it becomes natural to wonder whether it was being offered in the service of some other agenda.

So my amendment: instead of your

"I think "explanation" shades into "justification"... when:"

I'd say e.g.

"one starts wondering whether the putative explanation is really serving as justification when:"


The unamended move of saying "that's such an implausible explanation that you *must* be an apologist" seems to me to leave too little room for simple human error.

Okay, I put in a fair amount of effort on Katherine's a and c, I like to think, although rather minimally on b directly, to be sure, and probably should put a bit more effort in there.

I'm not sure it would be unreasonable to describe any of that as a form of "critque," rather than, say, "direct action," though.

I think an obviously implausible explanation is far less likely to be a justification than one that seems on the surface to be plausible.

I think suspicion of justification can be found in differential treatment. You look like you are justifying when you condemn Iranian torture but talk about how tough the insurgency is in Iraq. You look like you are justifying when you talk about how direly oppressed the Palestinians are if you can't explain why people in Tibet (far more oppressed) don't serve as an inspiration for world-wide terrorism.

Of course, (a) alone is still more than most people do, and enough all by itself to make charges that "X is objectively pro-torture" or "X is completely indifferent to torture" and whatnot really unfair.

"You look like you are justifying when you talk about how direly oppressed the Palestinians are if you can't explain why people in Tibet (far more oppressed) don't serve as an inspiration for world-wide terrorism."

No. Not unless you are claiming that oppression of Palestinians is the ONLY cause of terrorism. I know literally no one who has ever claimed that. You don't have to provide a complete and perfect explanation of the problem for it to be useful. Of course they have a choice about how to respond to oppression, but you really don't seem to have absorbed a word of hilzoy's post if you think that it is illegitimate to start with your own side's changes rather than the other wise. It's simple pragmatism: I have no chance of changing Zarqawi's torture policy and I do have a chance of changing the United States'.

If there are legitimate Palestinian grievances which contribute to support for terrorism, and we could undercut that support by pressuring Israel to, e.g. give up settlements, that's enough. One doesn't also need to prove that it is the ONLY factor. It never is; terrorism is also a choice; so according to your logic it is always appeasement and excuse to admit that our own policies play any role at all in explaining why people make that choice.

I've always found these arguments absurd, even when we only discussed them in terms of U.S. crime policy. I always thought: You have to be an idiot to believe that growing up in a horrible inner city neighborhood forces you to become a drug dealer or a murderer, but you also have to be an idiot to believe that poverty doesn't contribute at all.

"Of course, (a) alone is still more than most people do, and enough all by itself to make charges that "X is objectively pro-torture" or "X is completely indifferent to torture" and whatnot really unfair."

You were doing really great today until this, which pretty much so spreads the responsibility for torture that we all share it equally. Sweet, and pretty, but untrue.

"If there are legitimate Palestinian grievances which contribute to support for terrorism, and we could undercut that support by pressuring Israel to, e.g. give up settlements, that's enough. One doesn't also need to prove that it is the ONLY factor."

Of course not. But the bolded clause seems likely not to be true in any significant way. If we even went so far as to completely destroy Israel, and hand it over to the Palestinian's in toto, it wouldn't change the fact that the Arab world is horrifically corrupt, that Islam is stifling its women, that the Arab world is almost a century behind developmentally, doesn't seem likely to catch up soon, and many of the people there feel like they are entitled to live in a full-blown Islamist culture which simultaneously should be technologically successful. And that isn't even mentioning the fact that the tempting allure of US culture would still be tempting and alluring to those who don't want to be Islamist--and that you won't be able to shut it out without turning off all the TVs and radios.

"but you also have to be an idiot to believe that poverty doesn't contribute at all."

It is hard for an empty sack to stand upright, saith Poor Richard.

"Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw | August 30, 2005"

You sound like a Spaniard justifying colonialism in the Americas...”Those natives are primitive brutes and backward…and walk around naked, of course we can take their stuff! It would be sin not to!”

"But the bolded clause seems likely not to be true in any significant way."

If I might touch on the specifics here: no, and yes.

"Yes" insofar as it applies to those of like-mind and who are Palestinian supporters of the Islamic Jihad/Hamas ilk, who believe all of Palestine must be recovered.

"No," insofar as it applies to the mass of Palestinians who, while ideally desiring the same as above, are realists and know it won't happen, and who are willing to settle for a viable state in Gaza and on the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital; that's a huge proportion of the Palestinian population, although how large will vary under different circumstances.

And that brings us to the third, rarely mentioned, grouping of Palestinians: those who respond to events, whose opinions change like most human beings do, in response to circumstances. And those are the people whose stances Israel can significantly change with its own polices and actions. They're very significant.

Basically, anyone who asserts that "Palestinians" are a homogenous mass, and "they" will act this way or that, pretty much doesn't know what they're talking about, and is contributing to an erroneous and tremendously destructive trope. (Ditto those who "know" that "the Jews" are all out to grab land and oppress Palestinians, or are all noble souls out solely to reclaim the land and defend themselves while being nothing but kind and gentle.)

You sound like a Spaniard justifying colonialism in the Americas.

Not Spaniard, an Englishman. Half-devil and half-child. The white man's burden.

Gary, the Vietnam/Cambodia US/Iraq analogy doesn't hold for the reasons you know. Saddam wasn't killing millions at the time and he wasn't shooting across our border.

Some of our tangents are unnecessary, I guess, though Sebastian brought up some of them, but the Timothy McVeigh one is in Sebastian's original post and to me it shows the fallacious nature of it. If the militias had serious points to make regarding Waco and Weaver and if the Federal agents really were trigger-happy in gunning down eccentric rightwingers, then of course we should have taken their grievances seriously and understood how this atmosphere of Federal lawlessness contributed to monstrous and inexcusable crimes like the Oklahoma City bombing. It matters whether or not the complaints are legitimate. I don't know about the militias, but in the case of the Muslims, some of their complaints are legitimate.

"Saddam wasn't killing millions at the time and he wasn't shooting across our border."

No, he'd killed the millions primarily during the Eighties, and sent another army across his borders during the Nineties.

The argument that he was boxed in in 2002 is relevant; the question of what it would have taken to keep him boxed in, and would it have happened, and how would circumstances for Iraqis been under said circumstances, remains a fairly key question. The American-led invasion of 2003 is extremely questionable; so, though, is the matter of what the alternatives were and what the results would have been. The alternative, after all, to the invasion wasn't peace and happiness and civil rights and kite-flying for all.

Saddam hasn't killed any millions. So far 5,000 bodies have been discovered in mass graves. Five thousand.

One assumes that there are other ways of disposing of bodies than mass graves. Otherwise I have to assume that there were only ever a few thousand dinosaurs on the planet.

Right-wing columnist (and twit) Walter Williams did devote a column to understanding Timothy McVeigh's "motivations"--though that was mostly an excuse for Williams to rant about his personal peeves (e.g., terrorism is the logical result of a government that keeps restricting the right to smoke! [no, I'm not kidding]).
As for relativism, the Reagan administration routinely argued that crimes against humanity were less objectionable if done by right-wing military dictatorships because we could make them reform, but the USSR never would.
More generally, I don't see cultural relativism as a more objectionable reason for cutting foreigners slack than the cold-blooded pragmatism (the "he's OUR bastard" school of thought) practiced so often by our government (on both right and left).

"Those natives are primitive brutes and backward…and walk around naked, of course we can take their stuff! It would be sin not to!"

I'm not really interested in stealing their stuff. It is probably a bad reflection on my moral nature to admit that I probably could have been mostly fine with the Middle East continuing to be a complete disaster area if its culture hadn't contributed greatly to the destruction of the World Trade Center towers.

"Saddam hasn't killed any millions. So far 5,000 bodies have been discovered in mass graves. Five thousand."

Sure. Of course:

The 8-year Iran-Iraq war resulted in at least one million dead and heavy losses for both sides. [...] Nerve gas agents killed about 20,000 Iranian soldiers immediately, according to official reports. Of the 90,000 survivors, some 5,000 seek medical treatment regularly and about 1,000 are still hospitalized with severe, chronic conditions. Many others were hit by Mustard gas.

Furthermore, 308 Iraqi Missiles were launched at population centers inside Iranian cities between 1980 and 1988 resulting in 12,931 casualties.

[...]

The war was disastrous for both countries, stalling economic development and disrupting oil exports, and costing an estimated 1.5 million casualties for Iran alone (1, p. 206), and $350 Billion in total damages (1, p. 1)

Must be someone else's fault, I guess.

Or see here:

By 1984 it was reported that some 300,000 Iranian soldiers and 250,000 Iraqi troops had been killed, or wounded. [...] Within a four-week period between February and March 1984, the Iraqis reportedly killed 40,000 Iranians and lost 9,000 of their own men, but even this was deemed an unacceptable ratio, and in February the Iraqi command ordered the use of chemical weapons. Despite repeated Iraqi denials, between May 1981 and March 1984, Iran charged Iraq with forty uses of chemical weapons. [...] The major development in 1985 was the increased targeting of population centers and industrial facilities by both combatants. In May Iraq began aircraft attacks, long-range artillery attacks, and surface-to-surface missile attacks on Tehran and on other major Iranian cities. [...] The Iraqi Air Force's first real strategic bombing campaign, the so-called war of the cities, aimed at breaking civilian morale and disrupting military targets. Iraq's two efforts early in 1985, from 14 March to 7 April and 25 May to 15 June, were reportedly very effective. [...] The brunt of Iraq's bombing offensive, borne by nearly 600 smaller Iraqi combat planes, has fallen on Tehran in an effort to crush Iranian morale. the Iraqis boasted of 180-plane raids on the Iranian capital. Antiwar feeling in Tehran was at an all-time high, as the Iraqis hit the city an average of twice a day and, on two occasions, six times. [...] Late, in March 1986, the UN secretary general, Javier Perez de Cuellar, formally accused Iraq of using chemical weapons against Iran. Citing the report of four chemical warfare experts whom the UN had sent to Iran in February and March 1986, the secretary general called on Baghdad to end its violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol on the use of chemical weapons. The UN report concluded that "Iraqi forces have used chemical warfare against Iranian forces"; the weapons used included both mustard gas and nerve gas. The report further stated that "the use of chemical weapons appear[ed] to be more extensive [in 1981] than in 1984." Iraq attempted to deny using chemicals, but the evidence, in the form of many badly burned casualties flown to European hospitals for treatment, was overwhelming. According to a British representative at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva in July 1986, "Iraqi chemical warfare was responsible for about 10,000 casualties." In March 1988, Iraq was again charged with a major use of chemical warfare while retaking Halabjah, a Kurdish town in northeastern Iraq, near the Iranian border. [...] During the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq developed the ability to produce, store, and use chemical weapons. These chemical weapons included H-series blister and G-series nerve agents. Iraq built these agents into various offensive munitions including rockets, artillery shells, aerial bombs, and warheads on the Al Hussein Scud missile variant. During the Iran-Iraq war, Iraqi fighter-attack aircraft dropped mustard-filled and tabun-filled 250 kilogram bombs and mustard-filled 500 kilogram bombs on Iranian targets. Other reports indicate that Iraq may have also installed spray tanks on an unknown number of helicopters or dropped 55-gallon drums filled with unknown agents (probably mustard) from low altitudes. [...] Casualty figures are highly uncertain, though estimates suggest more than one and a half million war and war-related casualties -- perhaps as many as a million people died, many more were wounded, and millions were made refugees. Iran acknowledged that nearly 300,000 people died in the war; estimates of the Iraqi dead range from 160,000 to 240,000. Iraq suffered an estimated 375,000 casualties, the equivalent of 5.6 million for a population the size of the United States. Another 60,000 were taken prisoner by the Iranians. Iran's losses may have included more than 1 million people killed or maimed.
But, really, he only killed five thousand. You betcha.

And there are no apologists for Saddam Hussein. Really. It's just an explanation.

abb1: Saddam killed a lot more than 5,000 people during the Anfal campaign alone. There are a lot of perfectly good ways to oppose the war in Iraq without denying the evident fact of Saddam's inhumanity.

Yes, I am sure there are other means, although politicians just love to talk about mass-graves. In any case, the 'killed millions' argument would've sounded better with some evidence.

But the Iran-Iraq War was a war. Who killed all those who died in the WWI - Kaiser Wilhelm?

Hilzoy, I know that Saddam killed more than 5,000, but there's a lot of space between 5,000 and millions.

"In any case, the 'killed millions' argument would've sounded better with some evidence."

You're not satisfied? And if not, why not? Are you contesting that I made an accurate statement?

"No, he'd killed the millions primarily during the Eighties, and sent another army across his borders during the Nineties."

Which part are you denying? Oh, right, the "he'd killed the millions primarily during the Eighties." Which part of that are you denying? And why?

"Some of our tangents are unnecessary, I guess..." D Johnson

"Kimmitt is correct...on the essential monstrousness of the Padilla case. This is a profoundly troubling affair in every respect.

A pity he undercuts his own credibility with statements like, "If you vote for Bush, you endorse that theory." One assumes that Kerry voters therefore endorsed every manner of ill fame to which that candidate could justly lay claim." ...Tacitus, yesterday I think

I was going to go off on hilzoy's "Responsibility is not zero-sum" meme and state that responsiblity is divisible and quantifiable and any conversation that does not acknowledge that Tacitus and Bird are more(tho only partially) responsible for the torture than von and Sebastian who are more responsible than Jes and I is one I find deeply offensive.

Farber's "mea culpa" above that seems to say that he has not done all he possibly could so who is he to cast the first stone....argggh.

But, hey those are tangents. But to be frank, these fine moral and philosophical discussions or the smart counter-insurgency analyses seem increasingly absurd and irrelevant. Bush isn't listening, and his Party isn't going to get in his way.

"Bolton's amendments make it clear that the Bush administration would like to pretend the millennium agreement never happened. This is a slap in the face for the aid organizations and international donors that have been working for years toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals. But it's far worse than that for the Third World, where their abandonment would be a death sentence for millions." via Laura Rozen

Thr priority must be to smash the Republican Party and their Democratic allies and enablers until they never rise again, or rise in an unrecognizable form. It is time-critical, and ethical analysis is a luxury for the uncommitted.

"But the Iran-Iraq War was a war."

Wars are either a) just; b) unjust); c) a muddle.

Saddam started a war of conquest to gain control of the Shatt-al-Arab waterway. You're comparing it as morally comparable to the muddle of WWI? Okay.

In my universe, there's no muddle, no "a" or "c" about Saddam's war against Iraq; it was undeniably "b." But you deny that.

Thanks for making your moral judgments clear.

"Farber's 'mea culpa' above that seems to say that he has not done all he possibly could so who is he to cast the first stone...."

I'm not aware I said that.

OK, if you blame the Iran-Iraq war 100% on Saddam, then it's indeed over 2 million. That's fine with me. LBJ and Nixon killed 4 million. Never mind, go on.

Iran could have yielded...

According to the Wiki:


Iraq offered a cessation of hostilities in 1982, but Iran's insistence from July 1982 onward to destroy the Iraqi government prolonged the conflict for another six years of static warfare.

But I really don't mind a bit of simplicity here; fair enough: the guy who started an aggressive war is responsible for the whole thing, to the end. It's better that way. Moral clarity.

"LBJ and Nixon killed 4 million."

More or less, yes, although I could quibble about figures and I'd note that they walked into an ongoing war. But, yes, I'd blame them both for millions of deaths. You don't?

"But I really don't mind a bit of simplicity here; fair enough: the guy who started an aggressive war is responsible for the whole thing, to the end. It's better that way. Moral clarity."

So: Saddam doesn't bear moral responsibility for the Iran-Iraq War. It's too morally complicated to assign such. It's better that way. Moral clarity.

Saddam only killed 5,000 people. Got it.

Sebastian: on differential treatment: I think it has various causes in different cases. For one thing, it depends on how much coverage a particular place gets, which in turn depends on things like: is there someone being oppressed that we in the West already care about for some reason? (Example: the Tibetans: we care about the Dalai Lama, and Tibet is, after all, incredibly photogenic, the model for Shangri-La, and the focus of all sorts of Western myths. Not to deny the reality of the awfulness being directed at them, but to explain why they get so much more press than, say, the Karen in Burma.) (And note that the left has been upset about Tibet forever, despite their oppressors being Communist.) Another coverage-determining factor: is there good infrastructure and an existing press corps?

Another factor, which I think affects both (some) people on the (Euro/American) left and right, though sometimes in different ways, is the idea that Europeans and Americans are "us", and can therefore be held to "our" moral standards, while other people are not, and we don't really understand what they're doing, and/or can think of it as "their colorful customs', rather than as e.g. brutality. (I ran into a bunch of this when I was living in Israel: a lot of what Israelis took to be anti-Semitism, I thought was actually a willingness to hold Israelis but not Arabs to normal moral standards, and thus not a function of hatred of Jews, but of the idea that we don't have to think of Arabs as people like anyone else.) (I also think this had a lot to do with why there were more protests about S. Africa than other oppressive societies.)

(For the record: I think it's one thing, and OK, to say, about some non-European cultures: we don't understand their culture enough to know what they take themselves to be doing, and thus to figure out how to morally assess it. I think this would be the right way to think about e.g. some recently discovered, hitherto isolated tribe in New Guinea with puzzling customs. It's quite another thing, and the thing I find objectionable, to be willing to regard anything done by e.g. Arabs as 'just more of their colorful, National Geographic-worthy behavior'.)

In addition, there's the fact of simple ignorance. -- When I was in college, for some reason, I actually knew something about the history of appalling massacres of Hutus by Tutsis and vice versa in Rwanda and Burundi, and the fact that so many people were upset about S. Africa but not by the Great Lakes region completely puzzled me. (I recall trying to get people who boycotted S. Africa to boycott the coffee companies that supported the government in Burundi. So I have some insight into the phenomenon you describe.

The main problem, I think, was just that no one knew anything at all about Burundi (or Rwanda.) For more or less everyone I talked to, left or right, Burundi just fell into the category of 'places in Africa with confusing names and even more confusing histories that we don't know anything about'. And explaining some history wasn't enough (maybe it would have been had I not been a little freshman, I don't know): facts against an enormous void of ignorance tend to just drop into the void, never to be heard from again, sometimes, and that was what seemed to happen here. S. Africa was part of the much broader narrative of colonialism, a narrative that people knew something about. Burundi was part of nothing, except possibly 'people we know nothing about killing each other'. I always took this to be a function of ignorance, not ideology.

And then, finally, there's the tendency, on both sides, to trust one's own ideological counterparts more than one should. I don't think that the failure to condemn the Khmer Rouge lasted all that long after credible reports began to emerge from that country (with exceptions, cough Chomsky cough.) But at first, when it was still not at all clear what was going on, people on the left tended to assume that it wasn't as bad as all that, and people on the right tended to assume that it was worse than anyone thought. In this case, of course, the right was right.

But, first, this was when there really wasn't enough information to judge; when there was, my recollection is that most people followed it. And second, this didn't happen in a vaccuum; it was against the backdrop of the right having consistently said that more or less any left-leaning movement was crypto-Communist and a threat to America. There were reasons to be skeptical of them. (Likewise, reasons to be skeptical of those on the left who said that any such movement was about to bring about utopia.) In the absence of evidence, people's ideological assumptions took over. When evidence appeared, most people (iirc) followed it.

Finally, in that era (80s), my recollection is that while we on the left had (for the most part, as always with exceptions) long since concluded that there were leftist movements that were dreadful, it was really the right that was apologizing for horrible people. (NB: it had been even longer since anyone I knew on the left had considered the USSR 'leftist' in any recognizable form, so I'm not even counting them.) We were clear that the Cultural Revolution had been a nightmare; that Pol Pot had been even worse, and so on. We were also clear that e.g. the right-wing government of El Salvador was appalling. We didn't have any particularly high hopes for the Sandinistas, but we thought the contras were thugs, and the lesson we took from Vietnam was: devastating a country for the sake of keeping one set of thugs in power and another set of thugs out of power is not worth it. We were not the ones comparing the Contras to the Founding Fathers, or claiming that there was something noble about UNITA in Angola, or trying to distinguish 'totalitarian' from 'authoritarian' regimes, where the only difference I could ever see was that all the authoritarians were right-wing.

Which is all to say: there are a lot of reasons for differential treatment; to the extent that both sides have a history of ideologically motivated differential treatment (since, say, the late 70s), I would argue that the right has done more of it. (Partly because we had been learning from our mistakes, not because of any inherent astuteness, I think.)

No, it wasn't sarcasm; I am serious; I am accepting this approach.

You left a bit of wiggle room for yourself, though, with this just/unjust thing. Why can't we just say: the guy whose army crossed the border is 100% responsible. If this was an enforceable law, then there would be no wars anymore.

Good post, Hilzoy.

As I recall, it's conservatives who a couple of years ago objected to a line in the UN Treaty on the Rights of Women to the effect that wife-beating, honor-killing, etc. can't be excused by tradition or culture.

I think the d-squared post which I referred to in hilzoy’s Explanation and Justification thread clarifies Sebastian’s problem. Consider this statement:

Some people, like me, believe that what they're doing is basically morally unacceptable, but that it hardly takes place in a vacuum, that they are for the most part reacting to a situation not wholly of their own making and who knows, maybe if it was me and my countrymen ... I'd be a lot more sympathetic to what they do.

This is not purely explanation. It is not justification either. Essentially it is a refusal to condemn actions which are acknowledged to be deserving of condemnation. The reason offered for that cop-out is that d-squared hasn’t had the first-hand experience which he feels he needs in order to be entitled to condemn. (I have snipped the quotation so as to remove the specific provocations and reactions referred to; it’s the principles which are relevant here, not the politics.)

I don’t think hilzoy needs to modify her analysis to cover such cases. Sebastian needs to face up to the fact that there are many ways of pronouncing on the moralty of an action which lie between outright approval and outright condemnation. I may feel that I understand Timothy McVeigh’s grievance well enough to say it doesn’t justify what he did. Closer to home, I can condemn an IRA bombing without equivocation. McVeigh and an IRA volunteer have something important in common: citizenship of a democracy which they grew up in and which gives them better ways to redress their grievances. A terrorist in a third-world country, even a fledgling democracy, is different in that respect so I might not be so willing to condemn. Then again I might. It depends.

"Why can't we just say: the guy whose army crossed the border is 100% responsible."

Because there are (rare) cases where pre-emptive war is just. See Israel, 1967, although I suspect you won't agree. But: surprise me.

I do think you provided a quite interesting example, though. You've not been justifying Saddam's killings. You've been explaining them.

Or, maybe not so much.

Of course I won't agree. That's why you (and I, for that matter) shouldn't have that wiggle room that allows us to minimize crimes committed by people we identify with and to exaggerate crimes committed by our villains.

I can see, though, that this probably won't work; real life is way too complicated. We can't really avoid using subjective judgment. In the six-day war, for example, Nasser certainly does share the blame.

"In the six-day war, for example, Nasser certainly does share the blame."

Would your opinion be any different if Israel had waited a few days for the Arab coalition to attack first? Do you blame Israel for the 1973 or 1948 wars?

If this was an enforceable law, then there would be no wars anymore.

Yeah, except that enforcement = war.


(Unless you subscribe to the idea -- like Congressional Republicans in 1996 -- that you can cure terrorism with litigation. I suppose it looked good on paper: the trial lawyers will do for the terror-masters what they've done for municipal swimming pool diving boards. At least this legislation -- and the follow-on enactments in 1998 and 2000 -- mean that I don't have to pay any attention to Republicans whining now that the Clinton Admin didn't do enough about terrorism.)

I didn't just make up the idea that liberals can be softer on the viciousness of other cultures.

Find liberals in the last 40 years, as opposed to communists, who ignored the communist atrocities you reference, or were otherwise sympathetic to them. Funny -- there are practically none. There was a period of self-delusion in the 30s when Stalinist propoganda denying atrocities was effective, but that does not make the leftist dupes of such propoganda "softer" -- just stupid for being duped.

And you have no reply to the long history of right wing lack of concern to carnage by its friends. Kilpatrick coined the weird rigth wing concept that mass torture and murder by "authoritarian" (i.e., right wing friendly) regimes was somehow not as bad as torture and murder by "totalitarian" (i.e., communist mostly) regimes. There is no similar doctrinal duplicity amongst modern liberals that matches this explicit apology by right wingers for looking the other way.

What is the logical fallacy in concluding that those who select South Africa for their anger are therefore "soft" on communists because they do not direct the same protests at them? By the same logic, right wingers positively love torture by right wing regimes since not only do they not protest it, they actively protected those regimes despite their torture and murder.

"Find liberals in the last 40 years, as opposed to communists, who ignored the communist atrocities you reference, or were otherwise sympathetic to them."

There's not so much, but there is a fair amount of double-standarding in the history of many (let's say it's a minority) of some threads of wishy-washy liberals between the USSR and USA. There's a long history of some folks very carelessly explaining that, after all the US was more responsible for the Cold War during fill-in-the-blank, the [Fifties/Sixties/Seventies/Eighties], or that Soviet communism by the Seventies really wasn't so bad; just as today you can still find lots of folks praising Cuba for its fine medical and educational system, or saying that Hamas is a political party doing good social work, with a military wing, whereas Israel is a vicious colonial apartheid state.

There are plenty of unjust extreme criticisms and lies about the left and liberalism both, but no political movement is without dunderheaded threads and careless, largely ignorant, people. Who often cross the line from explanation into justification, or at least into moral equivalency.

From what I've read it appears that Arab coalition wouldn't have attacked and Israeli leaders admitted that much. They just saw it as an opportunity.
http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-159.html

1973 was obviously an attempt to get Sinai back; you can't occupy your neighbor's territory and complain when they attack you, that's just ridiculous.

In 1948 there was some really disgusting rhetoric on the part of the Arab League, and yet if you read their declaration of war (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/arab_invasion.html) you'll probably agree that they did have a fair point there.

It's just that this whole process in 1947-48 was such a bloody mess. Hard to blame either side.

Much easier to spot a guilty party there after 1967 and especially after 1993. Once the PLO agreed to give away 78% of Palestine, this conflict ceased to be a conflict between two ethnic groups, now it's a conflict between those who accept the 78-22 division (with compensation to the refugees a-la Geneva) and those who do not.

It was a close call in 1967, I must say. No question about that.

dmbeaster: I think that during the last 40 years, and specifically in the late 60s/early 70s, you could find some people who didn't condemn the Cultural Revolution, and that these people would probably have been mostly on the left. But, as i wrote in some no doubt long forgotten comment thread, I think that's a somewhat different case, since at the time most people knew nothing, absolutely nothing, about what was happening in China.

I mean, I really think it's hard for people who weren't around at that time to appreciate exactly how close to 'nothing' our knowledge of the PRC was then. (I mean, the PRC at the time in question., Things that had happened a while before did tend to get known eventually. Also, I don't mean e.g. the statements of its leaders to the international press, which were obviously known; I mean what life was like there for ordinary people.) There is no country now about which there is as little information as there was about the PRC then.

I grew up in an academic environment; my parents had friends who worked on China for a living, and were not particularly sympathetic to it, as well as other friends who did foreign policy for a living and were, again, not inclined to be Chinese apologists; I had relatives who had been there (and I'm not counting the uncle who wrote what was essentially a propaganda book on China; I'm counting only the relatives whose judgment I would have trusted); and of course we all followed the news and were interested in other countries. Which is to say: I think I grew up in that segment of the US population (other than very, very recent immigrants from China, of whom there were very few, iirc) who would have been most likely to know more about the Cultural Revolution than: something by that name happened, and it involved a massive shakeup of Chinese society. It was not until around 1973? 1974? that the really bad stuff became evident to us.

Before then, there were people who had gone to China, been escorted around by the government, and had reported that all was wonderful, who clearly were not particularly reliable, and there were people who had not been there but assumed the worst about any leftist government, ditto. There were stories about barefoot doctors, which sounded sort of nifty to a twelve year old. My best friend went to China (dad in US government), but all she saw was a series of staged events (though she did report that thousand year old eggs were as bad as you'd think, given the name.) And that was the extent of our information.

"From what I've read it appears that Arab coalition wouldn't have attacked and Israeli leaders admitted that much."

I don't follow this. The Arabs were about to attack, and so Israel struck at the massing troops, but primarily the air force on the ground and the artillery, and such, so as to not be overwhelmed by waiting. If they'd waited, Israel would have, in short, almost surely have been destroyed. To ask to wait to be invaded when your country is the size of New Jersey is suicidal. Russia can afford the luxury of pulling back; Israel and Monaco (or Kuwait) can't.

I can't imagine what you mean by Israel "admit[ting]" any of this.

I'm afraid that since your cite is incredibly long, and not directed particularly at Israel, I'm not interested in spending an hour or so reading it; if you'd like to summarize the point, or point elsewhere, by all means, feel free.

"you'll probably agree that they did have a fair point there."

Not enough to declare war. One question only: if they were so determined to fight for the "independence of Palestine" -- let's pause for a quote.

Seventh: The Governments of the Arab States recognise that the independence of Palestine, which has so far been suppressed by the British Mandate, has become an accomplished fact for the lawful inhabitants of Palestine. They alone, by virtue of their absolute sovereignty, have the right to provide their country with laws and governmental institutions. They alone should exercise the attributes of their independence, through their own means and without any kind of foreign interference, immediately after peace, security, and the rule of law have been restored to the country.
So, tell me, from 1948-1967, who controlled all of the West Bank and all those Palestinians? What happened to their "independence" the 1948 war was allegedly fought for?

"I don’t think hilzoy needs to modify her analysis to cover such cases. Sebastian needs to face up to the fact that there are many ways of pronouncing on the moralty of an action which lie between outright approval and outright condemnation."

Umm, consider the fact faced since I bring it up in my original post:

"Making a binary distinction between justification and explanation doesn't really capture that difference.

I think that the distinction between justification and explanation as discussed so far fails to capture why so many of the 'explanations' used for Islamism make conservatives queasy."

The whole problem is that there are lots of in-between things that if you define the terms as opposites seem to involve explanation with a heavy dose of justification.

The problem that conservatives have with liberal explanations is that they sound like they have a pretty heavy justification side. The Fisk 'I would have beat me up too' idea is only the most strongly expressed version of it.

Regarding this from Hilzoy:

Another factor, which I think affects both (some) people on the (Euro/American) left and right, though sometimes in different ways, is the idea that Europeans and Americans are "us", and can therefore be held to "our" moral standards, while other people are not, and we don't really understand what they're doing, and/or can think of it as "their colorful customs', rather than as e.g. brutality.

I know this isn't hilzoy or katherine's fault, but I would like to point out that this is the second time on this thread alone where one of the liberal members has said something (which ought to be uncontroversial)that would get me slammed for hours. And in hilzoy's case, I was actually mocked openly and repeatedly on this very thread for an almost identical statement. But it has gone by almost entirely unnoted.

Now I know that I can be somewhat more obnoxious than hilzoy, and I can take unhealthy doses of criticism, and I also know that I started a thread on a super-touchy subject, but can you at least limit the slams to actual areas of contention rather than even bits which ought to be uncontroversial?

What follows is an accurate chronology of United States involvement in the arming of Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war 1980-88. It is a powerful indictment of the president Bush administration attempt to sell war as a component of his war on terrorism. It reveals US ambitions in Iraq to be just another chapter in the attempt to regain a foothold in the Mideast following the fall of the Shah of Iran.

From
Arming Iraq: A Chronology of U.S. Involvement


Whatever his complexes, Khomeini had no qualms about sending his followers, including young boys, off to their deaths for his greater glory. This callous disregard for human life was no less characteristic of Saddam Hussein. And, for that matter, it was also no less characteristic of much of the world community, which not only couldn't be bothered by a few hundred thousand Third World corpses, but tried to profit from the conflict.

From:
The United States and Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988

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