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August 06, 2005

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Orwell's "Politics and the English Language"

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. The will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.

In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a ‘party line’. Orthodoxy, of whatever colour, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestos, White papers and the speeches of undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech. When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases — bestial, atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder — one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker's spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved, as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favourable to political conformity....

What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way around. In prose, the worst thing one can do with words is surrender to them. When you think of a concrete object, you think wordlessly, and then, if you want to describe the thing you have been visualising you probably hunt about until you find the exact words that seem to fit it. When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one's meaning as clear as one can through pictures and sensations. Afterward one can choose — not simply accept — the phrases that will best cover the meaning, and then switch round and decide what impressions one's words are likely to make on another person. This last effort of the mind cuts out all stale or mixed images, all prefabricated phrases, needless repetitions, and humbug and vagueness generally

I'm not totally sure of this, but I think this post gives advice which is close to the opposite of what Orwell is giving.

Instead of saying that the Coalition "invaded" Iraq and "occupies" it today, we could more precisely claim that the allies liberated the country and are currently reconstructing it. More than cosmetic changes, these definitions reflect the nobility of our effort in Iraq, and steal rhetorical ammunition from the left.

The most despicable misuse of terminology, however, occurs when Leftists call the Saddamites and foreign jihadists "the resistance" .... Anyone who cares about success in our struggle against Islamofascism, or upholds principles of moral clarity and lucid thought--- should combat such Orwellian distortions of our language..."

This is an Orwellian use of "Orwellian". We did invade Iraq. And we do occupy it. And those who fight against an occupation do resist it. These words describe actions, not motives or ideology.

It is Vincent, I think, who urges distortion of meaning for propaganda purposes.

I don't know much about Vincent's corpus as a whole, or his outlook as a whole. But I thought the last op-ed he published--the one that most likely got him killed--was quite clear-eyed and admirable.

As to the right attitude to take towards the war, I think Bush has made his own quite clear: the nation is at war, and I am on vacation.

Oh, and by the way, Mr. Bird--

there is some sort of repetition of paragraphs in the post as it appears above. I'm not making a point about substance--it's just sort of a double-posting problem, or a cut-and-paste problem or the like.

. . . we're not at war against Columbian narcos . . .

Hahaha! Er . . . ok. I know it's irrelevant and tangential to the "If you can't think of a clever name for it and put it on a bumper sticker, it isn't worth doing" thrust of the post, but still.

I can, however, say I would be much more suppportive of a policy whose acronym was TWAT.

We did invade Iraq. And we do occupy it.

Depends on where you sit, Bernard. We also invaded and occupied Japan and Germany, but it would be more accurate to say that we liberated both and have a presence in both as well. Same goes for Iraq. Far as I'm concerned, the more truer and more accurate the description, the less Orwellian it is. Quite frankly, I think your "invasion and occupation" rhetoric fits Orwellian better than mine.

Tad,
Thanks. I had a cut-and-paste malfunction.

I know it's irrelevant and tangential to the "If you can't think of a clever name for it and put it on a bumper sticker, it isn't worth doing" thrust of the post, but still.

Except that wasn't the thrust of the post, Phil. Read again.

We also invaded and occupied Japan and Germany, but it would be more accurate to say that we liberated both and have a presence in both as well.

It is not even the remotest kind of true or accurate to say that we "liberated" either Germany or Japan, unless you have sucked the words "liberated," "true" and "accurate" of all meaningful definitions whatsoever. We liberated France, sure. And Holland and Italy and Poland and so forth. We defeated Germany and Japan, after which we did, indeed, invade them. Are you under the misimpression that either Germany or Japan -- or both -- were under the thrall of leaders they didn't want?

Except that wasn't the thrust of the post, Phil. Read again.

Eh, it more or less was.

The NY Times Op-Ed by Steven Vincent that Tad Brennan points to gives what, to me, is a better example of a "right wing paramilitary death squad," a police unit in Basra:

An Iraqi police lieutenant, who for obvious reasons asked to remain anonymous, confirmed to me the widespread rumors that a few police officers are perpetrating many of the hundreds of assassinations - mostly of former Baath Party members - that take place in Basra each month. He told me that there is even a sort of "death car": a white Toyota Mark II that glides through the city streets, carrying off-duty police officers in the pay of extremist religious groups to their next assignment.

So, Charles, are we in a war against Islamists whom the coalition forces are putting into power in Iraq? Seems like a counterproductive approach to me.

Charles,

Invading and liberating are not mutually exclusive. We invaded France, and liberated it as well.

To say that having over 100,000 of our soldiers enter a country by force, fight its army, and destroy much of its infrastructure, does not constitute invading that country is simply to refuse to recognize the meaning of the word "invade."

I also agree with Phil that we did not liberate Germany or Japan. We defeated them and occupied them. I see nothing shameful about these occupations, but they were occupations, just as our presence in Iraq is an occupation.

Gotcher paramilitary death squads right here.

Call it what you like, the important point to remember is that any construct that attempts to lump together the invasion and occupation of Iraq with actions taken to rid the world of the perpetrators of 9/11 and similar subsequent attacks is simply a rhetorical device meant to paper over quite huge gaps in logic. That people in the US are increasingly able to discern this simple fact is also obvious, thankfully.

As Phil said.

As I remember my Kant, it doesn't matter much what the origins of a nation's internal gov't is, other nations must recognize it as reasonably legitimate. It is not moral to invade to "liberate" (unless from a exteral invasion), almost all such actions will be taking a side in a civil war. Kant, of course, lived in the age of kings and an age of revolutions. Would France have been justified in invading England to depose Cromwell? The only other moral justification for war is self-defense.

Charles, you are being Orwellian. Are the govt's of Pakistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Brunei illegitimate and therefore morally requiring our "liberation"? How about Palestine, the West Bank? There was no question of Saddam being reasonably legitimate.

We liberated Kuwait. We invaded Iraq.

The name I like is the War Serving Democracy's Insatiable Capitalist Kleptomania (W'S DICK). Hey, as long as TWAT's in play...

Meanwhile, a president who understood the real nature of this war would have been doing something about US energy dependence (instead of going on endless vacations, gutting environmental regs, discouraging gas-mileage improvements, and shoveling money to his Saudi play-mates).

Juan Cole:

"Despite Americans' talk about not liking to be dependent on the Saudis, their actual policies (and certainly those of the Bush administration) are calculated to increase the dependency, not lessen it. Remember that the next time you complain about those spreading Wahhabi-influenced madrasahs. You might as well complain about cows while eating ice cream."

But let's get back to the important job of figuring out which acronym will jerk the base's chains best.

Robin Cook, who resigned from the Blair cabinet over his opposition to the Iraq war, has died.

Here is his speech of resignation, on the eve of the invasion. Read it and weep.

(A few selections:

"For four years as foreign secretary I was partly responsible for the western strategy of containment.

Over the past decade that strategy destroyed more weapons than in the Gulf war, dismantled Iraq's nuclear weapons programme and halted Saddam's medium and long-range missiles programmes.

Iraq's military strength is now less than half its size than at the time of the last Gulf war.

Ironically, it is only because Iraq's military forces are so weak that we can even contemplate its invasion. Some advocates of conflict claim that Saddam's forces are so weak, so demoralised and so badly equipped that the war will be over in a few days.

We cannot base our military strategy on the assumption that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a threat.

Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term - namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target.

It probably still has biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions, but it has had them since the 1980s when US companies sold Saddam anthrax agents and the then British Government approved chemical and munitions factories.

Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years, and which we helped to create?"

I've wondered about this terminology before and I think it's fair to call it World War IV. Because let's face it, the Cold War really was World War III.

why does it needs to be called WW anything ? (aside from trying to latch onto the glory, glamour and pride of being on the winning side of WWI and WWII, of course)

Because let's face it, the Cold War really was World War III.

I had always thought that the Cold War was about avoiding World War Three. Whatevs.

"I agree that we have to call this a war. After all, our enemies call it such and al Qaeda has in fact declared war against us."

Yes, let us let al-Qaeda and its associated islamist lunatic groups frame the conflict for us.

Terrorists are not warriors. They do not have the strength to visit upon us something so horrible as war[1]. Allowing them to frame themselves as anything but criminals is a huge moral loss. They may be most heinous criminals, incredibly dangerous, but still no more than mere criminals.

Calling the struggle a war has already had disastrous effects. Instead of letting the police, who knows the criminal mind, take the lead in tracking, catching and interrogating these criminals, the military was called in. Quite apart from the moral loss of becoming a torturer in the eyes of the world, the military has shown itself to be incredibly incompetent in gathering intelligence from its prisoners. Its interrogators were making up their provocations and strategies minutes before sessions took place.

Calling the struggle a war not only turns criminals into warriors. It turns our law enforcement agencies, our best defences against terror, into second-rate players. The War on Terror is a fatal mistake.

[1] As long as we keep our nuclear weapons locked up, at any rate.

It is not even the remotest kind of true or accurate to say that we "liberated" either Germany or Japan...

Except for the small detail that both countries are free and democratic, Phil.

To say that having over 100,000 of our soldiers enter a country by force, fight its army, and destroy much of its infrastructure, does not constitute invading that country is simply to refuse to recognize the meaning of the word "invade."

You write as if the Gulf War never happened, Bernard. In retrospect, Saddam should've been taken out fourteen years ago instead of three.

Charles, you are being Orwellian. Are the govt's of Pakistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Brunei illegitimate and therefore morally requiring our "liberation"?

No, bob, since none of them violated over a dozen binding UNSC resolutions after being repulsed from invading a sovereign neighbor.

Language, language.

Most of the population of the ME are Muslims.

'We' are trying to establish hegemony and direct domination over the ME.

Large segment of the population of the ME resist 'our' trying to establish domination over them. Many of them take arms trying to kill Americans and those locals who cooperate with Americans (aka 'moderate Muslims'), and thus they clearly become 'militant Muslims'.

So, yes, I agree, this is the war against militant Muslims, just like if they tried to dominate us they would have to fight militant Americans.

How does this sound?

Anders is right. Calling the fight against Al Qaida a war, and especially calling it World War IV, is a huge gift to AQ's PR department. Al Qaida is in no way comparable in power to the Axis Powers of WW2 or to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Bush's treating them as that sort of threat has greatly increased their stature in the Muslim world.

No, bob, since none of them violated over a dozen binding UNSC resolutions after being repulsed from invading a sovereign neighbor.

Tell us again, Charles, when the UNSC authorized the invasion?

And I mean in regards to the invasion of 2003, which was what Bob was referring too.

It is not even the remotest kind of true or accurate to say that we "liberated" either Germany or Japan...

Except for the small detail that both countries are free and democratic, Phil.

Germany was both free and democratic before we beat them in the war, Charles. So was Japan. From whom did we liberate them?

We did not "liberate" Germany or Japan by any common understanding of the word. We beat them in a war, and we forced them to adopt new governments. That is not "liberation"; both populations were not exactly crying for someone to rescue them. They were, in fact, both composed of fanatical supporters of their charismatic leaders and were all too happy to have them undertake aggressive wars of territorial expansion with significant ethnic undertones.

You're a smart guy. Make your argument about who we have to fight and how we have to market it, but don't rely on this humpty-dumpty nonsense where a word means whatever you want it to mean.

"No, bob, since none of them violated over a dozen binding UNSC resolutions after being repulsed from invading a sovereign neighbor."

Charles, you don't have go thru all the justifications for the war. I would justify under it self-defense, with a probably over-complicated ME transformation theorey.

But "liberate" vs "invade" have to do with the internals of a nation. In the cold war, we maybe liberated Poland, which was overcontrolled by the Soviet Union. Lebanon was liberated from Syria. Panama and Grenada were invaded.

The rhetoric is important. If a "liberated" Iraq were to ask us to leave, I don't think we should go. We did not invade Iraq for the safety, freedom, and security of the Iraqis, and if leaving makes America less safe(and under current conditions, it certainly would), we should stay. The Bush administration's shifting rationales and BS has created a dangerous situation.

"Invasion" and "liberation" aren't the same kind of word.

Invasion is a statement of fact: forces outside the generally recognized political power of an area intrude and replace the existing power with another.

Liberation is a statement of judgment: the result is an improvement in the general sphere of liberty.

The Soviet Union claimed to liberate Hungary; Vietnam claimed to liberate Cambodia. I'd say that the second claim is true, in that Cambodia's problems since are a big improvement both on Pol Pot and a lot of what its neighbors suffer, while Hungary was not (by my standard) liberated until the Soviet Union collapsed.

Claiming liberation on the basis of what might happen is cheating. Call it liberation once there's a local government that's been through at least one full election cycle and then we can assess.

Three points:

(1) We also invaded and occupied Japan and Germany, but it would be more accurate to say that we liberated both and have a presence in both. . . .

Regardless of the question of whether or not we "liberated" those countries, please explain to me in exactly what way it would be "more accurate." I'm having trouble seeing how you can be more than 100% accurate.

(2) As for fighting terrorism, not only is the name "World War IV" unbelievably overblown, past the point of absurdity, but why do we have it call it anything other than "fighting terrorism?" Obviously, terrorism co-exists very poorly with complex, modern infrastructure-dependent society, and must be dealt with with all the vigor, intelligence, and sometimes even violence that is called for.

But we will never stop terrorists, any more than we can stop weeds. We can just root out the ones we know about and be vigilant against the new ones that are bound to pop up. This is as true of the subset, the current significant problem of violent Islamist terrorism, as of the entire set, because the subset is almost as dispersed, unconnected, and un-dependent upon anything but themselves, their associates, and the ongoing renewal of their ranks, as are any other subset of the terrorist set.

No single, nameable war or campaign or operation is going to wipe out either the set or the subset. We just have to go about the daily business of confronting the problem energetically and intelligently. Don't need no name, cause there's really nothing to name. Or if we really must have one, then Doing Smart Things is about as good a name as any for my money.

(3) Finally, so far as Republican word games go, if you want to call the invasion of Iraq a liberation, or stop the decades-old practice of calling a decrease in the planned rate of Medicare growth a cut, or refuse to answer questions about affirmative action and instead trot out some nebulous construct, that's fine and you have every right to try to change the language if you wish. After all, as Humpty Dumpty told us, words are our servants, not us theirs.

Just be honest about what you're doing. Or if that's too much to ask, then just please, please don't call us liars when we keep using the language the way it was used before, OK?

:) Charles- I can't tell you how delightful I find this thread. I wish you all the success in the world selling your changes in the language. I hope Republicans everywhere adopt your lexicon.

IIRC, this round started with a Marine general saying we shouldn't call it a war, because that leads us into thinking that guys in uniform can shoot their way to victory. Everyone knows this is true, and the Pentagon, and civil leadership went along, until late night comedians started making fun -- at which point the Pres reverted.

Me: To say that having over 100,000 of our soldiers enter a country by force, fight its army, and destroy much of its infrastructure, does not constitute invading that country is simply to refuse to recognize the meaning of the word "invade."

Charles: You write as if the Gulf War never happened, Bernard. In retrospect, Saddam should've been taken out fourteen years ago instead of three.

You've lost me. What does the Gulf War have to do with whether sending large-scale military forces into Iraq should be called an invasion?

It occurs to me that using CB's definition, the Chinese claim to have 'liberated' Tibet is more than colorable. The US can certainly claim to have liberated the Sioux.

Didn't Cortez liberate the Tlaxcalans from their Aztec overlords? Certainly his missionary friends liberated them from their invincible ignorance of the true faith.

I had an Xtian fundie colleague (6 day creation 6,000 years ago!) who argued to an Orthodox colleague that forced conversions in Spain in the 15th century were not only excusable but admirable: Jews needed to be liberated from their error in failing to recognize the Truth. My Orthodox colleague was not amused.

The problem with wars to liberate the unwilling should be obvious to all. And yet, the base wants to believe in it, rather than in the colorable, but mistaken belief that state support was an essential element of the AQ threat.

The proper name for a war as CB (and much of the Base) seems to conceive it is Crusade.

I like that, CharleyCarp, a lot.

From what I can recall, generally a "death squad" is a group of people who specifically go out with the intention of rounding up and murdering a specific group of civilians only. Now this term would fit the Sunni and Shia hit teams killing each others' clerics, or those assassination teams running around killing Iraqi government officials. It does not fit someone planting an IED or a sniper aiming for a Marine officer, and I would argue it doesn't fit a suicide bomber aiming a car bomb at a checkpoint or an Army convoy, either.

"Insurgent" and "insurgency" is a catchall term that covers the broad range of activities of all those fighting against the coalition and the Iraqi government. It is neutral specifically because it must cover those activities aimed at murdering civilians and also those aimed at military targets. This insurgency is very, very brutal, but one cannot deny that insurgents are targeting both civilian and military targets. Death squads generally only go after civilians. To say that the six Marine snipers ambushed and killed a few days ago were killed by a "death squad" is, frankly, stupid.

This post is so funny. FWIW: Googlefight suggests that the consensus is that we "occupied Japan" much more than we "liberated" it. But Charles and 116 other people could be right.

It's a invasion. No, it's a liberation.

Anything to this dispute 'sides semantics?

Yeah, there is. Something important.

You see, what the discussions above about various liberations and non-liberations throughout history (the US liberation of France, the Spanish non-liberation of the Aztecs, and so on) all show is this:

liberation is what happens (or doesn't happen) *after* you have successfully destroyed the previous regime.

If the Conquistador's story had gone exactly the same way up till the destruction of the Aztec regime, but then Cortez had helped the happy peasants to establish an anarcho-syndicalist commune*, then it would have been a liberation.

If D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge had been followed by our enslavement of the French people, it would not have been a liberation.

It's not what you do during the "major combat operations" that determines whether it's a liberation or not. It's what you do after. It's whether you establish a government that leaves the people free.

In other words, liberation is not, ever, a military operation. It is a nation-building operation.

Sometimes that nation-building has to take place after a successful military operation. But the liberation part is a whole 'nother affair.

And that's what the morons in the WH never got, or refused to get. You see, they thought they could do "liberation" without doing "nation-building" (they don't do nation-building--well, that's *one* thing Bush said which we now have *no* reason to doubt).

They thought they could do liberation with "shock and awe". They seem to have thought that all you had to do was destroy the old repressive regime, and then a new, free, democratic, low marginal-tax, America-friendly government would spring up in its place, just, well, by magic. The invisible hand would do it.

I mean, certainly there was no need to plan for it. Certainly no reason to think that after destroying the previous power, there might be a power vacuum, that every sort of malefactor and regional meddler would fill up.

No, no--that nation-building stuff--that's too much like what Roosevelt did in the New Deal. Providing jobs, creating infrastructure--why, it's practically communist. Sure, some of them held their noses and let the New-Dealers do it in post-war Germany, because it was part of the fight against Communists who were even worse Communists than the New Dealers were, so it was the lesser evil. But never something to be done if you can avoid it.

So--they avoided it. They didn't plan for any reconstruction--except maybe sending over a few Heritage Foundation interns just to get the taxes low enough--and they didn't plan for any nation-building, and they didn't make any plans to actually secure the country, its weapons depots, its borders, or its cities.

I mean, why bother? After all that shock and awe, isn't it liberated enough yet? What, do we have to drop some *more* bunker-busters, just to liberate it some more?

Oh alright--if they *still* aren't liberated after all that, surely we can take care of it by rebranding, changing slogans, and saying that black is white.

Yup--it's a confusion that matters, alright.

*(with a sort of executive officer for the week, but all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special bi-weekly--Arthur: Be quiet! I order you to be quiet!)

Well, this post explains why you also think there is some utility in the term "democratsunami."

There is nothing gained by misusing the language for political purposes, which is basically what you post advocates. That behavior already has a well-known term for it -- propoganda.

By the way, why don't we ask Iraqis whether they think we are liberators or occupiers? It seems to me that their view is what counts, rather than that of Charles sitting comfortably at his computer conjuring false terms so that he can blind himself to the reality of their experience.

And I guarantee you that in excess of 90% see the USA as occupiers -- no matter what language you choose to employ in order to pretend otherwise.

Ever since April 2003, another word has also bothered me: Insurgents. In my mind, the ex-Baathist brigades and Zarqawi-led terrorists don't deserve such a neutral-sounding term.

I'm pretty sure this has been discussed to death on this blog before. Why on earth, though, would you advocate for greater subjectivity in news coverage?

The term also doesn't well describe their behavior. One day, a so-called insurgent will plant a roadside bomb aimed at a US Army humvee, and the next day conduct a terrorist attack such as firing an RPG at a line of civilians applying for a job at a police station.

Err, but this is exactly why "insurgent" is a good choice. It is a broad category that can include terrorists, resistance, whatever.

Also, btw, "paramilitary" generally suggests "adjunct to an actual military."

"Death squad" generally suggests "state-sponsored paramilitary terrorists."

I more or less agree with everyone here. The dictionary tells me that an insurgent is "a person who revolts against civil authority or an established government". This is an accurate description of the people using IEDs in Iraq. There are undoubtedly other accurate descriptions as well, but for the reasons others have given, 'paramilitary' and 'death squads' aren't among them.

Likewise, "invade" means: to enter (a country or region) so as to subjugate or occupy it. This is exactly what we did in Iraq. And to "occupy" is defined as: to take control of (a place, esp. a country) by military conquest or settlement. The only objection I can imagine to using this word to describe us in Iraq is that our total lack of planning for the occupation might call into question our intention of controlling it, as opposed to just catching the candy and flowers flung at us by grateful Iraqis and departing the scene.

I agree that we should just call fighting terrorism 'fighting terrorism'. And I also think that if we put as much effort into actually catching Osama bin Laden as we put into branding and rebranding our fitful attempts to do so, that fight would be more successful.

A large part of the problem in framing the discussion of the militants killing US personnel and Iraqis is that they are not a homogenous group. There are Baathists, militant Shia, militant Sunnis, Iranian agents, Syrian agents, and others, all in overlapping and collaborating groups, as well as groups hostile to each other. Trying to shoehorn them all into a single category is a fool's game. Any given attack may be impossible to ascribe to a single faction, and may in fact be a result of collaboration between factions. Viewing every attack as part of a single coherent pattern guarantees failure.

Unfortunately we don't have a good vocabulary to describe the facts on the ground in Iraq. We should not make the error of trying to force the current situation into the mold of previous conflicts.

Charles, please spend Sunday reading.

Start http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/000885.html>here href>. Follow the links. Especially http://www.liberalsagainstterrorism.com/drupal/?q=node/1567>Nadezdha's href> and the links within that post.

You may wish to skip Billmon, but do not skip the http://www.nybooks.com/articles/18150>Galbraith href> article he links. I have been wondering if we'd be better or worse off if we bombed Iraq's Interior Ministry. His article slaps me down with the Realpolitik considerations. Here's the important bit:

Of the two, SCIRI is the more pro-Iranian. Both parties have military wings, and SCIRI's Badr Corps has grown significantly from the five thousand fighters that harassed Saddam's regime from Iran in the decades before the war; it now works closely with Iraq's Shiite interior minister, until recently the corps' commander, to provide security and fight Sunni Arab insurgents.

If you recall, Sistani recently pleaded for the government to get control over the security situation. With the above in mind, it would seem he endorses the Interior Ministry's current tactics. And that rumbling we might hear if we listen closely? Yeah, that's the sound of an oncoming civil war.

So instead of deciding how to re-brand this excellent adventure, put a little thought into de-linking the original invasion of Iraq from fighting terrorism. Because the latter must continue, regardless.

Then start thinking about the fallout questions. What should our policy towards the Kurds be if Iraq is headed for civil war and Shiite dominance with heavy Iranian influence? Right now most of the decent Iraqi military units are Peshmerga. Does our continued training of Shiite units make sense? Is the "as the Iraqi's stand up we'll stand down" formulation wise? They'll get training from Iran if we don't do it, but is that better or worse than the status quo?

And what exactly should/will our response be if ethnic cleansing begins in the country we are trying to withdraw from - perpetrated by the people we're turning it over to?

A large part of the problem in framing the discussion of the militants killing US personnel and Iraqis is that they are not a homogenous group.

Why is it a problem? American militants killing British personnel and American loyalists in the War for independence weren't a homogenous group either; from the minutemen to continental army to partisans. Foreign fighers - the French - were involved as well.

It's a far-fetched analogy, but it nevertheless shows that it's not usually impossible to find a meaningful definition for a diverse group that has an overriding common goal.

CMatt--
thanks for the links to the Stygius piece at Steve Clemon's blog, and the Galbraith piece at NYRB. Yup, those are must-reads.

So "liberators" is up for the chop then?

AlanDownunder--

Hey, don't look at me--I thought we *were* going to liberate the place. That was part of why I wasn't out in the streets protesting beforehand (the main reason being that I swallowed the lies about the nuclear program).

So, yeah--I thought that after the major combat operations, we were going to undertake a reconstruction project in earnest: pour our nation's efforts into making it a functioning country. I spent the first few months thinking "so I don't get it: if Baghdad doesn't have power, why aren't we just flying over diesel generators? That's what we would have done during the Berlin Airlift, and surely this is just as important as that."

But--it turned out the Bushies never really had any plans to liberate the country. They enjoy vicious campaigns, but they have no interest in governing after them. They know how to break things, but not build them.

Nope--it turns out it was mostly just Bush's own personal psycho-drama that led us there (as Robin Cook pointed out in his resignation speech). He diverted national resources to the settling of a personal grudge--getting back at Hussein.

Once that was done, he got bored.

I liked it a lot better when we were going to be liberators.

Katherine,
In the same passage, Orwell also wrote this:

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers.
How does the phraseology of War Against Militant Islamists or Paramilitary Death Squads go against what Orwell was saying? His issue was about writers' use of words that obscure rather than clarify.

Germany was both free and democratic before we beat them in the war, Charles.

At the time Germany declared war on us, Phil, Germany was democratic but it was not free. Ask any Jew. Oops, you can't.

Make your argument about who we have to fight and how we have to market it, but don't rely on this humpty-dumpty nonsense where a word means whatever you want it to mean.

Phil, now you're coming down with a reading disorder. I'm beginning to agree with your self-assessment.

A general comment about "invasion/occupation" and "liberate/rebuild". The goal re Germany/Japan was to defeat the regimes and rebuild those countries post-war. The means for doing so was invasion of those respective countries and occupation until they became free and democratic. The practical effect was that the people of both countries were liberated from these regimes and were given the means to set their own course. The goal re Iraq was to defeat the regime and is to rebuild the country. The means for doing so was invasion followed by a coalition occupation until it becomes free and democratic. The practical effect is that people of Iraq were liberated from Saddam's regime and are being given the means to set their own course. I don't deny that we invaded Iraq and that Americans occupy the country, it's just that commenters here are emphasizing the means (for their political advantage) and not the ultimate ends, which remain noble despite the rash of hiccups along the way. Also, maybe it's just me, but I'd be a little nervous adopting the exact same terminology that blokes like Zarqawi use. They know they're in an Information War just as much as a hot war, and they're pressing it to full advantage. Finally, when the Iraqi people are asked, most answer that they want coalition members in-country until they're ready to handle it themselves. This defines our being there more as a presence than an occupation, which connotes images of Germany occupying France in WWII.

Also not emphasized is that there is another group attempting an invasion and occupation of Iraq, and that would be Zarqawi and his group al Qaeda in Iraq, since he and roughly 80% of his band are non-Iraqi.

if that's too much to ask, then just please, please don't call us liars when we keep using the language the way it was used before, OK?

When did I call you a liar, Trickster? Oh yeah, I didn't, but you have no hesitatancy trotting it out. You are being a hypocrite. Lift that bale, hoist that straw, get off your high horse.

The proper name for a war as CB (and much of the Base) seems to conceive it is Crusade.

Wrong answer, Charley.

At the time Germany declared war on us, Phil, Germany was democratic but it was not free. Ask any Jew. Oops, you can't.

I can't ask a Jew if Germany was free and democratic at the time it declared war on the U.S.? Wait, let me call my dad.

"Dad, was Germany free and democratic in 1941?"

"More or less, son; the Germans were certainly in no hurry to be rid of Hitler or the NSDAP. In fact, they generally supported him and his lebensraum and Judenfrei goals with great enthusiasm."

"Thanks, dad!"

There, I asked a Jew. Seems I can, after all.

The implication of your argument, by the way, is that the United States was not free or democratic at the time it, say, drove the Indians off their lands and onto reservations thousands of miles away. Or at the time it interned the Japanese and Japanese-Americans. I don't expect you to understand that these are the implications of your argument, of course; in fact, I expect you to deny it.

A general comment about "invasion/occupation" and "liberate/rebuild". The goal re Germany/Japan was to defeat the regimes and rebuild those countries post-war.

Um . . . no. The rebuilding was simply a good idea, the kind of things you do to defeated opponents to make the world work a little better. It was never a goal of the war to rebuild those two societies. And if you're claiming it was, I want cites, and lots of them.

The means for doing so was invasion of those respective countries and occupation until they became free and democratic. The practical effect was that the people of both countries were liberated from these regimes and were given the means to set their own course.

Oh, brother. Again, Charles, and I want a straight answer: From whom did we liberate Germany and Japan? Who were the cowed populations of Germany and Japan who cheered our arrival?

I realize you're up against it here, Charles, having really stepped in it with this argument, but I am going to have to ask you, having made it, to please support it with contemporary (that is, contemporary to the WWII era) citations and arguments, not vague generalities.

I don't deny that we invaded Iraq and that Americans occupy the country, it's just that commenters here are emphasizing the means (for their political advantage) and not the ultimate ends,

Then why do you object so strenuously to the use of those terms?

The refusal to recognize that they are accurate, and the urge to substitute "liberate" and "rebuild" is what is propagandistic - an effort to gain political advantage. The use of plain descriptive terms is not.

To insist on "liberate" and "rebuild" is to render all criticism invalid from the start. Who can object to liberating people, and rebuilding their society?

As for Germany and Japan, I again endorse Phil's points. The objective was to defeat them. Rebuilding came later, and in the case of Germany at least was actually somewhat controversial, inspired by the Soviet threat as much as by altruism. In any case, it is somewhat circular to say that rebuilding these countries was a war aim when they would not have needed any rebuilding had there been no war.

I'm pretty sure that by this time next year we will be debating the meaning of "victory" since Bush really has no choice at this point but to declare victory and do some well-publicized pullouts.
I kind of like "liberate" as a description of our involvement in Iraq. It has connotations of theft for political or military purposes which makes its application to Iraq somewhat apropo. Also the term reminds me of Communist rhetoric used to justify the unjustifiable, the Liberation Front of This or That, etc.
Seriously, it takes a tin ear for rhetoric to apply a word like "liberate" to Iraq. But maybe it's the term that will be dragged out next year to make the pullouts look like a positive achievement. After all, other than "liberating" the Iraqis from Saddam, we have failed at every aspect of the situation.

I think it's actually an interesting question when the US decided to commit to a massive reconstruction policy in Germany and Japan.

I'm reluctant to endorse Phil's call for evidence, because then somebody might ask me for evidence for anything I've said, and I prefer to stick to irresponsible speculation.

But I did just have a quick look at Roosevelt's two Declarations of War* (against Japan, and against Germany & Italy), and there is certainly nothing about pledging to rebuild them, democratize them, liberate them, etc.

In fact, what comes out from reading them is the fact that the US really had its back to the wall, and it would have been laughably over-optimistic even to *propose* that we were going to turn these countries into democracies. We just wanted to keep from being enslaved by them.

That's kind of how it is with a war of self-defense, i.e. not a war of choice.

I guess after WWI there was more of this sort of optimistic, forward-looking talk (making the world safe for democracy). And after WWII, the example of what the punitive reparations regime had produced after WWI may have encouraged a more humane approach to Germany. (Keynes had famously written against the reparations regime back in the early '20s, and may have had some influence in the late '40s).

But all this had to wait until we actually had the fascist boot off our necks.

So was it Marshall's famous memo? Some of you readers know a lot more about history than I do, so'd I be interested to hear.

*Declarations of War--these were a quaint custom formerly observed in the US whereby the Executive asked the permission of the Legislature before starting major wars. But the custom had nothing behind it other than the force of the Constitution, so it withered away.

The goal re Germany/Japan was to defeat the regimes and rebuild those countries post-war.

No. The goal was to win the war, and destroy the regimes. I'm not aware of any public discussions by the government prior to the end of the war that suggested we needed to liberate or "rebuild" their societies. If it existed, I'll bet that it was minimal. Moreover, I'll bet there was a fair bit of widespread opposition to the plan; my recollection is that they named it "The Marshall Plan" in order to use Marshall's credibility to actually get through the Congress.

We "rebuilt" those societies for our own good - avoid future war, have viable trading partners, etc. Noble ideals had d*ck to do with it.

commenters here are emphasizing the means (for their political advantage) and not the ultimate ends

In part, because nobody really believes that we (or any government) acts for noble intent. Over the long term, we act for our self-interest. If the "effects" are noble, so much the better. But nobody believes that's the controlling interest. (See our prior support for Saddam, Chile, any number of acts in banana republics, etc.) We'll follow our controlling interest, which is why we'll turn over Iraq to a Shi'a government with close ties to Iran. Or leave it to its civil war.

It is simply disingenous to use language that suggests the clear existence of goal that isn't clearly a goal or controlling interest. Why not simply relabel the Iraq War as "The War Against Cancer"? My recollection is that there are a fair number of biology specialists in Iraq, and everybody hates cancer.

We also invaded and occupied Japan and Germany, but it would be more accurate to say that we liberated both and have a presence in both as well. Same goes for Iraq. Far as I'm concerned, the more truer and more accurate the description, the less Orwellian it is.

"I would like to ask you a question."

"Do so."

"What happened to Brother Murduck?"

There was the merest suggestion of hesitation in the rhythm of Vorbis's stick on the cobbles. Then the exquisitor said, "Truth, good Brutha, is like the light. Do you know about light?"

"It ... comes from the sun. And the moon. and stars. And candles. And lamps."

"And so on," said Vorbis, nodding. "Of course. But there is another kind of light. A light that fills even the darkest places. This has to be. For if this metalight did not exist, how could darkness be seen?"

Brutha said nothing. This sounded too much like philosophy.

"And so it is with truth," said Vorbis. "There are some things which appear to be the truth, which have all the hallmarks of truth, but which are not the real truth. The real truth must sometimes be protected by a labyrinth of lies."

He turned to Brutha. "Do you understand me?"

"No, Lord Vorbis."

"I mean, that which appears to our senses is not the fundamental truth. Things that are seen and heard and done by the flesh are mere shadows of a deeper reality. This is what you must understand as you progress in the Church."

"But at the moment, lord, I know only the trivial truth, the truth available on the outside," said Brutha. He felt as though he was at the edge of a pit.

"That is how we all begin," said Vorbis kindly.


Charles in post: "I agree that we have to call this a war. After all, our enemies call it such and al Qaeda has in fact declared war against us."

Charles today at 12:03: "Also, maybe it's just me, but I'd be a little nervous adopting the exact same terminology that blokes like Zarqawi use."

If the enemy is using a propaganda term, then obviously we don't follow along. But if the enemy says that black is black, it's not incumbent upon us to start saying that black is white, or that it's new-and-improved freedom-flavored.

I think CharleyCarp is wrong to accuse Charles of wanting a Crusade (though right when the attributes that view to "much of the Base" -- yes, I caught the capitalization). Charles, unlike Tacitus and a large proportion of the right, has been reasonably clear that we're not at war with Islam -- at least in what I've read from him.

Tad,

Meanwhile, a president who understood the real nature of this war would have been doing something about US energy dependence (instead of going on endless vacations, gutting environmental regs, discouraging gas-mileage improvements, and shoveling money to his Saudi play-mates).

Seems like Bush isn't doing a very good job of shoveling money to his Saudi play-mates. Our use of Saudi oil has actually decreased since 1991 from 1.8m barrels per day to 1.6m barrels per day in 2004.

http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/international/petroleu.html#IntlTrade>http://www.eia.doe.gov

Since you feel free to claim Bush is shoveling money to his Saudi playmates and the reality is that we are using less oil from Saudi Arabia are you now going to praise Bush for helping us to be overall less dependant on Saudi oil than we were in 1991.

Wonder Why: I doubt the point was just about money for direct exports, but if it was, how would you compare the price of 1.6 million barrels today to the price of 1.8 million barrels in 1991? And of course, oil being fungible, one need not have us buying Saudi oil in order to keep the money flowing to SA.

KC: I take your point, but think my observation remains valid wrt Charles. He's looking (it seems to me) for more of a secular crusade, but a crusade nonetheless.

Phil: I think you're using the word 'liberate' differently than CB. He's looking at more of an objective test: are people freer after the conduct than they were before. Germans, Sioux, Tibetans are all 'freer,' depending on what you measure, than they were before. I would restrict the use of the term to consensual situations, rather than applying an objective test, and I think you would too.

WRT Iraq, I wonder whether Grand Ayatollah Sistani feels liberated. I would guess that he probably does. And probably also occupied, but maybe more the former than the latter. But then the Ayatollah Khomenei undoubtedly felt liberated after the removal of the Shah . . .

CharleyCarp--

Yup, that's what I would say to WonderWhy, i.e. if we are putting out more money on oil, and the Saudis are taking in more money, then the number of barrels that go straight from there to here is irrelevant. That's how a fungible commodity works. There needn't be a literal barrel moving from their well-head to our cars.

Should I also point out that there needn't be a literal shovel?

We didn't go to war in order to liberate Germany and Japan. If not for Pearl Harbor, we might not have gone to war at all.

FDR certainly wanted to go to war against Germany; Congress and the American people, mostly, did not. There were a lot of isolationists and Nazi sympathizers - in Congress, in the business community, and among the general population. FDR had to support the Allied effort in indirect ways, like the Lend Lease program.

Then came Pearl Harbor; and Germany, as Japan's ally, obligingly declared war on the US. Thus our entry into WWII, 2 years after it actually began. The intent was to stop an imperial aggressor that looked quite capable of conquering the world because it had already conquered Europe (except for England) and China.

Rebuilding Japan and Germany was not among the reasons we joined WWII in progress. The Marshall Plan came much later - again, despite a great deal of opposition from Congress, and notably from Republicans. Nobility was a component, but not the main reason. The main reason was pragmatic. The ruinous, abusive "peace" imposed on Germany after WWI was a direct cause of WWII.

Saying we went to war against Germany and Japan for the purpose of liberating and rebuilding them is a startling bit of historical revisionism. It's even more startling because WWII wasn't all that long ago - many people who were adults when it began are still alive - and the pre-war, war and post-war eras, as well as the debates and policies surrounding them, comprise a well-documented historical record.

I'm at a loss to understand why CB is offering so inaccurate and revisionist a take on WWII. It can't be ignorance. Perhaps he's just trying out his propaganda skills.

Phil: I think you're using the word 'liberate' differently than CB. He's looking at more of an objective test: are people freer after the conduct than they were before. Germans, Sioux, Tibetans are all 'freer,' depending on what you measure, than they were before. I would restrict the use of the term to consensual situations, rather than applying an objective test, and I think you would too.

Absolutely I would, and even if Charles is trying to use it the way you describe, it still doesn't make any sense: By that measure, Hawaii was "liberated" by the U.S. Marines, since prior to the U.S.-backed coup it was a monarchy, while afterwards it was annexed to a democratic republic. It's an absolutely ludicrous, contextless way to use the word. By his measure, would Charles claim that the FLN liberated Algeria?

Maybe -- maybe -- the word he's trying to use is "liberalize," but it has nothing to do with "liberation." I cannot imagine a decent WWII historian who would claim with a straight face that we "liberated" Germany or Japan.

I actually didn't speak to the overall dollar sign. But, I think we can conclude that Bush isn't as effectively shoveling money to Saudi Arabia as say, Bill Clinton. If he was he would work to make us as dependant on Saudi Arabian oil as Bill Clinton did.

I have never heard anyone claiming that Bill Clinton was a more effective shoveler of money to Saudi Arabia than George Bush.

Is it not more likely that bin Laden received more money out of Saudi Arabia during the Clinton administration?

CB: "The goal re Germany/Japan was to defeat the regimes and rebuild those countries post-war. The means for doing so was invasion of those respective countries and occupation until they became free and democratic. The practical effect was that the people of both countries were liberated from these regimes and were given the means to set their own course."

I'm sorry, but as a historian I must add my voice to those who regard these statements as either ignorant or dishonest. I've done some reading (and lecturing) on the American occupation of Japan, in particular, and I cannot think of *any* serious historian who would state that our "goal" in the Pacific War was "to rebuild" Japan. Our goal was to defeat Japan, and (originally) to deprive it of the power ever to wage aggressive war again, if necessary by reducing it to rural poverty (cf. the "Morgenthau plan" for Germany).

That we happened to contribute to the industrial rebuilding of Japan, and to liberalizing it (up to a point), was due to a conjunction of _postwar_ forces, including a desire to build up Japan as part of our Cold War defense perimeter in Asia. As these things go, that was a relatively happy ending, and many historians would agree with me that, on balance, the Allied (= American) Occupation was a Good Thing. But it was an occupation, NOT a liberation, in contrast with the US reconquest of the Philippines (from Japanese forces) in 1944-45, which was, and still is, generally referred to in the Philippines as "the Liberation."

Is it not more likely that bin Laden received more money out of Saudi Arabia during the Clinton administration?

OBL himself, or the bin Laden family?

cause, if you wanna talk about the president who supported OBL the most, well, you gotta go back a couple more... all the way to St Ronnie

As another historian, I must also heartily endorse this from dr. ngo:

That we happened to contribute to the industrial rebuilding of Japan, and to liberalizing it (up to a point), was due to a conjunction of _postwar_ forces...

Virtually the same could be said about our treatment of Germany. The Morgenthau "Plan" was hardly Administration policy, but it made for some wonderful Nazi propaganda when it was played up by Goebbels in 1943.

Our postwar planning for Germany was, frankly, a mess until the Marshall Plan appeared in 1947-48. Weren't wingnut websites recently reposting Time magazine headlines from 1946? The ones which pointed out that Germany was a train wreck and our policy had to change? The lesson was supposed to be: "See? Germany turned out fine!"

But of course it "turned out fine" because: the Cold War started up; Britain and France couldn't afford to carry their sectors economically; and New Deal Democrats under Truman laid out an expensive, altruistic program of rebuilding. Republicans in Congress (barely) went along, largely because of the internationalist wing led by Sen. Vandenberg and Marshall's imposing arguments.

Take a look some time at the pictures of Cologne in 1945, or Hamburg, or Berlin. If that is "liberation," it is of a particularly violent kind. We weren't aiming to "liberate" Germany. We were aiming to crush the nation, and we did.

Wonderwhy - Read the just-passed energy bill. Note that even the lobbyists don't try to say that it reduces our dependence on foreign oil --- if anything, it increases it.

There, I asked a Jew. Seems I can, after all.

OK, Phil, I'll accept what your dad said and I stand corrected, and will conclude that it was just the countries that were conquered by Germany who were unfree. Germany itself was a veritable beacon of freedom. But it seems odd that your Jewish dad could say something like that when, had he lived in Germany up until the time they declared war on the US, he should've been stripped of his citizenship in 1935 and experienced Kristallnacht in 1938. He would have to have been one of those quiet and obedient types in the 1930s, a time when 100,000 or so Gestapo purged any political opponents they saw as a threat, killing or disappearing tens of thousands. Obviously, your dad couldn't have been one of the 400,000 in the 1930s who underwent compulsory sterilization. He could not have been an abstract or avant garde artist, since those paintings were tossed out of museums. He would not've been a black marketeer, since those folks were sent to concentration camps or shot on the spot. He could not've been a businessman since "industry was closely regulated with quotas and requirements to use domestic resources. These regulations were set by administrative committees composed of government and business officials. Competition was limited as major companies were organized into cartels through these administrative committees. Selective nationalization was used against businesses that failed to agree to these arrangements." The Nazis must've skipped right over him in 1941 when Jews were forced to wear yellow stars in public and most were transferred to ghettoes, setting the stage for the "final solution". Source: wikipedia

Yep, Nazi Germany was sure a free country all right. Not. I find it supremely odd that, to you, it's my credibility that's in question. Whatever, pal.

Thank you for that illuminating history of the Holocaust, Charles. I had never, ever heard of it before now, so your information was really useful. Of course, it would have been easier to admit that your, "Ask a Jew. Oops, you can't" formulation was just so much stupidity; they aren't extinct, Charles.

Who did we liberate Germany from, Charles?

Who did we liberate Japan from, Charles?

Where are your contemporary cites illustrating that the Allied goals for WWII were to liberate and rebuild Germany and Japan, Charles?

I may make a useful punching bag for you to use to look smarter than you are, but I'm not the only one asking the questions. I know you hate to come back to threads in which you toss this bullshit out and actually answer the tough followup questions that people ask, preferring instead to hit what you feel are the softballs; it is, indeed, the very key to why people consider you less credible than other front-page posters here.

But, alas, you've made a proposition: That it was the goal of the Allies during WWII to liberate and rebuild the societies of Germany and Japan. A proposition that not only I, but Bob M., Bernard, Dr. Ngo, Stickler, Bruce Baugh, Tad Brennan, and SomeCallMeTim have called into question. If you can't back it up, then at least be honest enough to admit you simply made it up. Pal.

I find it supremely odd that, to you, it's my credibility that's in question. Whatever, pal.

This would partially be because you've just been smacked around by two professional historians (hi dad!), not to mention innumerable other posters, and have bravely risen to the challenge by... not even acknowledging their responses. Which, come to think of it, seems to be your standard MO. It really would make a nice change of pace for you to try, though.

The refusal to recognize that they are accurate, and the urge to substitute "liberate" and "rebuild" is what is propagandistic - an effort to gain political advantage. The use of plain descriptive terms is not.

You've just entered Reuters' world, Bernard, where the use of "terrorist" is a value judgment since one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Zarqawi is a "militant" since that is an accurate description. Using "terrorist" to describe him would be "propagandistic".

On another matter, I stand corrected that our goal prior to completion of WWII was reconstruction of Germany/Japan. It was a mistake to write that particular item. Those goals were established after the war.

I cannot imagine a decent WWII historian who would claim with a straight face that we "liberated" Germany or Japan.

Phil, you are still afflicted with that reading disorder. This is what I wrote: "The practical effect was that the people of both countries were liberated from these regimes and were given the means to set their own course."

Of course, it would have been easier to admit that your, "Ask a Jew. Oops, you can't" formulation was just so much stupidity; they aren't extinct, Charles.

Do you realize how much of a jerk-off you sound like sometimes? But not to worry, pal, I've already banned myself today.

I cannot imagine a decent WWII historian who would claim with a straight face that we "liberated" Germany or Japan.

Phil, you are still afflicted with that reading disorder. This is what I wrote: "The practical effect was that the people of both countries were liberated from these regimes and were given the means to set their own course."

God damnit, Charles . . . I am going to CHARITABLY ASSUME that you have a very, very short memory and are not a lying, butt-covering piece of crap, because what you wrote was:

Depends on where you sit, Bernard. We also invaded and occupied Japan and Germany, but it would be more accurate to say that we liberated both and have a presence in both as well.
You want to claim that your later comments were designed to illuminate further, fine, but don't sit here and tell me I can't read when you damned well wrote exactly what I said you did.

On another matter, I stand corrected that our goal prior to completion of WWII was reconstruction of Germany/Japan. It was a mistake to write that particular item. Those goals were established after the war.

Just so. LIKE I SAID. And to be even more charitable, I will back off from claiming that, as an objective matter, Germany was "free and democratic," and claim instead that ethnic Germans had exactly the Germany and the Leader that they preferred, and were indeed in absolutely no hurry to be "liberated." In fact, they were more than a little ticked off about it. Japan, however, was not "liberated" by us in any way, shape or form. You're simply incorrect on the matter.

Do you realize how much of a jerk-off you sound like sometimes?

Indeed I do. I've never claimed otherwise. Nor do I pretend to hold myself to a higher standard. Meanwhile, mote, beam, blah blah blah. You know, from that book by that guy you claim to worship or whatever.

I've said it once before and I'll say it again, Charles Bird is nuts.

Wow--

I don't know whether Mr. Bird's "I've already banned myself" line was in earnest or not, but, well, if this was any other poster, surely they *would* be banned?

I mean--hilzoy was just reminding johnt that the posting rules prohibit obscenity and incivillity. Calling another poster a "jerk-off" strikes me as a violation of both.

And it makes it worse, not better, that Mr. Bird is a member of the collective. And it makes it worse, not better, if Mr. Bird thought he could take this pot-shot and then "ban himself" for the rest of the day, as though that would immunize him from any further responsibility for this behavior.

Really--this behavior on Mr. Bird's part just strikes me as completely over the top--like Novak's walking off the set.

Phil put up with a great deal of abuse from Mr. Bird--including being lectured about the Holocaust--when Mr. Bird has been consistently, factually wrong throughout this thread, and Phil has been consistently, factually, accurate.

If there are any remaining grown-ups at ObWi--could you recognize this name-calling for what it is? I.e., decisive evidence that one of your posters needs a vacation, at least?

I mean--I have seen a fair bit of heat here at ObWi, but I never thought I would see the day when a poster was so ungracious to a commenter. You have really got to decide whether your posting rules mean anything.

And not just the rules, but the very attempt to have an open-minded collective in which people discuss important issues in a serious and fair-minded way. If the people in charge are going to argue so unfairly, and then throw insults at people who have proven them wrong, then we might as well be reading Powerline.

And that is something I never thought I would say about Obsidian Wings.

To be fair, Tad, I do push Charles's buttons, and I do it on purpose. I won't pretend that I don't and then run and hide behind the posting rules.

I do so because, while he's probably a decent man and loves his wife and kids and really believes he has the best interests of the world at heart, he also says a lot of things that are dangerously, ludicrously wrong and that I think need correcting.

Still, I do thank him for clearing up the mystery of why so much of my genealogy research ends in the mid 1930s in Europe. I was really having a tough time figuring that one out.

Yes, it did strike me that lecturing you and your father on the Holocaust--drawing on that authoritative primary source, Wikipedia--was akin to teaching Granny to suck eggs, only that Granny in this case had already put up Museums of Egg-Sucking in most large cities, had published several thousand Histories of Egg-Sucking Through the Ages, had a nephew Stephen who made a movie called "Egg-Sucker's List", had created a separate country for Victims of Improperly Sucked Eggs, and--well, was generally pretty well informed about the vacuum extraction of albumen.

And, no, the fact that you "push buttons" does not excuse this sort of name-calling. Maybe *you* need to play nicer--I don't know--but the posters need to set an example.

Charles: Tad is right. Violating the posting rules is not OK, period, and it's even less OK for those of us who actually post on the site. I reread Phil's comments, and while towards the end, they are angry (and frankly, I would be too, if I were Jewish and had just been lectured on the basic history of the Holocaust), they are not particularly uncivil, since in general he says things like: "If you can't back it up, then at least be honest enough to admit you simply made it up." Where the 'if' clause matters, and moreover, he's right (since if you didn't have any evidence for something, it would be accurate to say that you made it up.) Yours, on the other hand, were directly personal, and that violates the posting rules. And that's wrong.

Phil: recall that the posting rules also ban swearing (we don't want to set off people's workplace filters).

Judson: don't violate the posting rules.

I agree that we have to call this a war. After all, our enemies call it such

you fell for it too?

First off, I apologize to Phil and to anyone else who read my 12:42pm comment about him sounding like a jerk-off. Had I instead written that he made a jerk-off comment, that would've made all the difference, judging by how the posting rules are being interpreted here.

...(and frankly, I would be too, if I were Jewish and had just been lectured on the basic history of the Holocaust)...

Hil, both you and Phil are mischaracterizing. A recap:
4:28pm: I wrote: "Except for the small detail that both countries are free and democratic, Phil."
4:53pm: Phil: "Germany was both free and democratic before we beat them in the war, Charles. So was Japan."
12:03: I wrote: "At the time Germany declared war on us, Phil, Germany was democratic but it was not free. Ask any Jew." And this was where Phil got in his infantile little dig, because he then asked a Jew.
12:20pm: Phil: "Dad, was Germany free and democratic in 1941?"
Phil's dad: "More or less, son..."

Phil wrote nothing to contradict his dad, so as far as I'm concerned, anyone who writes something as bone stupid as Germany being democratic and free in December 1941 deserves to get a little WikiHistory 101 slapped on 'em. Phil can get petulant and complain about it (and he did), but he's the one who made the absurd and ludicrous claim that Nazi Germany was free. If he doesn't want to get shown obvious historical events, then he shouldn't have put forth such an idiotic statement in the first place. Doesn't matter if his dad said it or the Chancellor of Germany.

Phil, on the matter of liberate, the first definition: "To set free, as from oppression, confinement, or foreign control." Both peoples in Germany and Japan were oppressed in WWII, and after we defeated them, we planted free and democratic societies in both places, so of course the people were liberated. Other than your seemingly reflexive predisposition to oppose whatever I write, your contention that Germany and Japan were not liberated by the US strikes me as plain odd. Were they or were they not free before the war? Did they or did they not become free afterward? Who were agents that made this change?

Tad, the resemblance to Novak's stunt goes a little deeper. Novak likely walked off to avoid having to respond to later questions about the CIA leak. Similarly, Charles's temper tantrum and self-banning gets him out of responding to any of the points raised here. Then again, he's never needed an excuse to ignore people's arguments before.

Other than your seemingly reflexive predisposition to oppose whatever I write, your contention that Germany and Japan were not liberated by the US strikes me as plain odd.

And your contention that they were strikes not only me but about a dozen others in this thread, including professional historians, as plain odd. Given the choice between the accountant and the historians, I'll side with the historians.

I wrote: "At the time Germany declared war on us, Phil, Germany was democratic but it was not free. Ask any Jew." And this was where Phil got in his infantile little dig, because he then asked a Jew.

You left off, "Oops, you can't," which was actually the infantile statement, being, as it were, both false and silly. Had you written, "Do you think a German Jew in 1941 would have said Germany was free and democratic?" you may have had a point, but you had to go for clever and ended up missing.

By the way, for future reference, a quick way to get laughed off the podium in debate club, or to waste everyone's time, is to start an argument, "Webster's Dictionary defines X as . . . " Words have connotations beyond what appears in the dictionary. Thus it is with "liberate," and thus shall it always be.

Hmm, in historical retrospective would anyone argue that Japan and Germany were not liberated from authoritarian regimes and that those regimes were not replaced with more democratic regimes? Destroying the regimes was goal number one. Liberating the people of both countries was an side-effect, but one which certainly existed.

The result of WWII in Erfurt was perfectly consistent with the aims of WWII. I suppose you could argue that people in Erfurt were freer in 1955 than in 1940 -- and you'd be right, if you were talking about Jews, communists, and others not within the favored class of Nazis. Plenty of folks were less free, but that's how 'liberation' always works. (One of GWB's ancestors fled New York [iirc] during the Revolution, as a Loyalist. You can bet that his left-behind property wasn't respected, and liberation wasn't that attractive . . .)

I'm not as conversant in pre-war Japanese politics as I am wrt German: Phil, it is absolutely fair to say that Germans freely chose tyrany, and broadly supported it to the end. I'm less sure that this first point can be said of the Japanese. Is LJ still about?

I'm actually in the same time zone (ish) as you, playing mother hen to some Japanese students. Been meaning to say hello, but you guys do a lot of commenting during the day, and I usually am about a computer in the early evening.

Anyway, to the topic at hand, there is actually an interesting notion here, and it's unfortunate that it's not being explored. Chas has the notion of worldwide liberation that, had it been expressed a decade or two earlier, would be more at home with the far left.

As far as Japan is concerned, that is a very interesting question. Certainly, GHQ and MacArthur felt that Japan's warlike tendencies needed to be engineered out of the society, which is why the postwar constitution included women's suffrage. They also had a rather strong liberal tradition (in the 20's) and many of those people stepped forward immediately after the war. However, as the Cold War began, the US adopted (this is the Japanese viewpoint) what was termed the 'reverse course'.

Well, kids are out of class, I'll try and give some cites this pm. cheers, all.

Back as promised. As I said, this would have been a more interesting discussion if there had been some serious discussion of what it means to be 'liberated'. For Japan, a discussion of the Potsdam declaration and the circumstances that it arose from would have been far more enlightening.

As for Reverse Course, the Wikipedia article for reverse course is just a stub, and a contested one at that. However, there was a rather large movement to reinstate many of those were were purged from politics. This JPRI article is quite good for explaining some of the background. Also, this link, which is just course notes, has a very interesting section about liberation, which is.

# Occupation as liberation?

* Meant different things to different groups: Who was liberated? From whom or what? To do what?
* Occupation promotion of the 3 S's: screen, sports and sex

# What was meant by democratization?

* Political enfranchisement of new social sectors
* Development of personal autonomy
* Rejection of hierarchy, the past = the new
* Anything goes
* Anything American

The author of the JPRI article, Hans Baerwald, was a professor of Steve Clemons, and Clemons (he's a Japan hand, but is now doing an excellent inside the beltway blog, Washington Note) contrasts the Japan occupation with Iraq here

As I noted, the wikipedia talk page contests the very idea of a 'reverse course', but strangely enough, this state department page states that there was (though it uses quotes, so it is difficult to know exactly what is being argued.

One of my good friends in the history department here gave an excellent lecture on de-Nazification in Western-controlled Germany (specifically the US zones but a he talked about the British and the French too) and how various notions of defeat, conquest, victory, liberation and reconstruction interplayed to produce the West Germany of the Cold War era -- and at the same time, how the same forces played out in the Soviet zone, giving us the East Germany of the Cold War era, too. Fascinating stuff, which alas I'm not really qualified to recap.

By the way, for future reference, a quick way to get laughed off the podium in debate club, or to waste everyone's time, is to start an argument, "Webster's Dictionary defines X as . . . " Words have connotations beyond what appears in the dictionary. Thus it is with "liberate," and thus shall it always be.

Sadly, insulting the commenter and avoiding the questions are one of your typical forms of responding, Phil. Moving on, then.

Charles: you've been responded to by two professional historians, as well as numerous other commenters, all telling you that you're wrong. Yet you're the one accusing others of "avoiding the questions"?

Please.

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