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August 12, 2005


"Stabbed in the back" is sooooo 1919

As it was intended to be ;)

TBogg had a little to say about Hitchens recently.

I guess that the GOP White House, Senate and House can't compete with the vast resources of ANSWER and and their all consuming effort to support the terrorists.

Really, even accepting Hitch's absurd thesis that the 'far left' is the group most responsible for the current Iraq debacle, what does that say about the GOPs competitence to govern that a war can so easily be derailed by such small groups?

You know, what I can never figure out is this:

Who are these hateful liberals that keep on tormenting Hitchens and his ilk?

I mean, I keep company with a lot of people who, at least in the contemporary American scene, would be described as "left of center" or "liberal" or the like.

And I don't know *any* who hate America. I don't know *any* who like, admire, or wish to support any of the insurgents, terrorists, murderers, and thugs who are killing our troops in Iraq.

And if I did meet someone who supported Baathist Sunni murderers, or Zarqawi's Islamofascist terrorists, or any of the other murdering thugs, then I would be pretty sure that they were not liberals.

What I *do* know are people who think that America has been lied to, deceived, and duped into a war that turns out to be contrary to our national interests. People who have all sorts of different hopes and plans for how to make the best of a bad, bad situation.

The best plan was to fire the incompetents who created the bad situation.

We could have won this war with a new commander in chief. Not on the cheap, and not with lies. And not by withdrawing troops while pretending to be resolute. But by working with our allies, setting realistic objectives, leveling with the American people, and leveling with the world.

But that plan was undone in Ohio. Now we have to limp along with lying, torturing, half-wits in command of our beloved country.

I'm still hoping that a victory will emerge somehow. Given that the Republican leadership is spending most of its time nowadays trying to lower expectations (cf. Rep. Hunter's shifting of goal-posts), I may be more hopeful than the people in power are.

But what I think, and what people on the left think, really doesn't matter much in any case.

The extreme right-wing has the White House. It has the Senate and the House of Representatives. It has a complete lock on Washington D.C.--there might as well not be any Democrats left there, for all the power they have. Every military decision that gets made, every law that gets passed, is passed by the Rove/Bush/DeLay extremists these days. And the same extreme right wing owns the most vocal and influential media outlets.

So to suggest that the administration's current failures in the war in Iraq could *possibly* be the fault of a few forlorn, idle, liberals out here in blogospheric exile is--well, it's just a pretty clear sign of delirium.

It's like a drunk who smashes his car into a telephone pole and then swears that the pole jumped into his path. Sorry, pal--you're placing the blame where it couldn't possibly belong.

sorry--Fledermaus said most of what I said, better, while I was typing.

Tad: sometimes, when I read -- well, not anything by Hitchens, who I think has gone round some bend or other, but (say) Tom Friedman writing about liberal who secretly want the war to fail, I wonder: can there be such liberals, maybe in DC or someplace, among the people pundits hang out with? I don't mean this in a particularly partisan way -- on some level, I think that a lot of the people on the talk-show circuit etc. really have started to see politics as a game; maybe some of them take it to this extreme. Certainly there were conservatives in DC who got pretty close to wanting Kosovo to fail. Can this possibly explain any of these comments, which (speaking as a person with a large liberal acquaintance) strike me as not just bizarre, but deeply insulting?

Then I think: when I start getting into scenarios involving this strange a combination of bending over backwards to interpret someone charitably with deeply uncharitable assumptions about a phantom group of people, I should just stop and say: no, silly Friedman and Hitchens. No.

So to suggest that the administration's current failures in the war in Iraq could *possibly* be the fault of a few forlorn, idle, liberals out here in blogospheric exile is--well, it's just a pretty clear sign of delirium.

And yet, this reaction is commonplace throughout history. All you need are a legion of true believers and a glorious theory that reality unaccountability fails to live up to.

To be fair to the Hitchenses of the world, bless their cinder-like hearts, I've wondered to myself whether a defeat in Iraq significant enough to make Bushism radioactive for future generations of American leadership would in the long run be better for America, Iraq, and the rest of the world, and some days the answer appears to me to be "Yup".

It's sort of the rhyme of Bush's statement that he was disappointed that no WMDs were found in Iraq.

"whether a defeat in Iraq significant enough to make Bushism radioactive for future generations of American leadership"

I do not want a defeat in Iraq. In fact I am not sure "defeat" is possible. Iraq is not Lebanon, and pulling out under conditions of chaos and massive civil disorder will probably not even be physically possible.

I do, God help me, want conditions to be obviously and apparently bad enough...they are already this bad, they simply aren't being publicized...that the Bush and Republican failure in Iraq is universally accepted by the American people. Republicans can blame Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld if they like, although I do believe the smarter elites of the Party has yelled "mismanagement" without actually doing anything to change management.

In any case, my purpose will be to get a President in 2009, of either party, with the political capital to get a Republican Congress (likely) to admit woefully inadequate resources have been allocated and commit to doing the job right.

Campaign slogan for 2006 and 2008:"Draft and tax increases....or $10 gas, our only choices."

Crazy, huh. We're going over the cliff, to the worst of all possible worlds.

I'll second rilkefan's sentiment. I don't want us to get the idea that invasion is the preferred method of spreading our way of life, and so, more often than is appropriate, which for most, apparently, is ever at all, I think that it would be best if we lost.

It's awful.

But then I step back and I look at what the leadership has done -- and not done -- and I see that they didn't really want to win, either, not in the way that we are told they wanted to win (to defend us from a tyrant, to protect us from the tyrant's weapons, to leave democracy and stability and free market oil in the war's wake), and after that, it's not about winning and losing anymore, because winning and losing are their ideas, not mine, and none they really believe. It's another way of saying with us or against us, descended from the card trick that steers the mark into a choice with no alternatives.

Nobody will win, not us, not them, not Iran, not China. We'll all mumble along in the same old ad hoc way we always have done, though it will be much harder to hold things together for a while because of the mistakes we have made and because we have emboldened our competitors, and when things do come back together, there will probably be more than one pole about which they revolve.

We'll adjust.

If there was an opportunity to do some good, and I believe there was (as much as I feared that opportunity) it is long past and because of that, it is long past time we figured out how to just get out.

Just another variation on the right wing hate parade. Let's pretend that war critics are what cause the Iraq policy to fail, rather than the policy itself. Let's pretend that critics are secretly rooting for the enemy so that we can hate them that much more. Hatred makes it so easy to stay in denial about failure.

Just keep reminding them who screwed this pooch.

Every time a nut job rails about how lefties want the insurgents to win, just say -- NO, we want righties to admit they have flat out blown it, and cannot be trusted to get it right.

"I think that a lot of the people on the talk-show circuit etc. really have started to see politics as a game"

Yeah, that's interesting, because it brings Maureen Dowd to mind. And I actually can imagine saying, about her, that she would be happy to see America fail, provided that she could print some bit of snarky malice about it. Provided she can play her word games, her lame attempts at Dorothy Parker-like wit, she really doesn't care where the chips fall.

That said, I also don't think of her as a liberal. She has no political convictions at all, as far as I can tell; the game she is playing is a game about style, about coolness. She has been just as happy--more happy--to savage Gore and Kerry over the years as to savage Bush or Rumsfeld.

And she is deeply unserious--she has no idea that there are consequences for all of this, that people die, that nations prosper and wither. Like Bush himself--another person of deep unseriousness--she can be sure that she'll be completely insulated from the consequences.

Yeah, you know, taking Dowd as an example, I could almost convince myself that Hitch is right. If he's complaining about people like Dowd, or Kaus, then I can even join in some of his irritation. I'm just not sure I'd call these people liberals.

And, however irritated I am at them for their endless snark and lack of seriousness, I still think it is *ludicrous* to imagine that they have any effect on what's happening in Iraq.

I mean, I give Dowd some small share of the blame for 2000, because she thought it was more fun to ridicule Al Gore's sweater than to discuss issues. If she could have focused the electorate's mind on matters of substance, instead of diverting it to trivia, that might have made a difference.

But we can make up a long list of things that went wrong in Iraq, and what might be capable of putting it right. And the thing about that list is, *every one* of those items is in the control of the Rove/Bush/DeLay gang. Troop levels. Planning for the post-war. Control of borders. Amounts of armor. Bremer's regime. Negotiations with neighboring countries.

They have been given a *completely* free hand to run the war exactly as they like. There has been, and still is, no effective opposition to the war. They have exactly the situation in Iraq that they created for themselves.

None of the problems in Iraq are the result of the actions of pundits or columnists like Dowd. Much less the result of the attitudes of liberals.

Hilzoy, I'm struggling to get by your opening sentence. Certainly Hitchen's takes to task what he sees as capricious progressives, but I dont see anything "hateful" in his article.

OT (except for also falling in the category of things that make you depressed):

Army makes ludicrous, desperate arguments to prevent release of the Abu Ghraib videos, in court papers unsealed this afternoon (classic infodump timing).

Part of the problem is that some anti-Iraq war partisans view the entire debacle from such a radically different perspective than the pro-war folks that confusion is perhaps understandable. I don't want us to lose the Iraq war; I think it's already lost. I thought we'd end up about where we are now on the day the war started. (Actually, it's worse than I thought. I assumed we'd have a strongman in place by now. Instead it looks like we'll abandon Iraq to civil war.) At this point, it's purely an argument about minimizing damage for me.

Because I think the war is lost, my comments usually assume it. Perhaps pro-war partisans see that and think, "He's wishing that we'd lose it." But I really don't; I just don't want to waste time pretending I don't know how the movie ends.

And other times, I might point out how badly things are going for the purpose of convincing others, not that we will lose the war, but that we have lost it and always were going to lose it. This also might look like I want the war to go badly. Again, I really don't; I just want people to face up to the fait accompli.

I'm not sure how different this is than someone standing on the sidelines of a Communist regime saying, "This is going to end badly, because the economics make no sense." That person might not want the Communist state to fail; he just knows it's going to. So he's reduced to pointing out it's failures in hopes that it corrects its ways sooner rather than later. And someone is going to say that he wanted it to fail.

I think you're all reading this wrong. Of course the Republican brigade is going to try and rewrite history that somehow Ted Kennedy and the MSM cost us this victory. He does state that we liberals had nothing to do with the planning and implementation of this war and therefore are falsely to blame. But as usual, I get too worked up and didn't read the article.

nevermind, just read the article.

Should've known, kicks self.

when I read ... about liberal who secretly want the war to fail,... I wonder: can there be such liberals...

Well, Duh:

1) I've wondered to myself whether a defeat in Iraq significant enough to make Bushism radioactive for future generations of American leadership would in the long run be better for America, Iraq, and the rest of the world, and some days the answer appears to me to be "Yup".

2) I do, God help me, want conditions to be obviously and apparently bad enough...they are already this bad, they simply aren't being publicized...that the Bush and Republican failure in Iraq is universally accepted by the American people.

3) I'll second rilkefan's sentiment. I don't want us to get the idea that invasion is the preferred method of spreading our way of life, and so, more often than is appropriate, which for most, apparently, is ever at all, I think that it would be best if we lost.

You know, it's really not all that secret.

DaveC: "Duh"

Eloquently expressed, but I think you've missed some of the nuance above. I can rephrase if that would help you.

Has anyone noticed that "traditionalists" value spite over and beyond standards?

Spite fuels passion much more than principle.

And as for the other comments about how the Bushies messed everything up, I agree with Austin Bay:

As for Hitchens' “role reversal,” the spaghetti-spined members of the political class will always play the “nay game.” Angry accusations of incompetence, dereliction, and stupidity attract television cameras.

This is playing US politics when the situation in the world is that the terror suppoting regimes MUST CHANGE, and soon.


So then...why did you folks hand over a huge chunk of the Middle East over to Iran?

And let Bin Ladden have a vacation in Pakistan?

Maybe Hitch has been struck by the ghost of Orwell.

"Having written that book, which ironically nobody would publish until the war had ended, Orwell set about making amends. In December 1944, he used his regular 'As I Please' column in the Tribune to specifically repudiate the term 'objectively,' and apologized by name to individuals whose views he'd caricatured and whose loyalty to England he'd unfairly questioned. Blaming 'the lunatic atmosphere of war,' he explained that the habit of accusing political dissenters of 'conscious not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes harder to forsee their actions.' The example Orwell gave was a pacifist asked to be an enemy spy. An honorable pacifist, he argued, would never betray his country. 'The important thing is to discover WHICH individuals are honest and which are not,' he wrote 'and the usual blanket accusation merely makes this more difficult. The atmosphere of hatred in which [political] controversy is conducted blinds people to considerations of this kind. To admit that an opponent might be both honest and intelligent is felt to be intolerable. It is more immediately satisfying to shout that he is a fool or a scoundrel.'"

PM Posted by: Randy Paul | August 9, 2005 07:29

"You know, it's really not all that secret."

The Bush incompetence and failure? Glad you think so. Spread it around.

DaveC: Well, Duh:

Nothing positive to say about how Bush has conducted the invasion/occupation of Iraq?

Somehow that doesn't surprise me.

"This is playing US politics when the situation in the world is that the terror suppoting regimes MUST CHANGE, and soon."

I agree about the urgency of confronting global terror.

But blaming liberals is simply a red herring. There is *nothing* liberals can do to win or lose this war. We have no hold on the levers of power. They are all firmly in the hands of the Rove/Bush/DeLay gang.

Hitchens' article proves this pretty well, I think. He looks around at all the practical, concrete things that liberals could do to make a difference, and what does he find? Sister-city arrangements.

Of course! Why didn't I remember our super-weapon? Our war-winning, insurgent-crushing, diplomacy-finessing, ace-in-the-hole, sister-city arrangements? My god, *that* would destroy Zarqawi, seal the border, impound the loose IEDs, and restore the power grid, too!

I mean, it is so unbelievably lame. Can you imagine back in 2002, if some liberal had said "let us take charge here. Don't invade; we'll establish a sister-city relationship with Baghdad, instead". How the conservatives would have laughed--how I would have laughed, too.

No, this conflict--not the global war on terror, but the Iraq war--has been lost by bad military policy and bad diplomatic policy, nothing else. If it can be turned around, it will be turned around by better military policy and better diplomacy.

Over both of these things--the incompetence up till now and the possibility of improvement--liberals have no power whatsoever.

Blaming the administration's failures on liberals' refusal to clap louder is just like magic thinking. Why did this earthquake hit? It's because we didn't say the right prayers! Why didn't Rumsfeld send enough troops? Why were the munitions bunkers left open for looters? Why wasn't Zarqawi taken out when we had him in our sights before the war?

Look for a real cause, not a magic cause. Look at who had the power, who had their hands on the levers. This mess has happened because of Bush's incompetence. Not because liberals aren't wishing hard enough.

I think DaveC wants the Iraq war to fail so that conservatives can blame it on liberals and hate them even more.


Well, that has not been my experience of DaveC. There may be *some* conservatives like that, but if so I would doubt he is one of them. He and I have even wound up on the same side of some arguments when it comes to cultural issues. But even where we disagree, I think he deserves better than that.


The head of our fire-fighting team says we should throw gas on the flames. We're shocked by the stupidity and plead with him not to do it. As things get worse, we emphatically point out the failure and want to make sure everyone knows about it, hoping the idiot will be removed from power.

We're not happy that the fire got worse, and it's most certainly not what we wanted to happen. Now that it has happened we definitely want to make sure everyone knows not only that it happened, but that any competent leader should have known it would. Our hope was never that the fire would get worse, but that our stupid leader would lose the confidence of the team and be replaced, so that we could get better leaders who would make our side more successful in its endeavours.

It's pretty clear that Rilkefan and the others expressed something like this, rather than any hope that the war/fire would get worse. They didn't want things to get worse but knew that they would, and on that basis are happy to see the leader's incompetence become widely known in the hope that our side will get better leaders.

I guess we now know how Bush will spin defeat: blame the liberals. I expected that, I just wasn't sure if it would fly, given the facts. Of course facts don't matter to the faithful,but as polls show, the faithful is down to 38% or so and dropping. I really don't think the blame-the-liberals thing will fly. Everyone knows that this is Bush's war. After all, he's laid claim it it himself a gazillion times.
It is interesting that an effort is being made to spin defeat. Does that mean there is an expectation of defeat? Or an acknowledgement of it? I wonder how widespread this acknowledgement is amongst conservative opinion leaders and spinmeisters. I wonder if a feeling of defeat has penetrated the administration itself.
It seems obvious that the Bush administration is floundering. We are witnessing, all at more or less the same time: 1. Bush's advisors trying to rename his policy and recast its basic assumptions, 2. while Bush himself repudiates their efforts and admits tht he wasn't included in their discusssions,3. a support-the-troops Nuremberburg rally planned to raise support for the war ,4. proposals being made for pullouts starting next year, 5. and efforts to spin defeat beginning.
So which is it, dear Bush supporters? Are we about to lose? Are we going to stay the course? Are we gong to change the course? Are we going to declare victory and leave? All of the above at the same time? Are we going to win?
And the weird thing is no one knows how to define victory. I guess if you can't define victory, defeat is pretty much inevitable.
It is a real dilemna for the Bush admin. and REAL dilemnas must be very frustrating to them since they abjure the real world for thhe world of faith. But Iraq is out there, out of their control, where election fraud, a cowardly press, and a well-oiled spin machine can't save them.

DaveC: You know, it's really not all that secret.

If it's really not all that secret, might I suggest you toddle on over to Volokh's and take him up on his challenge? The commenters there sure could use some support.

I wrote this to Andrew Sullivan the day after the Iraqi elections back in January of this year. It didn't involve my hoping the US would lose the war, but it is close enough to be relevant. And it involves a distinction that others have been making up above, which I think is essential to providing DaveC and others with a good answer.
In a burst of triumphalist candor, one of your readers admits that the Right has systematically stonewalled and covered up Bush’s failures. Because I think honesty is a moral value, I want to applaud his confession, and follow his lead even to the point of admitting something embarrassing.

This morning [1/31], mixed with my relief that yesterday’s death-toll in Iraq wasn’t higher, and my joy over the amazing demonstration of people-power, I was ashamed to detect in myself a trace of disappointment that things had not gone worse. Hoping for failure? Isn’t that clear evidence that I hate America, or am just deeply irrational?

Well, I can rule out America-hating—maybe there are some cartoon lefties who hate our country, but I’ve never been one of them. So how could it be rational for me to harbor even a fraction of a wish for a disaster, when everything I hold dearest—the future of my country, of my children, of democratic ideals—is tied up with the success of democracy in Iraq?

How could it ever be rational to wish for a car-crash, when you and the things you love are riding in the car?

Easy. If you are strapped into a car and a notorious drunk-driver is at the wheel, it is perfectly rational to hope he crashes before he gets out of your drive-way, in order to avoid an even more catastrophic crash on the highway.

It is perfectly rational to hope that your own car will suffer a minor embarrassing crash, so that you and your friends can wrestle the keys out of his hands and avoid a major crash that will total the car and kill all its occupants.

Bush is a serial drunk-driver. I have watched in horror as he has lurched from one hit-and-run to another, leaving victims in his wake—spending like a drunken sailor, impoverishing my grandchildren for decades to come with his deficits, lying about WMD before, during and after the invasion, turning decent US soldiers into torturers and deviants at Abu Ghraib, ruining America’s reputation overseas for a generation.

After a close and bitter election he is even more drunk on power and arrogance, and I am horrified at the carnage he may create next. I keep waiting for sober voices to take the keys away, but his enablers are always there to deny that there are any problems, to claim that actually that screeching plunge into the ditch was part of the plan all along. So his cronies egg him on, making him more drunk, more reckless, and more dangerous.

And so I’m left hoping for some small catastrophe—please God make it a small one—that will still be big enough to sober everyone up, to make them realize how dangerous this drunk-driver is. It would have been terrible if things had gone badly yesterday—but less terrible than if Bush’s enablers use this minor triumph to justify lurching into Iran, or destroying Social Security, or attacking gays, or invading Pakistan, or whatever insane scheme these people will come up with next.

Yes, you Bush-lovers, you won the election, and for another few years there’s no way for me to wrestle the keys out of his hands. But please, for the sake of the country that we both love, don’t keep lying about the road-kill he has left behind. Try to keep him from running down any more innocent victims. Don’t feed his arrogance by pretending that every lying change of rationale was part of the plan all along. Use his many documented failures to rein in his ungodly ambitions, for the good of the country we all love.

When you can admit Bush’s failures along with America’s successes, and not follow him blindly into disaster after disaster, then my heartfelt hopes for America’s success will not have to be mixed with a conflicted hope for Bush’s failure.

So here's the thing, DaveC. People are slinging around charges of treason. That means acting against the best interests of your country. What you quoted in your "duh" note were examples of people hoping that Bush's plans will suffer a minor tactical defeat, in order for the country to avoid major, strategic defeats. That's why allegations of treachery just aren't supported here. These are people who want America to succeed, not fail. And that makes a difference.

and see what Dan Savage has to say on Sully's blog today.

Never mind left and right, I always have to puzzle over which Savage is Dan and which is Michael. I was more worried than usual about Sullivan's sanity for a minute there.


Slightly off topic, but this IMHO is Dan Savage's best column ever.

Meanwhile, a truly chilling editorial on the consequences the Iraq war has had on our ability to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions.

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