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July 31, 2006

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DiRita still has his job, but he hasn't gotten a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Yet

Is this something that many right-wingers believe?

I mean, "Freedom" is something to be given?

Like you give a child “freedom”?

What happened to inalienable rights?

DiRita slammed his fist down on the table. "We don't owe the people of Iraq anything," he said. "We're giving them their freedom. That's enough."

.....

I'm sorry. I meant to make a more intelligible comment. But you know... *gubbles* I have no idea what Tacitus thinks about it now, of course, but back in late 2003, Tacitus was so enthusiastically supportive of the sensible idea that reconstruction money should be going to Iraqis, not to Americans, that he was actually startled to find ("God help us" I think was his reaction) that this was my contribution to that discussion thread. Yeah, even Tacitus.

And though Moe Lane ignored the fact that Bush intended to sell off most of Iraqi industry to foreign bidders, he publicly said reason for supporting Bush over Kerry was because he'd been told that Kerry wanted the Iraqis to pay for reconstruction, and he felt this was fundamentally wrong - and in and of itself enough reason for him never to support Kerry. (It was, of course, the reason why he should never have supported Bush, but as I recall he would not pay attention to any links showing that it was Bush who wanted to rook the Iraqis, not Kerry.)

I wonder - I mean, I doubt this is getting discussed over at RedState, but I do seriously wonder: How do those conservatives who publicly stated that they wanted reconstruction money to go to Iraqis, that they wanted the US to provide reconstruction funding to Iraq as a necessary part of the occupation - how do they feel about it now? Have they simply reversed their opinions on the basis that whatever the Bush administration wanted is right? Or have they found a way of blaming "the liberals" for what the Bush administration did? Or are they just ignoring the whole issue as "old news"?

The military failures in Iraq have been hashed over and over, and it is difficult to pinpoint a single cause of failure (well, it's not: the Bush administration's decision to go ahead with the invasion of Iraq even though it was impossible to have 350 000 troops to do it with - but that amounts to saying: It was impossible to succeed so it shouldn't have been done).

But the failure of the reconstruction in Iraq had an absolutely clear-cut cause: the belief that it should be profitable to US companies first, and beneficial to the Iraqi people second. (Well, there was also the additional factor, what you might call the Chile Mistake: the belief that it's possible to completely deconstruct a nation's economy and rebuild it according to academic theories.)

I've been immortalized! And since I've also started using a real e-mail address when I comment, that means I'm almost a real live boy.

These days, I try not to think too hard about the missed chances in Iraq. It's just too depressing.

But the failure of the reconstruction in Iraq had an absolutely clear-cut cause: the belief that it should be profitable to US companies first, and beneficial to the Iraqi people second.

Oh, if only it were so. It wouldn't have been nearly as good as letting the Iraqis do it, but something would have been built. It went further than that, only politically connected U.S. companies got cut in. And in the nature of these things, like with Katrina, not much actually got done.

I have no idea what Tacitus thinks about it now...

Let's see. Ah:

Pluralism never really had a chance in the Muslim world. There is diversity, to be sure, but it is an uneasy thing, and peace within it must be maintained by the stamp of the oppressor's boot, or the political supremacy of the non-Muslim....

....What is detestable is a United States Army worn down year after year interposing itself simply to keep savage men from doing savage things to the chronically ungrateful.

Tim: It wouldn't have been nearly as good as letting the Iraqis do it, but something would have been built.

Nope. The no-bid contracts going to politically-connected foreign companies was just an added extra designed to make the Bush administration look even worse. To unemployed Iraqis, it didn't really matter if the American company who got the contract (and brought in American workers to carry out the work) got it through a fair bidding process or by political connections.

Of course, a truly fair and open bidding process would have meant that more of the work would have been done by Iraqi companies, which would have been good, but the goal of the reconstruction process ought to have been to get double value for each dollar by both using the money to pay for reconstruction and letting the money flow into the Iraqi economy by hiring Iraqis with it to do the work.

Any non-Iraq companies or non-Iraq employees would have brought down the value of the reconstruction process, especially with all employees of nationalized companies (that is, the majority of Iraqi industry) having their employment in stasis while the Bush administration tried to invent a legal way of selling off Iraqi industry to the highest bidder.

I honestly cannot imagine what alternate reality the President is living in: the idea that allowing Israel to devastate a fledgling democracy, in ways that could easily cause its government to crumble, counts as working to promote democracy in the Middle East is just too much for me to wrap my mind around.

Very well stated, hilzoy; that reflects my feelings exactly.

Having some very uncomfortable familiarity with sub-stratas of Xian culture that are virulently anti-Semitic, I have a strong, reflexive antipathy to criticizing Israel, because "the Jooos" and their purported perfidy are a repugnant theme with which I was raised. Certainly I advocate that Israel has the right to defend itself, and I'm suspicious of those who either don't, or whose "well of course, buts" don't seem fair to the Jewish state.

But that all said, I thought Iraq was supposed to, by benign infection, lead to things like the Cedar Revolution and thereby justify the enormous cost in blood and treasure. It is nothing short of surreal, then, for Bush and the neocons to endorse an aerial bombing campaign which destroys the young democratic govt in Lebanon, which will not be left a power vacuum unfilled.

Making a cartoon villain of Israel bothers me, yet I cannot see how what it is doing to Lebanon can end in other but disaster, as it already has for many innocents there. Surely it can't be anti-Semitic to acknowledge that reality?

...hand power over to them, and get out of there in three to four months...

Well, they thought that Chalabi would pick up right where Hussein left off.

Mr. Chalabi told them so himself.

But something's gone terribly wrong...

Mona: I don't think it is. -- One of the interesting and unexpected features of living in Israel was that it both heightened my appreciation of anti-Semitism (not that I hadn't appreciated it before, but living in a country where the memory of the Holocaust is a palpable daily presence will heighten just about any appreciation), but also made me more aware of the damage done by accusations of anti-Semitism made too quickly. And the main damage, I thought, was not to the people so accused, but to the thought of the accusers.

There were a lot of people there who were extremely careful about such accusations, and I do not mean for an instant to deny that, or to imply anything about many, let alone most, Israelis. But: there were people I knew whose response to literally any criticism of Israel was that it reflected anti-Semitism (or, if the criticizer was Jewish, Jewish self-hatred.) For the most part these allegations were not directed at me (I was very silent for the first few months I was there, having concluded that I knew nothing at all about the world around me, and should therefore just shut up and listen); this meant that they were expressed more freely around me, and also that I could evaluate them more dispassionately. And I thought it was enormously damaging to the people who thought this way: to be able to dismiss literally any criticism, in advance, meant that they never had to question the wisdom of what they thought, or entertain the possibility that they might be wrong.

And never thinking that you might be wrong makes it much more likely that, at some point, you will be. So I also thought: it is no good for Israel to have such defenders.

So I ended up thinking: it is incumbent on each of us to work very hard not to be anti-Semitic, racist, thoughtless, ungenerous, (insert full list of things you don't want to be here); but also to be willing to say things that might be taken that way when, on reflection, we think that they are right. If you've done a good job of not being an anti-Semite in the first place, people will probably cut you slack on those rare occasions when you screw up. And that's much better for all concerned, Israel included, than just suspending judgment when it seems as though criticism might be in order.

(I have to say: this was also an excellent preparation for the PC wars of the 90s.)

`DiRita slammed his fist down on the table. "We don't owe the people of Iraq anything," he said. "We're giving them their freedom. That's enough."'

DiRita's deliberate obtuseness here is really something. I'm not surprised to see ideology triumph over logic, decency, or utilitarian considerations in public speeches--after all, we don't expect to hear honest challenges to our minds and hearts in that kind of discourse anymore. But in a policy meeting--it's as if DiRita has no brain of his own anymore. Doesn't he understand anything about how people think? You don't give the Iraqis stuff just because you want to be nice. You give it to them TO HELP YOU WIN THE WAR AND SURVIVE THE OCCUPATION! You give it to them because it involves them in supporting your regime!

All I can think of now is the Kaiser going on a month-long sailing trip after telling his ministers to support Austria, whatever happened. I guess it's my own naivete--how can people this stupid get to be so powerful?

"There were a lot of people there who were extremely careful about such accusations, and I do not mean for an instant to deny that, or to imply anything about many, let alone most, Israelis. But: there were people I knew whose response to literally any criticism of Israel was that it reflected anti-Semitism (or, if the criticizer was Jewish, Jewish self-hatred.) For the most part these allegations were not directed at me (I was very silent for the first few months I was there, having concluded that I knew nothing at all about the world around me, and should therefore just shut up and listen); this meant that they were expressed more freely around me, and also that I could evaluate them more dispassionately. And I thought it was enormously damaging to the people who thought this way: to be able to dismiss literally any criticism, in advance, meant that they never had to question the wisdom of what they thought, or entertain the possibility that they might be wrong."

Not to open a whole other can of worms, but I've seen this with friends and racism charges as well.

Horrors of anti-Semitism are well behind us; today the Jews as a group are among the most successful, influential and well protected ones.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of ethnic and religious minority groups that really do need our support and protection; millions of Palestinian Arabs, for example, or, say, Kosovo Serbs who are a thousand times more likely to become victims of a pogrom than any Jew these days.

Really, is this not obvious?

how can people this stupid get to be so powerful?

Power makes you stupid. Power tends to corrupt, of course, and one of the ways it corrupts people is intellectually.

how can people this stupid get to be so powerful?

I'm not sure it is necessarily stupid as opposed to uninformed. The more responsibility one has, the harder it is to see anything personally, and so the more you have to rely on subordinates to sum up data for you. I had a commander once who was almost completely cut off from what was happening in his brigade, because his Executive Officer and Operations Officer made sure that what made it to his desk told him what they wanted him to know. He was not stupid in any sense of the word, but he made some decisions that were unwise because they were based on bad data. I suspect the problem is even greater at the level of head of state.

Seb: yes; thus my last line. Although I try to be cautious about thinking that that's what's going on in any individual case, not just because charity is good in general, but because in the case of racism or anti-Semitism, there's a good reason to think that I, not being part of the discriminated-against group, would underestimate the amount of racism/anti-Semitism that's out there.

("The toad beneath the harrow knows
Exactly where each tooth-point goes.
The butterfly upon the road
Preaches contentment to that toad."

I am not the toad, in these cases. I do not want to be the butterfly.)

abb1: Probably you move in more enlightened circles, but I have encountered some pretty serious anti-Semitism, in this country (leaving aside other countries where it's probably more prevalent.) And I'm being fairly strict about what counts.

Example: I am sitting with some very rich white WASPs over dinner (don't even ask why). Many of them live in a nearby community, which I know has basically no blacks or Hispanics, a fact that I have always put down to a combination of its being very, very expensive to buy homes there and the fact that while I don't really see why anyone would want to live there, I have special problems seeing why anyone who wasn't rich and white would.

I have known for a while that the people I am having dinner with are pretty racist (again, just don't ask what I was doing there; it's a long story), but somehow I learn, to my amazement, that the community they live in has no blacks or Hispanics for a different reason: they have gone to the trouble of structuring it as a closely held stock corporation to evade fair housing laws and retain the right to exclude all sorts of people they don't like. I also learn that among the people they exclude in this way are those they refer to as "Hebrews".

The man who is telling me this is a lawyer, so I ask him: what, exactly, is it about the idea of having, say, Ruth Bader Ginsburg as your neighbor that you would find so objectionable? He says: oh, she'd be fine. But once you let one of them in, they'll push for more and more and more. That's just the way they are. I ask: Do you think that one person "pushing" would be likely to succeed against your community, with its long and very successful record of exclusion? And if, somehow, they did, what would be wrong with that? He looked at me as though I had come from Mars, and said something about Hebrews just changing the whole character of the place, and how they had their way of living, and he was sure it suited them just fine, but he had his, etc., etc.

I was just sitting there aghast. Shortly afterwards, I resigned from the position that had required me to sit through this dinner, and did so on the grounds that I just couldn't accept this stuff; since I did it in the best version of 'very clear, yet very polite' that I could muster, some change actually did ensue, though God knows not enough.

This was maybe ten years ago. I am still in touch with some of these people, though not the more egregious ones, and see no reason to think that it has changed. And I should add that these people are not just rich, but quite influential, on a state level.

Stunning, hilzoy.

The only bigots I know are my in-laws. They're almost proud of it. They have this thing about black people that I'm almost positive stems from my FIL's having had his store broke into on an almost daily basis, over a span of years.

It's nothing that a few months doing mission work in, say, Cameroon wouldn't fix, though. It's odd because I think normally you see that sort of discrimination go across lines or race and religion, but they're absolutely adoring of our children and don't speak negatively of other religions.

Weird, all in all.

To be clear about the last comment: the change that ensued concerned policies in the organization that had me having this dinner in the first place. What there was no reason to think had changed was the attitudes of the people I was having dinner with.

Slarti: I was stunned too. But you should know that the state they're influential in is yours.

Really? Can you name the community, or is that problematic?

Andrew:

He was not stupid in any sense of the word, but he made some decisions that were unwise because they were based on bad data. I suspect the problem is even greater at the level of head of state.

Here's a section from The Threatening Storm by Kenneth Pollack:

The inputs into Saddam's decision making are deeply suspect... What Saddam knew of America came mostly from his spies and diplomats who tailored their reports to his prejudices. Iraq's intelligence services do not provide Saddam with anything like a comprehensive or objective picture of his strategic situation... they have few assets overseas and little ability to gather information. Saddam has often gotten awful intelligence... that has led him to make terrible decisions... [O]peratives tend to write their reports based on what they believe Saddam wants to hear... [B]efore the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq had little information regarding developments in Tehran, the mood of the country, or the operational status of the armed forces and instead relied on the misinformation of former Iranian generals who had fled the Islamic Revolution and desperately wanted Iraq to attack to try to restore them to power.

Sound familiar? Wonderfully enough, just five pages earlier, Pollack had said this:

We may not have a perfect understanding of how Saddam Hussein thinks, but one thing we know for certain is that he does not think like an American president...

There are people who think the entire urban planning of Los Angeles reflects thee anti-Semitism of the first-generation downtown WASP establishment.

The anti-Semitism in my family, both nuclear and extended, is appalling. Any suggestions on how to deal with this? My arguments don't work. People are willing to bite too many bullets without recognizing the implications of biting bullets. There is a line of thought that some people are beyond saving. People older than I dismiss me by saying that they "know the Jews" better than I do.

Fisk from Beirut:

A bad day for messages. Phone calls from the States to tell me I am an anti-Semite for criticising Israel. Here we go again. To call decent folk anti-Semites is soon going to make anti-Semitism respectable, I tell the callers before asking them to tell the Israeli air force to stop killing civilians. Then a fax from a Jewish friend in California to tell me that a man called Lee Kaplan - "a columnist for the Israel National News", whatever that is - has condemned me in print for developing a "high-paid speaking career among anti-Semites". Unlike Benjamin Netanyahu and many others I can think of, I never take money for lecturing - ever - but to smear the thousands of ordinary Americans who listen to me as anti-Semites is outrageous.

Sharon in 2003:

Sharon throws out the distinction between anti-Semitic beliefs and legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies in the Middle East.

“Today there is no separation. We are talking about collective anti-Semitism. The state of Israel is a Jewish state and the attitude towards Israel runs accordingly.”


Oops, pressed post too fast, wanted to preview.

What's anti-semitism these days?

Posted by: Ara | July 31, 2006 at 04:29 PM

They are called covenant contracts/laws [?] in Los Angeles.

Home owner associations had folks sign covenant/contracts, which would force a "promise" not to sell or rent to those of a "darker race". (Jew, Black, Mexican)

The Civil Rights movement did not just help American Blacks, but American Jews, as well. Many business circles/cultures had rules on the books (and off) regulating where Jews could spend and invest capital.

Hilzoy, since we are sharing personal anectdotes here, I'll tell you this: I lived in the Soviet Union for many years and experienced plenty of anti-Semitism there myself, both common and government sponsored kinds. You know what it was? It was nuisance, hardly more than that; seeing what goes on in this world I find no reason to complain about it.

So, yeah, some people don't like you for no reason, what's the big freaking deal? I don't expect to be liked by everyone.

I don't know, just pick almost any area of the world and you'll see some real problems, take this for example: Jakarta Riots of May 1998


The riots became more wide-spread on 14-15 May 1998 and quickly turned into a pogrom targeting properties and businesses owned by ethnic-Chinese (Indonesian Chinese), who were made into scapegoats. Many shops put up signs such as "Milik pribumi" ("Owned by native Indonesian(s)") or "Pro Reformasi" ("In favour of change"). Otherwise shops owned by ethnic Chinese were looted and burned There were also hundreds of documented accounts of ethnic Chinese women being raped, tortured and killed[1]. Fearing for their lives, many ethnic Chinese, who made up about 3-5% of Indonesia's population, fled the country.

Has anything like this happened anywhere as a result of anti-Semitism in the last 40 years? I doubt it.

I keep thinking of the Dobriches and their experience in southern Delaware in connection with this conversation. It seems to me there's a minor difference--the kinds of anti-semitism that Ara and hilzoy mention seem calcified into a "Why do we hate them? Who cares, the point is we hate them" sense, whereas the Dobriches' experience comes more directly from what I'm beginning to think of as Christian fascism. But the effects aren't really very different, it seems.

With respect to the "all criticism is anti-Semitism" subthread, my own impression is that there's not only the element of stereotyping, i.e. assuming anti-semitism on the part of an interlocutor so as to be able to ignore what they say as a matter of convenience, but there's also a lack of good faith, that is, refusing to give the other any benefit of the doubt--assuming the worst, always. It seems to me to be partly motivated by moral cowardice--the fear of confronting something unpleasant about one's self. That strikes me too as very dangerous, as it helps lead towards cant, inflexibility, the loss of the ability for honest engagement, perhaps even to Republican-style postmodernistic anti-objectivity.

DiRita: 'All but twenty-five thousand soldiers will be out by the beginning of September.'

And those twenty-five thousand were going to be there forever, in "enduring" bases. Still the plan.

Personally, I think that anyone [DiRita]who makes a stupid remark like that -- and who seems to mean it -- should not be allowed anywhere near a position of responsibility.

Since the conservatives sold the Iraq War in part on the idea that it would be a repeat of the post-war success of WWII, just compare this oafish childishness to the dedicated and serious efforts post WWII to build democracy in Germany and Japan (as well as the overall Marshall Plan). Conservatives who supported the idea of the Iraq war need to stare at their navels and think about what actually motivated the Bush administration -- it certainly was not any serious intent to build democracy, because they deliberately rejected sage advice on how to do it, and stuck with the non-plan when it became obvious it was not working. (I think the "install Chalabi and leave" plan, which was the hope of the Pentagon pre-war, was dumped before the war actually started, but not replaced with anything).

Well said dmbeaster.

The current political class in Washington DC gives democracy, freedom and liberty a bad name.

It's as if they sought to make democracy = death & destruction...what happened to us on 9-11?

I'll make a moral distinction between murderers and bigots, but I won't make a distinction between "hard" and "soft" anti-Semitism. In other words, I think it confuses the issue to say someone's anti-Semitism is less odious because they are reluctant to pile onto it another odious action. I have heard many people duck behind this distinction: "Oh, his anti-Semitism is harmless". Seems to me to miss the point.

abb1: I agree with Ara here. Also, note two things: first, I never said that it currently holds the "biggest problem in the world" award, but there's a lot of distance between that and thinking it's all past.

And second, in the example I cited, there was an actual action connected to it: housing discrimination. Admittedly, I find the idea of actually wanting to buy one of those houses sort of incomprehensible (think: lovely golf course, multi-million dollar homes owned by the sorts of people who would go to the trouble of disguising their colony as a closely held stock corporation to avoid fair housing laws, all that surrounded by miles and miles and miles and miles of orange groves, with all the scintillating cultural life you'd expect to get from a lot of oranges...), but apparently some people want to, since they are, after all, multimillion dollar homes, and the law of supply and demand tell me that that wouldn't be the case if everyone shared my views.

So Bush tells us that terror bombings killing innocents is the modern face of how we spread democracy these days. What does that remind me of?

...

...

...

Democratsunami -=- so that's what it looks like!! ANd yes, it does bear a resemblance to 12/26/04.

While I tend to agree with Ara and hilzoy, I think that abb1 has a point as well. This is a touchy subject, but I would also point out that though we have this notion that a group that has been badly treated is automatically going to be more responsible when given a position of power. To give an example of my own in-group in a similar situation, after the Japanese-American internment, the core of the US judo community was centered around the Judo Black Belt federation, dominated by Issei and Nisei Japanese-Americans who went out of their way to exclude Caucasians. Though we like to think that suffering puts people in a better situation to appreciate others suffering, I pessimistically think that is not necessarily the case.

lj, one of the saddest things I learned, watching Israel's policies towards Palestinians devolve over the years, is that a history of being oppressed doesn't make the oppressed more noble.

I used to be very idealistic about Israel - as I used to be very idealistic about America - that lessons learned would stay learned. In Israel's case, my younger self thought that, surely, my own people who had suffered so much in so many countries would never in turn treat others as we had been treated. In America's case, my younger self never thought we'd have to keep fighting the same liberal cause battles over and over again.

Look, the Chinese being hated by some Malays, the Jews being hated by some non-Jews (and loved by others), the Mexicans hated by some Americans, the non-Jews hated by some Jews is all the same phenomenon.

This thing lives inside a vast majority of us, quite possible inside all of us; read this George Orwell's essay, the last paragraph:


It seems to me a safe assumption that the disease loosely called nationalism is now almost universal. Anti-Semitism is only one manifestation of nationalism, and not everyone will have the disease in that particular form. A Jew, for example, would not be anti-Semitic: but then many Zionist Jews seem to me to be merely anti-Semites turned upside-down, just as many Indians and Negroes display the normal colour prejudices in an inverted form. The point is that something, some psychological vitamin, is lacking in modern civilisation, and as a result we are all more or less subject to this lunacy of believing that whole races or nations are mysteriously good or mysteriously evil.

The "hard" or "soft" is not a characteristic of how strongly a particular jingoist feels about the group he dislikes, it's a characteristic of the social climate where this is taking place.

The same set of people can live quite peacefully together or, under different circumstances, have pogroms all over the place. All I'm saying is: there are a lot of groups now whose circumstances are much, much worse, much more dangerous.

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