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September 16, 2011

Comments

I do tend to reflexively think of men as braver than women in general and me in particular.

Braver, or louder, or more reckless or more stupid? I think these things tend to get conflated together in common parlance. As a young man, I did some things that others described at the time as 'brave' but that looking back strike me more as reckless or just plain stupid. I really doubt I'm alone in that regard.

I also wonder how much perceptions of male bravery are just based on loud or blustery talk. I work with a guy who is basically an idiot, but he has this amazing way of pronouncing statements with complete authority. Even though I know he's often wrong, half the time I find myself nodding along in agreement, until I think carefully about what he's saying and realize that it makes no sense at all. I've often observed mixed groups where the loudest, most definitive, most decisive speakers are men, so I wonder if that plays any role here.

I also tend to reflexively think of men (in general) as knowing and caring more about war than women do, and of thinking about it more seriously and in detail

Egads. Caring more about the war, maybe, but knowing more? My sense is that the average American man thinks he knows a lot about war, but doesn't actually know much of anything. Also, we should be careful to distinguish 'defeating an enemy army' with 'successfully occupying a foreign country after destroying all state institutions'. Both of those things can be described as 'war', but knowledge of the former does not really correlate well with knowledge of the latter.

members of the military were more in favor of invading Iraq than the general public, and stayed in favor of the war longer

The US military skews very conservative politically; I'd be curious to see how much military support for the war can be explained by the conservatism of its members.

I really did expect them to be braver than me, less motivated by fear -- but instead they seem to have been just as dedicated to testosterone-fuelled displays of stupidity as a bunch of pasty pundits, and with even less excuse.

I think their behavior makes more sense if you realize how narrow their viewpoint is and remember that most people systematically overestimate their own capabilities and underestimate those of adversaries. Most military folk were strongly focused on the cool part of their job: destroying the enemy. All this other stuff, what the military calls Military Operations other than War, that's not cool. It is boring irritating stuff which does not justify buying awesome toys for billions of dollars. And the military is not good at those things. Moreover, all that boring stuff is not prioritized: Military Police is not the specialty you go into if you're a smart ambitious young officer.

A good example about capabilities estimation is what happened to the Apache helicopters. The Army thought of these things as flying tanks: basically indestructible. But the Iraqis came up with techniques to completely neutralize them. They imposed heavy losses on the first real Apache mission and ended up forcing the Army to end Apache operations in Iraq. The government has spent something like $11 Billion on the Apache program; lots of very smart people, both in the military and outside, have worked on this program. But no one ever concluded, 'hey, a bunch of smart guys with pickup trucks, radios, and small arms can completely neutralize our flying tanks' until Iraqis did just that. Lots of very smart people who know a hell of a lot more about helicopter warfare than I ever will got this wrong, and I think part of the reason for that is that we like to build fancy and expensive weapons systems without trying them out against real enemies. It feels a bit like writing software without ever testing it; seems unlikely that it will be correct.

Finally, recall that for high ranking officers, going to war is a new product. It is a chance for them to try out their awesome ideas and advance in competition with their peers. Tommy Franks has spent his entire life waiting to write a war plan that would actually be implemented; when Bush asked for one, he wasn't going to say, no matter what crazy conditions Rumsfeld insisted on.

By all means lets blame the military. Those fearful cowards who wanted to go to war. I would recomend reading MacArthur's farewell. Also, read Andrew Olmsted's why he went. I have experienced real fear. I wanted to run. I just couldn't, I don't know why-then all hell broke loose.

Farley once wrote: "As a professor who teaches Defense Statecraft, I can testify without reservation that most men are just as ignorant of defense issues as most women."

"The main difference I see is that all these men talk about being *angry*, as well as frightened. I don't recall being particularly angry after 9/11,"

Same here. I think you're right. I'm not braver than war supporters--the thought is ridiculous. But I didn't react to the day the way they did. In fact, for a few days I was sufficiently self-deluded to think that many or most people would react the way I did, which was to think that it was one thing to be opposed to atrocities in the abstract, but once you actually experienced the fear for people you know (and a tiny bit for myself whenever passing through Grand Central on weekends, a place I figured was a great place for a suicide bomber to hit) it becomes more tangible. I thought people's empathy for the victims of war and terror would be aroused, and we'd feel some remorse for what we had inflicted on others. Boy, was I a moron.


Incidentally, one thing that has disappointed me about the left (as opposed to mainstream liberals) reaction to 9/11 is that a significant number seem to be Truthers. I've got no data on this--it's just an impression I get from a couple of far left sites I visit that a large fraction seriously think that 9/11 was the work of our government. It's depressing, because I agree with much of the other things they say. Some people just want to live in a world where all the evil can be blamed on a convenient set of bad guys. They just disagree on who the scapegoats should be.

From 2003 to 2009 46 helicopters of all types were lost to hostile fire. Most helicopter crashes were copters running into each other. Hostile losses we about 8 per year, thats not exactly completely neutralizing.

thats not exactly completely neutralizing.

Says Old Soldier. Let's see what Tom Ricks has to say in his book Fiasco:


The 11th Attack Helicopter Regiment was hammered when it carried out an attack deep behind the front lines...the helicopters never really engaged the enemy unit, and instead turned back...one helicopter was lost...of thirty-two aircraft that returned to base, thirty-one had been hit by enemy fire...It was a shock to Army aviators who liked to think of their AH-64 Apaches as flying tanks. The defeat would reverberate through the Army for years. Early in 2006, the Army quietly disclosed that it had concluded that the Apache was so vulnerable to rifle fire that it would no longer have a major role in attacks deep behind enemy lines.

Alternatively, one can read much the same thing from Gordon and Trainor in their book Cobra II.

Hmmmm....I wonder, what else is a $20 million attack helicopter good for if it can't be used behind enemy lines. I mean, it can still attack things...just not in places where the enemy is. Of course, since the only places where the Apache can attack are those where the enemy is not present, its attacks seem...kind of useless. Oh well.

Doc, were you against moving against Afghanistan after 9/11? There are a number of intermediate steps here before Iraq.

Often, a question like this is taken as a challenge, and I want to emphasize that I don't mean it as such. It is just that I think that the invasion of Afghanistan was something that had to be done, and had we stuck to that rather than assuaging Rumsfeld's plaint that there weren't enough targets in Afghanistan so we should move the Iraq, things would have been better. Not great, but better. But moving from 9/11 to the invasion of Iraq seems to be a bit of a jump.

Donald mentions his hope that the attacks would have induced some empathy. While it is a nice thought, I was studying in London when the IRA set off a bomb at a military band concert, I was living in Paris and looking for work in Europe when the spate of bombings occurred and I remember people crossing the street to avoid big plate class windows in Paris and a school I interviewed at in Dusseldorf with the unfortunate name 'The American school' which had a beautiful library section with a wall of glass bricks and when I said something about what a nice space it was, one of the people there said 'no one feels comfortable working in there'. I think it was shortly after the Libyan Berlin disco bombing. People just want it to stop and want it to stop now and are often going to accept whatever steps that may make it stop. Call it bravery, call it anger, call it stupidity, but it is what makes some people think that terror works, because it provokes a reaction.

Dr. S, I would say that most men, at least those who have not actually been there, think that they know more about war . . . but their "knowledge" is based far more on fictional accounts than reality. (In short, what LJ said.) Those who have actually been there tend to have a much less glorified view.

This is not true just of war, of course. Listen to any of the people who enthuse (from the comfort of their urban or suburban, first world, home) about the wonderfulness of primitive agriculture as a way of life. "Subsistance agriculture" is crushingly hard work, as anyone who has done any anthropological fieldwork in such a setting can tell you. Heck, even modern agriculture is a lot harder work than most people realize.

Regarding your point 2:
As for the justifications of the attack on Iraq, my recollection is that the publically availible information indicated that not only US intelligence organizations, but everybody else's (including places like France and Russia, in addition to those who supported the attack) had the same opinion that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

Now it may be that this reported unanimity was not real. And it may be that none of those intelligence organizations even agreed internally. But that was the information available to the public in the run-up. Which doesn't excuse those who knew better, but does explain the public reaction.

publically availible information indicated that not only US intelligence organizations, but everybody else's had the same opinion that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

In terms of the Iraq war, WMD was a phrase designed to deceive. It conflates nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons under one umbrella. No intelligence agency believed that Iraq had nuclear weapons at the time. Chemical weapons are useless for terrorism attacks and are probably less effective than guns and explosives. The bio weapon theory was just insane. There was never any evidence offered to the public that Iraq had actual chemical or biological weapons; just lots of talk about 'capability'. Of course, since anyone with an undergraduate degree in chemistry can make chemical weapons in a high school chemistry lab, Iraq certainly had the 'capability'; which is why talking about WMD is just profoundly stupid.

This was all written about at the time. The fact that in 2011, we're still talking about how all the intelligence agencies knew about Iraq's WMDs is just depressing as all hell.

"The fact that in 2011, we're still talking about how all the intelligence agencies knew about Iraq's WMDs is just depressing as all hell."

Have to agree with Turbulence.

Braver, or louder, or more reckless or more stupid?

I don't think courage is an absence of fear.

I do understand the overwhelming reaction of anger. I felt it. Maybe it's stupid, but I couldn't help it - it probably is a male thing. I didn't feel like invading Iraq, however.

my recollection is that the publically availible information indicated that not only US intelligence organizations, but everybody else's (including places like France and Russia, in addition to those who supported the attack) had the same opinion that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

My recollection is that UNMOVIC was in Iraq from November 2002 to March of 2003, specifically to look for WMD, with intelligence assistance from the US and other nations, and found nothing of particular interest.

The fact that in 2011, we're still talking about how all the intelligence agencies knew about Iraq's WMDs is just depressing as all hell.

SSDD.

And the further away it gets, the more the history will be rewritten.

"I do understand the overwhelming reaction of anger. I felt it. Maybe it's stupid, but I couldn't help it - it probably is a male thing."

Men fix things,they feel responsible for protecting their loved ones. The reaction of males to a successful attack is to do something and then make sure it won't ecer happen again. Men more generally take the side of the military because the military performs a function that they innately relate to emotionally.

This is BS is exactly the reaction I would expect, the next thought not uttered is, I'll make sure they don't do it again.

Watch any old Western where the man comes home to find his ranch destroyed and family killed, or any of a thousand other movies that men watch and women don't generally like.

Doctor Science,

I can't explain the overall national reaction to 9/11 and the support for attacking Iraq, but let me offer my personal (male) point of view.

I was born and grew up in New York City, and I worked in the Wall Street area during the construction of the World Trade Center. I vividly recall riding up to the top when the first tower opened to the public -- at the time the elevators were still set to rapid acceleration and the ride down was, though not free fall, exhilarating.

I'm mostly even tempered, but I tend to hold in anger, so sometimes a small event after a long build-up provokes a very strong reaction in me. I haven't harmed anyone (thank goodness!), but I have punched a wall or two. Luckily for me, my reaction, though intense, is very short lived, and passes quickly. I can well understand why wrath is considered one of the seven deadly sins.

Looking back, it seemed to me as if the whole country was in a state of shock after 9/11. Maybe we still haven't recovered. I watched the video for a while -- I didn't avoid the coverage at first, though finally I had had enough and just turned it off. I felt more grief than anger, myself, but I can readily imagine others' anger.

I was ambivalent on attacking Iraq, even though as you point out the evidence was thin to the point of vanishing and the costs of war are grave.

What pushed me toward "yes" was something you haven't mentioned, and was only a minor justification at the time: the truly vile nature of Saddam Hussein's regime. The Atlantic ran a long article on him, Tales of the Tyrant, giving considerable detail. Besides that, one need only remember his behavior during the first Gulf War, when he held hostages including a terrified child he patted on the head for the cameras.

I finally came down on "no", and marched against the war, because I didn't trust the Bush administration to handle the aftermath (your point #3). Little did I realize then just how poorly that would go. Alas, being right on something like this has no value whatsoever. To paraphrase George W. Bush, who cares what I think?

Turbulence puts his finger on a point that really irked me, and I guess helped me to put things in perspective:

In terms of the Iraq war, WMD was a phrase designed to deceive. It conflates nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons under one umbrella.

I recall, as a youngster, seeing the film of the Trinity nuclear test. It made a deep impression on me. Horrible as the events of 9/11 were, and tragic for so many, they pale in comparison to the destructive force of even the smallest nuclear weapon. That the Bush administration used the image of a mushroom cloud as justification for the attack on Iraq is to their everlasting shame.

"Donald mentions his hope that the attacks would have induced some empathy. While it is a nice thought"

It is a nice thought, isn't it? But it was an entirely logical one, really--it's all that "natural" anger that got us into one completely unnecessary war and also one "necessary" one that just seems to drag on and on. I get angry enough on trivial occasions, but 9/11 was the first time a great many Americans ever really experienced the sense of being at the mercy of ruthless killers. Now as it happens we've supported a fair number of ruthless killers over the years, and I'd disapproved very strongly, but on 9/11 it really sank in what it felt like to be at the receiving end of such people. It made me feel sick, sad, disoriented, and scared about what might happen next. It was like living in a bad science fiction movie.


And I don't think I was the only one who felt that way. Dr. S apparently had a somewhat similar reaction and I read and knew of other people who felt as I did, but such reactions were shouted down as evil moral relativism. You were supposed to feel guilty if you didn't want to go to war. You were supposed to think that the innocence of the victims meant that America was spotless and good. It was entirely predictable that a country which told itself to feel this way would start unnecessary and unjust wars and commit atrocities. The only thing that surprised me about Abu Ghraib was that it got some bad publicity. There's no particular reason I know of why we have to accept the "natural" reaction to 9/11, any more than we have to accept racism or misogyny as natural.

Not living in the U.S. for the time I have, 9/11 felt both close and removed to me. Close in that I care deeply about what happens in America, and with Americans, and removed from my physical distance, and emotional space - it literally was in another country, even though that's where I came from.

As I look at things, I am left with what's still on my mind, which is the weird sort of detachment and obsession that the Bush administration took with regard to the war - they prosecuted it to the full and were unconcerned with it at the same time. The latter comes in the utter disregard for the future it had in its thinking on a post-Saddam Iraq, the complete lack of sense that the war, at some point, would have to end. And then what? They were clueless, and to me that was the height of their moral bankruptcy, proof that any semblance of caretaking was extinct in the thinking of that administration. Destruction is a lot easier than rebuilding, and disregard is far more seductive than care.

For certainly more than just a small number of men, the notion that a man must do something in response to an affront or assault, in the broadest sense of these terms, no matter how destructive and counteractive it is, is so hard-wired that once action is taken, nothing can stop it. One only will stop oneself when the cup of suffering is too full, or the prospect of dropping dead from exhaustion is at hand.

So I'm on Donald's side here. I can buy the immediate anger, but not the willingness to hold it and demand a ton of flesh to satiate it.

As we tend to allow room for extremist thoughts and tendencies, and permit absolutist solutions, in our own society, perhaps it was easy for so many to justify a post-9/11 bloodlust because we allow, in concentrated form, something of a commensurate extremism in our body politic. (Warning: superdisgusting uber-lefty position about to be taken here) We permit capital punishment, we routinely reward hardball in corporate life, we make space for those who mow down things - and people, if necessary - on the way to success, and we have more guns than most countries can shake a stick at (I'll qualify this by saying that not every single person who owns a gun is violent, but the thought of violence with it has certainly crossed the minds of some who have these things. Sorry - but I'm not sorry, and no-one can deny this).

But to preemptively sidetrack those who think I support the "we deserved it" crowd - I never did and still don't. The victims in the planes and the towers on 9/11 did not deserve what they got. But the Bush administration's course of action degraded us and made us less deserving of empathy than what we had a right to, which is why I can understand the feelings of those who thought we had it coming to us and got our comeuppance. But that would be an entirely appropriate feeling if the perpetrators were better than us, which they weren't. What we proved we could be just as base, just as vile, as they are/were.

So in viewing Iraq, I really couldn't muster sympathy for either side. I had no feeling that Saddam was ever a unjustified victim, but neither could I feel anything edifying about our being there. The one thing I could be angry over was Abu Ghirab - a true work of the worst pornography money can buy and resources can enable, and a huge pimple on each of the faces of those who were truly brave, who said no to any excess, who had care in them.

The worst part of it personally was that my nephew, a Navy corpsman, pulled a tour there. An unnecessary, unqualified stint that got him a case of PTSD. If there's anything else I can be angry about, that's it.

All of a piece, that was about enough to make me feel ashamed to be American, and to this day, to make me feel that in commemorating 9/11 we almost compromise ourselves as a country all the more - not for anything lacking in the victims, but for the way it still dwells on how much "we" suffered when the action taken resulted in far more suffering, with more than a few of us still feeling good about it and un-bothered that it was at other people's expense.

We have courageous people in our midst. But I'm afraid I do not regard us as a courageous nation. And that's my ton of flesh.

Donald, just to clarify, the 'nice thought' was that when people see suffering that can be attributed to a human agent, they come to feel some sort of global empathy. I won't mention any groups, but I don't think there are any who have moved in that direction. There are exceptional individuals, but as far as group dynamics, I don't think it happens.

And I guess I should say that what would have been 'brave' in the context of 9/11 would have been to go into Afghanistan and 'rebuild' the country and make sure that they had a functioning society (I put quotes around 'rebuild', because it has been so often used to mean 'make them a perfect client state of the US') I think it would have been possible if we had a leader with a depth and breadth of vision (but who? I'm not really sure), but we had someone whose vision of the world was ill-informed, cramped, brutish and nasty and was made worse by the people around him.

If/When Doctor Science posts Vereshchagin paintings, I cannot overcome the temptation to answer with http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xlq7twE9h04>this piece of music. ;-)
(good ol' Mussorgsky, although never in war himself, had something to say about the less than glorious aspects of it and paintings in the same vein as Vereshchagin's inspired some of his songs).
---
On the US reaction to 9/11 I was not surprised. I expected a 'someone, ANYONE, must be made to suffer for this'. I was surprised just a little bit that there was time taken to prepare a military campaign without reflexively bombing somewhere immediately. Iraq was a surprise in that I did not expect even an US administration like that of Bush to be THAT brazen and it did not enhance my view of the US population that it (for the most part) swallowed it. That was not even on the sophistication level of "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOJLZnZqBVU>seit 5:45 wird jetzt zurückgeschossen", it was the-great-Belgian-invasion-of-Germany-that-started-WW1 territory.

Btw it's a dead horse trope that the fearless can't be brave since bravery means overcoming one's fears.

"because more men were in favor of the Iraq War than women, and I do tend to reflexively think of men as braver than women in general and me in particular. I also tend to reflexively think of men (in general) as knowing and caring more about war than women do, "

it's always the case that more men than women support a given war. I really don't think this has anything to do with courage. Nor does it show women know less -- we certainly, I think, do not care less: my mother, like all British people who lived in bombed streets, sheltered from bombers nightly, lived in privation, knew about war as surely as my RAF father. As for courage: there are brave reasons to support war, brave reasons to oppose it. Are conscientious objectors who work as front-line orderlies not brave?

I leave the last word to Tim O'Brien:

"I was a coward. I went to Vietnam."

http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~hbf/obrien.html

And I don't think I was the only one who felt that way.

Three people in my town were killed on 9/11. Another guy was in one of the towers but got out alive.

One of the folks who was killed was a physician. His widow responded to his death by donating his medical library to a hospital in Kabul.

So no, you were not the only one who felt that way.

Regarding Iraq, I suppose we'll still be debating why we went there for the next 20 years.

FWIW, my opinion is that we invaded the nation of Iraq following 9/11 because (a) we were freaked out and so were in a highly reactive frame of mind (b) we wanted to kick the living sh*t out of a bunch of Muslims, and Iraq was extremely convenient.

There are about 1,000 ancillary reasons, and most of the folks who were selling the invasion had their own personal collection, but the reason Bush et al could close the sale was that we - Americans - wanted to put a boot up somebody's butt, and Afghanistan just wasn't a big enough target to satisfy.

"Sweep it all up. Things related and not". Somehow that inherently absurd directive made sense at the time, to a lot of people.

That, after all of the debate and discussion and revisiting of all of the reasons why and why not, is my take on the situation.

In the end, a lot of Americans wanted blood. And blood is what we got.

Someone had to pay, brown people did it, hey there's some brown people over there.

It worked for the Jim Crow South!

Also, Russell, I think I know what you mean about Iraq being "convenient" (convenient as a pretext, since Saddam was known and unpopular with Americans), but it is pretty funny to call invading Iraq "convenient."

I don't remember where I read this, it might even be from ObWi, but I really liked the following observation (I have to paraphrase wildly because I only remember the gist):

We (Americans) typically see intense retributive violence as a manly and mature thing, a la the innumerable movies CCDG alluded to. We think inaction, deliberation, and delay are weak and womanly traits.

In fact, intense retributive violence is one of the most childlike responses you can have to a situation (although I submit it's still very manly, in the sense that men are disproportionately responsible for it). Waiting and thinking, while it may be feminine, should be absolutely OHFGWE(HT*()[email protected]# worshipped in our or any society. It requires more discipline and provides greater utility.

As someone who has a problem with kicking doors and banging tables when I get stupidly (or even reasonably) angry, I can personally attest that doing so is a pathetic and childish habit.


What pushed me toward "yes" was something you haven't mentioned, and was only a minor justification at the time: the truly vile nature of Saddam Hussein's regime.

That swayed me too. And like Dr S., it didn't occur to me that the Bush administration would be criminally inept once war was committed to.

Btw it's a dead horse trope that the fearless can't be brave since bravery means overcoming one's fears.

Well, sorry for the dead horse trope, but I though fear and bravery were being opposed in some of the questions being asked, so I just slipped the trope in there.

FWIW, I didn't feel the aforementioned anger on 9/11 itself, just a sense of foreboding ("this is going to mean wars"). The anger came as I learned more about the Taliban especially, AQ, Pakistani social structure, and Central Asia politics in general. Species shame, I think.

I get similarly angry sometimes when religious or political superstition here in the West causes pointless suffering and death, which it does often. It is a ridiculously asymmetric relationship too - a little bit of thoughtless, almost absent minded, rigidity causes incalculable damage to real lives.

btw Harmut, we forget dead horse tropes all the time here in the US, and not only here.

The dead horse moniker was not meant as a complaint from my side. But since it* has become a cliche I felt the need to mark it as that when using it myself.
But while I am at it, 'brave' has become a word almost devoid of any meaning. It has to be attached to 'our troops' mandatorily and there are open demands that the drone jockeys should receive medals for bravery too, although they do not face any danger apart from maybe carpal tunnel syndrome (I await the first Purple Heart to be awarded for something like that any day).
Btw, would it be legitimate for an Iraqi or Afghani soldier/insurgent to target Drone Central, although many there would likely be formally civilians (including the CIA employees)?

*the thing about fear and bravery

"there are open demands that the drone jockeys should receive medals for bravery too"

Who is making these "open demands"? I've never seen them made.

I certainly don't support everything the military does (or that our government has sent our military to do), but the people who volunteer to serve in active combat are (presumptively) brave. Some do things that are heroic. Many are young people who have been brought up to believe that serving one's country in uniform is a duty, or at least an honorable commitment. I'm sure they're not, to a person, brave and heroic - some are probably criminal and savage. But I don't see the point in disparaging those people, even if you would prefer to change the culture that motivates them.

What I've never really understood is why so many serious, thoughtful, or militarily-experienced people promoted or went along with a war that even I, a mere woman and reader of history, could tell was a really, really bad idea.

When all you have - when all you see - are hammers...

Less platitudinously, I see this even now. There is the feeling in a lot of Soldiers around me - experienced Soldiers - that we need to stay deployed and actively engaged with "our enemies" despite the human and monetary cost. Some of it is a self-justified refusal to see non-military measures to combat hostility to the US as a priori ineffective. Some of it is a candid desire to avoid irrelevance. My current unit, a Combat Support element, has let me see a lot of "jolly little war" attitudes from (mostly younger) troops as well - why, it'd be a shame not to get to see deployment and combat like the older, more experienced Soldiers - and that's now, after a decade of continuous combat operations. Mind you, that last is not perforce at all reflective of the upper decision-making echelons, but I can't really assume that careerist flag officers would be unwilling to consider the opportunities afforded by rolling out a "new product", as Turb pointed out.

Now as it happens we've supported a fair number of ruthless killers over the years, and I'd disapproved very strongly, but on 9/11 it really sank in what it felt like to be at the receiving end of such people. It made me feel sick, sad, disoriented, and scared about what might happen next.

Yes. This. I remember no anger, only sadness and resignation towards what was to come. I remember quite clearly concluding by around 11:30 EST that we were gonna invade Afghanistan, and it made me sick to my stomach. Because I was familiar with what effect our military actions have on civilian populations. Because I knew that we'd be doling out death and destruction not fundamentally different than the death and destruction people all over the country were just then describing as horrendous and awful and unimaginable and unforgivable.

I remember the run-up to the invasion of Iraq as well. I was teaching in France at the time. My colleagues were sure nothing would happen; I was only surprised it took as long as it did. Just watching and listening to noise coming out of DC, I frankly had expected it in spring '02 (as logistically unfeasible as that would have been); it certainly seemed inevitable from that point on.

What pushed me toward "yes" was something you haven't mentioned, and was only a minor justification at the time: the truly vile nature of Saddam Hussein's regime.

I had made a point of studying the effect of the first Gulf War on Iraq's civil society and population at large. Honestly, this argument, while superficially compelling, was not convincing when tempered by said past experience.

" those who think I support the "we deserved it" crowd - I never did and still don't. The victims in the planes and the towers on 9/11 did not deserve what they got"

I don't think there actually are very many people who think the victims in the planes and towers deserved it. There were a few, of course, because there is no opinion so grotesque that you can't find someone who holds it. What I remember happening was that anyone who brought up US atrocities in public was blasted as someone who said we "deserved" it. My guess is that they were projecting their own way of thinking--to them, there was such a thing as group innocence and group guilt and if you said that the US was guilty of atrocities, you were saying that individual Americans deserved to be murdered. So we had a year or two where nearly everyone in public life was careful to say that the 9/11 attack and the sympathy for Islamic terrorism that one found in the Arab world was purely a function of their pathologies and if we had done something wrong, it was just that we had sat around and done nothing about it for so long. That's the mindset that next leads to the notion that obviously we, the civilized ones, (liberal secularists in the case of Hitchens and Bill Keller and other liberal hawks and Christian crusaders in Bush's version) should go over there with guns drawn and fix their societies. Certainly there was nothing deeply wrong with us that might have played a role in 9/11 and of course there were no innocents killed by us or our allies before that day that we might want to think about. At best maybe someone would say we might have to take into account the benighted opinions of those Muslims who might think they had grievances against us.

"when people see suffering that can be attributed to a human agent, they come to feel some sort of global empathy. I won't mention any groups, but I don't think there are any who have moved in that direction. There are exceptional individuals, but as far as group dynamics, I don't think it happens."

First off, I'm not talking about feeling sympathy for bin Laden. I'm only talking about knowing that the US government has done terrible things to other innocent people (including people in the Middle East) and recognizing that this matters. This isn't sainthood--it's basic moral decency. It's even basic common sense. You wouldn't expect it from people who lost loved ones in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, but from the society as a whole, yes, you should expect it after the initial shock has worn off. Or are we supposed to wait until very large numbers of people have died in some stupid war before a society comes to its senses? Sure, it often works that way, but I don't think it has to.


Also, there was quite a lot of global empathy after 9/11, but it was mixed up with the mood of national self-righteousness. There was widespread interest in the plight of women in Afghanistan and much of it was sincere. But what were the chances of the US fighting a "good war" in Afghanistan given how unwilling we were to examine our own behavior?

What I've never really understood is why so many serious, thoughtful, or militarily-experienced people promoted or went along with a war that even I, a mere woman and reader of history, could tell was a really, really bad idea.

Also, I guess I have a comment on this.

IIRC there was significant counsel given to the executive by senior military folks that either was skeptical of invading Iraq, or which at least attempted to put realistically high cost and risk assessments on it.

Short of resigning your commission and stepping down from service, that's about as much as the military, per se, can do.

The scope of their responsibility is to give their best counsel, and then follow the direction they receive from the civilian leadership. Strategic decisions like whether to go to war, or not, is deliberately not part of their brief.

And that is a good thing, it's part of having a military that is under civilian control. It's not cowardice, it's a serious commitment to our form of government.

The responsibility for invading Iraq falls on the civilian leadership, and frankly on us, the American public.

The fact that in 2011, we're still talking about how all the intelligence agencies knew about Iraq's WMDs is just depressing as all hell.

turb, If I had been arguing to justify what happened, you would be correct. But what I was trying (obviously not very successfully) to do was say that the general public at the time saw things that way. Which may have been uninformed, not to mention incorrect . . . but still is relevant to a discussion of why the public supported attacking Iraq.

IIRC there was significant counsel given to the executive by senior military folks that either was skeptical of invading Iraq, or which at least attempted to put realistically high cost and risk assessments on it.

From what I've read, while there were some senior military officials who felt that way, there were also a great many who totally supported the war effort because they were...bad at their jobs. You can't really get around the fact that lots of senior officers thought the Iraq war would be awesome.

Tom Ricks talks about how Tommy Franks was a good tactician who literally did not understand what the word 'strategy' meant. If you can really rise to the top of CentCom without knowing that, then the senior officer corps as a whole must be full of people who are just way too dumb to be able to correctly evaluate propositions like 'is the Iraq war a good idea?'. Lt Col Yingling offers his own variant of the 'our senior officer corps is completely incompetent' here.

Short of resigning your commission and stepping down from service, that's about as much as the military, per se, can do.

I think this is completely wrong. The senior officer corps could have done a whole lot to stop the war. When the Clinton admin was mumbling about stopping the genocide in Rwanda, the senior officer corps wanted absolutely nothing to do with it, and they put the kibosh on it right quick. How? By using all the tricks that professionals use when they don't want to do what the boss wants. They insisted on very high cost estimates. They complained about budgeting and where the money would come from for even tiny operations like flying an aircraft to jam the genocide directing radio transmitters ("Who is going to pay for the gas?!?!"). Every analysis had to address the absolute worst case scenario. Lo and behold, military intervention is really really hard and we really really shouldn't do it.

In contrast, because the senior officer corps WANTED to invade Iraq, all those problems just disappeared. Worst case scenario planning? Ha! They didn't even plan for the best case scenario. Who will pay for gas? Ha ha! Never in history has anyone wasted as much money as quickly as the US military in Iraq.

The truth is that the military, as an institution, has a fair bit of power when it comes to preventing a war. Sometimes, when the war is one they don't like, they use that power. And sometimes, when the war is one they're in love with, they choose not to. But the fact that they have that power, coupled with the fact that they've used it in the past, does give the senior officer corps some responsibility for the massive fsckup that is the Iraq war.

IIRC there was significant counsel given to the executive by senior military folks that either was skeptical of invading Iraq, or which at least attempted to put realistically high cost and risk assessments on it.

This is correct. There definitely was. I remember it was presented by the media mostly as an interesting aside mentioned in passing to prove how fair and balanced their pro-war cheer-leading was.

Also, what Turb said. The US military is a massive bureaucratic institution, and it has many, many tools it can and does use to influence what missions it finds itself saddled with.

Glad to hear that. 'Dead horse trope' is a nice phrase anyway.

I don't think it denigrates individual soldiers to say that Turb has the better part of the argument here.

There is a clear presentation of state of mind of people that have military might behind them. This is a state of mind of the US as a whole, having the strongest military might in the world, by far. It is a state of mind of a person that owns a non hunting gun.

It is an example of when you own http://crooksandliars.com/karoli/uncivil-war>the biggest hammer all problems are nail. It is a twisted interpretation of the "An eye for an eye" that they claim where the actual outcome would be "head for an eye"
It was just yesterday that i argued about psychology of people owning a gun. It is from my experience of the war i lived trough and encounters with armed people with intent to kill unarmed me. They would usually approach me with intention to check me out if i am or if i could be a potential threat to their lives even tough i am unarmed and they were. They do not wish to kill more then they have to, in their mind that is twisted by possessing the gun, or the most powerful military in the world by far. I would act as if i was their friend with smile and jokes that reassured their mind that i wasn't a threat to them. I believe that was the difference in attitude between me and those who responded with fear or rage in their eyes that made the difference in outcome.
I argue that possession of a gun gives the people an awareness of possibility of loosing something they have. And that owning a gun gives them an illusion that they can keep something that is achieved mentally only. Well, you can argue that people with inferiority complex already in them would be compelled to buy a gun. I would argue that it is a positive feedback issue. This is about people not living in ghetto conditions where there is an obvious need for owning a gun.

I was working for the Army in Washington from 2002-4 (about 15 layers of command below where the actual decisions got made). A lot of us low-level guys were against Iraq, but it didn't matter.

As previously observed, the military is a huge bureaucracy. The people who climb to the top are pretty much like the people who climb to the top in business. Generals, despite their screen reputation, aren't hard shouting men. They're more like vice presidents of a large company, and you don't get to be one if you can't tell which way the wind is blowing. Most seem like Dilbert's boss, but 20 pounds lighter and with the hair problem sorted out.

A few guys did try to tell the president what he didn't want to hear (props to Shinseki et. al.). The rest waited to see what happened to the first batch, then scrambled to get behind the war.

There's an old joke (over 100 years old, actually) that an Army staffer will risk his life for his country, but never his job.

On a subject only I (and Dr. S) seem to be interested in, does anyone here know any Truthers in real life? AFAIK I don't, but as I mentioned above they seem fairly common on far left comment sections. And I'm pretty sure it's not just 20-somethings. However, the psychology seems similar in some cases to what Dr. S. described. Someone sees the towers collapse and thinks "bull****". Immediately he (usually it's a male) "knows" that it was controlled demolition by the government. Everyone, it seems, is an instant expert on structural engineering and the physics of building collapse, or else it just takes a little reading to bring them up to speed. Or alternatively, they see the Bushies lying to get us into Iraq and decide that 9/11 is just the first stage in the process. In real life I know some right wing crazies, but no Truthers, but online it's a different story.

From Doctor Science's post "Yet AFAIK members of the military were more in favor of invading Iraq than the general public, and stayed in favor of the war longer (though my google-fu doesn't lead me to any concrete data; correct me if I'm wrong). "

This was from the Washington Post, and it comports with my recollection that the military brass opposed the invasion and counseled against it. Of course, after the mission was presented to them by their Commander-in-Chief, they got on board (as was their duty). I don't remember anything indicating that military officers, while decisions were being made whether or not to invade, were cheering on an invasion. If anyone can find evidence that they were, I'd be interested.

Again, once it was a done deal, they had a duty to carry out the civilian strategy. As we know, that's the system that we've set up so that the elected civilian leaders retain power.

And, from an op-ed">http://www.extremeskins.com/archive/index.php/t-171696.html">op-ed by (now Senator) James Webb, in the Washington Post, September 4, 2002:

"Meanwhile, American military leaders have been trying to bring a wider focus to the band of neoconservatives that began beating the war drums on Iraq before the dust had even settled on the World Trade Center. Despite the efforts of the neocons to shut them up or to dismiss them as unqualified to deal in policy issues, these leaders, both active-duty and retired, have been nearly unanimous in their concerns. Is there an absolutely vital national interest that should lead us from containment to unilateral war and a long-term occupation of Iraq? And would such a war and its aftermath actually increase our ability to win the war against international terrorism? On this second point, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the Joint Chiefs vice chairman, mentioned in a news conference last week that the scope for potential anti-terrorist action included -- at a minimum -- Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Libya, Georgia, Colombia, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and North Korea.

"America's best military leaders know that they are accountable to history not only for how they fight wars, but also for how they prevent them. The greatest military victory of our time -- bringing an expansionist Soviet Union in from the cold while averting a nuclear holocaust -- was accomplished not by an invasion but through decades of intense maneuvering and continuous operations. With respect to the situation in Iraq, they are conscious of two realities that seem to have been lost in the narrow debate about Saddam Hussein himself. The first reality is that wars often have unintended consequences -- ask the Germans, who in World War I were convinced that they would defeat the French in exactly 42 days. The second is that a long-term occupation of Iraq would beyond doubt require an adjustment of force levels elsewhere, and could eventually diminish American influence in other parts of the world.

"Other than the flippant criticisms of our "failure" to take Baghdad during the Persian Gulf War, one sees little discussion of an occupation of Iraq, but it is the key element of the current debate. The issue before us is not simply whether the United States should end the regime of Saddam Hussein, but whether we as a nation are prepared to physically occupy territory in the Middle East for the next 30 to 50 years. Those who are pushing for a unilateral war in Iraq know full well that there is no exit strategy if we invade and stay. This reality was the genesis of a rift that goes back to the Gulf War itself, when neoconservatives were vocal in their calls for "a MacArthurian regency in Baghdad." Their expectation is that the United States would not only change Iraq's regime but also remain as a long-term occupation force in an attempt to reconstruct Iraqi society itself."

Sorry, incorrect linking above. Trying again.

On a subject only I (and Dr. S) seem to be interested in, does anyone here know any Truthers in real life?

I don't know any in the United States, even with many degrees of separation, or even in the blogosphere; I obviously do not read the blogs you are talking about, Donald, so I only vaguely knew that there even *was* a Truther phenom. But I will say that it's hard to underestimate the distrust that exists for the US Government in S.America. I have in-law family there, and I would say it's quite common in some countries to doubt any official story coming out of the US as a matter of course. [Several people - well educated people - told me they didn't believe that Bin Laden was actually dead, for example.] I'm sure that's common all over the world.

The term "truther" has been applied quite broadly, not just to describe people who believe that there was a government plot to stage the attacks of 9/11, but also to people who believe that the attacks could have been prevented with greater government vigilance. For example, a statement put out by 911 Truth.org was signed by a number of prominent people who were then accused of being "truthers". But the contents of that statement lists some questions that really don't have anything to do with the "building implosion" theory, etc. Instead, the statement seems to address questions about the government's competence in dealing with a foreseeable threat.

I think the "truthers" who believe that the 9/11 attacks were staged by the government are a very small number of conspiracy theorists, much smaller than the people who are accused of being "truthers" who have doubts that the matter was sufficiently investigated, or that accountability was properly assessed.

Sapient--I wasn't including as "Truthers" people who believe there might be important things about 9/11 that have been covered up, such as evidence of incompetence. That wouldn't surprise me either, and yes, people with broader suspicions are sometimes lumped in with the folks I was referring to. The people I referred to believe that the Towers were brought down by explosives planted by our government. The Al Qaeda connection is a hoax, in their view. The details go on and on and (just as with the creationist movement) they've managed to find some people with scientific degrees to solemnly assure them that the laws of physics prove the mainstream theory of the collapse is scientifically impossible. There are also little splits within the movement, just at there are different factions with creationists.

Jonnybutter--I know people overseas often feel that way. I wonder what the percentages are in various countries? As for blogs, I can only speak for a handful, but it would be surprising if I happened to stumble on the only far left blogs where Trutherism is common among the commentariat. On the rare occasions when I listen to WBAI anymore I sometimes hear Truthers--the other day I heard Kevin Ryan (one of their scientists) holding forth. Presumably they think they have an audience for this stuff in the NYC area.

I was in favor of the Iraq War (not that anybody asked me). At that point I had some residual trust in Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Powell as competent people, and they were telling me, via the PBS News Hour, that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons and would give them to terrorists. I remember, about two weeks after we took over the country, being angry at some Asian journalist who asked in a press conference (in a tent in Iraq), "Where are the WMD?" Give us some time, I thought, we'll find them.

One thing bothered me a little, when Powell, in his UN speech, mentioned some tubes the Iraqis had purchased. The Iraqis had claimed they were for mortar shells and Powell said they must be for centrifuges, because, as an old soldier, he saw no reason the inside of a mortar shell should be polished, as the tubes were.

This reminded me of the great scene in "Schindler's List", when Schindler gets the Nazi camp guards to let him take the Jewish children because he needed them to polish the inside of the shells (with their small hands) in his shell factory.

As I look back on it now, as an American engineer who watched the PBS News Hour regularly but didn't have much other information to go on, I was lied to by my government and was not cynical enough to expect it. My hat is off to the French. At least I did not hold their position against them, as many did.

"Certainly there was nothing deeply wrong with us that might have played a role in 9/11 and of course there were no innocents killed by us or our allies before that day that we might want to think about. At best maybe someone would say we might have to take into account the benighted opinions of those Muslims who might think they had grievances against us."

I would agree insofar as the American people themselves had no truck with ME politics and the religious sway over it. I would say, though, that our targeting on 9/11 and the shock and disarray after was further proof that so many Americans are unaware of what their government actually does around the world. We are so accustomed to the benefits of the projections of power the U.S. enables without asking about the price that is actually paid for them.

So perhaps as yet another thought experiment: when we total up the true cost of freedom, do we end up more often than not paying for it with the privation, the degradation, and the suffering of others? I have never believe that most Americans, if they ever asked themselves this kind of question, would ever say that whatever cost is there is an acceptable one (that the Tea Party is essentially asking a question like this with regard to other Americans and answering it with a resounding "yeah - and who cares?" is a whole other story altogether).

As for Donald's obv that "(b)ut what were the chances of the US fighting a "good war" in Afghanistan given how unwilling we were to examine our own behavior?", Hartmut's sense that bravery has become an empty platitude, and ptl's quoting of Tim O'Brien's famous "I went to war because I was a coward" - I remember Mike Bernhardt, who was brought up on charges at My Lai because he had refused to kill civilians (none of this is a quote - more a paraphrase of what he later said of the Vietnam War as a whole) - that the war was lost not in the jungle or the hamlets, but in the barracks in Hawaii, in the homes in suburbia, in the ghettos and schools - it was lost because there was no mentoring by responsible men to ensure that killing for the sake of killing would be unthinkable.

We lost, in other words, because of the caprice, ruthlessness, incompetency, and heartlessness of poorly-/un-fathered, irresponsible, childish men, whether or not in power.

The minute I saw that the tanks and the troops were on the ground in Iraq, I thought that no matter what the outcome was on it, that another cabal of childish, ruthless men, starting all the way from the White House, were cracking their knuckles.

Donald,
I'm not sure if we disagree or if I'm not being clear enough. I'm not asking for some empathy for Bin Laden, nor am I dismissing the global empathy that the US received after 9/11. I am questioning the idea that empathy comes to a group of people from some attack or suffering that has an origin in the acts of man. I suppose that one could say that such a situation existed in India, but given the turn towards nationalism there, I think it was a passing phenomenon, sparked by a remarkable leader.

As for knowing truthers, there are several in some circles here that I know. Quite honestly, they are good folks, but for example, one had to be kicked off of an email list at least three times because he kept linking problems the board was set to deal with to theories and cover ups about the twin towers collapse. I don't know if they are representative, it's almost like a person who believes in astrology or the psychological influences of blood type.

"I do tend to reflexively think of men as braver than women in general and me in particular."

I think that men, to a greater degree than women, tend to be socialized to believe they should be brave. The strange thing is that some men seem to believe that one can be brave vicariously. The idea is that as long as they support the war from the safety of their computer keyboards, they somehow share in the credit for bravery that you might think is due only to those who actually enlisted and risked their lives.

I am not willing to exempt the members of the military from their guilt based on notions of duty and procedure, especially given the fact that the US has a volunteer army. Somebody did actually kill all those people and at the end of the day it is the military that kills. Maybe the mafia don is morally more culpable than the hitman, but that doesn't exonerate the hitman.

I am not willing to exempt the members of the military from their guilt

Who's exempt from guilt? Have you taken responsibility for your own guilt in allowing people in Somalia to starve? How about the genocide in Rwanda? How do you measure the guilt you bear for using the energy (possibly fossil fuels?) to comment on blogs - aren't you just reveling in the blood and toil of others? Qui accuse s'accuse!

"The strange thing is that some men seem to believe that one can be brave vicariously."

Couldn't agree more. I've observed as well a similar sort of vicariousness in corporate circles - a self-attributed sense of genius many CEOs and other high-end executives congratulate themselves for having, where they believe their firms' success is directly attributable to them and them only, rather than the coordinated efforts of a lot of other folks who actually make the stuff or deliver the services.

Ever since the early years of the Cold War, perhaps in no small measure due to the proximity of the military market and the industrial complexes that supplied it with materiel, the thinking and practices of the higher echelons of the officer corps in the U.S. military has come over time to resemble more and more that of the executive levels of corporate structures, with perhaps a corollary effect - the power CEOs wield within the working lives of Americans has an almost military-style reach, in a regime of top-down leadership, conformity, and demand for unquestioning loyalty.

Within such a nexus, it is easy to see how those with the reigns of power in their hands can make themselves believe that everything that happens is from their doing, with their risk as the capital, rather than from those who have the bits in their mouths. So in war...it's not much of a leap of logic.

On a subject only I (and Dr. S) seem to be interested in, does anyone here know any Truthers in real life?

I actually know a couple of Truthers. (Maybe I should re-think my circle of friends? But they are people who I have known for decades. And on most other subjects, they are quite rational.) Both in their 50s, one female. And, sapient, they are not just people who think that the investigation was insufficiently exhaustive; they think it was a total cover-up

Neither claims expertise in structural engineering (although both claim to have read expert analyses of the collapse of the towers). Neither knows the other -- and I aim to keep it that way, if only for my own sanity!

But they have two things in common:
- both are avid conspiracy theorists. Anything bad that happens (but, somehow, never anything good) is the result of a conspiracy by a small group with a malign agenda of some kind. What the basis for that agenda might be, what they hope to gain, is usually ignored. If asked point blank, the motivation is usually extremely vague. And, as far as I can tell, usually requires that the conspirators be evil for the sake of being evil.

- both are convinced that the government, at all levels, is
a) captive of special interests of various kinds. Mostly evil, although a few merely self-interested to the exclusion of concern about anybody else.
b) amazingly capable when it comes to executing whatever conspiracy they are talking about. Notwithstanding its generally high level of incompetence (also, in other contexts, complained about vigorously) in any interactions with them personally.

In short, the Truthers (generally on the left) are just like the Birthers (on the right):
- They are seriously unhappy about something that has happened. In at least some cases, their reasons for being unhappy are not something that they are willing to acknowledge, even to themselves. (E.g. having a black man as President.)
- They are unwilling to even consider that anything (bad) can happen outside of the control of some Other. Some group which is not like them, but which they believe ought to have their interests at heart, but does not.
- They are avid to accept anything which supports their desired view. And they are impervious to any evidence which refutes it, not matter how compelling, and no matter who presents it.
- They have trouble accepting that there might be anything, especially anything bad, which is merely outside deliberate human control. At most, they can accept that, for example, a hurricane is outside human control . . . but the damage it causes is "obviously" due to deliberate bad construction, deliberate refusal to properly inspect said construction, deliberate delay in providing relief (usually in support of some totally unrelated agenda).

" I'm not asking for some empathy for Bin Laden, "

We're talking past each other. I thought you had interpreted me as asking for empathy for the terrorists.

"I am questioning the idea that empathy comes to a group of people from some attack or suffering that has an origin in the acts of man."

It doesn't come from the attack as such--people have to have some empathy before and at least a vague understanding that our government has done (directly or via proxies) some pretty nasty things. As inadequate as our press is, I think enough information filters through that those who have time to watch or read the news on a semi-regular basis would know this. That's what was so disappointing, to use a mild term, about the reaction of so many people (and it was across the political spectrum) right after 9/11. I expect shock and anger, but the mass self-righteousness was childish.

On 9/11 Truthers, the online ones I meet are good people, but they remind me very much of my friends who believe in intelligent design. They seem to read their favorite "scientific" sources and are convinced that the mainstream belief is foolish and easily refuted by anyone with common sense. These are probably universal traits among those attracted by some brand of pseudoscience.

lj, Donald, anyone interested: a great book on group process in relation to conflict, war, racism, etc.: An Ethic for Enemies, by Donald Shriver.

Don't know why it's so expensive, nor how easy it would be to get through a library, especially overseas. But it's well worth some effort to find if you're interested in the topic.

I know a couple of truthers in real life. They all became truthers almost immediately upon hearing about the attacks.

I love truthers. They remind me of those people who believed the Moon landings were faked.

I haven't encountered the Moon landing was a hoax types, not even online. I've heard of them, but offhand can't really think what political or ideological stance would lead to that set of beliefs. I suppose enlightenment is probably a few google clicks away.

Trutherism is kind of irritating because I'm leftish and it's a lefty pathology, the same way creationism irritates me as a Christian. If trutherism were a rightwing thing (I guess no one has thought of a way to blame Obama as a Muslim socialist terrorist) I'd probably laugh at it more.

Thanks for the book recommendation, Janie. I'll have to see if it is available in the local library system (I'm on a book buying moratorium until my birthday, and from now on it's going to be mostly Kindle stuff--soon as I get one, that is.)

This post just stopped me stiller than still.
From August of 2002 until long after the invasion of Iraq I woke up to that poem echoing in my brain.
I would catch myself reciting it under my breath from time to time throughout the day. I thought I might be going as mad as the corporate spokesbots on the teevee obviously were.

Well, there's a kindle version, but it's only a dollar cheaper than the paperback (grrrrrrrr)

It seems to me the "anger" reaction to 9/11 was born of wounded pride and, yes, this is a reaction that is more male. The female rough equivalent version is wounded personal vanity, but that, obviously, didn't come into play in that situation.

What aroused anger in me was how our media handled the aftermath - all that, "they hate us for our freedoms" crap. No one wanted to address the real issue; which is that they hate us because of decades of terror and economic emperialism that we have imposed on them either directly or by proxy.

And then there was the build up to invasion of Iraq and all of the obvious fabrications by our government and, again, the complicit media. As someone noted above, not only were inspectors in country pre-invasion and finding nothing, but there was this weird propaganda conflating of nuclear WMD with bio and chem ordnance.

So we went and rained terror - uh excuse me, shock and awe - on Iraq.

Why do they hate us again?

9/11 was just return fire in a war we started a long time ago and it should have been presented as such with full disclosure, all of the hard questions asked and then decisions made based on analysis of the options contained in the answers.

There was never anything resembling a reasonable plan for securing Iraq, installing "democracy" or paying for it all. Another source of anger for me, personally.

Finally, there came the torture and erosion of the Bill of Rights. More anger on my part.

So, I guess any anger experienced arising from 9/11 came about as a reaction to my own county's behavior.

Bin Laden, to me, was a declared enemy and should have been evaluated as such; calmly, rationally and with respect for his resources and capabilities.

I was for invading Afghanistan, destroying enemy networks and then leaving ASAP. Democracy promotion there was - and is - a pipe dream of the historically ignorant.

As for "trutherism", I do think it possible, perhaps likely, that elements within our gov't knew the 9/11 attack was going to occur and allowed it to happen in order to create a public rally cry for support of their pre-existing plans to invade muslim countries and further imperial projects -- not to mention make some healthy immediate profits in the process. That said, the towers collpased becaused airplanes crashed into them (as seen on tv) and the subsequent fires melted supports. Period.

I do personally know people who agree with this truther - lite. None that believe in the tower demolition scenario.

Who's exempt from guilt?

Original sin is not a very helpful concept for making ethical judgements and distinctions.

the subsequent fires melted supports

Not from the accounts I've seen, but close enough. The accounts I've seen stated that the heat was enough to weaken the supports, which then buckled, resulting in a pancaking of the building.

Never in history has fire melted steel. Google it!

I definitely had the anger reaction (I was Jack's White Hot Rage) - for about 24 hours. But that's how I am: I'm relatively quick to anger, but just as quick to let it pass. Then my brain kicked in and I started trying to make sense of it.

I was wary of Afghanistan, though I was supportive *if* invasion was the only viable option. I didn't have (and still don't have) the information required to know whether there was another viable option, and I still trusted the Bush Administration. I figured they were probably being a bit heavy-handed & clumsy diplomatically, but that was understandable under the circumstances. And the Taliban were pretty clearly theocratic thugs who had harbored our enemies. So, despite being wary, I ended up pro-Afghan invasion.

When Iraq popped into the news, they lost me. I thought our Iraq policy post-Gulf War I was mistaken, and I got pissed off back in the mid/late 90s when Clinton ordered some airstrikes. Now they were talking about invading, taking out Saddam, and... ??? The arguments in favor were so weak.

In a pretty short timeframe it became clear that we were going in, no matter what anybody said or did. That upset me, but I kept waiting to hear that we were planning a huge Iraqi Marshall Plan, complete with the military ramping up language training so it had enough interpreters, contractors lining up to work with the DoD on reconstruction efforts, etc. The war might be a bad idea, I thought, but maybe it would work out being non-terrible if we did it "right."

I watched in horror as that stuff by and large didn't happen, and it became obvious we had no real reconstruction plan.

I knew we were screwed. I don't have any special insight. This was not hard to figure out.

I wasn't aware at the time of just how long the architects of the Iraq war had been salivating over the prospect of "finishing the job." That helps explain some things.

It seems to me the "anger" reaction to 9/11 was born of wounded pride and, yes, this is a reaction that is more male. The female rough equivalent version is wounded personal vanity, but that, obviously, didn't come into play in that situation.

Really? You just had to throw this in? I have no issue with the rest of your comment - indeed, I agree with the bulk of it - but this little misogynistic jab was needed why, exactly? Men have pride, an emotion which is a virtue in moderation and detrimental only in excess, but women are merely given to "personal vanity", which is a priori selfish and detrimental? Really?

*sigh*

avedis, there was a detailed plan for post-invasion Iraq but since it came from the State Department, Rummy threatened anyone even mentioning it in his presence with immediate firing (at least that was what got leaked by Pentagon insiders). Iraq was a Cheney/Rummy show with sidelining and humiliation of Powell and his people as an integral part.

And, as a result of there being a significant turf-war component, and that the military is (understandably) not set up to do civil administration and nation-building, the "plans" for post-invasion Iraq amounted to "everything will magically work out."

The biggest planning failure, IMHO, was that we did not say loud and clear to the Iraqi military: "Return to your barracks. Pay and allowances will continue as usual." If we had done that, a whole lot of what ended up as unhappy people with guns would have been happier, and localized where they could be debriefed, disarmed, and dealt with.

Envy, "but this little misogynistic jab was needed why, exactly? Men have pride, an emotion which is a virtue in moderation and detrimental only in excess, but women are merely given to "personal vanity", which is a priori selfish and detrimental? Really?"

hey...easy now. No jab intended. It's just a general observation - not unlike the one Dr.S made in her post concerning male support for the Iraq invasion - and certainly not a value judgement. The wounded pride of men has caused more harm in the world than the wounded vanity of women. So, if I were to add a value judgement it would more weigh against men than women. Then again, hell hath no fury.........

wj, no planning error there. There was from the start no intention to even pretend that one cared about the Iraqis, esp. government employees outside the oil ministry. There was a direct order to the proconsul to send the army home (unpaid) and declare it dissolved. Then there was the (I assume also preplanned) policy to not employ Iraqis but to import slave workers with (iirc) a clear emphasis that those should not speak Arabic (but the second proconsul applied the same emphasis to his own people*, so it does obviously not matter ;-) ).

*I remember people at the time reporting that they had applied for jobs in the US administration in Iraq and that their job interviews were terminated the moment they answered the question "Do you speak Arabic" with "yes".

The biggest planning failure, IMHO, was that we did not say loud and clear to the Iraqi military: "Return to your barracks. Pay and allowances will continue as usual." If we had done that, a whole lot of what ended up as unhappy people with guns would have been happier, and localized where they could be debriefed, disarmed, and dealt with.

I don't think so. The decision to disband the Iraqi military and start a major de-Baathification effort is often blamed a great deal because Bremer made it very early in his tenure against the advice of...well, everyone it seems. But that doesn't mean that not doing it would have made the situation much better.

Those moves happened because Iraqi Shia and Kurdish communities demanded them. In a world where Bremer didn't make them, do you really think that the Shia and Kurds would have just shrugged their shoulders and said 'meh -- the Army and Baath-party have been butchering us for years and now that the Americans refuse to do anything about that, we'll just sit quietly here and drink tea'? Of course not. They would have taken matters into their own hands, which would mean revving up the violence.

The fact is, the US never had enough troops to secure the country. There is no CPA policy that can negate that fact.

Plus, I don't believe the fedeyeen were getting paid to begin with. And I don't see why any military officer would refuse to fight an evil army that had just invaded his country simply because they kept the checks coming. When people invade your country, you fight back. Especially if you're in the military. When we invaded Iraq, a lot of people who only had power because of their connections to Hussein were suddenly disenfranchised. Those people were going to fight, and fight hard, no matter what we did.

In addition to what Hartmut and Turbulence just said re; planning for post invasion Iraq, there is something else.

Our elected government owes it to us to discuss what they are thinking about doing in our name, what it will cost, why it is the best option, etc, etc - I mean a real and detailed business plan - and, most importantly, to be honest in all aspects of that discussion. Such a thing absoluitely did not happen in the build up to invasion and that represents willful and wanton misconduct if not outright criminal negligence, IMO, on the part of our leadership. Another crime` - though I'm not sure what it's called - is that we, The People allowed our elected representatives to get away with the fraud.

The whole thing was putrid. The behavior of the pol.s, the media and the people. I was ashamed to be an American as this went down.

Those of us who were there remember that in the first Gulf War the reason (we were told) that we were not going all the way to Bahgdad was that there was no way we wanted to get embroiled in the long term costly disaster that would surely be the result of overthrowing Saddam and "owning" Iraq for the foreseeable future.

What changed in that equation between 1991 and 2003? The same people arguing against full scale invasion in 1991 were the same ones arguing for it in 2003. We were owed an explanation. We should have demanded one.
The only paltry offering was that 9/11 "changed everything" - a nonsequitor wrapped as a propaganda slogan and shoveled into troughs for the stupid angry masses to feed on.

There was NO viable plan - other than to make a lot of $s via contracts and "leakage" of $millions (probably $billions) of our tax payments being tossed around in bundles, like footballs, by the likes of Wolfowitz - because it was an impossible situation not conducive to successful outcome.

Essaying into territory that is totally outside any expertise I have, it has always seemed to me that anger is a natural human reaction to things being Not What We Want. which is why we have "temper tantrums" among toddlers. We yell and cry and stamp our little feet and hold our breaths until things are put right. How else can we influence the world?

A significant part of our socialization as human beings, however, is learning how to control or repress this anger, and at least in my generation, the emphasis on control/repression was far greater in the raising of girls than boys.

Yes, even boys had to learn not to be angry (or to express their anger) all the time, but a certain amount of "righteous wrath" was allowed, even expected, of men. Shoot, GOD himself got angry, and, as countless books and movies reiterated, even the most peaceful of men will (and should) get angry if Pushed Too Far. It became a matter of setting one's own boundaries, of drawing line's in the mental sand . . .


Whereas for girls (and thus, eventually, women), anger was simply Not Done. It was to be repressed and denied, or turned inward (if it is true that depression is just anger turned on oneself). There was room in the world for a certain number of "feisty" women, but not for angry ones.

Which may, in certain respects, have been a good thing. I have a rich capacity for anger - which tends to be expressed verbally rather than in physical violence - that in the long run probably hasn't done me a lot of good. Anger feels like Doing Something about bad stuff (as opposed to doing nothing by keeping calm), but rarely does Something Useful actually get done as a result of it.

I'm not going to leap back here into how this gendered - as I see it - pattern of anger (mis)management may or may not have led to our post-9/11 misadventures. My own personal experience does not seem terribly germane, in that (1) I was living overseas, so the events seemed somewhat more remote than they did to most Americans, I suspect; and (2) I was much more aware of similar acts of violence in the world, so less shocked, perhaps. And I knew enough about the US in the world (including teaching courses on the Vietnam War) to suspect from the outset that the Iraq project was a really bad idea.

But if I could have convinced myself that my anger - like the wrath of Achilles - could have helped somehow, I'd have breathed fire with the rest of them. The other guys.

What changed in that equation between 1991 and 2003

My money is on 12 years of progressive mental illness on the part of Richard Bruce Cheney.

That's my charitable interpretation.

And no I'm not kidding.

My money is on 12 years of progressive mental illness on the part of Richard Bruce Cheney.

So what's his daughter's excuse?

So what's his daughter's excuse?

Maybe it's congenital.

* rimshot *

But no rimshot for Poppa Cheney, I think the guy is either nuts or evil. Not that those things are mutually exclusive.

dr ngo, at bottom, anger, as commonly defined, is always born of a sense of self importance.

We are all susceptible, to varying degrees, in modalities often idiocyncratic and situational , of feeling important to an unhealthy extent, hence being easily offended when things are not as we would like, with offense leading directly to anger.

Which is why you are right when you say that anger arises when things are not as we want them to be; as if our little preferences matter.

Usually anger is, indeed, an expression little more than a temper tamtrum revealing us to be the childish pussies we all are at some level at least some of the time.

On the other hand, what if our preferences are alligned with some universal truth/goodness? Freedom, love, happiness, truth...these values, I mean the real thing, not the registered trademarks, under siege, what would their reaction be? Would it look a bit like anger and be called that under semantic constraints?

Or would the fight express differently? Was Jesus angry when he overturned the money changers' tables? Was that act a temper tantrum? Has there ever been an angry saint? An angry wise man?

Lots of angry saints (if we define saint as a person canonized by his or her religious group).
Lots of rather unsavoury characters on the RCC saints list. There seem to have been times when being a psychopath was mandatory for acquiring sainthood.
More seriously, depending on the target of the anger I see no necessary contradiction between saintliness and just* anger.

*as in 'justified' not 'mere'

Which is why you are right when you say that anger arises when things are not as we want them to be; as if our little preferences matter.

You're making an interesting point, but it also seems to me that sometimes people can be angry about things that have nothing whatsoever to do with themselves.

Which can sort of lead to the angry saint phenomenon, although sainthood is not really required.

And yes, there have been many angry saints, and many angry wise men and women.

Anger is a natural and legitimate response to lots of things besides personal offense. The question is what you do with the anger.

Metallica put out an album called St. Anger a few years ago. Just sayin'...

That's cool.

I'm coming more from the John Lydon tip:

Anger is an energy.

Rage Against the Machine: Anger is a gift.

Hartmut, I would say that deliberately having no plan is a planning failure, just as much as having an obviously inadequate plan, or one which ignores reality. It's a different kind of planning failure, admittedly, but it's still a failure.

As for the demands of the Shia and Kurdish communities, I have to wonder this. If we had done as I suggest, given the Iraqi military an incentive to stay on their bases until we could take care of disarming them, how would that have failed to meet those demands? (Regardless of whether they were even made at the time the planning was being done.)

Would anyone argue that it is better to disband a military force before taking away their weapons, than to first get the weapons out of their hands and then disband them? I sure wouldn't, and I rather doubt that either the Shia or Kurdish communities would either.

Susan Sto Helit: Don't get afraid, get angry!

As for the demands of the Shia and Kurdish communities, I have to wonder this.

Do you wonder about the results of Iraq's first democratic election where the voters overwhelmingly rejected Iyad Allawi's platform of reconciliation with Baathists, the dismantling of debaathification and the incorporation of old-regime leaders into Iraq's security services? The people have spoken and they have been pretty damn clear. But Americans have always been so damn gifted at ignoring foreigners.

Would anyone argue that it is better to disband a military force before taking away their weapons, than to first get the weapons out of their hands and then disband them? I sure wouldn't, and I rather doubt that either the Shia or Kurdish communities would either.

How feasible do you think it would be to disarm the US population? Not very feasible I'm guessing. Now, why do you think disarming the Iraqi population would be any easier? I mean, the great military problems that US has faced in Iraq do not involve Iraqi Army units launching tank battles against their American counterparts or Iraqi Air Force units bombing American positions. The great military problems the US faced involved small arms and small amounts of explosives. In a country with a very large, porous border, those things will be present in great quantities. I mean, the US government can't even keep drugs out of its own prisons; why on Earth would you think it could keep small arms and a few kilograms of C4 out of an entire country?

On the day the planes went into the towers, a little black girl, (she sounded about 8 to 10 years old), was asked by a local St. Louis radio station, what she thought about the attacks. The was a slight pause and she responded quietly,"we have been bombing them for a long time and now they are bombing us back". I remember thinking, "out the mouth of babes and fools, come words of wisdom", one of my mothers favorite sayings. I never heard her response again or anything like it after that.
David Chisholm

"she sounded about 8 to 10 years old),"

America reacted more like one of the toddlers mentioned by dr. ngo. That little girl probably had a good kindergarten education several years earlier, where she might have been taught that two wrongs don't make a right, and other advanced concepts that go well beyond most of what one heard in the aftermath of 9/11.

Fortunately for the little girl, she wasn't identified. I don't think Tony Bennett will be so lucky.

A couple of things, Turb.

First, we aren't talking about disarming the entire Iraqi population. They didn't have guns at anything like the rate of the US. We're just talking about disarming an army.

Second, we are also talking about a situation where the country has just been successfully invaded by a military force substantially stronger than its own. And one where the bulk of the troops are from groups which, not being from Takrit, were discriminated against (at least for access to the elite). The Sunnis not as badly as the Kurds or Shia, but still.

Finally, one of the big factors in the later violence was that the troops went home with their weapons. Why did they go home? Because, with the army being disbanded, their livelihood was being taken away . . . in a country where the economy was not strong even before the disruption of the invasion.

Many of those guys were a significant part of the financial base for their extended family. If we had given them reason to believe that they were not being cast into unemployment, they would instead have had some economic incentive to stay put. As it was, they had to go home if they wanted to keep eating.

First, we aren't talking about disarming the entire Iraqi population. They didn't have guns at anything like the rate of the US. We're just talking about disarming an army.

Actually, we are taking about disarming tens of millions of people. As the NYT explained, on the eve of the war, "most Iraqi households own at least one gun".

In terms of disbanding the army, we were very successful: insurgents did not launch operations from Iraqi bases or using Iraqi Army heavy weapons. Instead, they used small arms and IEDs, all of which easily pass through Iraq's very long and very porous borders.

Second, we are also talking about a situation where the country has just been successfully invaded by a military force substantially stronger than its own.

Um, no, not really. Look, the US was powerless to stop attacks against its forces until it began giving (literally) tons of cash and weapons to its enemies. That's not what you do when your military is 'substantially stronger than' your enemies. That's just now how it works. Buying off your enemies is not the same as defeating them. We bought them off because we could not defeat them.

Finally, one of the big factors in the later violence was that the troops went home with their weapons. Why did they go home? Because, with the army being disbanded, their livelihood was being taken away.

I don't know why this is so hard to understand. When people invade your country, you fight back. Taking a check from the invaders does not prevent you from fighting back. People are perfectly capable of taking a check and meeting up with their buddies at night insurgent activities. This is not complicated.

wj:Finally, one of the big factors in the later violence was that the troops went home with their weapons. Why did they go home? Because, with the army being disbanded, their livelihood was being taken away.

Turbulence:Um, no, not really. Look, the US was powerless to stop attacks against its forces until it began giving (literally) tons of cash and weapons to its enemies.

Turbulence, isn't that in effect the same thing: bribing the enemy or paying the army to stay put?
And, if we argue that our reaction was based in fear, why not give them, Iraqis, a benefit of acting in fear.

I have a different theory about what was behind actions of our leaders with handling of Iraq war post "Mission Accomplished". I always trust the leadership words. I always believe that they believe what they are saying, that they say what they believe. The trick is to understand the position they come from and the words they use. What those words mean to those persons when they used them.
Bush really believed that the "Mission" was accomplished. That mission was to enter Baghdad which his father "failed". Next mission was to find WMD, which they wasted months of searching for. Next mission was to find Al-Qaeda in Iraq, hence thousands of arrested and tortured there. Next mission was to get back the expenses of the war from Iraq resources.

The problem with understanding the Bush stated plans is not considering how stupid he really is, how stupid a "born again" chronic (dry) alcoholic can really be. They are motivated purely by emotions, projecting their vices onto the "enemy", they can love or hate, there is no middle or moderate emotions. A child with a huge powers.

And i forgot to mention that dry drunkers are extremely persuadable by those they consider friendly. They consider friendly only those that flatter them. I was married to one for a while, i know them well.

lj: Fortunately for the little girl, she wasn't identified. I don't think Tony Bennett will be so lucky.

For some reason this triggered in my head a question to ask you lj, what, if anything, has the Japanese gov't done in response to "the threat of islamic radicalism" in the past 10 years? I would be interested in your thoughts on that and related items (such as, if not much, why not, why is Japan not involved as much in the Middle East as the U.S. as they face an even greater energy scarcity, etc.), should you have the time.

That's a good question, ugh. While there has been concerns about government intrusion, and the threat of terrorism was used to push for having all entering foreigners register their fingerprints and a photo taken when they enter the country, but given that the number of muslim believers is incredibly small here in Japan, gov't responses are less in terms of islamic radicalism and more in terms of dealing with foreigners period.

Another reason is that because Japan has become a 'pacifist' country after WWII, I think there may be a feeling that Japan would be spared something like 9/11.

Japan was actually quite involved in the Middle East in terms of oil until quite recently. This Asahi Shimbun article gives some background.

I would add to LJ's reply as well that if there has ever been any particular targeting of specific groups of foreigners by the Japanese government, it has traditionally been the Koreans and Chinese, especially the so-called zainichi populations of these groups - basically, special permanent residents who have been born in Japan but have elected to keep their respective nationalities.

While this isn't germane to the present discussion, it's worth noting that it makes for an interesting dynamic among the Japanese-born Koreans, as there are some who have elected to keep North Korean citizenship, alongside those who travel outside of Japan on South Korean passports. (Even all the more interestingly, I am not aware of any zainichi Chinese with mainland passports - as far as I know, their passports are all ROC)

One guess I may advance as to why Japan hasn't gotten caught up in the American antagonisms vis-a-vis the ME could be that their even greater dependence on ME oil doesn't allow them to play favorites with any of the major oil producers in the region; to ensure a steady supply they have to maintain fairly good terms with say, both Iran and Saudi Arabia, etc.

That's only a guess, but there might be plausibility to it.

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