Friday, March 22, 2013

The Hated Us Yesterday. They Hate Us Today.

And they will go right on hating us tomorrow.

I'm not talking about all the good people who were completely fooled by the Bush Administration; who reluctantly acceded to the bulldozing insistence that we needed to conquer and remake Iraq Now!Now!Now! because if we did not, we'd start losing major America cities to terrorist attacks that would make 9/11 look like Sheffield Townswomen's Guild  reenactment of the Battle of Pearl Harbor.

And why wouldn't they believe it?

 After all, despite the clear evident that the Republican Party had devolved into a cult of reptile aliens, to most Americans the idea that any US President -- even one who stole the office -- would hijack the worst terrorist attack in American history use it to lie us into the wrong war with the wrong enemy was almost unimaginable. Especially as, one by one, some of their most elite institutions and trusted public authorities echoed the Bush Administration party line.

That impulse I can understand and defend.

What cannot be defended or forgiven was the rush by the Professional Right to seize on the Iraq War as the Best Hippie-Bashing Sledgehammer Ever.  War as Magic Cudgel, perfectly engineered to permanently secure the Reagan Revolution by defeating America's real enemy -- the Evil Liberal Horde -- by beating their teeth out and then kicking them in the stomach for mumbling  (h/t Phillip Marlowe).  And best of all, to do it with the giddy, fascist delight of the thug who knows he is curb-stomping someone who cannot fight back; who finds he likes the intoxicating taste of blood on his teeth and that no one is going to stop him from sinking his fangs in again and again and again.

Mr. Sullivan can write a hundred columns like this --
In the summer of 2000, when I foolishly found myself wanting Al Gore to lose (Excelsior!), it was not a strong emotion. In the campaign, Gore was the advocate for a larger defense budget and Bush was all about being a “humble” nation. I figured there wasn’t much difference between them (and I still think Gore would have launched the Iraq War as well). But when the vote ended up a statistical tie in a key state, Florida, stances hardened.

I was a lonely Bush supporter in TNR offices back then, and I felt something I’d never felt before, even in the polarized, back-biting, ego-colliding of that era’s TNR. My colleagues felt that the election was being stolen in front of their eyes – and there was almost a cold civil war mood emerging. They also knew, as I did, that Bush would be a president without a majority of the national popular vote. Worse, Bush, instead of governing in a way that calmed the waters, and acknowledging his weak position, acted from the get-go as if he had won a landslide. America was in a constitutional crisis months before it was embroiled in a second Pearl Harbor. The very legitimacy of the entire democracy was in the air. It was in that profoundly polarized atmosphere that the catastrophe happened.

succumbed to the polarization, and had become far more attached to the new president than I ever expected to a year before. Others also got carried away:
It may have seemed meaningless at the time, but now we know why 7,000 people [sic] sacrificed their lives — so that we’d all forget how Bush stole a presidential election.
My horror at 9/11, combined with crippling fear, compounded by personal polarization was a fatal combination. This is not an excuse. It’s an attempt at an explanation. And my loathing of the left had been intensified earlier that year by a traumatizing exposure of my own sex life by gay leftists determined to destroy my reputation and career because of my mere existence as a gay conservative.
I had spent much of the 1990s at war with the gay left, and I think it had embittered me.
-- full of truths, half-truths and equivocations, but he will never get close to understanding the root of what really happened because what really happened is too much for him to face.

From L'Hote:
where's all the hippie punching?

First, some might say that personality doesn't matter, that what matters is substance. But personality influences substance. A huge amount of the arguments in favor of the war were essentially genetic: look at the people opposing the war, dirty fucking hippies! How could you stand with them? From the space of 10 years, people are putting all of their arguments into the most rational, logical light. Even in the commission of apologizing, they can't stop themselves from trying to rationalize what they advocated. But I don't, actually, think that they were being rational when they advocated for war. I think they were tribal, and they were being emotional, and that it mattered. And the refusal to recognize that makes it more dangerous that they will get it wrong in the future.

Second, I think people don't want to admit that hatred of the left-wing was part of their problem in 2002 and 2003 because they still hate the left, and recognizing the irrationality of their earlier hatred would compel them to think over their current hatred. Jon Chait, to pick one of the people doling out so-so-sorrys, certainly has never stopped treating the left with open-mouthed contempt. (Far more contempt than he has for most Republicans.) Look, casting your eyes back a decade, no matter how much you couch it as a matter of self-criticism, is easy. You're operating at a remove. You get to consider a much younger you. Thinking about how you currently are animated by petty resentments is harder.
And, good lord, from Conor Friedersdorf:
Behold the Hatred, Resentment, and Mockery Aimed at Anti-Iraq War Protesters

Few hawks who treated them shabbily have reflected on their behavior in reminisces about the conflict.

Reflecting on the apologetic Iraq War retrospectives many writers have published in recent days, Freddie deBoer observes that "one of the most obvious and salient aspects of the run up to the war" is being ignored: "the incredible power of personal resentment against antiwar people, or what antiwar people were perceived to be." As he remembers it, "the visceral hatred of those opposing the war, and particularly the activists, was impossible to miss. It wasn't opposition. It wasn't disagreement. It was pure, irrational hatred, frequently devolving into accusations of antiwar activists being effectively part of the enemy." Now, he says, it is all but forgotten.

Is he exaggerating?

Judge for yourself. And may the quotes I've assembled serve as a caution: All this is what was said about the people who protested a war that a majority of Americans now regard as a tragic mistake, that began on false pretenses, and that proved far more costly than any advocates anticipated. Keep in mind as you read that tens of millions of people in dozens of countries protested against the impending invasion of Iraq over a period lasting several years. To be sure, some behaved in ways that justified criticism. But none could discredit the cause generally, and any reductive description of "what anti-war protesters are like" is self-evidently nonsense.

The simple truth which Mr. Sullivan cannot bear to face is how easily and eagerly he and so many of his fellow "Reasonable Conservatives" shed their Burkean figleaves of modesty and reticence and became everything the Dirty Hippies had always warned they were under their veneers of urbanity and collegiality -- everything Mr. Sullivan claims to loathe in every homophobe who ever terrorized a gay man.

David Corn at Mother Jones:
Yet in those dreadful months before the March 19, 2003, invasion of Iraq, the cheerleaders for war inhabited a place of privilege within the media. They could say anything—and get away with it. Kristol could declare—as he did the day before our exchange—that a war in Iraq "could have terrifically good effects throughout the Middle East," face little challenge, and gain plenty of debate-shaping attention.
They showed themselves to be goons who, when offered the chance to bully the weak, grabbed it with both hands.

They showed themselves thugs who didn't just fail their own, personal Milgram Tests, but found a way to made a tidy profit by cranking the shock box up to 11.

From Mr. Charles P. Pierce:

...I don't want an open and rational debate with these lycanthropes. They relied on journalistic convention and the soft agreements between gentlemen to peddle their poison. I want them dismissed from this anniversary because it's like bringing out the Manson family to discuss the film oeuvre of Sharon Tate. I want to see op-eds from Hans Blix, and from ElBaradei. I want to see long retrospectives, not from the liberal laptop warriors assembled by The New Republic, but from Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay. (A note: I generally credit "the McClatchy guys" for getting it right. I got that wrong. McClatchy bought out Knight-Ridder after Strobel and Landay did all their best work. They did that work under the aegis of Knight-Ridder and that should be properly recognized.) For all the fan-dancing that's being done by people in order to rehabilitate themselves, it is still the most important thing to remember that there were people who Luckily, over at his place, Bill Moyers put up the full-length television special he did a few years back on this very subject. Consider that my open and rational response to the disgusting spectacle playing itself out elsewhere.
When the crisis came, many good people were misled by war criminals who lied and lied and lied and turned those good people's sense of duty and their faith in their civic institutions against them.  And from my vantage point as a deeply flawed and failed human being, the good people who were defrauded and terrorized into making a mistake do not require anyone's forgiveness.  

But when that crisis came and they were given complete freedom of movement, professional Conservative public intellectuals took that opportunity to whip out a gun, leap up on the table and use their privileged positions in the public square to threaten to waste any Hippie who opened his fucking pie-hole.

And that I cannot forgive.


Anonymous said...


And Sullivan and whoever else can cram it up their cramhole with the "but Gore would have done it too!" bullshit. No, Al Gore fucking wouldn't have invaded Iraq. Because he wouldn't have had Rummy as his SecDef, Condi as security advisor, and an entire putrid nest of bloodthirsty neocon bastards with an open invitation to spew their foolishness in the Oval Office.
Sure, I can see VP Holy Joe Lieberman advocating for a good old fashioned Muslim beatdown. But no, Al Gore fucking wouldn't have invaded Iraq. Because he's not a goddamn moron. And because the "zomg let's invade Iraq!" train never would have left the station without all those bloodthirsty neocon bastards there to nudge it along. Their warmongering assholery would have stayed limited to the pages of the Weekly Standard where it fucking belonged, and liberals with some sense could have used it as emergency toilet paper.

John K. Fitzpatrick said...

Just as an aside, I was present at the 2008 debates between Peter and Christopher Hitchens. Despite occurring in a (non-denominational) church, on the topic of the existence of any gods, Christopher cleanly swept the choir loft with the rags of Peter's theology. The second topic of the night was Iraq, and though not nearly as eloquent or funny as his pro-war brother, Peter crushed Christopher, both morally and with the crowd. Both outcomes I expected and enjoyed.

I do miss the Hitch though; I wonder what toe-spins he would have performed on this sad retrospective anniversary.

Cirze said...

You actually cannot yell "Liar!" at these thugs enough.



Batocchio said...

What cannot be defended or forgiven was the rush by the Professional Right to seize on the Iraq War as the Best Hippie-Bashing Sledgehammer Ever.

Exactly. I can forgive being wrong. I can't forgive someone eagerly joining a lynch mob, or seeing a group of bullies beating up a kid, and joining the bullies. Being wrong is one thing. Gleeful hatred is another.

(and I still think Gore would have launched the Iraq War as well).

Like Anon, this one really pisses me off as well. Sullivan offers absolutely no support whatsoever for this statement. A Gore administration would have been competent at counterterrorism, and might have prevented 9/11. Maybe not, but the Gore team undoubtedly would have done better than the Bushies. And with no 9/11, neither the Afghanistan or Iraq war would have occurred. Regardless, Gore would have no reason for attacking Iraq and didn't have a public, decades-long desire to do so; he gave a big speech opposing going to war with Iraq on common sense grounds.

(Also, Gore wouldn't have launched a war against Iraq because, had 9/11 occurred, rabid rightwingers would have tried to impeach him.)

As I wrote in a earlier thread, Sullivan's been more abject in his apologies this time around, but he's still falling far short. Sullivan quoting Ted Rall, and his bullshit slur against Gore, is just another way of saying "both sides do it" and "it's not my fault." What a gutless turd.

marindenver said...

Can only echo Anon and Batocchio - Gore would not have invaded Iraq. It's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Thought my eyeballs were going to hit the monitor when I read that ridiculous statement.

Anonymous said...

Unless the assumption is that the neocons who ran Bushs show would also have run Gore's, which is absurd, then the notion that Gore would also have invaded Iraq is based on absolutely nothing. It's a non sequitur. In fact, I find it easy to argue that Gore might have actually read the occasional PDB, might have actually listened to Richard Clarke, & might have stopped something before it started.

Unsalted Sinner said...

This clip turned up as "recommended" after the one you posted. It catches the style of the Iraq War hawk perfectly:

Yastreblyansky said...

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. "Al Gore would have launched a war against Iraq" is an unfalsifiable way of saying "there was a legitimate reason for a war against Iraq" which is an unsustainable falsehood.

Purple library guy said...

Well, depends where you're sitting. As someone from the far left, for me "Al Gore would have attacked Iraq" is shorthand for "Republican politicos are vicious, crazed goons and Democrat politicos are bloodless technocrats but they both believe in war and empire for contractors and oil companies--just Repugs do it with glee and Dems do it while uttering platitudes of regret."

"They're all horrible" isn't a justification for war.
That said I'm not certain Gore would have attacked Iraq. But at best he would have continued the sanctions and killed another few hundred thousand "the price is worth it" children, and then attacked someone else instead. Libya, Syria, someplace in Africa.