....LMB: "The Shame Offensive"....

February 17, 2003

On the Friday afternoon before the massive British peace protests kicked off, Tony Blair landed an excellent pre-emptive soundbite:

''If 500,000 people are on the march, that is less than the number of deaths Saddam is responsible for. If one million people are on the march, that is still less than the number of people who died in wars that he started.''

And so began the newest counter-offensive by pro-war conservatives.

The Iraq war isn't about oil, it's not about weapons of mass destruction, it's not about UN resolutions. It might have been a few days ago, but it's not anymore. Now the war is about defeating a tyrant and saving a nation's people from oppression. The hawks on the side of peace and freedom, and the doves are on the side of fascism and suffering.

Example: this column by Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes. The article is titled "Fascist Pigs!", and contains this tagline:

"Demonstrations over the weekend show the left's dedication to preserving murderous, dictatorial regimes--no matter what the cost."

You may have thought that you were against the war because you didn't want bombs dropping on the heads of Iraqi children, or because you opposed U.S. imperialism, but you were wrong. You oppose the war because you like it when people are crushed 'neath the iron fist.

And this article here from the usually liberal Guardian which informs us that the Iraqis want us to invade their country and liberate them. Well, some do. Well, one "Kurdish leader" and one "Iraqi intellectual" want the invasion. And "the Iraqi opposition." So if you oppose the war, you are opposing the will of the Iraqi people, you lying piece of shit hypocrite you (well, kinda).

It's a powerful argument, of course. Someone tells you that the stance you've taken on a particular issue (opposing Iraq war) will actually work against values that you hold dear (life, freedom) can throw you into a muddle.

At this point in an argument, many lefties make a dumb mistake. They will say something like, "Oh yeah, if the U.S. government is so big on freedom, why do we support dictatorships in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia? Why aren't we trying to free those people?"

To anyone who does not already hold the same point of view, this generally sounds like run-of-the-mill America bashing. It sounds like the speaker is saying "we can't try to free the Iraqi people because it would be hypocritical." Which in turn sounds like the speaker would rather keep one group of people in chains in order to maintain some sort of consistency in their wanky moral philosophy. Which in turn makes the listener think that the speaker is an ass.

What these leftys are simply trying to do is to give historical (and current) evidence to support a counter-theory. These folks are arguing that since the U.S. has so frequently supported dictatorships and opposed or ignored so many lieration struggles, that the "no, we're going in to free the Iraqi people because we treasure democracy and liberty" claims made by the government look very unlikely. Which means that the government is planning an attack for ulterior motives, and is lying to the American public.

I think a lot of American leftists could take some "how to talk to people who aren't radicals without sounding like an asshole" lessons.

Speaking of assholes, there is another pro-war contingent out there, who might more accurately be called anti-anti-war. I always see a couple of these folks at peace rallies, like these fellas. These are people who do not argue in favor of war based upon the costs and benefits, but based upon their deep-seated disgust of everything liberal and their deep-seated feelings of national pride. Personally, I think it is part of a weird nexus where a person's feelings of self-esteem are tightly tied to their personal identification as Americans. And criticizing or maligning any portion of America-- its government, flag, policies, history or culture-- then becomes a personal attack on that individual. It's as though when I say "I oppose the war on Iraq," I have come up to an anti-anti-war person and said "you are a disgusting person."

But that could just be my undergraduate psychology degree talking.

Anyhow, let's talk about this democracy angle some more.

First of all, if we are going to talk about democracy, we should be concerned with what the Iraqi people actually want. While the "Iraqi opposition" (some of whom will continue living comfortably in Britain for the duration of the war) claims that the Iraqi people want the war, is that what the actual Iraqi citizens want? Obviously it's hard to tell. Gallup isn't calling up Iraq and asking them poll questions. I've spoken with several people who travelled to Iraq this past year, and they told me that everyone they talked to didn't want the war because they didn't want more destruction. But how freely would those people be to declare their support for revolution in Saddam Hussein's Iraq? As the Iraqi people are the ones who will bear the full brunt of this war, I cannot support any military action that Iraqi people don't support. This small bit of anecdotal evidence leans towards the "don't support the war" side.

There are no immediate plans for democracy in post-war Iraq. The U.S. has come up with a three stage plan to take Iraq from leaderless dictatorship to modern quasi-republicanism. First stage is "US military-led rule" that would last about a year and a half (a la Afghanistan). Second stage is an "international civilian administration (a la Kosovo). And the third is a U.S.-friendly government that at least looks kind of democratic in about two years. At least that's the U.S. version. The UK says that their troops will remain in Iraq for at least three years.

I'm with the skeptics on this one. Iraq is not a united country that was lead by an evil dictator for a few years and can be freed and restored to its former state. Like so many nations, Iraq is a country that was cobbled together by the West, lumping together people of many different ethnicities, religions, tribes and interests. And they've been living under nothing but dictatorships for decades, and any time a popular leader began to rise, Saddam had them killed.

And on top of that, even some of the Iraqis who allegedly want the U.S. to invade are furious about the foreign military rule to democracy plan. Mainly furious with the first part. To maintain stability, it looks like the U.S. wants to keep many members of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath political party in charge of the country.

So when you are attacked for opposing the freedom and democracy of the Iraqi people, just remember the two main issues: what do the Iraqi people want? and do any of the proposed U.S. actions make progress towards that goal?

[Thanks to Dack, Nickie, and my own verbosity]

Posted by Jake at 09:43 PM

There is a really long article on the c8.com forums regarding this. It's a pretty interesting thread, but don't bother going if you're not willing to do a lot of reading.

Anyway, the author, CF, goes into great depth and takes a much much wider view of the anti-war movement and it's relation to the support of fascist regimes. It's worth a read if you have 20 minutes to spare, though I don't claim to agree with much of it.


Posted by: jeremy at February 18, 2003 02:36 PM

Let's reverse the question - what is it that the architects of a war on Iraq want?

Cited frequently because it's grandly-styled blueprint of a U.S./Israel military axis, Perle & Co.'s "A Clean Break", outlines the dimensions of what they want. The ethnic cleansing of 3.5 million Palestinians from the occupied territories is their primary aim. And, a subjugation of Iraq that would install the Hashemite Kingdom (Jordan) as its rulers, is part of the package.

The Bush Administration's plans for Iraq are that it's transformed into an Israeli vassal state, at the very least.

Is that what the Iraqi people yearn for?

Posted by: R.C. Vachon at February 21, 2003 10:06 PM

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Posted by: at March 11, 2003 08:20 AM

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Posted by: at March 11, 2003 08:20 AM
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Media News

November 16, 2004

Tales of Media Woe

Senate May Ram Copyright Bill- one of the most depressing stories of the day that didn't involve death or bombs. It's the music and movie industries' wet dream. It criminalizes peer-to-peer software makers, allows the government to file civil lawsuits on behalf of these media industries, and eliminates fair use. Fair use is the idea that I can use a snippet of a copyrighted work for educational, political, or satirical purposes, without getting permission from the copyright-holder first.

And most tellingly, the bill legalizes technology that would automatically skip over "obejctionable content" (i.e. sex and violence) in a DVD, but bans devices that would automatically skip over commericals. This is a blatant, blatant, blatant gift to the movie industry. Fuck the movie industry, fuck the music industry, fuck the Senate.

Music industry aims to send in radio cops- the recording industry says that you're not allowed to record songs off the radio, be it real radio or internet radio. And now they're working on preventing you from recording songs off internet radio through a mixture of law and technological repression (although I imagine their techno-fixes will get hacked pretty quickly).

The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few- blogger Jeff Jarvis discovers that the recent $1.2 million FCC fine against a sex scene in Fox's "Married By America" TV show was not levied because hundreds of people wrote the FCC and complained. It was not because 159 people wrote in and complained (which is the FCC's current rationale). No, thanks to Jarvis' FOIA request, we find that only 23 people (of the show's several million viewers) wrote in and complained. On top of that, he finds that 21 of those letters were just copy-and-paste email jobs that some people attached their names to. Jarvis then spins this a bit by saying that "only 3" people actually wrote letters to the FCC, which is misleading but technically true. So somewhere between 3 and 23 angry people can determine what you can't see on television. Good to know.

Reuters Union Considers Striking Over Layoffs- will a strike by such a major newswire service impact the rest of the world's media?

Pentagon Starts Work On War Internet- the US military is talking about the creation of a global, wireless, satellite-aided computer network for use in battle. I think I saw a movie about this once...

Conservative host returns to the air after week suspension for using racial slur- Houston radio talk show host (and somtime Rush Limbaugh substitute) Mark Belling referred to Mexican-Americans as "wetbacks" on his show. He was suspended for a couple of weeks, and then submitted a written apology for the racial slur to a local newspaper. But he seems to be using the slur and its surrounding controversy to boost his conservative cred with his listeners.

Stay Tuned for Nudes- Cleveland TV news anchor Sharon Reed aired a story about artist Spencer Tunick, who uses large numbers of naked volunteers in his installations and photographs. The news report will be unique in that it will not blur or black-out the usual naughty bits. The story will air late at night, when it's allegedly okay with the FCC if you broadcast "indecent" material. The author of this article doesn't seem to notice that Reed first claims that this report is a publicity stunt, but then claims it's a protest against FCC repression. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I'm not that much of a sucker.

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Mission: Mongolia

Jake's first attempt at homemade Mongolican barbecue:


What went right: correctly guessing several key seasonings- lemon, ginger, soy, garlic, chili.

What went wrong: still missing some ingredients, and possibly had one wrong, rice vinegar. Way too much lemon and chili.

Result: not entirely edible.

Plan for future: try to get people at Great Khan's restaurant to tell me what's in the damn sauce.

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