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"...No Worse Than Your Average Dictator"

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You have to go over to Roger Simon's to check out this thread (started by the snarky Tom Tomorrow cartoon at Salon on 'Chickenhawks'). I only have a limited amount of snark, so can't see wasting it here, but I did want to make sure that no one got left out of the fun. I'm always being busted for talking about the 'irrational left' without pointing to any examples; so here's one. Folks, click over and meet Matt:
As far as Saddam's cruelty goes, it is greatly exaggerated. By world standards, particularly in the Middle East, he wasn't that bad. As long as you didn't oppose him politically you could pretty much carry on your regular life. I'm not defending him, mind you. I'm saying that he is no worse than your average dictator, and I don't see the hawks clamoring to topple, say, the president of Uzbekistan, who boils his political opponents live. Saddam quashed a rebellion and killed a bunch of people in the process. As I said before, standard practice for a head of state. Try taking up arms against the government with a few thousand people and see if you don't get killed and dumped in a mass grave.
To R.C. Dean: did you not see my other post on this "300,000" number? Saddam killed these people in an uprising that was egged on by our own President. So it seems a little strange to me to use that as evidence of Saddam's cruelty. And are Iraqis more free today than they were under Saddam? I don't know, let's see. Saddam let them have weapons, Bremer won't. Saddam didn't send soldiers for sweeps through people's houses to see if they had guns. In fact, if you didn't challenge Saddam politically he pretty much left you alone. Citizens of other countries have worse deals. Oh, and you forgot to mention all the U.S. soldiers who died in this war, since we're playing the "whose policy saves more lives" game.
Now I certainly don't hold the Democratic nominees or progressives in general responsible for this fella. But since he and his buds are the ones Mr. and Mrs. America will see in the letters to the editor section, they tend to be the ones who public opinion coalesces around. And public opinion is not going to be kind. As a counterpoint to both Mike and Tom T., I'll offer a link to an article from back in the days when salon was inconoclastic and interesting. The money quote?
I wish I still believed, as I used to, that the United Nations was always the world's best chance to avert bloodshed. I wish I could join, as I once would have, the placard-waving peace protesters outside the U.S. Consulate here in Sydney. I wish I'd never seen the piece of ear nailed to the wall.
[corected doofus mistake in poster's name.] JK UPDATE: Fellow biker Mike Hendrix throws in an even more egregious quote from Democratic Underground (shooting fish in a barrel, that is), then adds a very interesting example of Republican Presidential nominee Dewey remaining close-mouthed about a major intelligence failure while running against FDR.

1 TrackBack

Tracked: November 13, 2003 2:30 PM
Ted Rall from Wunderkinder
Excerpt: I'll give it to you here, without comment, because it's pointless and I'm far too busy. But here are bloggers who are talking about it: Andy Sull Michelle M Tot Armed Liberal on a related subject. I'm almost glad I'm so busy today. I can stand opposing...

30 Comments

It's Matt, not Mike, who has lost all sense of reality.

DOOOH - I'll go correct it now.

mea culpa...

A.L.

Heh. Great minds . . . I just posted a few other excerpts from that same thread.

Check out this parody of the TT cartoon.

You.

"...a limited amount of snark"

Uh huh.

Riiight.

Well, inkgrrl, it's like aikido. The more unbalanced energy in the attacker (snark + idiotarianism in the original post), the less the aikidoist has to move in order to redirect it in a way that kicks their ass - because essentially, they've already kicked their own ass before they ever reach you. They just don't realize it yet.

As for Matt's post... how DO the satirists keep pace? You couldn't make this stuff up.

I was going to carry the torch of debate over here, but I've gotten lazy. And shameless.

So I'll just plug my post at (http://anticipatoryretaliation.blogspot.com/) and wait until a fool surfaces within snarking range.

Knocking down straw men like it's going out of style!

I didn't know straw men can post comments on blogs ...

I think Hei Lun beat me to my comment...

A.L.

Dr. Seuss had the perfect political cartoon for this SOB. The grandmother reading "Adolf the Wolf" fits this guy to the letter. Ugh.

Yes, he did. I blogged that cartoon it as part of my Nov. 11th Remembrance Day roundup.

praktike,

What straw man are you referring to, exactly? You can't just throw that out there and expect those of us who agree with Armed Liberal to see what you're getting at.

Michael J. Totten,

I wonder what you thought of Rob Lyman's guest blog where he uses the "T" word:

http://windsofchange.net/archives/004265.html

Would Lyman's essay be open for discussion on your blog or would it be beyond the bounds of "civility?" What is the boundary between civil and uncivil discussion?

If you're interested in discussing this, we can take it over to that thread to keep it more topical.

My point was that you're always going to be able to point out irrational people on either end of the spectrum.

I could go over to the Free Republic and find a similarly stupid quote in about two seconds.

But it represent a serious argument advanced by a sane person, so it's child's play to make a mockery of something like that.

typo: it doesn't represent a serious argument. sorry.

Folks, lets not forget that Stalin wasnt much worse than your average dictator either. I mean he sure, 20 million is a lot, but he only bothered to kill you if you happened to be in the way of the wonderful progress he was making in universal employment and healthcare. Really doing the world a favor if you think about it. And lets not forget that it was US opposition in the Cold War that really spurred a lot of this. I mean if you think about it its America that is responsible for every death that has ever occurred in the history of the world. Even before it existed.

Praktike,

This could be interesting. Especially when dealing with political opponents, it's better to show than tell. Could you take 5 and bring back a Freep quote & link to show us all? I think it would make a big difference to the discussion.

Rob's use of the word "treason" corresponds to actions that fit the generally accepted definition of that term, if raised to the level of action. If kept at the level of incitement, the term is of course "sedition."

Can't see what's controversial about that - though as an aside, it's an interesting (and revealing) mental tic that some folks can't even bring themselves to say the word.

AL, what do you think of that TT cartoon? He was asking for attacks because of the Chicken Hawk title, but I didn't think it was anything as offensive as other bloggers are making it out to be. Lord knows there's been worse name-calling, left and right, and Perkins has taken pains to point out he wasn't attacking veterans with blogs. The proper response, I thought, would have been a witty crack, not the moral indignation I'm seeing.

Frankly, The Onion's story on the blogger whose site is discovered by his mother was nastier.

I thought it was 'snarky' and disliked it because I genuinely oppose efforts to shame or force people out of debates (which is different from loudly proclaiming that they are wrong and backing it up with arguments).

It's personally irritating to me, as my oldest son has just joined the Air Force ROTC, and I am convinced that this conflicts (not necessarily in Iraq) will still be going on in three years when he goes into active service.

Note my post on the subject, above.

A.L.

Joe: How's this?

Muslims are nice to your face, and the minute you turn your back, they would kill you if they could get away with it.

Now, I'm not going around the blogosphere saying that this type of statement typifies what's wrong with Republicans. It doesn't reflect any sort of mainstream conservative viewpoint.

Thanks, A.L., and thanks for your remarks on that idiotic posting in the Simon post. I take the point on not trying to shame someone out of a debate.

What's amazing is the decline into self-parody we're seeing. "Not bad as dictator's go" shouldn't be a defense or anyone, at least from a beneficiary of a liberal democracy. Ted Rall's op-ed of a couple of days ago pissed me off to no end, until a friend helped put the thing in perspective.

Any dictator is tolerable to progressives unless he is friendly with Americkkka. It's not dictatorship that offend us progressives. Or murder of dissidents or revolutionaries. Look at the admiration we have for Castro. The difference between a Pinochet and a Castro is that one is horrible because he's a reactionary but the other is fine because he represents progressive forces standing up to yankee imperialist designs. The killing and dictatorship doesn't factor into it, except for agitprop to condemn the hegemonic, racist capitalist opressor.

It's Amerikkka that offends us. Saddam was ok when he was friendly with the Soviet Union, but we stopped ignoring his repression when he started cozying up to America. But after he went against the US again, then he's really not so bad. No worse than your average dictator that stands up against the imperialist hegemonic power of Amerikkka. The Nation, the Progressive, Z Mag, Mother Jones, Zinn, Noam, Rall, Tariq Ali: we all agree with Matt. America is much worse than Saddam could ever be. Saddam wasn't so bad. He kept McDonalds out of Iraq after all.

Matt correctly points out that no one would be in those mass graves if it wasn't for the American government. Saddam would not have killed or tortured anyone if it wasn't for America. And Israel.

Responsibility for all political repression and killing can be directly traced to the U.S. government or Israel. Usually both. Right now people are starving and being killed in North Korea. This would not be happening if it wasn't for the policies of the U.S. government. And Israel. I have been able to trace every act of repression, dictatorship, political murder, genocide, and torture in the world back to the policies of the American government. And Israel.

So I don't see why you can object to what Matt said.

Praktike,

Helpful in showing both sides of the debate. It's actually a good and interesting thread, whose contents may surprise many people. But there are also examples that may give some folks on my side of the aisle pause. So I'd say: read it, everyone.

(I liked nuconvert's response later in that Freep thread, though: "Must be your winning personality and charm.")

Now praktike, imagine you kept running across these sentiments via substantial right-wing groups who held large public rallies with tens of thousands or more (organized by the Klan to keep the parallels) where members carried signs and espoused sentiments like that, or:

"...One of the best summations of mu-slime that I have ever read."

Etc. And imagine, too, that attenuated versions werebeing echoed in leading opinion columns, and major Republican politicians began catering closely to this base; indeed, imagine that a major Republican contender was riding a wave of the people who attended those Klan-organized rallies toward a nomination.

Would you be:

(a) Unconcerned, everyone has whackos.
(b) Renting The Dead Zone on DVD for the fallout shelter you're building, and zeroing your long-range scope.
© OK because you know this nominee will be toast in the election, but seriously concerned about a deep sickness within the Republican Party, and hoping that some decent Republicans could fight to take their party back?

For a guy who talked in an earlier thread about the American consensus being dead and replaced by a bi-modal distribution... well, this is what some of the picture looks like from the other side of that distribution. And yeah, we're concerned.

So are folks who are sitting in the middle. A.L., Totten, LaFreniere, and many more have seen too much of this stuff from the Left side of the aisle, and it's past the point of concern for them. Matt is an isolated example, and you can't build a case on that... but when life-long liberals read that and go "I've heard that too often" instead of "what a whacko!"... there's a problem.

-------

OFF TOPIC: I'm glad I read the thread, if for no other reason than this classic post that I just had to share:

" 'But even the most strict -- commonly called fundamentalists these days -- know that a Muslim is commanded to treat Jews and Christians "as I would treat myself," in the words of a Hamas leader.'

Reese, HAMAS PEOPLE BLOW THEMSELVES UP!!! And that is how they treat Christians and Jews."

Has a point there.

" 'But even the most strict -- commonly called fundamentalists these days -- know that a Muslim is commanded to treat Jews and Christians "as I would treat myself," in the words of a Hamas leader.'

Reese, HAMAS PEOPLE BLOW THEMSELVES UP!!! And that is how they treat Christians and Jews."

They also treat other Muslims that way. (In Haifa they bombed a restaurant 50% owned by Israeli Arabs, killing several, and in Jerusalem their bomb at Hebrew University in a cafe missed killing six Arab students by a matter of seconds.)

Yes. The folks in Riyadh know a thing or two about that now. Baghdad, ditto.

Joe, as always, I'm impressed by your logic. I think I understand you herem but I have a bit of a different take.

I think the problem with the left wing and protests is a little complicated, however.

Much like there isn't a monolithic opinion as to why this war was fought, there doesn't seem to be a collective understanding among those who opposed the war as to why it shouldn't have been fought.

As Wolfowitz so famously said in Vanity Fair a while back, "for bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue - weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on."

Now, I think that anyone who reads this blog regularly understands why Wolfowitz thought this war was necessary, and it roughly parallels your own logic as I understand it.

The aim is nothing short of the long-range elimination of terrorism by installing Western-style democracies in the Middle East.

The administration believes that there are a variety of effectual tools at its disposal, from military power to propaganda. Iraq was considered the low-hanging fruit, in part because there were so many reasons why Saddam had to go.

But not everyone understands the grand transformational idea, because of all of the shifting public rationales given before the war as well as the sideshow at the United Nations. And while you can probably do a Lexis-Nexis search and find administration quotes about promoting democracy--and even the NSS spells it out--the administration has definitely confused the media and the public with all this other nonsense.

There are some war opponents who will oppose any sort of war; these are the ANSWER types.

Then there are different groups who opposed the war because they didn't agree with or didn't believe the administration's claims regarding one or more of the public rationales--WMD, Al Qaeda, etc.

There are also some who opposed the war simply because Bush favored it; there is also a group who opposes American foreign policy almost as a reflex.

Then there's the post-Vietnam media's intrinsic suspicion of anything public officials say.

Finally, there are the realists who reject the grand transformational vision entirely.

The end of the Cold War has spelled an end to bipartisan foreign policy. You can point to counter-examples such as Gulf War I and Afghanistan, but I think these events were outliers. In general, the trend has been against bipartisanship.

I believe that the there was an opportunity to recoalesce around the War on Terror, and it was squandered by, in no particular order: (a) residual bitterness from 2000; (b) a general broadening gulf in partisan identity; ©the willful dismantling of international institutions; (d) the lack of confidence among administration officials in their; (e) coincidence with the Democratic primary season; and (f) the desire on the part of the Republicans to establish a permanent majority by driving a wedge through the Democratic Party.

In short, it's much more complicated than you make it out to be. And I think the incoherence of the protests reflects that.

Now, to answer your question directly:

There's a difference between people gathering to threaten violence against a group, and confused masses of individuals gathering for different reasons to protest an act that will commit violence against a group of people.

So yes, I would be alarmed by the resurgence of the Klan, but no, I see no greater threat to society by the anti-war protests--especially since public opinion was overwhelmingly in favor of the war in the first place.

Joe wrote:

"Matt is an isolated example, and you can't build a case on that..."

The problem is, Matt isn't an isolated example - it's just that he's treated that way and no matter how many such examples accumulate, putting weight behind them to the point where they are no longer really isolated examples but begin to be something more than that, they are dismissed as such.

I've noticed the "well, you don't condemn Freepers" meme has become the latest rather widespread way that the MoveAlong.org set dismisses this stuff so that they don't have to face and deal with it. But i'll note that the "right" (generally speaking) is far more likely to express their disagreement with, and disassociate themselves from, unprompted by critics on the Left, of extremists of the Freeper sort, to the point where Buchananites and the like had to set up their own magazine & website because they no longer felt welcome among "mainstream" conservative outlets.

But the anti-war movement as a whole seems to have no objection to protests where not just anti-war arguments, but out-and-out anti-American venom is spewed by the speakers, no objection to having the most prominent spokesmen articulating the message of the Left in magazines and webpages of the "mainstream" Left people who, at best, are suspicious not just of the motives of the current American President, but American foreign policy in general, seeing it in the worst possible light and forming arguments that amount to saying "heads, America is wrong, tails, its critics are right".

People for the American Way, a group listened to by very many "mainstream" Democratic office-holders on Capital Hill on matters of policy, put their weight behind an "alternative" anti-war organizing group which differs from A.N.S.W.E.R. only cosmetically - the people they considered appropriate and less controvercial than A.N.S.W.E.R. turned out to still be members of the far Left who are, in the substance of their criticisms, hardly less extreme than either Matt or A.N.S.W.E.R.

There is a problem among Liberalism when the only time they're willing to really make a distinction between a reasonable criticism and unreasonable ones are when a conservative (or Libertarian like Glenn makes a criticism of the extremists who wag the dog of the anti-War movement, and then their criticism is reluctant, rhetorical, and formulaic (this Freeper thing being so common over the last couple weeks that it's reasonable to believe it came from talking points. In any case, it makes it seem hardly sincere when people are spouting the same argument but not really as a means of distancing themselves from the extremists among themselves, but just to dismiss criticism that they're in a Popular Front that is led by such folks.

Yes, I mean led. The Free Republic analogy would be apt if the "pro-war" side had its intellectual and organizational tone set by such people, which it doesn't. But the simple fact is, one can read years upon years of articles in The Nation, The Progressive (considered acceptably "Democratic"), Mother Jones, and the like which differ in no real, substantive way from "isolated example" Matt's arguments. The anti-war movement, like the anti-globalization movement before it, is organized, promoted, and derives its intellectual guidance from these extreme Leftists with their anti-American position (which supposedly doesn't exist; the earlier argument employed by the Hive was that anti-Americanism was just a phantasm of the Right, it didn't really exist). Thus the likes of Robert Scheer can pen editorials in major, mainstream newspapers, while one won't likely find a Freeper doing that on a regular basis. Similarly, the voices of anti-American writers, intellectuals, historians, and the like are favorably quoted in "mainstream" Liberal, anti-War organs very frequently (the other day, looking for something else, I ran across a piece in Salon that quoted I.F. Stone as an authority on something; I.F. Stone was sort of the "original Howard Zinn"). Now, people have every right to say what they believe, including people who don't like America very much. But to then want to not receive criticism for being approving of such things is rather much.

As far as by praktike's Point F, I think it highlights the real reason why folks like him would rather associate themselves with anti-Americans than not. Now, whether or not this boogieman is real or not (that this is all just an attempt by evil Republicans to break the Left's Popular Front and thus create a Reactionary Majority), this is a sentiment out there - but it begs the question of whether clinging to the fringe Left like a wino clinging to his last bottle, as praktike and those like him are doing, alienates more voters than not. I mean, sure, that way you keep the Popular Front together, but at the expense of alienating voters that you need to win, sensible Liberals who are strong on defense and the "moderate middle".

It's a strategy, I guess. Whether it's a winning one or not is anyone's guess. Whether its a principled strategy is also open to question. I'd argue that it's strategy in action, not principled politics. I will note that guys like praktike are holding themselves to a low standard, by their own standards, in excusing their behavior by pointing fingers at the other side - after all, it sort of undermines the presumption that they're the Good People who are above such things and who do what's good for the country regardless, when they are marching with those who are overtly not in favor of the country.

However, the counter-arguments praktike raises in response to Joe illustrate one thing, which totally demolishes praktike's position: that, when it comes right down to it, they'd rather be among those who he tacitly agrees do not like America and do not want America to succeed than to make common cause with those who do. Then he scratches his head and wonders why patriotic Liberals like A.L. are troubled by the attitudes he sees as becoming more and more widespread among Liberals.

Praktike says he doesn't see a threat to society in this attitude of preferring to make common cause with those who don't like the society he's talking about rather than those who want to defend it (and argue about the best way to do so). I guess I'll leave that to an argument for another time (and refer folks to my blog archives), along with the other points he made (A) through (E). But it IS in my opinion a threat to Liberalism, to sincere Liberalism, which by the way I am FOR.

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