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April 26, 2006

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» It needs to be said... from apostropher
...again and again and again. And Belle Waring says it well. Don't you sometimes wonder what I was thinking way back when when I thought it was a good idea to invade Iraq? I sure do. My apologia from September... [Read More]

Comments

yabonn

Ah yes. Makes me sick each time i see it floating around : "it was the mistake of the reasonable, decent people".

Bluerg.

almostinfamous

ah the clueless manifesto. what a wonderful piece of historical fiction.

just because a few million people took to the streets to oppose a war that was phony (if not from the get-go, then soon afterwards) doesn't mean that these people were wrong. oh no. on the other hand, if the few million people had just been able to protest harder this war wouldn't have taken place at all!

Timothy Burke

I do see a difference between Wolfowitz and Cheney, and therefore similarly between Berman/Geras and some of the assclown warbloggers who changed the logic of their argument for Iraq every five seconds.

In many ways, it's one of those differences that makes no difference, and it's not as if most of the "reasonable, decent" prowar people have all meaningfully rethought their support--as long as they continue to say, "Well, I had a moral point, and it was just the Bush Administration screwing it up", they still really don't get even a half-credit for reasonableness. Because the screwing-it-up part was in fact one of the things that many reasonable critics were observing was wrong about the war, that to go to war under the wrong circumstances at the wrong time with the wrong leadership in the wrong way with a wrong plan IS MORALLY WRONG. You can't say, "Well, I have a moral principle about this war which trumps the innumerable bad premises" any more than you can be only partially pregnant. You go to war in the wrong way, you've got a wrong war.

But I wouldn't want that point to obscure substantively different intellectual and institutional histories that informed different parts of the support for the war. The landscape that George Packer picks through carefully, for example, matters at various points both for understanding the war and for understanding its aftermath or consequences. Even for understanding how to oppose it politically. But it doesn't cancel out that people who were wrong, were fucking wrong, and that most of them, especially the reasonable, decent sorts, still lack the decency to cop to the totality of their wrongness. Which makes their claim of decency sort of silly on its face.

bob mcmanus

My current and past response to the human-right abuses like Gitmo has been to yell and scream and call for Bush's immediate impeachment and trip to Brussels. Others more calmly gather information and provide legal services.

The war was going to happen. A better outcome might have been achieved with support of Shinseki, oversight of the reconstruction,etc. No one with the starting position of "Bush war evil" would have had any influence.

Similarly anyone who argues against the nuking of Iran on moral grounds will be irrelevant. Righteous, but irrelevant. The question is how to get the attention of our mad boy-king. Millions of lives may depend on tactics chosen. If you are on record as calling the Iraq war illegal, immoral, and really really stupid you will not exist to those with their fingers on the triggers.

This is one reason the generals are attacking Rumsfeld not Bush.

bob mcmanus

I have for years been nibbling at the ankles of Yglesias and Klein on this. "Liberal hawks" were first damaged in the late forties and finally almost destroyed in the aftermath of Vietnam. This did not lead to generations of liberal dovishness and a sane internationalism but Republican control of foreign policy and electoral ascendancy. Ezra is clearest on this, apparently believing the hawkish left was not adequately smashed and humiliated. Yglesias would turn us into serfs and rent-a-wombs in order to feel self-righteous about war.

I am really tired of the smug and useless left.

Andy Vance

I wonder if it would help if hippies learned to talk like smart-ass British economists (D-squared, call your office).

A Pareto-optimal policy configuration is said to be efficient. A Pareto-sub-optimal configuration is said to be inefficient, or in technical jargon stupid. It is quite objectively in the national interest to select only efficient policy sets (which one you choose depends on the relative values of the objectives) and conversely to avoid stupid ones.

The second Gulf War is a clear instance of a stupid policy: it has consumed large policy resources, and many lives, for no gain whatever in US prosperity, security, or honour - in fact considerable loss.

Put that on yer protest puppet placard.

Doug

Let's do reserve the horse-whipping for the people actually driving the policy...

Uncle Kvetch

Brava, Belle. An excellent post.

zeke

Ah, for one , admit to reading a Hitchens essay occasionally with some sympathy. The liberal hawks are correct in pointing out the real dangers of Islamicism, and the real dangers of theocracy across the board. And they avoid the automatic anti-Americanism of a Chomsky or the academic cafe-marxist types (can you say Long Slumday?). But Hitchenistas and the liberal hawks' have errored in refusing to address the mispresentations of BushCo and the mistakes/heavy-handedness of the US military, or the corporate involvement (i.e. after the army takes out the cities, Halliburton contractors , etc. build 'em back up at some millions per year); and they have not really acknowledged the deaths of 40,000+ iraqi civilians. Consequentialism 101; the chapels of dixie decorated with pictures of the dead.

Saheli

I was always squarely against the invasion of Iraq, though sadly I have no blog archive from then to prove it. Once the bombs started falling I bit my lips and hoped and prayed that I was wrong and it wouldn't be botched, and that I was wrong. . .well, we can see where that bit of noncynicism went.

But I was, actually, also very uncomfortable with the protest movement's methods. I remember looking around in the Streets of San Francisco, probably that big February protest, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people I agreed with, and feeling very profoundly alone and useless. I think if we could have figured out how to at least convince the Belles and Matts of the world of our cause, I would have felt better. That we failed at even that has profoundly shaken and weakened any faith in activism.

I fantasized about the non-hippie protest--no dancers, no puppets, no crazy costumes. People in serious clothes and sensible shoes, all armed with notepads and clipboards and folders of facts and statistics and visual aids, each one ready and articulate to march through the streets--not all in one street, fan out through the city and suburbia--and buttonhole and intelligently argue with every single pro-war person they ever met.

Fairyland, I know.

Doctor Memory

Saheli, you profoundly misunderstand the purpose of mass protests. They are not there to convince anyone of anything. They are a demonstration of force. Each pair of feet on the ground is a vote (and worse yet, the kind of person who's likely to go out on election day and suggest voting to other people), and the one thing a politician knows how to do is count. Contrariwise, each pair of feet that stays home because they're too embarrassed by the whole thing is a vote that the politicians know they don't need to worry about.

King Gyanendra isn't reinstating the Nepalese parliament because he's suddenly decided he no longer believes in being king. He's doing it because he knows he's outnumbered.

If you're embarrassed by the bread-and-puppet crowd, if you're mortified by the "that cloud in the sky reminds me of why we must show solidarity with the Palestinians" obsessives, next time consider showing up and helping outnumber them.

dsquared

I fantasized about the non-hippie protest--no dancers, no puppets, no crazy costumes. People in serious clothes and sensible shoes, all armed with notepads and clipboards and folders of facts and statistics and visual aids, each one ready and articulate to march through the streets--not all in one street, fan out through the city and suburbia--and buttonhole and intelligently argue with every single pro-war person they ever met.

wouldn't have worked either. WHen someone wants a war, they want a war. As Doug Henwood pointed out, what's reasonable is defined by what's unreasonable; if you get rid of the lunatic fringe from your protest movement, then *you're* the lunatic fringe. Martin Luther King was considered a commie subversive revolutionary until Malcolm got started up, then suddenly he's the saintly man of god, so unlike those dangerous radicals. (Both King and X knew this and independently said so).

Meanwhile in the world of Decency, the Euston Manifesto crowd are spinning it all the other way; apparently they were all against the war when it was being fought, but were driven away out of sheer disgust at our craven love for dictators. Quite why this means that they now want more wars is unclear to me.

Doctor Memory

Bah, just re-read your second para, and it sounds like you did show up. If so, consider me instantly chastened. And embarrassed.

I'll re-state the point less obnoxiously: the antics of a few college kids are not the problem. As long as Bill O'Reilly gets paid millions of dollars a year to have apoplectic attacks on camera, the left has nothing to apologize for in terms of presentational tactics.

David Moles

Except, perhaps, ineffectiveness.

Adam Kotsko

When we really should have been out in the streets shutting the fucking country down was when Bush stole the 2000 election in the first place. Instead, everyone was all timid and procedural and claiming how "this showed the system worked" -- when in fact it worked wrong.

Nell

I live in a small, conservative, southern college town. We mounted a determined, sizable, and energetic opposition to the war much earlier than most places, and with all the seriousness asked by Bah above.

- collected hundreds of signatures in July and August on a petition to our Congressional rep and Senators that featured pragmatic as well as moral reasons for why not an Iraq war.

- joined 30 other Virginians in meeting with the staffs of our Senators at their Richmond offices in August 2002. Huge collection of serious, factual arguments on why invading Iraq was bad idea.

- locally, had fifty people on sidelines of annual Labor Day parade (a mandatory stop for statewide pols) asking Warner to oppose the war, and thanking him for holding hearings. Hearings which heard from at least one general opposed to war (Hoar) and got ZERO media coverage.

- sent small delegation to Washington in late September to meet with Congressman (he bailed and we met with staff).

- while in DC, joined a larger delegation that met with Sen. Warner's staff. Rather than put his defense/foreign poliy L.A. to work, Warner sent a 22-year-old intern. Who took no notes.

- had letters in the local and regional papers every week during September and October opposing the war, then again after the UN vote consistently mid-November to the eve of the war.

- sent a dozen people to the October DC march against the war, and 70 locals to the January 2003 one.

- helped bring Tony Zinni and Pat Lang to a panel discussion at VMI three days after the fatal Congressional vote in front of 400 cadets and locals in which Zinni blasted the war.

- got on national TV when Good Morning America came to town on Veterans Day; as we constituted half the crowd for the Potemkin-village Veterans Day parade, replete with signs, American flags, sober-minded flyers, and red-white-and-blue balloons reading 'No War on Iraq', they had to interview us.

- held weekly vigils outside the courthouse from mid-January through the invasion.

- got excellent coverage from our local paper for all our public activities, culminating with very sympathetic interviews (balanced with one of a local war supporter) that appeared on the day Baghdad fell.

We made more of a dent locally than the movement did nationally, exactly because we got a much more respectful hearing for our arguments.

But the national media and "respectable" pundits froze out coverage of dissenters (especially ones like Webb and Zinni who could not be dismissed as hippies), mocked opposition, pretended there were no serious arguments being made, and bowed to the powerful CW that this war was just plain going to happen. As did the Democratic leadership in Congress.

No amount or soberness of opposition would have stopped Bush once he had that blank check from Congress.

And Bob McManus: you're replicating that behavior of giving in to what "everyone knows" all over again wrt Iran. Your characterization of Yglesias' position is a slander.

If Democrats buy into the lie that there is a military option to prevent Iran getting a nuclear weapon, then we'll end up having that war. I'll blame you, among others, though of course the fundamental blame is on Cheney-Bush-Rumsfeld.

Nell

@Belle:

Thanks so much for the pointer to your 2004 piece. I think it's very, very helpful to the current replay wrt Iran.

Opposition to the war wasn't a "no-brainer", there were problems with the previous-to-invasion policy toward Iraq, and if everyone who supported the war were as honest about their reasons it would be a hell of a lot easier to endure the coming twelve months in the U.S.A.

Doctor Slack

No one with the starting position of "Bush war evil" would have had any influence.

Wrong. No one with the starting position of "Bush can be wrong" would have had any influence, as Shinseki found out.

Similarly, anyone who argues against mentioning the moral grounds for opposing the nuking of Iran is completely missing the point if they think steering clear of this will get the Shrub's attention, or if they think that attacking Rumsfeld is an acceptable substitute. Does anyone really believe that the Revolt of the Retired Generals is going to deflect Bush from his ill-fated Napoleonic complex? In the unlikely event that Bush ever did get rid of Rumsfeld, what are the real chances of his appointing a competent, non-partisan replacement given his record to date?

About the only thing that's ever likely to get Bush's attention is a clear and present political threat -- events like the recent mass rallies against Tancredo's immigration law.

Given that, I really hope the lesson American anti-war activists have taken away is not that public protest is useless, or that everything might have worked out if it wasn't for that guy with the stilts. They achieved a hell of a lot in a short span of time against steep odds, and the prominence and diversity of that movement shouldn't be underestimated in its contribution to Bush's subsequent political vulnerability.

Mark Wade Stone

Yes, these moral-high-ground warmonger leftists who have come in out of the rain are as stupid as you other "leftists" who just supported the war because you thought it was cool, and you could fill out your shiny new blog with neat-o tough talk.

Blood coming off your hands yet?

renato

This is one reason the generals are attacking Rumsfeld not Bush.

The generals' criticism of Rumsfeld is a proxy for criticism of Bush.

They can't bring themselves to dis the Decider-in-Chief because, even in retirement, they believe it is improper and possibly dangerous to have high-ranking military people throwing their weight around regarding who holds the office.

But make no mistake about it, the criticism of Rumsfeld is an implicit indictment of Bush's failures. He has failed the nation in Iraq, as well as the troops.

busdrivermike

The average American holds no fault for supporting the Presidents decision to go to war in Iraq.

People should look themselves in the mirror and ask if they voted for Bush or Gore, Bush or Kerry.

They should then plan on going to the Armed forces recruiting station, or back to their lives. This depends on their own code of chivalry and honor.

TK

This has to be one of the classiest mea culpas I have ever read. You have my admiration and respect. Now if only you had been a conservative supporter of the war instead of a liberal, because, you know, conservatives believe in taking responsibility and shit. Oh, well: one down, about 30 million to go.

The unacknowledged irony in Belle's spot-on description of the American political climate (even today) is that the so-called "sober realists," who were so much more serious than the hippies, were the ones who engaged in the lion's share of the vituperation. Not to put too fine a point on it, they acted like immature children, while the hippies tried to keep them from possibly running the car of a cliff. Yes, the antiwar people said unkind and cynical things about the people planning the war, and those unkind and cynical things turned out to be, if anything, too kind and trusting.

But I don't think anyone who opposed the war ever impugned the patriotism of fellow Americans who supported the invasion. What we didn't appreciate was being told we were stupid and knee-jerk and terrorist sympathizers and didn't deserve a place in a debate about the single most decision a democracy can make: declaring unprovoked war on another country. What kind of mature democracy thinks that way?

The reason I say "even today" about the political climate is that war supporters still can't wean themselves from these habits of thought. Upthread someone confesses to agreeing with Hitchens about "anti-Americans" like Noam Chomsky. Noam Chomsky, for all his manifest and erfectly human faults, has spent a life writing and giving lectures to thousands about US foreign policy, at little or no profit to himself, and that's not even his day job. You think he does this to turn his native country over to its enemies? So do you think he needs moralistic lectures from a drunken Trotskyite British ex-pat like Christopher Hitchens? Please. Chomsky probably receives more personal vituperation and orchestrated slander than any nonpolitician in American political life, which is a pretty odd effort to go to for someone whose views are supposed so self-evidently crackpot.

Maybe that's because he's actually proven right a good deal of the time? Recall shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan (the "good" war of course, which all decent patriots support) when Chomsky was derided as a nutball by the smart people at the Note and Slate (and Salon) for predicting that the US would commit human rights abuses that would be covered up and if that failed, rationalized by the US media? How crackpot does that sound now?

Here's an idea for the "sober realists": try acting sober and dealing with reality, not some cartoon version you carry around in your head. If people disagree with you, and you think they are wrong, say so. But the crap about "anti-Americanism"? Take it and stick it up your ass. Then go look in a mirror.

Delicious Pundit

Me, I was and am with that famously dirty hippie, Dean Acheson: "It is worse than immoral. It is a mistake."

Of course, the McManus will remind me that a fondness for Dean Acheson is not a recipe for electorial success in either party.

CathiefromCanada

I learned more about the American anti-war movement from reading these comments than from years of NYT and WP stories. Thanks so much.
In Canada, we were given the impression that just about everybody in the US thought this war was a great idea. Luckily, our Prime Minister then, Jean Chretien, responded to Canadian public opinion which was 70 per cent opposed to the war, and kept us out of it. His objection was to the "regime change" goal -- as he said, whose regime will you want to change next? Still, the pro-war Canadians (yes, there were some) were just as insulting toward war opponents as you describe in the US -- there was an absolute unwillingness to deal with any anti-war arguments in a serious way, but instead they seemed to think that derisive snorts and name-calls of "coward!" were all that was necessary to defend the war.
And now the same pattern is happening in US society over war with Iran -- the same idea that America has the right to change Iran's government, the same totally unrealistic scenarios of how such a war would be won easily and quickly, with the added element that, since the army is tied up in Iraq, therefore the way to win in Iran is to use nuclear weapons from the get-go -- and the same unwillingness to realize that no nation ever has the right to make unprovoked war on anyone, ever, regardless of how many copies of the "Bush Doctrine" have been printed.

Rafe

Doctor Memory: The problem with your contention is that very few folks at the anti-war protests can count themselves. Tony Kushner put it best back in '04, when asked about the Democrats:

...Listen, here's the thing about politics: It's not an expression of your moral purity and your ethics and your probity and your fond dreams of some utopian future. Progressive people constantly fail to get this.

[snip]

In a certain sense, Bush was right when he called the anti-war demonstrations a "focus group." We went out on the street and told him that we didn't like the war. But that was all we did: We expressed an opinion. There was no one in Congress to listen to us because we were clear about why they couldn't listen. Hillary Clinton was too compromised, or Chuck Schumer -- and God knows they are. But if people don't pressure them to do better, we're lost.

We've not moved very far from that. I applaud the primary challenges that are being waged against Clinton and Jane Harman and Joe Lieberman, and I wish there were more like it. But these challenges are few and far between, and most anti-war folks prefer to express an opinion and talk about how Democrats are in cahoots with the Man.

Yes, a lot are. A lot aren't. For those who are, or who are on the fence, we need to make it worth their while to listen to us. And we can only do that by having an impact on the entirety of the political process. Demonstrations--including the one today in NYC--won't make a lick of good if they're not followed up with a wallop at the ballot box.

And if you don't believe me, you need only look at the pro-immigrant rallies that have been held. Politicians are quaking because not only are Latinos and other immigrants marching, they're registering to vote, and they will vote. Somehow, I don't think anti-war marchers will do the same.

The Liberal Avenger

My parents were hippy-non-hippies, too! I'm 36 now and can finally see it clearly!

WHAT EXACTLY WAS THAT "SPECIAL CIGARETTE" YOU GUYS WERE SMOKING, HUH, MOM?!

Timothy Burke

Dean Acheson was quoting Tallyrand, by the way. Otherwise, yeah, I like the sentiment.

I have two problems with Adam's suggestion:
1) This is an oldie but goodie from me, but: Like you (or me) could have shut the country down. Seriously. Don't fantasize about power plays that you don't have the capacity to pull off.

2) The consequences of taking the position that elections determining political succession are so tainted that they must be disregarded, and the legitimacy of the government itself disregarded, are non-trivial. It's why opposition parties even in countries as autocratic as Zimbabwe take very, very seriously making that move. A lot of people on the left wanted to do that in 2000 over an election result which EVEN IF there had been no bullshit at all would have been razor-thin close. To me, this is not dissimiliar to the assclownery around planning the war in Iraq on the right: people living in worlds of their own imagining, with no interest in likely and forseeable consequences of their action, believing that all you need is will and a faith in your own mobilized power.

Kija

Yes, it seems unique to today's media that the more wrong you are, the more you are praised as tough-minded, serious, thoughtful and so on. Meanwhile, if you are right about the war, the environment, the economy, health care, housing, tax breaks and the rest, you are a sentimental, bleeding heart who is shallowly reactive and fundamentally unserious.

It makes me want to bite someone's head off.

Nell

not only are Latinos and other immigrants marching, they're registering to vote, and they will vote. Somehow, I don't think anti-war marchers will do the same.

Rafe, where exactly do you think Howard Dean's $6 million in contributions in July 2003 came from? Pissed-off, antiwar Democrats voted and volunteered and contributed in unprecedented numbers in the 2003-4 cycle.

Thanks to a few big funders of Gephardt and Kerry, who helped torpedo Dean's Iowa campaign with attack ads ("Americans for Jobs and something-or-other"), we had to settle for a candidate who was the worst of both worlds: seen by swing voters as an effete liberal, seen by the base of the Democratic party as a hopelessly finger-to-the-wind pol who lacked the political courage to oppose the war.

But we still worked our guts out. And it wasn't our goddamned fault Kerry lost. Hell, we had people working at headquarters who hadn't voted for a Democrat for a decade (Greens and disenchanted Republicans). There aren't enough hippies in the country to mount the size of marches that happened in January 2003 (and September 2005, for that matter).

Ditch your stereotypes, please.

Rafe

Nell: Not for nothing, but my comment wasn't directed at you. I sent money from Iraq, where I was stationed, to Dean's campaign; when he lost, I then pounded sand for Kerry. And we lost.

Fine.

My question is, what now? We march, and we march, and we march, you with your group, me with Iraq Vets Against the War, and where does it get us? I've participated in marches in '03, before I deployed, in '04 when I returned, and in '05; at none of these events, did I see a concerted effort by marchers to join the one agency of power available to them; instead of doing that, folks were content, as I quoted Kushner above, to slag Clinton et al as hopelessly compromised.

Fine--feel better?

I tried making those overtures; Lord knows, I tried. I've tried getting my fellow IVAW members to get involved in the process; and the response is that getting involved in that process involves selling out.

Well, thanks, but no thanks. I'm going to try to stop this next war, but I don't have any great hope that folks will join from the movement to do so. All I know, marching and protesting and demonstrating did diddly and squat to stop Iraq from happening, so why would this be different?

sevenless

As I said at the time:

If you supported the invasion of Iraq, and advocated for it, there is blood on your hands.

Doc

But the crap about "anti-Americanism"

Chomsky's comments apres-9-11 were rather irritating, if not weird. Horowitz and Hitchens are not completely mistaken in their anti-Chomskyism, and I say that as a former Kerry supporter and BushCo detester. NC's texts in the 70s and 80s were of some use and he is not a figure to be taken lightly, but the later NC does seem to deserve the crackpot label given his anti-Israelism, his opposition to the afghanistan actions, his innate hatred of the US, whether GOP and demo, and his occasionally communist inclinations. That said, I don't believe liberal hawks such as Hitchens did enough criticizing of BushCo's handling of the Iraqi action.

Jay B.

Doc,

You don't think Hitchens did enough criticizing of the Bush plan? No shit?

Here's the thing: Chomsky, for his eternal cynicism of US motives can't ever be more wrong than a whore like Chris Hitchens.

In a sense though, a besotted git like Hitchens and a shrill lefty like Chomsky both understand the game better than you.

Hitchens is using easy sophistry to rally the lazy intellect (Islam is coming for you!) of our 'intellectuals' and paint his worldview into a semi-rational veneer (Islam is a particularly immature religion) that, for the 'sober' foreign policy types is irresistible. He thinks America is an easy target for pursuit of his larger goal and we most certainly are. We're immature ourselves, insecure, armed to the teeth and victims of a monsterous attack. As the world's hyperpower, Hitchens couldn't have picked a better ally than an easily manipulated idiot like Bush at a better time, but don't for one second think he would overtly criticize the man for his war -- that's bad propaganda.

On the other hand, and equally cynical (but correctly applied cynicism), is a guy like Chomsky who understands the way things work and, like Hitchens, has just enough of the spark of romanticism to fancy himself a truthteller, though his is of a more maschocistic nature. It may be reflexive, but even his "anti-Israeli" worldview can hardly be called crackpot.

Doc


Count on marxistas to begin the discussion by pointing out Hitchens' supposed fondness for alcohol: "besotted git," "drunken Trotskyite British ex-pat." That's from Manipulation 101. I don't care for all of his writing--yeah, he should do some body counts--but he's obviously a talented and fairly rational writer. Simply on the basis of his rather Swiftian prose style Master Hitch puts ibn Chomsky to shame, whose own prose defines the meaning of turgid ; a few paragraphs of Chomskyspeak or Palast (or Berube) and one starts reaching for like Bertrand Russell pulp for examples of old-fashioned invective. Hitchens' writing, while not equal to that of a Russell, has at least a hint of that sort of rationalist critique.

And Hitchens DOES point out the obvious: radical Islamicists do pose a threat not just to America, but to democratic, secular values taken as a whole. And he also has the spine--unlike a lot of "leftists"-- to take on fundies of all types: whether catholic, dixie prot., muslims, or, for that matter, postmodernist academic nutjobs who deny that truth exists, and then spend 20 paragraphs outlining the truth of the American booj-wah-zee.

Nell

Rafe, I understand your frustration, and I misunderstood who you were referring to as "the movement."

I wouldn't claim that the people who are active in my area are necessarily representative of the movement nationally. They're almost all regular voters, middle class, and all are operating in a small-town (rather than suburban or urban) setting.

But however far we are from the national antiwar norm, IVAW members are much less representative. First, by virtue of being combat veterans. Second, by virtue of the demographics and associated political background of servicemembers.

My county is a still-mostly-rural place, that supplies military recruits at a much higher rate than the national average. The county's hugely under-registered. My party isn't making much effort to change that, because around here we'd be signing up at least two likely Republican voters for every Dem we register.

I've done a lot of mass registration and door-to-door work in my life. I know what a tough slog it is to convince many to register, much less vote. And I don't really think their reasons are all that off-base. Money runs politics, and the permanent war economy runs a lot of the money. Often I find it hard to stay in the rigged electoral game myself, and I'm a party official.

Close to a third of those serving in Iraq are Latinos, some citizens and some not yet. Are you finding those vets more open to registering and voting?

Gary Farber

While I disagree with Paul Berman about various points, I have a ton of respect for him.

More than I have for those indulging in easy moral superiority. No one got out of Iraq with that, so far as I can see.

I'm completely unimpressed with claims otherwise. And rather disgusted, frankly.

Either way, people died. It's serious. Be snarky to the face of someone's mother, or son, who died, why don't you, anyone?

See if you can carry it off.

Gary Farber

And, to be clear, I wasn't responding to you, Nell.

Rafe

Gary: yeah, the moral superiority kick can be mighty annoying when I'm in anti-war-Iraq-vet mode. Some of my fellow cohorts have succumbed to the blandishments of various anti-war "movementarians", and as a result, things can go horribly...awry.

Case in point: I was at a showing of "Sir, No, Sir!", which is a documentary about the GI resistance movement during 'Nam (good doc, check it out, if only for historical purposes). So we have a panel after the second showing of the flick, during which person after person, vet and civy alike, declaim as to how horribly deceived and oppressed folks in the service are.

Only thing is, it's not true!. Survey after survey of forces in Iraq and forces here at home has shown that morale there is steadily increasing (go figure!), opposition to the war is increasing, and folks would like to go home soon.

How? How can this be? There's no resistance movement? Heresy!

Here's how: creature comforts, scarce at first, have gradually increased. Hence morale has increased as well. However, the longer we spend in Iraq, the greater the odds of mission creep; hence the increasing opposition. And if you're away from home, with no guarantee you'll ever see it again, where do you want to be, and how soon? Home, and ASAP!

So I mention this, and I get greeted with howls of disbelief. I guess you can't win 'em all. :-D.


Nell: And I apologize for the outburst. I should have made it more clear that I wasn't referring to you, specifically.

I did political organizing before joining the Army, and I do it now. One of the projects I undertook was something called "Register Renters".

This was a project that looked to register folks who rented domiciles. In my neck of the woods, with five (!) military installations surrounding the city, that largely meant veterans and servicemembers.

In my experience, enlisted folks are a bit more friendly politically than officers, provided you approach politics from the perspective of an economic populist first, and social libertarian second.

For example, I addressed pocketbook issues from a rich vs. middle class perspective, while social issues (such as, say, gay marriage) I tackled from a fairness and libertarian perspective. I could get into a lot of depth here; I won't, but if you want to know more, email me at rnoboa-at-gmail-dot-com.

Incidentally, I registered Latino vets at a much higher rate than non-Latinos. How much of this was due to me being Latino, I can't say; but it didn't hurt. :-D.

Matt Weiner

Gary, it's very very important to figure out who was right and who was wrong, so we avoid repeating the same mistakes. However worthy of respect Berman is, he was wrong, and in a dangerous and irresponsible way. Being serious means recognizing that.

Gary Farber

"However worthy of respect Berman is, he was wrong, and in a dangerous and irresponsible way. Being serious means recognizing that."

I think Berman has been pretty clear in his subsequent writings about where he thinks he was wrong.

Matt Weiner

Well, I read the one uncharitably summarized here, and he was as of then still wrong in a dangerous and irresponsible way. A logic for extremely crude responses? Give me a break. Perhaps he's improved since then, but being clear about where you think you were wrong isn't necessarily being clear about where you actually were wrong.

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