Saturday, October 09, 2004

G--

I meant to include this as a central point of my response to your comments last night, but unfortunately I got distracted and followed a course of argument that I meant to relegate to a secondary position. In short, I got carried away and lost sight of what I thought was a stronger line of reasoning. Fortuitously for me, this has enabled me to think a little more about the point itself.

You seem unwilling or unable to acknowledge the moral superiority of the United States, and thus fail to understand the vociferousness with which I advocate for the military protection of the country on overseas fronts. This is so either because you do not recognize, as I do, the value of the United States as a country and society, or because you do not believe such values can be measured and quantified, and thus compared. The point I meant to pursue last night then, is this: forget about morality for a second. If you don't think the morality of nations can be compared (and it's obvious that I believe this is a foolish proposition), then consider another line of comparison.

What are the traits of a healthy society? What do people want and value? Electricity? Running water? Roads (I know you like roads)? Air travel (I know you like air-travel, too)? Schools? Free media? Internet availability? That's an incomplete and imperfect list, but those are most likely universally-applicable signs that you've got a healthy society.

All these services (and I haven't even described goods yet, like niceties such as "food" or "shelter", or even your beloved CompUSA, Circuit City, or the countless internet-vendors you patronize) cannot take place without a functioning market place. And, even in societies where there is a functioning marketplace, not all these services are readily available or optimally functional. Furthermore, in at least three of the areas above (air travel, internet access, and media) the United States has been a pioneer and standard-bearer for the rest of the world to follow.

In short, another way to measure the United States as the greatest nation on earth would be to compare its market to that of other nations. In terms of size, there is no comparison. We are the biggest. In terms of quality, there is no comparison. In terms of safety, again, no comparison. In terms of wealth generated, no comparison.

These markets provide goods, services, opportunities for personal growth irrespective of background, and sometimes even education. These markets draw people from all countries of the world and these markets can only thrive in such a liberal society as ours. Furthermore, history has repeatedly shown that societies in which markets are restricted are less free, less able to produce for its citizens, more likely to be controlled through undemocratic means. Like it or not (and far, far, far more people on earth like it more than dislike it) this nation has been the Grand Experiment, and the experiment's successes have far outweighed its failures. That's yet another method by which I quantify this nation's superiority.

I do not believe this country is fragile. I do not believe the "barbarians" are at the gates (alarmingly, though, I do believe at least some of the barbarians are actually inside the fort, and I trust they will be dealt with in turn). I do not believe that we should at all limit the extent to which we pursue and kill (as in, "execute" summarily, with or without public disclosure) these new barbarians.

Finally, if you think I am hostile, it is because of the limits of choice we as a population have in deciding who our leader in this war will be. You could say I believe that the marketplace of candidates has been weak. I do not think, and I have never suggested that I blieve, that the current administration is doing an adequate job fighting this fight. However, the idea put forward by the American left that we can "do better" is based on false alliances and logistical miscalculations. I believe it would be foolish to allow John Kerry to take over on the greater war, the ideological war, not because I think the current administration is doing a perfect job, but because the proposals put forward by Kerry are delusional. In order to convince me that we should change leadership at this election, the Democrats would have had to have picked someone better. They didn't, so they lose (my vote), end of story.

7 Comments:

Blogger Curious G said...

On the Greatness of the United States and its moral superiority:


Sure, this country is great and all, but the "greatest" nation? Ever? A "morally superior" nation? How can you say that?

Your arguments for the greatness of this nation hardly prove anything about "greatness" or any sort of justification to impose it on others. We can safely say the United States is one of the most powerful nations on earth--that its economy is as yet unmatched in real terms (though perhaps not relative terms, but I digress). This does not make it "great." This does not make it "right." It may make it great for you and me, but the same system may not apply to others--or ourselves, even, if we were born somewhere else.

And I would point to so many people I know who did not grow up here as proof that this nation is not the "greatest” nation, and that such claims could be interpreted as arrogant and dangerous.

Example 1: I've talked to several Russian immigrants who spent a good portion of their lives under the Soviet Empire. They will agree on the material superiority of the United States. What they will never say is that this country is more "Free." To them, "freedom" means something very different than what it does to you or me, and according to them, there were degrees of freedom they enjoyed under the USSR they can never enjoy here.

I asked the same people about our media. To them, the vast majority of the information consumed in this nation bears little difference to Soviet-Era propaganda. Sure, the laws and legal systems in place may be different on paper, but the functional reality that is America is not that much different from other places as Americans would like to think.

Example 2: My GF's family lived in Nigeria for much of their lives. Nigeria, I'm sure you know, is one of the most corrupt countries in the world by most measures. But during their tenure there, the family and many of the people around them enjoyed a level of propserity even greater than their native India. I asked her father what he thought of the US and how it compared to Nigeria. No doubt, he said, Nigeria was a corrupt country. But the United States, he believed, was just as corrupt, if not more so. Just under a different name, and under the cloak of legality. He also pointed out that he felt more “free” in Nigeria than he does here. Both these claims are mind-boggling on the surface, but he is an educated, accomplished man and I have little reason to doubt his sincerity.

#3 I need not re-iterate the injustices faced by many people as a result of our laws. The drug laws and policies being a supreme example. The fact that such laws can exist in the first place questions any notion of a liberated, rational, and accepting society or the government that represents it.

#4 And of course, what if you are not a US citizen? Our citizens enjoy a level of protection from certain injustices. What about our actions abroad? How many undemocratic governments have we supported for our prosperity? How many non-Americans have we exploited so that we can enjoy this wonderous material comfort you claim? How is it that we are imposing a system of thought and government on other people?

"You seem unwilling or unable to acknowledge the moral superiority of the United States, and thus fail to understand the vociferousness with which I advocate for the military protection of the country on overseas fronts."You are correct--I am unable to acknowledge the moral superiority of this country based on what you say. It is against my personal beliefs to say that anybody or anything possesses a “superior” morality. I find the notion extremely arrogant, closed minded, and potentially dangerous.

The only credence I would give to your rhetoric is that of self-defense. Every living thing and most human organizations strive for self-preservation. I offer this as fact. And in the interest of self-preservation, certain things have to be done. Maybe nasty things. Maybe war. But it is only in the name of self-defense that we can do these things. Everything else about them--and I mean *everything* is rhetoric, designed to rouse the masses to support these said nasty things. It's far easier to kill someone if you are morally superior to them. You can impose your will on a single person or an entire nation without batting an eye if you are "morally superior." The very notion of moral superiority and demonization of our enemies is what led to the abuses at Abud Gharib (not even going to try with spelling there), and will likely lead to more to more in the future.

October 11, 2004 at 2:43 PM  
Blogger Curious G said...

Here are my disagreements with the present policy with regards to Terror, and why I believe the Bush/Chaney ticket is dangerous to re-elect.

First, let me set up a framework of what I do believe:

I do believe the terrorists are out to kill us. Contrary to what may have been implied in what I previously wrote, I do think they are dangerous people, and that many cannot be reasoned or negotiated with.

I also believe that the roots of terrorism are complex, and that we need to focus equal energy on preventing the appeal of terrorism. Allot of it is religious zealotry, yes. Allot of it is also born out of poverty, disenfranchisement and out of our actions abroad.

I believe that terrorism can never be defeated. It is synonymous with the war on drugs. So long as people are pissed of, so long as they have massive grievances against someone or something and no means to express it or act on it, the act of murder, “hitting below the belt” by killing women and children is and will continue to be a viable option to many.

Terror is just that—actions designed to instill fear in a population. The USSR presented a far more formidable threat in terms of the sheer damage it could inflict on us, both conventionally and with nuclear weapons. The terrorists, by contrast, can do relatively little damage in terms of property destroyed and lives lost. I am not really worried about my life or of anyone’s I know being lost to a terrorist act simply because they are statistically low. This doesn’t mean I believe we should do nothing; it is a reality we have to deal with and changes have to be made to make the nation safer. But I don’t believe the issue should consume or divide us to the degree it does today either.

On then, to my opinion:

No matter how I look at it, I still cannot conceive the rationale of invading Iraq. Yes, Saddam was a particularly nasty character. But as proved in hindsight, and as was suspected by many before the war, his ability to do any sort of damage was severely limited. Given what the threat, or lack thereof presented to this country, I think nothing was gained, and much was lost by invading the country. The majority of sources seem to prove that Sadaam was not cooperating with terrorist organizations at all. If anything was gained, it was miniscule, and not worth the enormous monetary cost, the cost in lives lost, and the disintegration of credibility in the eyes of the world.

The fact alone that we invaded Iraq is reason enough (amongst many of course) to oust the administration. Why did we invade? The evidence prior to the war was inconclusive at best about the nature of the threat, certainly nowhere near enough to justify an invasion. I find it hard to believe that any reasonable person would disregard world opinion, disregard the opinion of credible people within his administration, and simply march off to war like that. I wonder what compelled them. William, if memory serves me correctly, you justified the administrations insatiable lust for war by saying they “must know” something we don’t. If they do, I want to know about it. What was it they knew, and why are they keeping it secret? If we no longer have accountability as to why our leaders make the choices they make, we cease being a democracy.

Further, the huge sums of money being spent in Iraq could better be used elsewhere. If that money were kept within our borders, airport and port security would be far better than it is; all tools and methods available to law enforcement for preventing terrorism would be far superior to what they are today. In terms of cost/benefits, we got very little in return for what we spent in Iraq.

The spoils of war alone are distressing. How is it that our Vice President profited so handsomely from this war? How can anyone overlook this glaring conflict of interest?

But suppose that the war WAS justified, and we just HAD to get Saddam out. Let’s just suppose that were true for a moment. The administration still has to go because of the blatant incompetence with which it pursued the war.

They completely blundered the propaganda on this one. World opinion is very much against us on this, and the Muslim world is especially incensed over what we did. The so-called “war on terror” depends just as much on winning the hearts and minds of the muslim world as it does killing or disabling the perpetrators themselves. I don’t see how you could argue that an angry muslim population—the breeding ground on which these terrorists are born and sheltered, is a good thing.

The execution of the war itself was seriously flawed. It appears self-evident that either there was no realistic planning for a post-war scenario, or it was incompetently conceived. Either way, Iraq is a huge mess right now. There are cities and sections of the country that are not under our control.

Finally, the administration usurped the authority of the United Nations. Some might argue that this is a good thing. I disagree. The UN is deeply flawed in many respects but still offers a semblance of credibility to any action we might take. This is especially important right now because we are the only superpower left in the world. We are essentially an unchecked power and some semblance of checks and balances on our actions is necessary.

I disagree with the Patriot Act and how it has shelved some our civil liberties. In this war of words and guns, it is those very civil liberties I am fighting for, and damn if I’m going to cede them in my own country. It’s what separates us from the terrorists—indeed, the very thing you claim makes this nation “great.” The measure of this greatness is not how we uphold it when it is easy to do so, but how we would uphold them when convenient to bypass those liberties and rights in the name of security.

Our internment of “enemy combatants” without trial or hope of trial is the very anathema of what this country stands for. I don’t see how we can protect only our own liberties and rights and not of others outside our borders and still call ourselves “great.” That’s racism under a different name. A “great” nation, a “morally superior” nation applies its belief systems universally and not selectively.

I feel strongly enough on the domestic front alone to justify removing Bush & Chaney. The huge deficits trouble me deeply and are contrary to good fiscal policy. I disagree with the injection of religious rhetoric into our political discourse. I am troubled at the idea that Bush may appoint the next supreme court. And so on. I’m sure you agree with me and I with you on the domestic front, but probably not on the severity of meriting removal of the president.

Finally, I hate the man himself. He is a dangerous man to have in control not just because of his policies, but because of his utter lack of leadership skill. I’ve heard too many reports that claim Bush leads on ideology and not practical reality. Too many questions exist on how exactly decisions are made nowadays and that alone is enough to oust him. He is HATED by half the nation and most of the world. This hampers his ability to lead. A good leader unites, he does not divide. A good leader can give a speech and make you go along without a word with policies you may not agree with. Reagan was such a leader, even if I disagree with his policies. Clinton was such a leader. I doubt Kerry will be such a leader, but I consider Bush to be so incredibly bad in this department that Kerry would be a marked improvement.

October 11, 2004 at 2:48 PM  
Blogger Curious G said...

And what I think should be different:

By far, the single most important factor that must change is how America behaves abroad. America must abandon this attitude of “moral superiority” if it is to achieve any pretext of respect among the world’s nations.

Deeply flawed is the fact our foreign policy is motivated by something other than the ideals we claim to defend. We have aided war criminals and turned a blind eye to their actions. Sadaam Hussein is a great example. Osama Bin Laden is another great example. Both these people were aided by the United States in the past. If we hope to avoid future Sadaams and Bin Ladens, we must abandon this policy of making the lesser evil our friend because the greater evil is what matters most in any given time or place. Evil is still evil, and undemocratic and/or corrupt individuals or governments should not be the reciepients of our aid, arms, and training.

We must not sacrifice our ideals of democracy and human rights in the name of economics or convenience. A friend of mine listed numerous examples of us supporting dictatorial regimes in Latin America (where he is from), simply because it was in our economic interest to do so. That illustrates our real aim—money. And that’s fine, but if that’s what indeed only motivates us, then we are really not that much different than any imperial power that has existed in the past. And if that’s what we are, then we should not be surprised if the people we subjicate don’t like us very much. But if we are indeed the “morally superior” country, a “different” country than any that has existed in the past, we should put our money where our mouth is, and respect democracy and human rights in any and all instances.

This perception is held by many who were not born here or who do not live here. Nearly all my friends from outside the country are universal in their agreement with the above view. My family in Greece is in agreement as well. These people feel very strongly that America is overstepping its bounds, disrespecting the rest of the world, and as such hold a strong element of anger towards it. These people are good people and live relatively comfortable lives; their political views on America manifest themselves as they have in this blog—in lively discussions and debates that consume allot of their time and energy, but translate into little else.

Not everyone who holds this opinion is going to be as civil about it. Poverty and disenfranchisement are the biggest catalysts for turning mild anger into fury, angry rhetoric into devastating actions.

As such, I believe it imperative that America start paying attention to its perception abroad, and make a concerted effort, through policy and education, to change that perception for the better. It is my opinion that the present administration has made matters much worse in this department.

The stability of the Middle East depends to a very large degree on the resolution of the Palestinian/Israeli question. The United States is the most radical supporter of Israeli policies in the region, a stance that deeply angers much of the Arab world. This is why Palestinians were cheering on September 11th. The United States can wield tremendous power over Israel and should use that power to arrive to an amicable peace between Israel and Palestine—a peace that is respected internationally and especially in the Muslim world.

I believe one of the biggest problems with regards to terrorism is Saudi Arabia. The majority of the 9/11 terrorist were from there. Bin Laden is from there. Allot of their money comes from Saudi Arabia. Why? I am not sure, but I do know that the issue of the Kingdom has escaped much-needed scrutiny.

Iraq has turned into a blunder. Either we get more troops, preferably from the middle east to assist us in restoring order, or we pull out. I fail to see how our presence there is benefiting security or anyone other than Haliburton. It is certainly hurting us in the broader “hearts and minds war” which is equally important to fight intelligently as the physical war.

If we must stay in Iraq, we should immediately stop all outsourcing. Unemployment runs at 40% or greater amongst Iraqis, yet we pay Americans obscene sums of money to fly in, stay in the fort to push pencils and what not. (I have such a friend who is there right now.) There is no reason why Iraqis themselves can’t do much of the work. We are there to supposedly create a thriving democratic society, so involving Iraqis in as much as the process as possible is vital to achieving this aim. Our aim should not be profiteering. To much money being poured into Iraq is leaving the country in the form of profits to Haliburton and private contractors.

For those terrorists who are not motivated by poverty, injustice or disefrachisement, we should pursue a defensive policy at home, and a pro-active policy abroad. The huge sums of money being spent in Iraq could easily make the country far more secure than it presently is. A bomb detector at every airport. A radiation detector at every port of entry. Investment in special, “stealth” forces better equipped and designed to deal with the nature of terrorists than the present, outmoded military. And equally, the complete re-structuring of cold-war era institutions that are not equipped nor have the philosophy or structure to adequately anticipate terror threats. Better systems to track and protect nuclear & biological material all over the world. And so on.

Above all I do not think our present aims are realistic. I loathe propaganda. Terrorism will never be eradicated. It is like crime. It has always existed in some fashion. You cannot declare war on a concept. Our policies should reflect this fact—that terrorism will always exist, and that our challenge is to manage the risks posed by terrorists. Pursuing a policy that focuses almost exclusively on eradication and a black & white view of the situation does not recognize this reality, and may serve to make the problem worse, not better.

October 11, 2004 at 2:56 PM  
Blogger Wm said...

First, do not forget that I was born somewhere else, that I come from somewhere else, that I grew up primarily outside of this country, so my basis for comparison is far broader than you seem to believe.

You are confused: Nowhere in my arguments have I have conflated the terms "greatness" and "righteousness." That is your own construction. I believe those terms are separable, and though one cannot exist without the other, in my post on the economics of the US, I deliberately left out references to morality. It's actually WRITTEN in the post: "leave morality out of it for a second." But there are so many other logical flaws with your various non-arguments it is difficult to know whether and how to respond. I will give you credit for one thing: you know how to use a lot of words to say very little. I'll just hit the highlights then.

1) "Both these claims are mind-boggling on the surface, but he is an educated, accomplished man and I have little reason to doubt his sincerity."

Yes, those are mind-boggling claims, as are the various claims regarding freedom in the Soviet Union.

Your girlfriend's father can be sincere till he is blue in the face, but sincerety does not equal accuracy, truthfulness, or reason. If I say I SINCERELY believe the sun will come up in the west tomorrow, you're an idiot if you believe me and use my statement as support for a belief system of yours.

But the underlying counter-argument here is: if it sucks so much to be an immigrant in the US, why do people keep coming here? And the answer to that is: because it's better than being just about everywhere else in the world. The only other countries with rates of immigration even approaching that of the US are Britain (less and less), Canada, and Australia. All are western democracies, with healthy economies, with personal freedom taken for granted as a condition of existence.

2) "I need not re-iterate the injustices faced by many people as a result of our laws."

Unfortunately for you, when advancing a claim you actually DO need to re-iterate X or Y if you want it to be supportive of your overall argument. And even if you could reiterate them cohesively, it is still not clear what point you are trying to make.

3) "And of course, what if you are not a US citizen? Our citizens enjoy a level of protection from certain injustices. What about our actions abroad? How many undemocratic governments have we supported for our prosperity? How many non-Americans have we exploited so that we can enjoy this wonderous material comfort you claim? How is it that we are imposing a system of thought and government on other people?"

Here you have a series of questions meant to be used as support for your overall argument. Again, if you are advancing a claim, it is YOUR job to provide answers to these questions. They do not, by themselves, make any point for you. If you want the point made, make it yourself.

4) William, if memory serves me correctly, you justified the administrations insatiable lust for war by saying they “must know” something we don’t. If they do, I want to know about it. What was it they knew, and why are they keeping it secret? If we no longer have accountability as to why our leaders make the choices they make, we cease being a democracy.

"Insatiable lust for war..." I only quote that because it made me laugh out loud. Do you have any idea how silly it sounds when you read it out loud? But the quote as a whole is important because the "must know" part is something to which I've given a lot of thought, and is something for which I think the administration deserves a lot of criticism, though I suspect not for the same reasons as you. Leaving aside your erroneous assertions about what the "majority" of sources tell us about Iraq's ties to terrorism (afterall, Abu Nidal was just *living* in Iraq, so, no ties there at all, right?), it has become clear to me that the adminstration knew that once Iraq was invaded, it would become the focal point for the global jihadists, at least temporarily. This would have the effect of buying the intelligence community some time to "catch up" in other parts of the world, as well as giving the military some real targets to fight, as well as sending two basic messages to the greater muslim world: 1) we are not ignoring fundamentalism any longer, and the result is going to be very, very unpleasant if you are in the way, and 2) we will, if we invade your country, stay long enough to rebuild it.

The criticism I have of the adminstration is that they were not up-front about this from the very beginning, and they have consistently failed to make it a part of their rationale for the invasion. It's true, they needed a global selling point, and WMD was just as good a reason as the one I've outlined above. It is their fault that they are in the PR mess that they are in now. But, they are fortunate that a PR mess is really all it is. Yes, I know the press is very, very bad, but you knew it always would be.

5) "How is it that our Vice President profited so handsomely from this war? How can anyone overlook this glaring conflict of interest?"

Again with the questions. Don't you have any points to make on your own? And *what* exactly are the conflicts of interest? What are the handsome profits? More importantly, DO YOU HAVE ANY PROOF? I suspect not, because otherwise I'd hope you would have written it down. It is a matter of public record that, prior to this election, the Vice President has fully disclosed his tax records to counter exactly this kind of fallacy.

6) "We can safely say the United States is one of the most powerful nations on earth..."

vs.

"This is especially important right now because we are the only superpower left in the world."

So, which is it? Are we merely one of the most powerful nations on earth, or are we the lone superpower? Because when you were talking about whether or not this country is "great," you would not separate it from the rest of the crowd. But now that you're trying to show that the US is bad, very bad, for "usurping" the UN, you have no problem distinguishing it as a "superpower."

And, although you argue that "some semblance of checks and balances on our actions is necessary," you don't really say why. Actually, you don't say why at all, you just move on to the other boogey man, the Patriot Act (cue music from "Psycho"). And, by the way, YOU are not fighting for dick. YOU are not in a uniform, your ass is not getting shot at, you are not working for the government, not really doing anything except, in your own words, sitting in an armchair, which affords you the opportunity to be so critical without offering solutions. I am well aware that my ass isn't getting shot at either, but I have never said that "I" am fighting.

7) "Our internment of “enemy combatants” without trial or hope of trial is the very anathema of what this country stands for. I don’t see how we can protect only our own liberties and rights and not of others outside our borders and still call ourselves “great.” THAT'S RACISM UNDER A DIFFERENT NAME. A “great” nation, a “morally superior” nation applies its belief systems universally and not selectively." (emphasis added)

Jesus, George, do you even *read* this stuff before you post it? How the hell did racism enter the picture? Is it just because all those guys happen to be foreigners?

8) "And what I think should be different:"

This statement gave me some hope, but it was ultimately not fulfilled. You spent 7 paragraphs saying how much the rest of the world is, essentially, jealous and indignant that the US is what it is, but nothing at all about what you would do different, apart from "America must change" how it behaves abroad.

So it's true, you and I will have to agree to disagree. You will still benefit from living here, even as you pour endless scorn on the nation which provides you with food, shelter, modern convenience, and employment. Yes, you will always give lip service to how fortunate you are, how grateful you are that you have all that you have. You can sit in your armchair and lob criticisms and accussations without consequnce (that is, ironically, your greatest freedom). And but fuck it, dude, you can always just go bowling.

October 12, 2004 at 10:50 AM  
Blogger grinka said...

Came across this post and felt obliged to contribute my 5 cents into this discussion..

.. The abundance of roads, schools, running water are a trait of a healthy society?
What about Germany under Hitler's rule? The economy there went from a total devastation to prosperity
in just a matter of a few decades!!! Is that the major sign of a healthy society?


***********************************************
You seem unwilling or unable to acknowledge the moral superiority of the United States,
and thus fail to understand the vociferousness with which I advocate for the military protection of the
country on overseas fronts
***********************************************

Ok, you've made it a point in your second post to take back what you previously said about the superior morality of the US.. Good! I get really scared when people in the country I live in are seriously talking about the moral superiority of the United States over other nations. Lets just skip the bullshit and call ourselves "nazis", because this kind of thinking fits the definition.

***********************************************
These markets provide goods, services, opportunities for personal growth irrespective of background,
and sometimes even education.
***********************************************
.. by antagonizing and taking advantage of weaker nations.
Sure, we've moved a long way from plain colonialism. Installing and supporting puppet regimes that do what the influential bunch from US wants is the way to go in the 21st century. Governments that allow US corporations to take an advantage of their own countries. Perhaps Latin America wouldn’t be so poor if the United Fruit company didn’t own half it. Do you even realize how many dictatorships, military coups, puppet regimes US installed and supported in the last century? Chile, Guatemala, Panama, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Brazil plus unsuccessful attempts in Cuba and Venezuela - those are just examples in Latin America only. Hundreds of thousands of people were massacred - all done in the name of democracy.
And what for? So that the US corporations can have free access to the land, resources, cheap labor in those countries.
How would a regular US citizen feel if, lets say, a large French corporation made a deal with Bush to have a total control of all the land in Ohio, with all the profits split between a few people in American government, a few executives of a French corporation plus the benefits to the French population that now gets a better deal on the tomatoes grown on the American soil? Wouldn't an average US citizen want to revolt and protect the freedom and independence of his land? Why do some US citizens calls it "undemocratic" when his fellow in Guatemala, Cuba or Venezuela wants to do the same thing?


Now – the war:
***********************************************
This would have the effect of buying the intelligence community some time to "catch up" in other parts
of the world, as well as giving the military some real targets to fight, as well as
sending two basic messages to the greater muslim world: 1) we are not ignoring fundamentalism any longer,and the result is going to be very, very unpleasant if you are in the way, and 2) we will,
if we invade your country, stay long enough to rebuild it
***********************************************

OK, first of all, you have to understand, how centralized closed-up dictatorships operate. The thing they want the most is to preserve the status quo, and therefore they will not do anything that would even remotely jeopardize their current situation. When you are a dictator with all the power in your territory, why would you want to screw it up by conflicting with US in any manner? That’s why a few bloody regimes survived for quite a long time – the leader of the regime was very careful not to upset US, not to have any conflicts with US. And as bloody as the regime was, it was of no danger to US, so US let it be..
Saddam is no exception. He did submit to all the rules. Remember, there were UN weapons inspectors in Iraq all thru the 90s, making sure that Iraq didn’t have any weapons of mass distruction!
WMD was a lie the government had to feed to US people in order to get the approval for the war. In order to make the lie look truthful sources like CIA, scientists, international inspectors and plain common sense were ignored and replaced with more juicy substance: crooks like Chalabi, who would say anything for an opportunity to get a place in the government of a new liberated Iraq, fake documents on the purchase of enriched Uranium from Niger, great imagination that captured Powell during his speech in the United Nations while he was pointing at the blurred spots on the photographs shamelessly claiming them to be de-contamination vehicles, weapon factories, etc..
So then Dr. Kay shows up in Iraq with $$ and US passports for any person (and his/her family) who would give any clues at to where the Holy Grail is hidden. And how many Iraqis offered the real information in exchange for better life in US? None.

Speaking of free media.. Do you know how many former UN Inspectors, scientists and former CIA agents actually tried to get into media and fight this nonsense – before the war - (due to their experience they actually might know something about it)? A lot. And how many did we see on Fox or CNN? Well, actually the former UN inspector Scott Ritter did get some audience. Enough to be laughed at. Other were privileged to their frustrations in blogs like this one.

Sure, you think that WMD claim was a “necessary lie”. Didn’t your parents teach you that it is not “morally superior” to lie? In this case it is technically a federal crime. In a truly democratic country federal criminals are allowed to be in charge of the government while the small folk gets harassed for speeding tickets.

I’m not going to comment on the military’s need to practice on the real targets. Perhaps, you’ve been lucky and no asshole ever chose you as a target for his practice, so you just have no idea what it might be like to be in that situation. There is nothing that boosts your ego better than knowledge based on ignorance..

Oh, speaking of free media again. It seems like we have a ton the freedom to post on the blogs like this. There are too many, and they are too small for anyone to really notice, therefore “let the kids play and have fun”. If you aren’t saying it on CNN or Fox, you might as well not waste your time, like I am doing it now. Alas, major media sources are owned by the corporations who in turn support the system which in turn supports the corporations. If a little guy has something bad to say about that and he’s got the facts to support his words – I can guarantee you its not going to be on CNN. What popped into my head right now is the story of a small Fox’s research group that was out there to scientifically bless the new invention – BGH injections that would make the cows produce 4 times more milk. In their research the group found just the opposite of what they were looking for: antibiotics and chemicals in the invented substance cause cancer in humans and mastitis in cows. Who wants to drink all the puss and bacteria from the infected udders? Fox put the pressure on the group NOT to disclose any of the found facts and write up smth nice instead. The group didn’t succumb under pressure and was fired instead. Whistleblowing didn’t help either. Puss-enriched milk is still fully in production. Heavily pasteurized, of course. I was lucky that the voice of reason of the courageous group found it’s outlet in an independent movie. The movie was not reviewed in the Entertainment section of CNN’s website, and therefore I consider myself even more lucky to have found it. I don’t drink commercial milk anymore.

***********************************************
if it sucks so much to be an immigrant in the US, why do people keep coming here? And the answer
to that is: because it's better than being just about everywhere else in the world
***********************************************

not sure about all the immigrants, but I can tell you my story.
I understand you weren’t born here. Neither was I. I moved here from a somewhat repressed country after it refused to extend a visa to my future husband which meant one of the 2 possible outcomes: not being able to see each other ever again, or me coming to US. Not seeing each other ever again looked like a pretty rough option to me at a time, so I chose the second option.
As repressed as my country may seem, there aren’t that many who see moving to US as the best option in their lives. The ones that do see it as the only possible light at the end of the tunnel are either old maids that don’t have a chance or interest in wedding local men, or the ones really delusional about the $$-trees in US that grow on every corner and BMWs they are going to buy with the first paycheck from McDonald’s.
The majority of people in my country are rather sedated my their current situation. More ambitious ones find opportunities in Germany, Italy, England, Ireland, Portugal and find American values fascinating, yet too hard to adopt. For instance, freedom. My average countryman will find it hideous that he can’t just drink beer walking around in the streets. That he can’t have any streets nice enough to walk around – or many places within walking distance. He would miss the old architecture, and all the woods and lakes that are not owned by anyone in particular, and therefore are free for true exploration. He would not understand why a police charges him a $100 fine for pissing under a tree in a semi-desolate place. He would not see any benefit in buying toilet paper while you can cut up old newspapers for free. He is a barbarian with a barbarian understanding of freedom. Freedom is an abstract term. And therefore can mean different things to different people.

No doubt, US is the most economically superior nation in the world. As far all other superiorities, including moral superiority – they stand on about the same level as those of Spain, England and Portugal at their peak of colonial imperialism. They didn’t get superior all by themselves – it was by taking advantage of weaker nations. Just like now:
- for each cup of Starbucks coffee we are enjoying hundreds of poor people, possibly children, in Sumatra, Kenya or Guatemala have to stir coffee beans with their bare feet for pennies..

- any orange we eat is likely to have been grown on a land covered in blood
of those fighting for independence of their land from United Fruit company backed by US government..

-- any affordable peace of clothing we wear could have been made with child labor in China or Indonesia employed by a US corporation..

That is just how the human world has been operating ever since it became smart enough to realize that you can become better off financially if you abuse others. This is the dirty truth. Why idealize it?

October 12, 2004 at 9:14 PM  
Blogger Wm said...

"If you aren’t saying it on CNN or Fox, you might as well not waste your time, like I am doing it now."

Grinka--you're not wasting your time because you're not saying it on CNN or Fox, you're wasting your time because you're re-hashing the same, tired, half-truths and poorly-reasoned complaints that most of the American (and foreign) left has been making for years and years.

On to your points:

My parents never taught me lying was morally superior for any reason--and I never said the WMD story was a "necessary lie." That is entirely your own construction. I simply wrote it was a mistake to base the policy as a whole on that particular premise, since other, more viable (but less politically palatable) bases existed.

You say vaguely that some non-defined lie was "technically a federal crime," and then make some non-sequiter about small-folk and speeding tickets. Since you have not made the point, I am forced to confront you with questions, which I know does not further an argument of my own, but I have to know:
WHAT federal statutes have been violated? WHO has violated them? WHEN did they do so? HOW was this egregious crime committed? WHEN and WHERE can I sign up to be on the prosecution team?

Can you HONESTLY believe that ANY member of this administration can have absconded from justice, with every member of every government in the world watching them so closely, with Michael Moore waiting dutifully with his video camera and editing staff for even the half-chance that a wrong could be caught on tape? If Bill Clinton can't even get a blowjob without ending up impeached in front of the Senate, how the holy hell can there have been a federal crime committed by this administration? WAIT! I have your answer: they're all complicit. OF COURSE!

Also, I have never retreated from my position that the US is a morally superior country in which to live. (Why would I do that, so long as I could tolerate living here? When I find the US morally repugnant, I will leave, as anyone with intellectual integrity would.) That point is entirely a construction of your own. The limited exercise of that post was to provide a limited, objective view of what makes this country the best place in the world to live (irrespective of measurements of morality--something which, apparently, you also consider impossible).

As for what constitutes Nazi thinking, return to the roots of the word for its definition: National Socialism. Simply shouting out that your country is morally superior does not make you a Nazi. Being a nationalist and a socialist does. It should be abundantly clear that I am no socialist. I am not a nationalist, though I am happy to point out where I think this country is the best at something, just as I am able to know and acknowledge when this country has done wrong (you cannot with any honesty name a single country that has not done wrong, but that is beside the point). Do not call "us" Nazis. I am not a Nazi, and would not appreciate being called one. You can be a Nazi if you want, that is up to you.

You point out that Nazi Germany was "healthy" according to my definition because it had all those infrastructural traits that I include in the necessities of a healthy society. But you misconstrue my definition and by making a basic logical error. I said basically, "If A, then B," but I did not say "A equals B," therefore you could not reasonably say "If A then B, and if B, then A." I never said a society that has all those material things is NECESSARILY healthy, I only said that a healthy society cannot exist without those things. And, since those things best exist in the United States (when taking into consideration the absolute numbers of people who live here), it follows that the US is the best place to live in the world, considering those factors along with the traits that we consider desireable in a society.

You make a similar logical error when you conclude from my post that I believe the US troops need to fire upon Iraqi civilians for target practice. You could not make a more wilfull and grotesque distortion of my post. Your having written that was simply a disgrace. Here is the simple point for you, since you missed it the first time around: the "targets" to which I was referring are the foreign jihadii that have gone to Iraq to fight and (hopefully) die. I was NOT referring to any of the civilians already in Iraq. Finally, whether I or anyone I love has ever been shot at or not is none of your business, and you should read more carefully before you make such emotionally-charged complaints.

You say the majority of your country-folk are sedated now. How could you make such a high-handed remark? Do you really view yourself on such an intellectually-elevated plane as to be able to cast down such scorn upon your fellow people? Of course, I understand, it is much easier to accuse the masses of being sedated than it is to accept that they may not believe what you believe. It is tough to convince them of your righteousness, especially when they may actually find flaws with your reasoning. Do you think that your arguments would suddenly cause them to wake up to your enlightened existence?

Do not be confused: I do not believe this is a perfect country, and I am not ignorant of the suffering of others. But as I am not totally deluded by capitalists (oh the evil, evil capitalists) I am neither mindlessly swayed by forces of anti-globalization and anti-Americanism. I do believe that the principles upon which it was founded are profound, and have provided for much opportunity and hope for people of every nation. No other country has been founded upon such principles, no other country could even hope to achieve what this country has achived in such short time. And no other country could accomplish so much for the rest of the world, and draw so much unearned scorn in the process.

October 12, 2004 at 10:41 PM  
Blogger Curious G said...

"Nowhere in my arguments have I have conflated the terms "greatness" and "righteousness. That is your own construction""

But you said:

"You seem unwilling or unable to acknowledge the moral superiority of the United States,"

How is "moral superiority" not "righteousness?" If it isn't "righteousness," what, in your mind is the definition of "moral superiority?" In fact, I find it hard to think of an argument that could clearly seperate the two. "Moral superiority" means that when considering two or more moral codes, one is better than the other. Since "we" (the United States), are "morally superior," how are we not saying "we are better than you," and how is that not "righteousness?"

If these two phrases do not connote the same meaning by your definition, their closeness puts the burden of clarification on you, not your readers.

"I believe those terms are separable, and though one cannot exist without the other"

Yes, you address it here, now (long after the post is written). But this was before I wrote my response to you, and that response was based on the notion that "moral superiority" meant "righteousness."

" in my post on the economics of the US, I deliberately left out references to morality."

This is confusing.

Let me see if I understand this. You're saying the United States is a "morally superior country." But that your position in no way should be confused with "righteousness." Irrespective of morality, your argument is that the United States is a meterially superior country that has more wealth and more opportunity than any other in history, so this makes it "superior." In the economic sense. You also tie in economic might to a healthy society. A free society. Am I right? But somehow, that superiority you spent so long defending has nothing to do with morality or our overseas defense... seriously man, I don't get it. Call me dumb if you want.

"Unfortunately for you, when advancing a claim you actually DO need to re-iterate X or Y"

Unfortunatley for YOU, william, we are NOT in Law School nor defending anything in a court of law. You make certain claims about this country's greatness, moral superiority and what not, and I offer that it isn't as rosy as you so claim. You are familiar with the drug laws yes? You are aware that they could hardly be called "just," yes? I think that's a safe assumption on my part, and precicely because we aren't in law shcool or court, I shouldn't have to re-iterate what you already know.

"Here you have a series of questions meant to be used as support for your overall argument. Again, if you are advancing a claim, it is YOUR job to provide answers to these questions."

Is this an attempt to evade the questions posed to you? The "questions" are rhetorical. As I understood your claim, the United States is "morally superior." It is a healthy society. It is the "most liberal" country. These are your statements, no? So the questions reflect your statements. But if you're having problems understanding, let me briefly rephrase: "IF, we are the most liberal country, how is it that we have drug laws that bear no relation to the "crime" at hand, if any?" "IF we are the morally superior country, how is it that we apply these morally superior values only to our citizens and not to people outside our borders? How can we, as a morally superior country, intern people without trial or hope of trial?" If you need me to spell it out: my rhetoric is asserting these facts bring doubts to any claim the US is "morally superior."

These are legitimate questions to any claim to moral superiority and I'd be hard-pressed to believe you had no clue as to what I was getting at. Instead, you hid behind a technicality in presentation, making me look bad in the process and completely avoiding the question.

"Do you have any idea how silly it sounds when you read it out loud?"

Man, why do you go there? Why are you ridiculing me? Dude, you KNOW I could stoop to that level and thrash you equally well.

Further,

"But the quote as a whole is important because the "must know" part is something to which I've given a lot of thought,"

So I did say something you thought about. It wasn't a completely "silly" or meaningless quote after all. So why go there? Is that something they teach in law school? Make your opponent look stupid and/or humiliate him so that his argument won't matter?

" And but fuck it, dude, you can always just go bowling."

That's your answer to everything dude. And let me point somthing out: if your toe slips over the line a little, I could very well be carrying a gun. :P

Look man, we can agree to disagree; that's a fine and healthy thing to say. But I must take gentle issue with your argumentative style here; it strikes as arrogant, condascending, and often times more than a little rude. Remember, I do not have the benefit of 3 years of law school so your argumentative style will always be superior to mine. You cannot hold me to "rules" of discourse that do not apply in a discussion between friends. I remember helping you many times with computer-related issues and questions in the past--at no time did I look down or ridicule your lack of knowledge even if the fact remained your computer skills were inept compared to mine. I ask the for the same level of respect when engaging in what is clearly your forte.

October 12, 2004 at 11:31 PM  

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