May 19, 2004


I was in a long comment-discussion here. I thought it was over, but then got one more comment. I should let it drop, but hate having my words twisted into something I didn't mean. (Of course I wandered a lot—my meaning was probably fuzzy.) And it seems very significant to me that my points are repeatedly missed. My theme is that there are duties and restraints that fall to an opposition party in wartime. And I think people are either missing the point because they don't want to confront the issue, or because they are psychologically incapable of seeing it. So, responses to some points:

And I really have to laugh at Weidner's claim that the Democrats should have wanted the matter fixed in private. The fact is that the Pentagon had months to fix this in private, and wilfully ignored the problem

You are blurring two things--what we want and what's necessary. Any loyal American should WANT the problem to be fixed quietly if possible, because the publicity has surely encouraged our enemies. If that wasn't feasable then publicity might be necessary and helpful. Democrats, especially in the Senate, have a LOT of potential leverage, but never even tried to use it to put quiet pressure on the Pentagon for reform. There's a difference between being forced to use publicity and leaping on it as a political opportunity. Come to think of it., the Democrats in Congress also had months to try to fix the problem; it went public in January. They didn't try. They didn't care. When the pictures were leaked they grabbed a political opportunity and ran with it.

Weidner's claim that openly criticizing the government only assists the enemy is a shameful, un-American thing to say. Is he claiming we should shut up and let the government carry on without any criticism?

Total distortion of what I said. I've never said the government shouldn't be criticized, and I didn't say criticizing "only assists the enemy." Assisting the enemy is ONE of the things it does. I would be glad to learn that Dems had embraced publicity reluctantly, as a lesser evil. But I don't think they did. The duty of the opposition party in wartime is to support the war, and within that context to make constructive criticisms. And to avoid destructive criticism even if it hurts you politically [And if you don't agree with that statement, make a case. Don't hide behind Abu Ghraib. Confront the issue. Tell me why I'm wrong.]

Weidner says these prisoners weren't innocent, they were "prisoners believed to have attacked Americans." That's an appalling excuse...

I knew that strawman was coming. I'm not making excuses, OK? I'm NOT arguing in favor of prisoner abuse. That's not even the subject here. The subject was how the Democrats reacted, compared with how I feel a Loyal Opposition should react in wartime. The subject is how this is being presented. If Dems wanted to minimize the harm to our cause, they would have been quick to mention that many of these prisoners were probably thugs. If they wanted to maximize harm they would spin things as if they were a bunch of innocents. (Blurring in the process the difference between innocent-because-nothing's-proven and innocent because they did nothing wrong.)

You mention My Lai. That's a very good illustration. We hear about it endlessly. And always presented in a distorted form to make America look as bad as possible. (No, I am not excusing the My Lai Massacre.) No mention is made of the tens-of-thousands of American officers who didn't order civilians fired upon, despite extreme provocation. No mention is made that the communists were deliberately committing war crimes to try to provoke massacres. If the endless repetition of My Lai were really intended to fix problems and make the world better, then all the facts would be presented. Instead the purpose is moral preening and weakening America.

If Weidner thinks campus leftists aren't concerned about Sudan, he hasn't been hanging around very many campus leftists lately. But it's not a top priority with them, because our own government isn't the one that's doing that stuff. Our own government is doing enough bad things to keep the leftists occupied...

Proves my point very nicely, thank you. They are NOT concerned. You argue for the power of publicity to pressure government to fix problems. So where are the lefties mobilizing publicity to pressure the government to take action in Sudan? Where are the lefties who think a million dead Sudanese might be a teensy bit more important than our humiliating prisoners? Or at least come in a distant second? (And NO, I am not trying to say that dead Sudanese EXCUSE prisoner abuse.) But the actions of campus lefties speak volumes.

Weidner is upset that the news doesn't report on the good our forces do. I rarely see such a blatant whine about the media only reporting bad news, and I'll save this one. But the point is, of course, that as Weidner himself says no number of good deeds are an excuse for bad ones... Even more to the point is that what matters in Iraq is what the Iraqis think of our actions, and it's pretty clear they're a lot more steamed up than any liberal Americans are. No number of schools, or closing Saddam's torture chambers (in order to open our own) will make up for this in their eyes.

I'm pretty sure this is just a falsehood, I follow a lot of Iraqi and military blogs, and I think the reaction of ordinary Iraqis is that Abu Ghraib is bad, but minor compared to the overall situation (see here). (Just being a private in Saddam's army often involved worse abuse than those prisoners endured, as millions of ordinary Iraqis know.) And we have Polls.

Lastly, Weidner disagrees with the notion that we should ask ourselves why our enemy hate us. Why shouldn't we? Understanding one's enemy's motives and behavior is one of the best available tools for fighting them. But Weidner isn't interested in knowing why liberals behave as they do, so I guess he can't be expected to be interested in why our enemy behave as they do...

Actually, we conservatives discuss "why they hate us" frequently. Our grand-strategy for the GWOT flows out of those thoughts, and is not just ad hoc. My problem with the left is that they start with the premise that they hate us because we are doing something wrong. And their conclusions flow from the premise. (and that ties in with the thought of this post, that the world is real for them only when Americans come onstage.) It's that attitude I was referring to, the "we must have done something wrong because they hate us" attitude.

And I am very interested in why liberals behave as they do. I prod the subject all the time. Of necessity I judge from appearances, but I am interested in evidence that I am wrong. I'm pleased to hear that Sudan is an issue on campus. I've filed that as a data point. I suspect that if the US Army were to invade Sudan to end the genocide they would suddenly decide that genocide isn't so bad. But hopefully my suspicions are wrong.

Posted by John Weidner at May 19, 2004 1:27 PM
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