Tuesday, December 12, 2006

ON KNOWING WHEN TO WALK AWAY FROM THE TABLE

I realize we probably have very few dedicated "wingers" here in The Neighborhood, and those who do visit are probably quite unlikely to post comments. That said, I'm curious enough to ask this question: When does someone who supported the War In Iraq look closely enough at the current state of affairs and say, "You know, I think I'm gonna change my mind on this one, starting . . . now"?

Little confession here: while not gung-ho, I supported the Iraq effort in 2003, and a good ways into 2004. Why? I thought we had something tangible to gain by establishing a US presence in a country as strategically-located as Iraq. Remove Saddam, exert influence over Iran & Saudi Arabia & Syria to reel in their own terror networks, demonstrate some power against those who had or would harm us. And, very much as David Letterman explained to Bill O'Reilly last month, I was angry, I was scared, I wanted someone, somewhere, to know we were fighting back.

But that was 5 years ago. I'm no longer as angry or scared, and the mission, whether noble or not, has been an utter failure. It needs to end.

I never believed the WMD story, and I had no thoughts about "establishing Democracy" or any of the other mission-creep adventures that have . . . crept into US strategy. And I certainly didn't want hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, a demolished nation, thousands of dead Americans, billions, if not trillions, spent on a senseless war. And, despite all that, I have to admit I was naive. Very much so.

Naive to believe the Administration would make its best effort. Naive to believe the Rumsfeld Doctrine of limited war. Naive to believe we could occupy only the perimeter of a foreign country. Naive to believe our leadership would attempt only such a borderlands invasion.

But I came to my senses a while back, and not only stopped believing what I'd thought in 2003, but began to speak out against it. It doesn't ease my mind completely, regarding what I said and thought nearly 5 years ago, but I can certainly embrace my willingness to change my mind, to react to changed circumstances. But the fact that I entered the pre-war run-up with my skepticism & cynicism intact, yet still opted to support the invasion brings me no shortage of self-disappointment.

To trundle out the standard analogy (standard, yes, but so apt it's foolish to leave it in the shed), I know folks who by 1969 were vehement anti-war activists, appalled at the senseless slaughter in Indochina, committed to do all they could to stop it. And yet, many-if-not-most of them were adamant war-supporters before Tet, before the general draft, before the Bombing of Cambodia, before Kent State, before the death toll crossed 30, then 40, then 50,000 men. And good for them that they came around. Good for the soldiers and sailors and marines. Good for the country. Good for Vietnam.

Yet some people didn't come around. Most Americans supported the war in 1966. Many in 1967. Some in 1968. Less than half by 1969. Even fewer by 1970. By 1973, and certainly 1975 it got harder and harder to find unabashed supporters of the US war in Vietnam. And today? Where are they? Who'll come out right now and say, "The War in Vietnam was a noble effort, a fight worth sacrificing for, a battle we never should have quit without victory"? Anyone?

Yet, on the verge of 2007, the 5th calendar year during which the US will have been at war in Iraq, why are so many Americans still arguing that the war is worth continuing, that the sacrfices still have meaning, that Iraq can be saved? That we can actually Win? Who are these people, and when will they wake up?

And will they be able to stand up in mixed company in 2025, and admit without shame that in 2007 they still hadn't altered their views one bit?

30 Comments:

Blogger Otto Man said...

Daily Kos had a poll up showing conservative support for Bush's handling of the war has plummeted from 71% to 40% in less than one month.

Were they just keeping a happy face up through the election? Or did it take the millionth suicide bombing before they realized it wasn't all great?

9:03 AM  
Blogger Weaseldog said...

I can't answer your question. But I can show you some of the things I was writing before the war.

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/energyresources/message/31560

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/energyresources/message/31636

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/energyresources/message/31810

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/energyresources/message/31812

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/energyresources/message/31978

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/energyresources/message/32046

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/energyresources/message/32153

9:49 AM  
Blogger Weaseldog said...

Bah, links didn't come through. No time to fix them atm.

9:50 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Blogger truncates urls like that sometimes.

If you embed them in hypertext, then they work. I'm sure you know the technique, but if not then here's how to do it.

Scroll down a bit and it explains how.

10:02 AM  
Blogger DED said...

I watched Powell's speech before the UN. I remember thinking, "That's it? That's all you've got?" As such, I couldn't "vote" in favor of going, despite my hatred for Saddam. "Shoulda got him back in '91 when everyone was on board." And since W couldn't rally everyone like his Dad did, and those he did rally were lacking in numbers, I thought that, politically speaking, this was a mistake, especially since Osama hadn't been captured/killed and the Taliban, though beaten, wasn't gone. The job seemed incomplete. And a "pre-emptive war" didn't sit well with me. The Bush Doctrine sounded imperialistic to me. By his logic, what reason was there for a country not to launch a pre-emptive war against US or anyone else for that matter merely because they perceived a threat?

But I hoped that putting Iraq together afterwards (I knew that Saddam would fall just as "easily" as he did in 91) would go smoothly. Then this debate would be moot.

Tom Friedman was warning about a potential Civil War back before we invaded due to the fact that these were 3 very different groups here with a history of animosity towards each other. Saddam's brutal dictatorship was what held the country together. It all made sense to me, but I still hoped that the neocons had a plan.

I thought that the initial comparisons to Vietnam were premature, but by the beginning of this year they were apt. "Fiasco" was out and written by a respectable journalist. When retired generals began speaking out against the war, I knew it was done.

But 1/4 of this country still support Bush's handling of the war in Iraq.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

But 1/4 of this country still support Bush's handling of the war in Iraq.

And this is where I remain utterly confused. What can that mean, that they support his handling of the war? They approve of chaos? Of no plan for victory? Of lying? Of dead bodies littering the landscape?

10:30 AM  
Blogger Mr Furious said...

And this is where I remain utterly confused. What can that mean, that they support his handling of the war? They approve of chaos? Of no plan for victory? Of lying? Of dead bodies littering the landscape?

That last quarter is the bottom of the barrell for Bush. The deadenders who will stick with the President and the War no matter what, never allowing their own opinions (or reality) to creep in.

But this bigger problem is this...there is no good option on the table. Getting out will not be easy, clean or pretty. It will be fucking ugly. Bush has created an incredible mess, and while he has no reservations about it, plenty of thoughtful Americans do. We feel responsibilty. Accountability. What is happening over there is OUR FAULT*.

When we leave thousands or tens of thousands (or More) will die. That is tough to have that kind of blood on one's hands.

All of that said, I never bought into this War. I knew Bush was a fuck-up and that the WMD rationale was a fraud. There was never any doubt in my mind that this would turn into a fiasco (though I am surprised at the scale and duration).

I wished I could believe that Bush was going to rot in the worst level of Hell for what he has done.

* I say that meaning our country, not as individuals.

10:57 AM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

Look, you want to stop this thing, you gotta get to Barney and Laura. Dubya's said many times that the only support that he needs is the support of Barney and Laura. Get Laura drunk (let her hang out with Jenna and not-Jenna for awhile) and give Barney a bone, turn them away from the Dark Side, then Dubya will have to give in.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

But this bigger problem is this...there is no good option on the table. Getting out will not be easy, clean or pretty. It will be fucking ugly. Bush has created an incredible mess, and while he has no reservations about it, plenty of thoughtful Americans do. We feel responsibilty. Accountability.

Indeed this is true. Which is one reason of many that I want to see us, as a nation, start to figure out how to get the hell out of thing in the best way possible.

To continue the tired analogy, we knew in '68 that the Vietnam War was unwinnable. And we also knew that leaving, at that point, would add to the chaos, if only temporarily.

Yet we stayed for 5 more years, invading & bombing Cambodia in the process, bombing Hanoi mercilessly, wasting another 15-20,000 American lives and possibly millions of Vietnamese . . . and in the end the region got chaos, a Communist government over most of the peninsula, genocide in Cambodia, and a rift in American society that's never really healed.

True leadership means facing unpleasant truths and seeking solutions. he unpleasant truth is that we've created a mess in Iraq. And we need to start doing something to fix it, even if all we can do is stop exacerbating the problems.

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Barney?

Is that Bush's dog? Screw the bone, give him the Oval Office. Couldn't be worse.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Mr Furious said...

You're right, of course, Mike. All I'm saying is that collective guilt will make it that much harder to "abandon" Iraq.

And make no mistake, that is how it will be framed.

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

collective guilt will make it that much harder to "abandon" Iraq. And make no mistake, that is how it will be framed.

Interesting point, and one I hadn't thought of. Jeez.

12:19 PM  
Blogger Weaseldog said...

Bush has said publically that he doesn't intend to win or lose in Iraq. He intends to hand Iraq off to the the President. He bragged that the war is the result of his willingness to make tough decisions that other Presidents wouldn't make. He goes on to explain that he's happy with the progress of the war.

Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfield have both told us that the war will last decades.

The talking heads and the press ignore what they are saying, and make up stories about victory and glory and our responsibility to clean up our mess.

No one with a public voice is paying attention to what the White House is telling them. What we have in Iraq is intentional. Its going according to plan. If anyone thinks otherwise, they are simply impressing their own opinions and fantasies upon the framework of this war.

The White House knew exactly how all of this would turn out. They knew it in 2001 when Ken Lay and Dick Cheney were carving up Iraq in the Energy Task Force Meetings.

The White House pulled a classic con. They promised everything to everyone. They billed Iraq as all things to all people. Everyone saw their pet project as priority in Iraq, from Christian missionaries, to school teachers, to feminists looking for women's rights. Everyone was promised what they wanted.

If the promises had been fulfilled, Baghdad would be a popular vacation destination and have the world's greatest water park.

None of that was ever actually intended to be fulfilled. That was just the hook for the con.

Next time something gets hyped like this war did, lets hope more of the public will see through it.

Just for the record, I never thought anything good would come out of this. I didn't believe that removing Saddam from power was a solution that should be employed, unless a smooth transition would take place.

Just before we started bombing, Bush demanded that Saddam step down from power. Saddam announced that he would and he'd allow the UN to monitor the elections. Bush screamed that he was just trying to buy time and started the invasion.

Saddam acquiessed to every demand Bush made, yet Bush lied over and over and said he didn't.

I believe this could've gone differently. I believe there is a chance that Saddam could've retired to France and a peaceful democratic transition could've take place. Not a certainty, but a chance worth going for.

But Halliburton would've had to bid against competition for contracts. Dick Cheney would've been investigated for his role in the Oil For Food Scandal that Halliburton brokered.

We couldn't have that. Think of the scandal in having a sitting US Vice President facing charges before the UN.

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

The White House pulled a classic con. They promised everything to everyone. They billed Iraq as all things to all people.

Interesting thought.

1:19 PM  
Anonymous waitingforthealiens said...

There is always a contingent that will say, “We are Americans and therefore we must be right,” and another that says, “He’s the President of the United States and must be followed without argument.” Amazing as it seems to me, a great many Americans (and other nationalities as well) have no appetite for nuance; for examining an issue at all, much less for examining it from multiple perspectives.

I will beg your indulgence as a New Yorker, but the way we, all Americans, reacted (that word is chosen as distinctly different from responded) to the 9/11 attacks was completely out of proportion. Yes it was horrible and the thought of “innocent” people jumping a hundred stories from a burning building is as disturbing to me as to anyone not a family member. But let’s face it. In the history of the world there have been many atrocious events and Americans have been largely spared and in the broader societal picture we’re not all that innocent.

However that does not mean I wanted to give Al-Qaeda get out of jail card, and I thought going into Afghanistan was righteous bust. I had two real problems with the war in Iraq: 1) I thought that WMD was a total crock of shit. I truly could not believe our intelligence was so limited that we had any doubt and I don’t think anybody in the uniformed military had any concern about WMD. 2) War on Terror was never a legitimate pursuit and it was (and is) not attainable. Destroying Al-Qaeda was both legitimate and very much attainable, though not necessarily easily so. We would, and do, need the relative good will of a lot of Arabs and other Muslims around the world—from taxi drivers to bankers—to obtain the kind of human intelligence needed to slay OBL et.al. I work with lots of Arabs and I knew putting an army into the M.E. and the unavoidable collateral civilian casualties would queer the good will, but good.

I have to admit that I never envisioned what a shit storm it would be with Saddam out. I don’t know if the Republican think tanks anticipated it or not, but I don’t think Cheney cared. I think he saw getting the US onto a war footing would shift power back to the executive and perhaps thought it was key to building DeLay’s permanent Republican majority.

What is so scary now is that the powers around Dubya are beating the bushes for reasons to reject the Iran Study Group’s recommendations, the most important of which is to exercise full-court diplomacy.

Stay tuned, Sports Fans.

6:28 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

WFTA-

Good points, especially about our (over)reaction to
9/11. I admit -- as my post showed, I hope -- that I
was among that crowd. Hard to explain the various
feelings of fear & paranoia I had as I went to work in
conspicuous high-rise office towers over the past five
years, and I wish I could've reacted differently.

But I didn't. That's why leaders should look out for
the good of the country & attempt to follow the legal
scope of their jobs, rather than play to emotions &
irrationality. I'm not national leader material.
Neither is anyone I know. Nor is Bush.

I have to admit that I never envisioned what a shit
storm it would be with Saddam out. I don’t know if the
Republican think tanks anticipated it or not.

And amazingly, that's the phrase you'll hear from (a)
folks vehemently against the War from day one, from
(b) rank-and-file liberal Dems, (c) from peeps like
me, (d) from the GOP-but-sick-Bush/Cheney BS crowd,
(e) from all but the most gung-ho Bush-believers in
the US, and in the world.

No one, not even the most cynical among us could've
imagined the massive clusterfuck this war would turn
into.

And that's what makes it so hard to make sense of the
options going forward . . . at least so long as the
C-in-C stays the same. And that's why I hope for some
serious movement from the New Congress next month.

8:17 PM  
Blogger Dwilkers said...

Reading this thread is like watching a bunch of bobble-head dolls in an earthquake, as each guy posts something more ridiculous everyone nods all the harder. I thought the high water mark was yesterday when Cheney and Ken Lay were carving up Iraq in 2001...well that probably is the high water mark, but I also liked the 'nobody in the military actually thought there were any WMD's' late entry.

The answer, Mike, is a lot of us were unhappy quite early just like you were. I was pretty worried about 2 weeks into this affair, and damn upset by about 6 months in.

After reading your post at about mid-day though I read the already at that time 14 posts in the thread with no "wingers" and saw it must have been a rhetorical question, that you guys just wanted to one up each other in silliness.

I think I've told you before that what interests me about politics is the macro strategy aspect, how the parties shape their messages and attempt to sway public opinion. Although nowadays I'm about to decide the whole thing more aptly resembles chaos theory.

I've always thought the Kerry campaign and Dems in general made an enormous mistake by playing the Bush Lied card so heavily in 2004. Like the posts in this thread it made (what was perceived as) the perfect the enemy of the good. Getting the US involved in a foreign war over WMD that didn't exist was bad enough - it wasn't necessary for there to be a dileberate effort to lie about it and trying to sell that just made most people roll their eyes.

There is some segment of the population that loves conspiracy, obviously including many of your readers. I've never understood why because they're just too unweildy. I've read some stuff by psychologists saying it has to do with people being uncomfortable with random catastrophe, that it is more comfortable to envision a malicious force in action. Never made much sense to me.

Just because you can imagine something doesn't make it so. I've found it much, MUCH more often correct that simple stupidity or incompetence are at work - especially when considering politicians.

The problem with the discussion about Iraq is a lack of alternatives. It is more complicated than you make it.

7:49 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Dwilkers-

Thanks for weighing in (seriously, no sarcasm). It's great to get some opposing views.

That said, I tend to agree with a lot of what you say, and I think most of the posters here do as well. Maybe I'm reading less into what folks said than you have, but I don't see any conspiracies here: we know the Administraation lied about WMDs. No hidden meetings need be surmised; it's a fact.

As for the "bobblehead" angle, I'll admit it's a funny analogy, but what should we do? Invent counter-arguments? Create imaginary debators from the right & formulate strawmen that we can wittily & persuasively shoot down in a volley of rhetorical buckshot?

When I say that I'd love to hear "wingers" explain their continuing avowal of a generally disavowed policy, I mean it. And I'm happy to have you offering your opinion, though as I said it hews more with, than against, what's being said here.

As you (and Furious) know from my "debates" at Crank's place, I love to have different views thrown about. I don't agree with Crank, but I respect his intelligence, his honesty, and his excellent writing. And the same for some of his readers.

But if I can't attract those views at my blog, or if those who do swing by won't comment, what can I do? Write about the opposite of what I believe to avoid a "yeah, yeah" festival in the comments?

Anyhow, I'm glad you feel confortable posting your thoughts. Swing harder if you want; everyone here's pretty thick-skinned.

8:49 AM  
Anonymous waitingforthealiens said...

Hey d,

How about you take apart those ideas you think are silly? You say it is more complicated than that. If you possess some superior facts about this fiasco, please condescend to share them. Otherwise your argument is about as intellectually rigorous as Ratbert’s, “How would you like it if you’d been killed by Hitler?”

10:23 AM  
Blogger Dwilkers said...

As for the "bobblehead" angle, I'll admit it's a funny analogy, but what should we do?

Glad you took it that way. It occurred to me a while back and I've been waiting for a spot to drop it. :)

It wasn't a criticism. Blogs and forum posts tend to attract people that think alike. Talk about what you want, I'm free to read or not and comment or not if I wish. I read all sorts of different things, but I don't mind people holding views that differ from mine.

I don't post as much as I used to, I disagree with everyone nowadays it seems, so I largely just keep my mouth shut. Truly I feel pretty alienated from the 'Rush Limbaugh isn't a real drug addict' and 'no-knock raids are really just fine' Right as well as the 'Cheney and Elvis are parked in an Oldsmobile on the street watching me' Left lately.

I tend to think the internet makes our discourse more extreme due to the anonymity. We could probably talk about this over enchiladas and beer and laugh about it, but over the net you can almost see the veins bulging at times.

Maybe its because people can't see the person they're talking to and they don't feel listened to, they feel the need to shout louder. Hmmm.

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Dwilk-

Hey, it's all cool. I know where you're coming from, and I'll admit I feel stuck between the extremes at times myself. I've actually been called an "America hater" and a "communist" when I've been stupid enough to engage the masses at standard, hard-right blogs.

And I've often been called an "Ayn Randian" or "selfish," or believe-it-or-not, a "Republican" when I've dared to go against the grain at KOS-type blogs.

I've learned to keep my nose out of such situations lately. Not worth it. As to some of the details you outline:

I feel pretty alienated from the 'Rush Limbaugh isn't a real drug addict'

Not me. I agree with them that he's not a real drug addict, as most are really skinny.

as well as the 'Cheney and Elvis are parked in an Oldsmobile on the street watching me' Left lately

I'm with you on that one. The voice in my head tells me that Cheney's in a Buick with Jim Morrison & Jimmy Hoffa. Elvis is in the Olds with Marilyn and a buncha peanut butter & banana sandwiches.

We could probably talk about this over enchiladas and beer and laugh about it

You've obviously never discussed politics over a beer with me!

Maybe its because people can't see the person they're talking to and they don't feel listened to, they feel the need to shout louder.

You've very obviously never discussed politics with me over a few beers.

I'm as loud in person as I am on-line. And alcohol brings me to eleven. Not proud of that fact, but I have to at least try and embrace the truth.

11:33 AM  
Blogger Weaseldog said...

I've founf that generally, bush supporters have poor memories.

More than once I've brought up items that were in the news just a year ago and have had people tell me I made it up, or that its a conspiracy theory.

People who can't remember back as far as 2000, think the Cheney task force meetings and the Taliban conferences in Houston are a conspiracy theory, because they've didn't care, don't remember them and find them unpleasant to think about.

Yet if you go back and read your local paper, Time Magazine, NewsWeek, The New York Times, the London Times, The Guardian, The LA Times, USA Taday etc..., you'll find in depth articles discussing lots events that you have forgotten, and so you write off as conspiracy theories.

My memory stretches back to the days when Robert Gates was negotiating with the Ayatollah Khomenie to keep the prisoners a while longer in order to influence the upcoming Presidential election.

Conspiracy Theory, well sure, every plan between two people is a conspiracy. But you can go to your local library and read about it in the archives. You won't. I know you won't, but you could.

Now you argue that there are no conspiracies in the White House. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, Powell, Rice, none of them every had plan about anything. They never talked about doing anything they never scheduled a meeting. Maybe you're right. It an interesting thought that they've gone years without making an plans for anything, but I doubt it.

Every military plan is a conspiracy. Every business plan is a conspiracy.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Weaseldog said...

For the record, I knew Iraq was gonna be a clusterfuck. I just didn't think Bush would be allowed to screw it up so badly.

After we went in, and our generals were telling us on television that they were hitting water, sewage and electrical facilities, I knew then that it was intended to be a disaster. We went in committing war crimes by targeting the infrastructure that supports the civilian population.

I know others that nailed the situation. They had it right from the beginning. I guess I suffered from hope.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

I know I am late here but...

Anyway, the question was raised "did the republican think tanks not know that Iraq would be messed up after we invaded?" Well, yes they did, in 1991, which is why we did not invade and topple SH back then. They all knew that it would leave the country as one big clusterfuck. And they were right.

After 9/11, the one goal, and the only goal, should have been to wipe out Al Queda. Of course, we went into Afghanistan, but with fewer troops and tools than needed, left many raids up to the Northern Alliance (Tora Bora anyone?), and then diverted resources to Iraq. There was a mandate for Afghanistan, in this country, and in the UN. People knew Osama had to go. And we failed.

Alas, we have failed in Iraq. Yes, Saddam was a bad man, and he had to go, but that was not the time. He had no real ties to Al Queda. He was not a threat to the US.
Threats like North Korea and Iran are being allowed to grow. That worries me.

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

yes they did, in 1991, which is why we did not invade and topple SH back then. They all knew that it would leave the country as one big clusterfuck. And they were right.

True. Which all leads me back to wondering if destruction, with all the rebuolding & rearming & redploying contracts, etc. weren't goal number one here.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Weaseldog said...

Zen Thought For the Day...

Sometimes a thing is, what it looks like.

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

That's a good one. You make it up?

Or are you just a koanhead?

(Get it, koan-head, because you know what they call . . . oh, never mind.)

2:56 PM  
Blogger Weaseldog said...

It came to me while I was consuming mass quantities.

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

while I was consuming mass quantities.

Nice.

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Donna said...

>Usually I take the advancing of the years in stride.

I just have to smile because you are =so= still young stuff. And as my older sis is fond of saying, "Young stuff is good."

Just thought you'd like to know. :-)

10:50 PM  

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