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Saturday, January 22, 2005

Share with the class

I was going to do some blogging today. However, a couple of feet of snow fell here overnight, and I had a few other things to do around the house in addition to shoveling. When I did get to the computer, I spent most of my time answering two e-mails from readers. Since my answers were probably better thought out than my typical blog post, I think I'll share them here.

First, Dena from New York asked me to comment on remarks from General George Casey Jr., the current disaster manager in Iraq (he replaced Abizaid, who replaced Franks). Dena had the remarks forwarded to her from a right-wing friend of hers; they had been edited from the original, which was a press conference Casey gave on December 16. In the press conference, Casey was pretty upbeat about Iraq. In the e-mail, he was practically halucinatory, since any hints of doubt had been removed. In any case, the e-mail basically quoted Casey as saying that things are pretty much wonderful, the insurgency is being crushed, elections will be held and will fix everything, blah blah blah. Dena was asking me for a response she could send back to her friend. Here's what I wrote:
There seems to be a blitz of such talking points coming out of the military recently. A few days ago, Michelle quoted extensively from a Lt. Col. Tim Ryan (US Army), who said many of the same things.

Obviously, I'm in no position to contradict every claim. I would point out that Gen. Casey's career future, like that of Col. Ryan, depends on him saying what he's supposed to say. Officers who play the game can look forward to lucrative careers in the weapons industry or in government (see Powell, Colin, for example). Those who deviate from the talking points can look forward to years of being outcasts and branded as traitors (Zinni, Ritter, Shineseki, Kwiatowski).

One of the talking points that Michelle has pointed out repeatedly is this blather about 14 out of 18 provinces being quiet. The four other provinces are the biggest ones in Iraq, with more than half the population, and include Baghdad, Fallujah and Mosul. It's like saying that America has never had a mass-casualty terrorist incident in 48 out of 50 states (although what has happened in places like Baghdad, Najaf and Fallujah has been far more deadly and destructive than the attacks in Oklahoma and New York).

I'm sure the general is right about lots of people putting shovels into the ground. But I'll bet that most of the time they're digging graves, and most of the rest it's for making a bomb shelter.

He says that, historically, insurgencies take a long time to defeat. What he doesn't say is that in most cases they aren't defeated. The Vietnamese fought against the Japanese invaders in WWII, and then had to fight the French colonialists for nine years, and then the American imperialists for another 20. They suffered setback after setback, but in the end their "insurgency" triumphed. Similarly in Algeria. Filipinos rebelled against the Spanish colonialists, then the American colonialists, then the Japanese imperialists, and then against the American puppet regime of Marcos. Perhaps the wisest act of Jimmy Carter's presidency was not sending US troops to prop up the Shah of Iran. Probably the stupidest act was goading Saddam Hussein to attack Iran as our proxy. (We've had some awful national security advisors--Kissinger, McFarlane, Powell, Rice--but Carter's NSA Zbigniew Brzezinski was as bad as any of them.)

But I guess the core argument, one that should carry some weight with a libertarian, is this: What right does the US have to come in and impose any sort of government on Iraq? Suppose that the US president was someone your friend despised--Kerry, Chomsky, Rather, Manson, Bush, whoever. And suppose that the European Union, Russia, China and some other countries had decided to revive the League of Nations due to their frustrations with the US veto at the UN. The League of Nations decides that the US president is in violation of League resolutions, having used weapons of mass destruction, invaded neighbors, and was in general posing a threat to its neighbors and the world. Suppose that the League's intelligence agencies have determined that America's homeland security is, in fact, as worthless as 9/11 seemed to suggest. Each League member donates a certain number of airliners, which are then flown by remote control into most major command and control facilities of the US military and government. This is followed up immediately by an invasion from both coasts by League forces. Would your friend, or General Casey, immediately collaborate with the invaders who were "liberating" him from this awful president?

I doubt it--in fact, I suspect that he would call anyone who did so a traitor. There is a word which is commonly used to describe natives who oppose invaders. The word isn't "insurgent;" it's "patriot."

Even had the wild claims about WMD's and ties to al Qaeda been true, invading Iraq was a crime and would have been opposed by millions of Iraqis. Under the circumstances, for someone like Gen. Casey to pretend to occupy the moral high ground in this situation is lunacy.

Next, Mike from British Columbia asked me to comment on this article by Victor Thorn attacking Michael Ruppert for selling out the 9/11 conspiracy movement, or something. Here is my response to Mike:
I bought the "Ruppert Package" back before Christmas. I took the DVD with me on the train, but left the hefty "Crossing the Rubicon" at home. I did read David Ray Griffin's "The New Pearl Harbor" on the train, which I found very interesting and pretty convincing--and probably better written than either Ruppert's or Thorn's book. (I've now read about 70 pages of Rubicon, and my judgment of Thorn is based on the diatribe you sent.)

Exactly what goal Thorn is trying to reach by quibbling with Ruppert I don't know. He has certainly been living in a cocoon for a couple of years if he actually believes this: "Well, no one is denying that war games took place on the morning of 9-11, and no one is denying that our military stood-down. No one is even surprised that Dick Cheney was one of the individuals behind it." No one, that is, except for the vast majority of the population that has never heard of Michael Ruppert and isn't even aware that there are flaws in the official explanations of 9/11. Ruppert has been doing a pretty good job of getting people into that room--if all they hear when they get there is holier than thou conspiracy theorists arguing, they'll probably run back out of the room and never come back.

If you have the quote from Ruppert that Thorn cites in context, I'd be interested in seeing it. My guess is that Ruppert is saying that if the 9/11 questions could have made headlines before November 2, they might have changed the election. But they didn't, and clearly the Democrats aren't about to take a stand on anything. ("Democrats: a moment of resistance, a lifetime of capitulation." -- Jon Stewart) So, perhaps, Ruppert is now suggesting going in a different direction. Thorn may not approve, but it hardly means that Ruppert has sold out or whatever. I'm pretty sure that he does have a big ego--that seemed pretty obvious from the video. It sounds like Thorn does, too. It takes an ego of at least a certain size to accuse the vice president of the US of mass murder!

BTW, there was another article complaining about Ruppert--from Kurt Nimmo on Counterpunch.

I got an e-mail about a week ago from a right-winger. I had quoted from a letter to the editor he had written last year, and he found my blog when he googled his own name. I've since exchanged a couple of e-mails with him. One thing he said he didn't like about liberals was that they stifle debate. I told him that, while I could understand where he was coming from with some of his comments, he clearly knew nothing about liberals if he thought we don't debate!

Back in my spiritual questing days, one of the best books I read was "Mere Christianity," by C.S. Lewis. I remember him saying that the point of his book wasn't to make the reader into a Catholic or Baptist or Lutheran. The idea was just to get him into the big room--mere Christianity. I hope that Ruppert and Thorn and Griffin and Nimmo will focus on bringing people into the big room where it's okay to question 9/11 (and government actions in general), rather than having a shootout in that room that scares people away.

Two more things. One--I watched the film 9/11 twice during my trip, once on the train, once with my brother. It was filmed by two French brothers who were making a documentary about a rookie NY fireman. It has extensive footage from inside WTC 1 from shortly after it was hit by the plane until after WTC 2 collapsed. I highly recommend it. For this discussion, the interesting thing is the one scene when the firemen are back at the station on the afternoon of 9/11, discussing what they saw. One described the collapse of one of the towers (approx. quote): "It just went pop, pop, pop, all the way down, just like a demolition."

The other thing. In my opinion, the quickest way to get someone into the big room of doubt is to focus on the Pentagon. How is it possible that a plane could have crashed into what should be the best-guarded building on the planet? If they try to go all Condi on you, saying nobody could have seen that coming--suggest that that may have been a remote possibility an hour earlier. But after the second plane hit the WTC, everybody, even Bush, knew that the nation was under attack. That the Pentagon was undefended, even unevacuated, 34 minutes later is outside the realm of possibility if one believes that our government is good and pure. I almost think the Pentagon attack was like the second bullet in Gary Webb's "suicide:" A message to the nosy that these are very serious dudes running this show. They want their complicity known to those who look and think closely--and they want those people to believe that they can't be stopped.