Daily Archives: April 16, 2003

“This has been a tough war for commentators on the American left. To hope for defeat meant cheering for Saddam Hussein. To hope for victory meant cheering for President Bush.”

So claims journalist David Carr in a New York Times piece, cunningly entitled Dilemma’s Definition: The Left and Iraq Why should this be a moment to “define”? For the very reason that the specious claim that the left longed for defeat and supported Saddam Hussein.

Ideology. Pure reactionary ideology

“The toppling of Mr. Hussein, or at least a statue of him, has made their arguments even harder to defend. Liberal writers for ideologically driven magazines like The Nation and for less overtly political ones like The New Yorker did not predict a defeat, but the terrible consequences many warned of have not happened.”

Ah, so they didn’t “predict” defeat, but “terrible consequences.” And terrible consequences (no need for quotes this time) have indeed befallen Iraqis killed and/or maimed by our bombs. Moreover while the U.S. military has announced that the principle “battle” has been won (shooting fish in a barrel being of course more difficult) there is no indication that sporadic guerilla fighting against “coalition forces” won’t continue through the coming occupation. And that’s not to mention the various ethnic and religious rivalries within Iraq that the war has only served to exacerbate.

“Now liberal commentators must address the victory at hand and confront an ascendant conservative juggernaut that asserts United States might can set the world right.”

And “Conservative” commentators have nothing to addressin all of this besides “Liberals”? (“Liberals” being of course defined as anyone not working for Fox News or in the pay of the Republican National Committee — save for that pesky Chinese spy.)

“The left’s debate over this war has been agonized, full of mixed messages and sharp turns as commentators struggled with the military success and the obvious joy of the Iraqis.”

Well there was that briefly famous little boy (one of many) whose arms were blown off. But let’s not talk about him. Let’s talk about — HUBBA-HUBBA!

“Sometimes the debate has taken place in one publication.”

Like the NYT.

The New Yorker, something of a liberal beacon, was both for and against the war, depending on the week. In this week’s issue, David Remnick, the editor, wrote in a nuanced but clear editorial in the Talk of the Town section that removing Mr. Hussein was worth the risk, saying that “to feel no sense of relief and joy in the prospect of a world without him is to be possessed of a grudging heart.”

Ah yes, let’s forget about those “grudging hearts” who were onlyt too ahppy to have Saddam Hussein on the U.S. payroll — the better to thwart those pesky Soviets. Why we even gave him chemical weapons to help out. And he went and (all together now) USED THEM ON HIS OWN PEOPLE!

Not that we cared when he did. But we decided to care this year, and that’s what matters, right?

But just a week before, Hendrik Hertzberg, the executive editor, cautioned in the same space that it was “already too late for the rosy scenario of the cakewalk conservatives.”

Mr. Remnick said in an interview over the weekend, “The issue of Iraq is filled with complexity, perhaps like no other I have seen in the past five years, and I think it is appropriate to reflect that complexity.”

In an interview last week, Mr. Hertzberg spoke of the conflict many liberals have been living with since the war began.

“It has been agonizing and excruciating,” he said. “It’s not like the 2000 elections or the Bush tax cut, where I felt a certainty about what is right.”

“Iraq is a battle, not a war,” Mr. Hertzberg added. “In that war, the larger problems still exist. It will take some time before we find out what effect this battle has on the larger war.”

But Mr. Carr, like all reactionary operatives, is impatient. “You’re either with us or against us,” is their battle cry — followed by Bill O’Reilley warning “You’ve got 15 seconds.”

“For unreconstructed pacifists, like many of the writers for The Nation, the war with Iraq appears like most others, unnecessary and ill-intentioned. But among a broad spectrum of left-leaning thinkers, the war — an invasion of a sovereign republic — was a much more complicated matter.”

Note the “leaning.”

“After the Vietnam War, a liberal dialectic of opposing the war but supporting the troops emerged.”

No, that was during the war. But that was undoubtedly before your time, dear.

“But opposition to war in general, an important tenet for many liberals, was challenged by military interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo. Those exercises of United States might became a new kind of “good war,” battles waged to end “ethnic cleansing” and bring human rights to far-flung lands. The hawk became the new dove for many who believed that resolutions from the United Nations were a poor substitute for vigorous intervention in the face of genocide.”

Only for Ron Rosenbaum, Christopher Hitchens and their ilk — ex-liberals.

Hell, forget the “liberals” part. Newly-rediscovered Reactionaries is more like it.

“The nonpacifist left, which is to say the bulk of the left, is not as squeamish about armed conflict as they were 10 years ago,” said Paul Glastris, editor in chief of The Washington Monthly.

What “bulk”?

What bunk!

“The forays of the 1990’s were followed closely by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which convinced many that a policy of containment was a wistful notion. Many liberals found their patriotism but lost their voice as the specter of 3,000 civilian casualties served as a mute button on what had been a reflexive opposition to preventive military strikes. President Bush has suggested that the country has been at war ever since, and at the time, Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said that people “need to watch what they say.”

Which is why this piece was written without putting too fine a point on it.

Dan Perkins, a cartoonist whose strip “Tom Tomorrow” frequently satirizes the Bush administration, said, “Being against the war is somewhat analogous to defending the rights of Nazis to march in Skokie.”

Really Dan? No other recourse than “Shock and Awe”? I’d like to see the full context of that quote.

“Michael Kinsley, the founding editor of Slate and a former editor of The New Republic, said the rules for commentary had changed since Vietnam. “People have adopted the convention that you can say anything before a war starts, but once it does, you have to be very nervous about criticism.” The start of the war brought a kind of transference, a shift from questions about the morality of a given act to a more prosaic argument over tactics.

You mean everyone has fallen in line with Bill O’Reilley? Gee I guess the thousands that protested after the attacks on Iraq began were just a mirage.

“The winding down of the war may allow the resumption of a deeper discussion about the war’s objectives, one that writers can address without being labeled unpatriotic.”

Oh I’m sure that’s not true. It’s going to be all about who’s a “patriot” and who’s not from here on in.

That’s the whole purpose of your article, no?

“While television news showed images of Iraqis celebrating in the streets last week, Eric Alterman, a liberal commentator and author, addressed the” Hudson Institute, a conservative research group in Washington. David Brooks, a writer who supported the war along with most of the other conservatives in the room, introduced him.

“He said that they ought to be extra nice to me and others who opposed the efforts to liberate the people of Iraq because we were having a really bad day,” said Mr. Alterman, the author of “What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News.” “I explained to him and the crowd that my opposition to the war was not because I didn’t think we could win.”

And that’s as far as Chase wants to go in quoting Eric. Best not let a genuine Liberal have the floor too long, eh?

“For writers and editors who live at the far left of liberalism, little has changed. Last week, with the much criticized war plan suddenly looking brilliant, The Nation suggested that Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld should resign.

“Even if people think this is a great military victory, we wanted to be out front on this issue,” said Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation. “There is much to say about whether this is the last unilateralist war by the Bush regime or the first in a series to reshape the world in the Bush image.”

And Chase is loathe from allowing her to say it.

“Many liberals have criticized the president’s ever-changing rationales for the war, but Christopher Hitchens, a columnist for Vanity Fair and a former contributor to The Nation who left that magazine over ideological differences, said it was those who were against the war who were guilty of revisionism.


“Their prediction and deepest hope was that the black shirts of the fedayeen were going to win or force a stalemate,” he said. “Just like they predicted, the Arab street did explode, but with the joy of freedom, which is not the one that they meant, so they are furious and depressed.”

Step away from the pocket mirror and nobody gets hurt, Hitchens. Your fury and depression (like your alcohol comsumption) are legendary. But the “joy of freedom” you speak of (see sbove linked smooch) was drowned out by the joy of looting.

Priceless art treasures are gone. And even more priceless medical supplies as well — leaving those lucky enough to escape the bombs subject to disease. And then there are the depleted food supplies, and the lack of drinking water and electricity.

Yes the “joy of freedom” will deal with all of that.

Mr. Perkins, who writes a Weblog at www.thismodernworld.com, said he liked scenes of liberation as much as the next person but did not believe that the Bush administration was motivated by the plight of Iraqis.

“Anybody who believes that the liberation of the Iraqi people is more than a happy afterthought is kidding themselves,” he said.

And some commentators said the absence of Mr. Hussein, or his body, might make it easier, not harder, to challenge the military effort that brought him down.

Oh who cares about his body. We got his statue!

“No one wanted to be seen as serving as a human shield on Saddam. I am happy to see Iraqis cheering in the streets,” said Joan Walsh, news editor of Salon, the online magazine. “But I think it gets very interesting now. How do we restore order? How do we restore infrastructure and build democratic institutions? And we are still confronted by the costs of going it alone. Since our job is to critique and analyze, it is hardly finished.”

Salon gave up critique and analysis some time ago. In fact, it gave up the pretense of being a Liberal publication some time ago. It’s record of relentless attack against anti-war protesters is without peer. And that’s not to mention Walsh’s defense of the murderers in the San Francisco dog-mauling case. Chase needen’t worry about Salon.

But if Chase is a harbinger of things to come at the NYT embroiled as it is in managerial controversy then we should all be worried re the rag’s further employment of Paul Krugman.

In the immortal word of Harold Rome (get out your recordings of “Pins and Needles” and listen to Babs wail):

“Don’t go left,

Let’s be polite,

Move to the right,

Doin’ the Reactionary.”