2003-07-11 / Columnists

The Rockaway Irregular by Stuart W. Mirsky

Messages from the Internet
The Rockaway Irregular by Stuart W. Mirsky Messages from the Internet

Nothing promotes democracy like dialogue and nothing does dialogue like the Internet these days. But real dialogue is hard to find and it’s especially hard when the issue is politics. I have been astonished at the hard feeling manifested by so many against the current administration, both here and abroad. Recently someone posted some overseas articles on a site I frequent which attacked this country’s actions and administration. I responded by noting that most of the claims were half-truths and innuendos and that the aim was to delegitimize Bush and his policies in one fell swoop. An avowed liberal took me to task for this. I offer a sampling of our exchange here with some editing for brevity, of course (names deleted).

Him: The claim that Iraq had WMD and was linked to al Qaeda were the reasons used to sell the war!

Me: It was also about the threat posed by Saddam to the Middle Eastern region, which would be potentially destabilizing and dangerous to world peace. Moreover, Saddam was a very bad guy to his own people! It was always a combination of these four reasons . . . Him: The first reason has turned out to be a con job.

Me: I don’t think the facts are all in yet or that it’s appropriate to jump the gun. As noted, this is not a simple question and always involved a lot of judgment by people in our government who get paid to make such judgments. We know Clinton lied about Monica. He said one thing on national television and in a sworn deposition to a court of law. He then recanted publicly. So there’s no question of falsehood on his part, though we can argue that it was over a minor transgression (although publicly lying and lying under oath may not, themselves, be minor). But Bush repeated claims based on information gathered and believed by U.S. and other government sources since the early nineties and which Clinton, himself, and other Democratic leaders, said they
believed at the time. Moreover Saddam continued to act as though he was hiding something. It’s hard to make the case Bush made it all up, even if it turns out to have been wrong!

Him: Note that Bush and gang sold this war on the premise of protecting this nation from attack.

Me: And they were. Saddam is out of power and he was clearly a nexus of terrorism.

Him: Not only that, we had to attack now, for the threat was immediate!

Me: The issue was more like we had to attack now because we’d never get another opportunity. No one at the time was arguing Saddam was primed to attack the U.S. right then. The issue was that he posed a severe near-term risk, in light of the events of 9/11.

Him: Then there was the alleged al Qaeda connection. Our great enemy, whom we have yet to smoke out, was out there ready to attack using those WMD Iraq had. To both reasons, I say horse puckey!

Me: There’s clear evidence of contacts as well as of Saddam’s sheltering al Qaeda operatives. We may never find a smoking gun explicitly linking him with any al Qaeda actions. So what? Lots of Saddam’s documents got unaccountably destroyed during the final days in Baghdad. Given that Saddam was a brutal thug and threat to his region (and thus world stability and peace) and that he had contacts with al Qaeda and that he had pursued and used WMD in the past, there was every reason to address this problem now, before it got beyond our ability to handle easily and we were facing another 9/11, this time involving release of chemical, biological or nuclear agents.

Him: Your third reason justifying this war reminds me of the domino theory, and was concocted several years earlier by Pearl, Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and others. So we had to attack immediately to prevent the dominoes from falling? Again, horse puckey!

Me: It’s not a question of dominoes but of real nations and people. When you’re playing with fire, you’re playing for keeps. No one "concocted" the scenario of Saddam taking over his region and thereby posing a global threat except, perhaps, Saddam in what he did and said.

Him: This pseudo reason is the one I think was sold to Bush and he had to use the first two pseudo reasons to sell this nation a pig in a poke. I cannot understand the lack of anger by the majority for being conned.

Me: Because they have the good sense to see that they weren’t "conned" and are being served by good, solid, professionals who are doing the job they must in uncertain and dangerous times. Only those who are wedded to a view that is anti-Bush or anti-American (and I’ll admit the two are not the same) seem willing to embrace this harebrained idea that Saddam was no threat and that the best thing to do was to allow him to continue doing what he did and make nice to al Qaeda in hopes they’ll go away.

Him: The idea that Saddam was a thug-like dictator as a reason to begin a war is laughable. Why, of all the brutal and vicious tyrants in this world, did we choose that particular one and ignore the rest? Gimme a break!

Me: This is actually the most justifiable on purely moral grounds as it reflects an interest in the well-being of others rather than ourselves. But, because of questions of national sovereignty, it is often hard to make a decision to remove a thuggish dictator. Since the lives of our own people are at stake in such wars and since one can never know outcomes, it’s not easy to make decisions to fight to remove dictators in a society like ours where lives of citizens are valued.

Him: From what you have written about those of us who reside on the left side of the aisle I can only conclude . . . that you are still calling us anti-Americans.

Me: I am not calling you anti-American though I am suggesting that you are allowing your hostility to the party and president in power to cloud your judgment to the detriment of American interests. Obviously, you can do that if you want to, but I’m entitled to call your attention to this if I think this is the case.

Him: You appear to be so Bush-bound that you would take my freedom away from me by requiring that I follow the "patriotic" line.

Me: Who’s taking away your freedom? I have not said you should not be free to speak your mind! Nor would I endorse that. I am as much a democrat (small d) as you are! No need to get hyperbolic about this.

Him: This line, by the way, was milked to the teat in the last election by Bush and gang in painting any who opposed him as giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Demonizing seems to be a common trait for your side of the aisle.

Me: This is silly. You are wrong and I have called that to your attention. There is no need to think anything more than that is going on here! Or would you rather restrict my freedom to criticize you? Who is demonizing whom?

To be continued . . .

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