March 2, 2005

But was "you're old and you suck" really necessary?

Buried under the ad hominem (though admittedly entertaining) attacks on Kurt Andersen in Matt Taibbi's latest New York Press essay is an important point in response to a currently voguish attitude exemplified most prominently in Kurt's recent New York piece on the liberal reaction to Iraq's elections.

"At this moment in this war," Kurt writes, "that binary choice of who you want to win is inescapable." The myth of binary choices has plagued this war from the beginning. During the run up to the war I said over and over and over again that the choice was not just between invading Iraq or "doing nothing." Tiabbi still gets this.

We no more have to choose between chaos and authoritarianism than we do between rooting for Bush and rooting for the insurgents. There is a vast array of other outcomes and developments to root for.
We could root for Bush to admit he fucked up and appeal to the world for help in stabilizing Iraq. We could root for a similar admission and a similar appeal to the U.N., only coupled with an immediate American withdrawal. We could root for America to come out firmly against the Israeli occupation of Palestine, which would change the equation in Iraq. We could root for such things as the turning over of Iraqi oil contracts to the United Nations and an end to war profiteering—which, again, would change the equation in the war. [I especially agree with that last one, and I'll throw in a promise not to establish permanent military bases -dlr]

And that's just the beginning. It does not come down to rooting either for Bush or for the insurgents. Andersen thinks he can make this argument because he thinks he knows that in our hearts, many of us are rooting for the insurgents—and he is trying to tell us that renouncing this instinct automatically translates into unqualified support for Bush. But that is wrong, and totally dishonest.

I won't deny that it sometimes seems as if antiwar liberals find pleasure when Bush's Iraq slips off the rails, as it did with this week's bombing in Hilla and today's assassinations. This is indefensible, but perhaps explainable inasmuch as it's a reaction to the equally simpleminded giggling on the part of the hawks. I wonder (though I doubt) if Jack Kelly is regretting this column, published a day before Hilla, in which he actually finds humor in nominating the insurgents for a Darwin Award. "The number of insurgent attacks has fallen off significantly since the Fallujah offensive last November, and the attacks that are being made are less effective. 'Most of these are ambush-style attacks that result in no casualties [sic; I think he means fatalities],' noted StrategyPage.com."

Alterman notes that even people who now believe that elections retroactively justify the war would have a hard time picturing Bush actually trying to sell it on those grounds.

He also points out that this bit of media groupthink is typical of the context-free way in which international affairs is presented. Here's Think Progress on the argument that the current situation in Lebanon, as seen by David Brooks and most others in the media.

Of course, if you ignore half the relevant facts like Brooks did, you can quote the same sources and make just the opposite case. What if Brooks had instead quoted Walid Jumblatt from two months ago, when he described how “we are all happy when U.S. soldiers are killed [in Iraq] week in and week out. The killing of U.S. soldiers in Iraq is legitimate and obligatory.” As it regards Syria’s occupation in Lebanon, our “maximalist” foreign policy didn’t work out quite as well in 1991, when we “quietly supported the Syrian assault” against the Lebanese nationalists in power at the time – the same folks who Brooks is celebrating today.

Now of course one can argue that just because the US supported "the wrong side" in the past does not mean it can not take credit for now supporting "the right side" (the quotes indicate that I will not even pretend to understand the Syria/Lebanon situation well enough to have an opinion on who or what is right or wrong there). But understanding US history in the region is vital to understanding what's going on there now, so it's professional neglegence, at a minimum, that from 95 percent of MSM coverage, you wouldn't even know the US has a history there.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


That's "Taibbi."

" that from 95 percent of MSM coverage, you wouldn't even know the US has a history there."

Sorry, but that is just utterly wrong. The history of various US involvements in the middle east going back over a century have been extensively covered in MSM print, television, radio.

People may have turned off their brains to 95% of this coverage but that doesn't mean it wasn't there. A stroll through the back pages of NYT WAPO NPR etc will reveal this.

The back pages of NYT, WaPo, NPR? Yep, that's the other 5%.

OK, I may have overstated -- but you know my motto: "close enough for blogging."

Also: TV has talked about US involvement in Lebanon? Really? That does surprise me.

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