Wednesday, August 17, 2005

A Double Response
My post yesterday, regarding Cindy Sheehan's response to a neighbor of W's opening up his property to her camp of followers, drew a comment from Richard. Following my promise to post a response, Richard apparently felt the need to clarify himself.

Rather than update the original post, I've decided to place my responses to both of his comments here. I have edited the first reply to account for any clarifications he made that might have rendered my point moot.

First response, to this comment:

You're absolutely right, Richard, I am facing severe frustration. Unfortunately, you're absolutely wrong about its genesis. [Here I addressed the allegation of Christian-bashing, which Richard retracted, so I won't waste your time.]

Yes, it does frustrate me that Ms. Sheehan lost her son in this war—just as the suffering of every casualty's family frustrates me. In an ideal world, there would be no injuries in wars of good. I can only pray that I never know the pain that comes with the loss of a child at any age in his or her life. It has, without question, torn her life and now her marriage asunder—as it has countless others.

But more frustrating than that is the rationality that causes someone like you to lend a megaphone to someone like her.

Let's look at that, shall we? She lost a son in this conflict, so she has a greater moral authority than I to comment on its justifications, right? Why? What is the logic behind that? I'll leave it to you to answer that question. In the meantime, I'll tell you why not:
(1)She opposed the war long before she lost her son. In other words, Casey Sheehan's death had no consequence on her positions regarding this conflict—if it had no bearing on her opinion, why does it lend any additional justification to that opinion?
(2)If that loss had shaped her position—or even if it had merely intensified it—that would in no way support her belief. Why not? Because it is an emotional response, not a rational one. Desire for revenge does not justify a moral position under any circumstances. We do not allow parents of murdered children to convict or sentence the killer, nor do we blindly accept such a parent's diagnosis of the social or psychological explanations for such crimes.

The simple truth is that what this woman advocates is bad policy—and the regrettable death of her son does not change that. Even if one accepts the premise that our presence—or Israel's—in the Middle East spawned the current situation, that in no way implies that disengagement will result in improved conditions. If our involvement created this round of Islamic terrorism—and Al Quaeda's own communications strongly imply otherwise—it has now progressed far beyond that. Even if Bin Laden initially wanted to chase us out of his territory, he now calls for our total annihilation—and will settle for nothing less.

If we withdraw from the Middle East in the face of this, he or his forces will declare success. They will then proceed to consolidate their power and construct the pan-Arab Islamo-fascist state, installing a Caliph precisely the way they now intend. They will continue to grind any opposition into the dirt and to oppress every woman within their domain until they have absolute power.

And then they'll be happy, right? We'll have left them alone, so they'll return the favor, right? Hmmm. If only Islam did not preach the conversion of the entire world to its precepts—either by choice, or force. See, that little issue causes some pretty big problems. They'll back down for a while to consolidate their empire—but eventually they'll get back to expanding it at all costs.

This is why some on the right like to assert that the peaceniks are out to help the terrorists. I tend to stay away from that language, because I don't think it's intentional—but I do think that the actions of such people inadvertently benefit the Islamo-fascists. It's like people have never heard of the concept of positive reinforcement. Even if our withdrawal from the Middle East is all they want right now, granting them that wish can only embolden them. The rational response to such an event would be, quite simply, "hey, they gave us what we want...why don't we ask for more?" It would be a reward for the horrific slaughter of so many innocent civilians just going about their lives, and it would teach them that such slaughter in the future will be sufficient to achieve additional goals.

I haven't used this in a while, so I'll leave you with my favorite allegory: If you give a mouse a cookie, he's going to want a glass of milk.

And now... Second response to this comment:

You allege that "the smear job against Cindy Sheehan is clearly coming thick and fast." My question to you is: from where? Who's trying to smear her? Has anyone done anything more than reply to her words? Go ahead, find me a single columnist that attacks her personally. It's not a smear job if the attack is on the content of her words.

You also claim that "Cindy Sheehan [...] is not an activist. She is a mother who lost her son in a war that has never been honestly explained and isn't worth the death of a single American soldier." Really? I'm pretty sure that her organizing a protest defines her as an activist. Furthermore, if she's not an activist, what was she doing at an April rally for the "lawyer convicted of aiding Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the terrorist connected with the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993."? (Transcript of that rally available here). Sounds an awful lot like activism to me. That the pattern didn't start until the death of her son does not in any way change the fact that she is now an activist. Furthermore, the second part of your claim as quoted above is problematic. If it hasn't been honestly explained, then who are you to judge whether or not it's worthwhile? Wouldn't you need to know the explanation in order to make that determination? And if you know enough to know it's not worthwhile, then why bother complaining if it hasn't all been laid out in order for you—obviously you got the message all the same.

Beyond that, the claim that it's not worthwhile is your opinion, and you're entitled to it. But don't treat it like a statement of fact. Admit that it's just your opinion. A lot of people feel that what we're doing is pretty valuable. Say, now that I think of it, why don't I answer Cindy Sheehan's question for her. She wants to know what her son died for, right? Well, let's see... in yesterday's Best of the Web, James Taranto tried to draw our attention to some good news coming out of Iraq. For example, he quotes an AP dispatch:

The capital's Sadr City section was once a hotbed of Shiite Muslim unrest, but it has become one of the brightest successes for the U.S. security effort.

So far this year, there has been only one car bombing in the neighborhood, and only one American soldier has been killed.

A year ago, militiamen garbed in black and armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades roamed the streets in open revolt against the American presence. But U.S. troops quelled the uprising, and today calmly patrol the district, aided by loyalists of the radical cleric who spurred the violence.
Taranto continues, to add us a bit more context:
It was in Sadr City that Casey Sheehan was killed in action in April 2004. America's success there is further evidence that he did not die in vain.
I think the people of Sadr City are probably pretty grateful to people like Casey—do you want to tell them, and their countrymen, that you value an American life over theirs? Can you tell me why that is?

Next, you imply that I think "a bunch of right-wing hardliners led by Cheney invaded Iraq to bring democracy to a single middle east [sic] nation[...]" Well, I hate to dispute, but you don't seem to pay attention. Not once has anyone I know of that supported the war from the start claim that it was just about liberating Iraq. Yeah, we want Iraq to be free—but that's in large part because we believe the example of a Muslim country living in democracy will inspire others to seek their own freedom, with ripple effects throughout the Middle East. It's never been about "one nation:—a point you seem to want to gloss over.

And you're right, we did forget to account for the fact that non-"territorial states" could do damage to our cause. We forgot about the American press. Do you honestly think that if Americans heard from Arthur Chrenkoff in addition to the mainstream coverage of the war that support would be as low as it is? It hurts your cause quite a bit to provide balanced coverage of what's going on in Iraq, instead of simple body counts.

Regarding your Navy pilot theory—I've never heard of it before, so it's tough for me to respond to. Sounds to me, however, like some lingering bias from your days in the service. You'll have a hard time convincing anyone that airstrikes can't win a war after the routing of the Republican Guard in the first Gulf War. Conquering a country is different, of course, but that brings me to your next point...

I'm not a military strategist, so I'm not equipped to determine whether disbanding the Iraqi army was a good idea or not, and I'm not equipped to determine whether money was spent effectively or not. I do know that, even if both things are true, failure to work effectively does not mean the mission should have been abandoned from the start, and it certainly doesn't justify backing down now. Sure, the going is tough—realists knew that from the beginning—but sometimes the hardest things in life are the most worth fighting for. I'm just glad you weren't making political decisions the Winter of Valley Forge—if you had been, we'd all be speaking with British accents right now.

Yes, Cindy Sheehan has every right to ask President Bush why her son got killed. She even has the right to allege that it was for no good reason. But this administration has provided plenty of public explanation for the Iraqi action, and the fact that she doesn't accept it doesn't mean they haven't responded. Furthermore, she met with him face-to-face, and he can't be blamed for her unwillingness to ask him then. Also, you apparently don't know the meaning of the word "directly," as if Bush were "directly" responsible for the death of Casey Sheehan, he either would have had to kill him, or put him in a position where the only possibility was death.

I'm pretty sure that Casey Sheehan was an adult at the time of his enlistment. That he chose to risk his life cannot be faulted on the President. And treating him like a child with no free will of his own is an embarrassmentttt to the memory of a hero. If Ms. Sheehan wants to ask why her son died on her own behalf, then she can do so—but don't try to pretend that he had no culpability in his being in Iraq. He made a choice to enlist, and the outcome is a shame.

I'll leave your "credentials" and conclusion to stand for themselves.

I invite one and all to respond.

UPDATE [8/18/2005 - 11:21]: Richard "responds" here, and I rant and rave here. Enjoy.


Richard said...

Interesting but rambling and weak comment I take it apart here.

Richard said...

Regarding your denial of a smear job on Cindy Sheehan:
You allege that "the smear job against Cindy Sheehan is clearly coming thick and fast." My question to you is: from where? Who's trying to smear her? Has anyone done anything more than reply to her words? Go ahead, find me a single columnist that attacks her personally. It's not a smear job if the attack is on the content of her words.

Anything that starts from The Drudge Report is an unofficial official right-wing smear. It succeeds to the extent it does by maintianing some mild plausible deniability.

Then go Google "My son joined the Army to protect America, not Israel."

Note the right-wing addresses carrying the alleged statement and letter. FreeRepublic,, NRO,, and this is just the first page. This is a right-wing smear job. Drudge and NRO are what pass for mainline pundits on the right.

These are words that Cindy Sheehan denies writing.

She also goes into the other attacks on her. Tell me. How does bringing up her divorce attack her on the basis of what she said?

This is classic right-wing smear job, much like the Karl Rove under the radar attack on Ann Richards as a supporter of Lesbians when Bush was running for Governor of Texas in 1994. Your denial of a smear effort does not carry any any crediblity in the face of the facts.