The Proud Duck
Friday, July 01, 2005
An open letter in response to a column saying President Bush "co-opts symbols of patriotism to silence dissent":
"You may not have chosen the title of your column "Bush co-opts symbols of patriotism to silence dissent" -- I've had my own unpleasant experiences with poorly-phrased captions that distort the meaning of my writing -- but I must say if President Bush is trying to "silence dissent," he's doing an awfully poor job of it. "Dissent" is shriller now than ever, and, I would add, more heedless of its effect on this country's welfare.
Do you honestly think the Left's hair-trigger criticisms of the conduct of the Iraq campaign are totally free from political motivation? Can you honestly envision Republicans being taken seriously if, in 1943, they'd been anywhere near as vituperative against the Roosevelt administration as Democrats are being now? There were plenty of opportunities. The Sherman tank was a lightly-armored deathtrap; thousands and thousands of young men died due to poor planning, strategic errors, and ghastly mistakes; civilians died by the truckload under Allied bombing; and prisoners often got far worse treatment than having their religious books dropped on the floor or being led around naked on a leash by hillbillies. The difference was that the political opposition recognized that defeat would be disastrous, and for the most part managed to subordinate their partisanship to the national interest. We are clearly not the same country today.
Calling it "shameless" to speak of 9/11 and Iraq in the same breath betrays a remarkable lack of thoughtfulness. The President did not say Iraq was involved in 9/11, but rather than 9/11, like Pearl Harbor, awakened us to the realization that we had underestimated the ability of our enemies to harm us. You seem to think our response should have been to go after the particular enemies that succeeded on 9/11, and continued to ignore the others -- including hostile regimes that gave every indication of pursuing weapons that could inflict even worse damage than we'd suffered. That is a suicidally shortsighted approach.
Do you honestly believe that an American defeat in Iraq would not have horrific consequences on American security? Just as the American surrender in Vietnam emboldened Communist ideologues around the world (sorry to sound like an old-school red-baiter, but facts are facts), strengthening the global influence of the nuclear-armed Soviet Union and heating up the Cold War to dangerous levels of tension, shouldn't you at least consider that an American defeat in Iraq will enhance the prestige and influence of the jihadist faction within Islam that really, truly wants our civilization destroyed?
You may try to distinguish your dismissal of the mission American troops are engaged in from lack of support for the troops, but objectively, you are not on their side. American soldiers, by and large, are convinced that they are engaged in a worthy cause. You are free to disagree with them -- your enlightened, educated outlook, after all, may give you more wisdom than their practical experience -- but please don't pretend you're not doing so. Objectively speaking, you are working for their cause to fail. Great powers aren't defeated by guerillas; they lose when they get tired and go home. You are trying to make that happen.
You spoke of the President "conflating" war and patriotism -- and then you turned around and gave us a nice, misleading example of "conflating" of your own. The poll you cited, showing that 58% Americans disapprove of the administration's handling of the Iraq campaign, does not, as you suggest, prove that a majority of Americans believe we were "misled" into war. Those two sentiments are distinct. I, myself, disapprove -- in retrospect -- of many of the Administration's decisions regarding the Iraq campaign. I have reservations -- now -- as to whether the campaign might have been a strategic error in the larger war on jihadist terror, in the same sense as the Italian campaign of 1944-1945 might have been unnecessary to win World War II. But that most emphatically does not mean I sign onto the Michael Moore/MoveOn.org chorus of "Bush lied, people died." It's simply not true, and only a Chomsky-addled simpleton with a mind welded tighter than an Acura chassis could think otherwise in light of the plain historical record.
You see, this is why litigators are often so dismissive of journalists' argumentation skills. If we tried to pull a slick little switch like you just tried, opposing counsel would be all over us like white on rice, followed shortly by the judge bellowing at us for trying to mislead the court.