Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Monday | July 14, 2003

16 words

By Steve Gilliard

It's been a long weekend and Monday, and I've felt like crap for most of today. I really wanted to watch WWE Raw, relax and hope to be able to work tomorrow. But when I came across this wee bit o'fiction from James Taranto, I figured I had to come out swinging.

We'll take each paragraph on its own. Since they're each filled with errant asumptions.

To those of us who supported Iraq's liberation without reservation, the 16 words in the president's speech are an irrelevancy. There was an overwhelming legal, strategic and humanitarian case for removing the Baathist regime from Baghdad, whether or not it recently sought to obtain uranium in Africa. And let's be honest: For Howard Dean, the African uranium question is equally irrelevant. His Watergate comparison is telling. Watergate, after all, was a criminal conspiracy; Dean seems to view the liberation of Iraq as a crime (and Saddam Hussein as the victim?).

Well, so do most Iraqis. Those 16 words created a clear and present danger to the US. A nuclear armed Iraq might have been a threat, granted that they lacked any kind of delivery vehicle or even access to a port which could tranship such a weapon, but that's a minor detail.

The Iraqis do not call this a liberation.

The children of 24-year-old Prof. Fatin al-Rifai slowly start to wake up. The two boys, ages 8 and 10, toss and turn. Eight-month-old Malak (which means "angel" in Arabic) stirs, struggles and sits up in her crib.

Al-Rifai teaches English at Baghdad University, where her husband also works as a psychology professor. She says life in post-Saddam Iraq has not improved. "No liberation," she says, "It is a mess. Just a mess."

So exactly who did we liberate? This is an educated woman with two kids, not some bored Jihadist with an AK and time to spare. It should be clear that many, many Iraqis do not like us in their country, regardless of what we can do for them.

But if you can ignore a lie by the president, to liberate people who turn their backs as American soldiers die, I guess you might, in a delusional world, call that policy a success. In the real world, it's a mess.

Why is it that the right seems to attack anyone who suggests that the occupation is a mess as a Saddam lover. While Jim and his rightwing buddies were mooning over pictures of Reagan, Saddam was killing the Shia and Kurds like roaches in a summer home. It wasn't realpolitik to care about them then. Now, they shamefully hide behind the dead Shia to justifiy this occupation, something the Shia will not do themselves.

Notice how he shifts the argument from the president's conduct to the war. The two are not the same, but if he wants a debate, many people would call the war a crime. Dean is right, Hegel is right. The president's conduct matters. Those 16 words matter. But then, no one from Taranto's circle has anyone walking point in one of Iraq's hotspots.

How many Americans found the case for regime change otherwise unpersuasive but were won over by the part about uranium in Africa? It seems likely the answer is very few; and it's surely implausible that three of the four leading Democratic candidates for president fall into this group (especially since they voted for the war 3 1/2 months before Bush mentioned the allegation). Thus the only major Democratic candidate who has a coherent position is Howard Dean--and his position now has the endorsement of his party.

Is he kidding? Most Americans couldn't find Iraq on a map before their kin were sent there. They care about it because the president made a case for it. If he didn't make a case for it, there would have been no independent support for it. Look at Liberia. Until the President makes a case for it, it will have no support in the US public. Without WMD, there is no war. Simple as that.

What could DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe have been thinking? Surely he's savvy enough to realize that Dean is the least electable of his party's four main candidates, and that running against the liberation of Iraq is not a winning strategy.

I'd take a look at those polls. I don't think anyone outside the WSJ/Freeper circles calls it a liberation. Iraqis call it an occupation, Europeans call it a crime, other Arabs call it a crusade and many Americans are calling it a quagmire. Liberation is not a word on anyone's lips who isn't a Bush loyalist.

Well, here's one possibility. The DNC ad coincided with President Bush's trip to Africa. Last week's news was dominated not by the president's eloquent speech about slavery, or by his concern about AIDS and other humanitarian crises in Africa. Instead, we saw endless stories about the president's statement that--as the DLC's dowdified version of the quote (which omits the attribution to British intelligence) has it--"Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Could this have been a pre-emptive Democratic strike against Bush's effort to win over black voters?

See, Taranto, like many conservatives who thrive on telling black people how to think and live, he misses an obvious point. Until Bush stops getting their kids killed in Iraq, nothing he says is going to much impress black people. Most Americans, black or white, do not care and could not find Niger on a map. They care intimately about their kin in Iraq, getting shot every day. The Army is one-third minority. The war in Iraq is not news for a lot of black and latino families, but potential personal tragedy.

Most black people take one look at Bush and see a hypocrite. They cannot take him seriously about either AIDS or slavery. This is a country which lionizes a decrepit old racist, Strom Thurmond, prevented Colin Powell from speaking on a conference on racism and was bluntly and openly snubbed by Nelson Mandela, who's personal status is unrivaled by any living leader in black America. He could have married off Jenna to Tracy McGrady and no one would have cared.

Does Taranto think blacks are so simpleminded to be impressed by a trip to Africa, where it turns out people were forced to stand in the local soccer stadium all day while Bush was there, when he cuts military and veterans benefits and wants to chip away at overtime? We're not idiots amused by shiny baubles, CNN and CSPAN comes into Harlem and the South Side of Chicago like it does in Westchester and Oak Park. We watch the news as well. Some of us even use the internet.

And it matters if the president lied in 16 words, two words or a hundred words. It is shameful to argue that a lie about war is no big deal. But then, when dead Americans and Iraqis are a minor detail in your imperial plans, what more can you expect.

Posted July 14, 2003 07:18 PM


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