Monday, June 04, 2007

Bob Kerrey Strikes Back

by Kyle Michaelis
Two weeks ago, former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey provoked some very understandable outrage with a column decrying the American left for its short-sighted and reactionary approach to the Iraq War. I offered a half-hearted defense of Kerrey because there was a valid point somewhere in the middle of his apologetics and revisionism, but it was not an easy argument to make because Kerrey was just so wrong about so much.

Lucky for us - as Nebraska Democrats wanting to maintain faith in one of our party's favorite sons and as progressives wanting constructive ideas for challenging the Iraq War's disastrous stay the course status quo - the conscience of the American news media, Bill Moyers, provided Kerrey an opportunity to elaborate upon his ideas and to vindicate his vision for our future military engagement in the entire Middle East.

On PBS' Journal this weekend, Bob Kerrey stated in his own words:
I would say we end the occupation today. Our mission should not be to occupy Iraq. Our mission should be to be a reliable ally of the Iraqi government in their effort to survive.....

I think it's likely that the Iraqi government will say, we need some kind of U.S. force to make certain that a much stronger in Syria, much stronger military in Iran, and much stronger military in Turkey don't take advantage of a potential power vacuum. But they have to ask us what they want....

I would say yes to maintaining some kind of military force for that purpose. And if they ask us to have forces left not as occupiers, but to help make certain that those borders are protected, I would say yes....[T]hey ask us for economic and military assistance, I would say yes, up to a point.....

I think where we get in trouble is where we are out there operating their prisons, operating their jails, operating and even training their police force. It's very difficult to get that done in a fashion in the modern age, without these images of us knocking down doors, which I think undercuts essentially what we're trying to do....

I don't think Iraq and Vietnam are the same. But there are things that are very much alike. The first is, you're occupying this country. And you can't expect a kid that we've trained to be a good soldier to understand the difference between Shi'a and Sunni. We're trying to sensitize them. But at the same time, you're training them as soldiers. And...they're not trained as diplomats. They're not trained as aid workers. They're not trained as policemen. I do not think a mission of occupying Iraq is going to be successful.

I think that going after radical Islamic jihadists is absolutely essential. And I think as well, remaining a reliable ally of Iraq is important. But a reliable ally does not mean that we have to say yes to everything that's asked of us. And I think finally I would say...within reason -- and there's a lot in that statement, "within reason" -- you have to constantly press to expand the negotiations that are going on, both in the region and internationally, about what to do to make certain that Iraq has a chance of becoming a stable government in the aftermath of this war....

[T]he problem is that we don't have a bipartisan foreign policy today to deal with these radical Islamic jihadists. And...for the sake of our...soldiers that we're sending over there and for the sake of this larger battle, [we've got to] find a way to get bipartisan consensus on what to do about global jihadists.....

I think that the politicians in Washington understand that they can't survive the status quo. I don't believe that you're going to get Republican members of Congress very smiling ear to ear when they hear the President and the Vice President say we don't care about public opinion because we don't have to face the voters again. Republican Congress, people in Congress do face the voters. And they understand that that status quo is unacceptable. That's what the voters are saying....

The casualties are up. The cost is up....And the President still refuses to go to funerals. And the coverage of the caskets coming back are not national news. At home, they are....Those kids are coming home and they're being buried, and their families are grieving them, and their families are welcoming back their sons and daughters without legs, with brain damage, et cetera. And they don't like it. And I do not believe that Republicans or Democrats in Washington, D.C. misunderstand that. They know it....

The problem is, the very people who criticize us getting rid of dictatorships will then go on to say our problem is we're supporting all those dictators in the Middle East....[W]hich way do you want it? Do you want us to support dictators or oppose dictators.

We brought the dictator down....What's going on now is a war against a government....[T]hat war against...[the Iraqi] government is being fought by people who not just see liberal democracy in the United States as a problem, but liberal democracy in Iraq as an even bigger problem.

[M]any people in this debate are saying get out, period. Bring them all home tomorrow...[T]hat basically says...we're not going to help you in any way, shape or form. It was a mistake for us to go in. It's your problem. You fix it. And what we're doing is making the same mistake that many people made prior to the 2003 invasion, imposing our own ideas upon them.....

Iraq has become central to the war on terror. But the question now is, what do you do about it? And how do we responsibly respond to that fact? And it's very difficult to do because you could play an Air America piece and get a radio piece that was critical of what I said...It's sort of what's going on in many parts of the world. People who are trying to express a moderate view get driven out of the debate because they become the most important target....

I don't like the status quo of us saying, well, we have to support these dictators, because look what happened in Iraq....I mean, for the United States foreign policy to say we're just going to accept the status quo and go back to the status quo, putting our arms and cozying up to dictators because at least they provide stability. Saddam Hussein provided stability in Iraq by killing any Shi'a and any Kurd and anybody who opposed him....that's what he did. Was it stable? Yes. Was there violence inside of Iraq? Yes. If you were a Kurd, if you were a Shi'a, if you were anybody who opposed, he drove you either into prison or he drove you out of the country. was more acceptable for us, because it wasn't the kind of sectarian violence and brutality that we're seeing right now. And our troops weren't on the ground....

[T]he loss is incalculable. I mean, you've got a young person who dies and never develops, never, you know, sees their kids...It's an incomparable loss. And I think it's one of the things that I think the President has made a mistake in not doing -- going to funerals and allowing us to grieve these losses. And the losses are as great in Iraq, with families who are losing -- losing loved ones as well. Two million refugees...have left Iraq.

Allow[] yourself to feel that. Otherwise, it's not proceed in a correct fashion. You can be paralyzed by it. I would definitely say I do think that if this government of Iraq survives....if it survives as a democracy, I do believe that you're going to be able to say that the price was worth it....

The end game for me is one, we have to say we are not the occupying force. And it's not a small matter. We're not occupying Iraq any longer. We're ending the occupation. Secondly....that we are going to work to create bipartisan domestic and global strategies to deal with global jihadism. And thirdly, that we will remain an ally of Iraq and let the Iraqi government...make your requests. Tell us what you want. And we will say yes or no, depending upon whether or not we believe that it's an appropriate mission and appropriate for us to do it, or we have the resources....

I just see both the left and the right choosing to use words like betrayal and treachery any time somebody reaches a compromise....The problem is we don't have the conversation to find out where we agree and that's what's missing - the means by which the public can have a conversation and discover where the agreement is and then urge the Congress to do something in that area....

[Last November,] voters basically said "no" and that's not very clear instructions. In Nebraska, it's the number one issue. 49% of Nebraskans self-identify the Iraq war as the number one issue....I've never seen that situation, but if you poll...what should be done. Equally divided - withdraw, stay the course....

But neither answer is an answer. That's the problem.
Of course, there's some pretty heavy-duty editing going on above. I've left out Kerrey's defense of the Democratic Congress' recent compromise with President Bush from charges of capitulation, as well as his controversial call for refocusing the War on Terror on more surgical strikes with seemingly little to no regard for Middle Eastern countries' territorial sovereignty. Frankly, I agree with Kerrey about the former but am quite severely troubled by the implications of the latter and its potential to ignite a true regional conflict that could quickly become global in scale.

But, for now, its worth emphasizing to precisely what degree Kerrey has vindicated himself with a well-reasoned and comprehensive vision for ending the occupation of Iraq and moving forward with a new idea for American involvement. You don't have to agree with Kerrey on every point he makes, but his central proposal is as bold, as thought-provoking, and as deserving of respect as any I've seen put forward.

That Kerrey has now articulated himself in a manner that still challenges established liberal orthodoxy without going out of his way to blame its adherents for the four years of failure and the nationwide fatigue resulting from a war they opposed from the start should go a long way towards restoring confidence in Kerrey and confidence in his credibility as a true voice for reform.

As for talk of Kerrey returning to Nebraska politics, there's nothing I can say about such speculation that isn't said more entertainingly and probably more astutely by the following piece of brilliant editorial cartooning by Neal Obermeyer, as it appeared in last week's Lincoln Journal-Star.

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Anonymous TedK said...

I also saw the Bill Moyers interview with Kerrey and was not as impressed. Kerrey appeared to backtrack a bit from his op-ed, but a lot of his solution was just semantics. No longer call us an occupying force, but we're still there and will be viewed as such. Kerrey still seemed aghast at allowing al-Qaeda the chance to declare victory if we leave soon. When Bill Moyers called Kerrey on the undisputed fact that al-Qaeda uses our occupation as the perfect recruiting tool, Kerrey's non-answer was ridiculous. He claimed that al-Qaeda would just as successfully use the Internet to recruit if we weren't in Iraq. Huh? Kerrey either didn't agree with Moyers or had no good response, so this was the best he could come up with. I also never heard Kerrey say it was a mistake to invade Iraq. I agree we have a reponsibility to help the Iraqis, but our presence, and surge, appears to be having the opposite effect.

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...


Kerrey proposed withdrawing entirely from Baghdad to focus on securing Iraq's borders. He also went on record rejecting our establishing a permanent presence and agreeing to our immediate withdrawal at the will of the Iraqi people and their parliament. To call that "semantics" is utter bullshit.

What the hell has happened to the Left that we are so scared to be challenged by one of our own? I personally disagree with Kerrey on a lot of things when it comes to the Iraq War, but I'm damn glad someone is pointing out the protectionist bubble and tinfoil hats that threaten to turn the Democratic Party into the same extremist, hyperpartisan abomination as the modern Republican Party.

That is what the voters rejected last November, yet that's precisely what we're set to become thanks to the zealots amongst us.

What we're seeing from the Democratic nominees for President is shameful and irresponsible. Each is so beholden to anti-war reactionaries that they've adbicated any sense of responsibility for this mess we've created, as well as simple compassion for the plight of the Iraqi people.

Shame on them, and shame on us.

Anonymous Dave Sund said...

Anti-war reactionaries? Kyle, you know a hell of a lot better than that. What the hell is it going to take for you to realize that the positions of the Democratic candidates - with the sole exceptions of fringe candidates like Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich - is not only mainstream, but reasonable as well?

You're engaging in the same sort of bullshit that Kerrey is. And if there's one thing that pisses me off, it's being called a reactionary for agreeing with 70% of the American people.

Shame on you, Kyle.

Anonymous TedK said...

Kyle, I just got back to my office and have to leave shortly, but I'll have a more complete response tonight. After reading your post, I thought my use of "semantics" might have been a bit off. So I printed out the interview transcript, did a quick review, and stand by that word. First, on quick read I couldn't find his proposal to withdraw from Baghdad (maybe it was in his op-ed). And no matter what we call our presence, we will be perceived as occupiers. And from this exchange, Kerrey really doesn't think we should withdraw even if the Iraqis want us to (as they do if polling can be believed).

BILL MOYERS: What if they say to get out? Is that acceptable to you? If the Iraqi parliament or the Iraqi government says get out?

BOB KERREY: My answer to that is yes. If the Iraqi government--

BILL MOYERS: But you said that we have to agree that what they're doing is acceptable to us? What they're asking us to do is acceptable to us.

BOB KERREY: Well, I promise you the Iraqi government is not going to ask us to go. Even that parliamentary request was qualified. Not today, it said. Not--

Kerrey sidesteps the issue by claiming that they would not ask us to leave. In any case, you didn't have a response to my main issue. Kerrey still thinks the invasion wasn't a mistake and doesn't acknoweldge our presense as a recruiting tool for al-Qaeda.

BILL MOYERS: Let me read you from the traffic on the Internet. "Perhaps Kerrey's missed it. But we were reminded just a few days ago that Al Qaeda is using the war in Iraq to raise money, recruit terrorists, train terrorists and grow stronger than they were before we invaded. By staying the course, as Kerrey recommends, we're helping Al Qaeda achieve its goals. That should be far more of a concern than whether a sensible U.S. policy is a psychological victory for Osama bin Laden."

BOB KERREY: But Bin Laden would be using the Internet to recruit young Muslim men worldwide, had we never invaded Iraq. That is undeniably true. What the statement presumes is that we'd been better off leaving a dictator in Iraq. That we would have been better off leaving Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

I have no problem being challenged by Kerrey, but please, Bob, don't use Repub talking points and further enforce the frame that Democrats/liberals are weak on national security.

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...


I said "anti-war reactionaries" and I meant "anti-war reactionaries." This war was stupid and evil from the start, but - until we've made a good faith effort to correct our mistake and do right by the people of Iraq - it would not only be irresponsible but absolutely immoral for us to choose a course of immediate withdrawal. That we have candidates like Bill Richardson advocating such action is an insult to voters' intelligence and a stain on our party's conscience.

After watching last night's Democratic Presidential debate, I want to apologize for my insulting all of our Democratic candidates. Sen. Joe Biden - a man I'm not inclined to support in the primary - at least had the courage to say what everyone on that stage knew to be true - that the lives of our soldiers and the fate of Iraq are both too important to be left to a game of Russian Roultette with President Bush. Unfortunately, most other candidates chose to pander to the party base rather than following Biden's example.

You're damn right that a lot of Americans are being reactionary when it comes to the Iraq War. Not that I necessarily blame them because they're right to be pissed that their President won't listen to reason, won't be honest, and won't adopt a new strategy. Still, our elected officials - especially our elected Democrats - owe us better than allowing that anger to dictate a disastrous mistake in our foreign policy.


You're right that Kerrey did not expressly call for a withdrawal from Baghdad, but he's quite clear that we can't continue to serve as the city's police force and that our new priority should be securing Iraq's borders and playing a reduced role in other capacities at the request of the Iraqi people.

From the passage you quoted, Kerrey could not have been more clear that he would support withdrawal ("my yes") if the government asked us to leave. At that point, Moyer's interrupted, but the fact that Kerrey doesn't think the Iraqi government will actually ask us to leave is just the plain old truth - at least, for the time being. I'm sorry that the reality of the situation won't allow us off the hook so easily as we might desire.

Anonymous Dave Sund said...

Kyle - your mischaracterization of the positions of the Democratic candidates is irresponsible and frankly playing right into Republican frames.

Not a single credible Democratic candidate has called for immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Most of the candidates envision some presence there even after we draw down our forces. To say otherwise is insulting to Democrats' intelligence. It's insulting to Americans' intelligence. You're damn right it's insulting to the voters' intelligence. You're damn right we're angry. We're angry because for five years now, we've seen this war shoved down our throats with every possible excuse in the book - and now you suggest that not buying into the colossal failure is unamerican?

Kyle, you and I have a lot of disagreements on a lot of different issues, but the way you're approaching this is just downright insulting. You discredit the entire Democratic Party and elevate the Republican position at the same time. What's worse, is you're flat out wrong.

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...


Richardson's website specifically calls for complete withdrawal in 2007 leaving no residual forces whatsoever ("We must remove ALL of our troops"). And, the arbitrary deadline being called for by every other Democratic candidate isn't a whole lot better.

I'll repeat - it's irresponsible to be talking about withdrawal when we haven't even had a reasonable debate about Iraq's future or an open dialogue with the Iraqi people.

I am so sick of this George Lakoff-inspired nonsense that politics is all a matter of language and manipulation. What simplistic garbage. In Iraq, we're talking about a real country and millions of lives that we have shattered and now threaten to leave in absolute chaos. That's not an issue of "framing." It's a question of our humanity. And, both Republicans and Democrats are failing on that front.

Yes, Dave - I called you "unamerican". I also declared the Iraq War a stunning success. Nice to see that you're paying attention and that your anger isn't at all clouding your perceptions.

Anonymous Dave Sund said...

Kyle, in this case, you'd do well to look at the people you're agreeing with. And then look at the people the Democratic candidates are agreeing with.

Then look at yourself and think about what you're saying: that the Democratic candidates are simply wanting to end this war because a bunch of crazy-ass liberals want to end it?

There's a legitimate argument to be made that we owe the Iraqi people more than this. All I ask is that you don't diminish the view of the vast majority of the American public by saying it's simply reactionary and fueled by anger.

Withdrawal must be an option. It absolutely has to be an option at this point. Our continued military presence in Iraq is not likely to change things. This is not Darfur. This is not Bosnia. We can't be a peacekeeping force, Kyle, because the warring factions are just as interested in blowing up our troops as they are in blowing each other up.

It is dangerously irresponsible to leave the next 20 months of this war in the hands of this reckless failure of a President, which is what the Congress did last week.

And you know damn well that the Democratic candidates recognize the need for diplomacy - especially Bill Richardson, who is probably the most qualified diplomat among the candidates.

Casting your lot with those who wish to continue this war indefinitely while portraying those of us who want to put a stop to it as petty reactionaries fueled by anger is the real simplistic garbage here, and it couldn't be further from the truth.

I've had just about enough of being lectured on our moral obligation, Kyle. We abdicated that responsibility a long time ago.

Anonymous TedK said...

Kyle, I can't believe you are using the old Republican trick of taking an extreme position and applying it to all Democrats. Richardson is the ONLY Democrat I know of calling for an immediate withdrawal. A deadline is about the only way to get Iraqis serious about doing their part to "fix" their country. I was pretty young during Vietnam, but old enough to get a draft card and see history play out. Calls for withdrawal started in the late 60's, and we didn't completely leave until 1975. And that was with a draft! It's necessary to push hard for a withdrawal to get any movement in that direction. Especially with a sociopath in the White House who doesn't give a damn about thousands of people dying. You are also too quick to discount Lakoff and framing. Do you really believe the Republicans came to power with better ideas (like supply side economics)? The vast majority who are not policy/political wonks do not pay that much attention and were easily deceived by expert Repub framing. By all means it's a question of our humanity, but it's not seen that way by many because it's not framed that way. I feel terrible about the pain we've inflicted on Iraq. But there may be no short term solution we can effect. Like Vietnam, we may have to leave first. Things may or may not get worse. We may have to wait a few years before our help is both wanted and can be helpful to Iraq.

Anonymous Dave Sund said...

On the subject of Kerrey, he does seem to walk back a few of the more outlandish statements that he made in the WSJ editorial, which I appreciate. I take issue with a few of his positions, (the need for "bipartisanship" is a bit misleading. What we really need is a nonpartisan solution, not a bipartisan one.) but he's not being glib or insulting in his rhetoric in this interview. That's a step in the right direction.

Just so we're clear, I'm not taking issue with your defense of Kerrey, here, but your willingness to demonize liberals with broad strokes and basically trash the entire Democratic Party for not being Republican enough.

You know I have a great amount of respect for you, Kyle. But you completely misread the Democrats here, and stop just short of saying that the Republicans have the moral high ground, here. Think about it for a second, please.

The timelines aren't hard and fast, they were there to put pressure on Bush, and the Iraqi government. Unfortunately, too many people lacked the political will to see it through. So we're stuck with "stay the course" for 20 more months. That is the real tragedy here.

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...


I don't have any answers when it comes to the Iraq War. I don't doubt that the two of you recognize our obligations to the people of Iraq. Nor do I doubt that our Democratic Presidential candidates recognize the same thing. Yet, we don't talk about it because we'd rather play the same sorts of games with this war that Bush and the Republicans have been playing from the start.

It is unfortunate that, until 2009, we are stuck with a Commander in Chief who has so little regard for the will of the people and the sanctity of human life. But, it is irresponsible and it is reactionary for us to abdicate any sense of moral duty for this mess we've created.

Elections have consequences. So do wars of choice. Someone must pay the price. Someone must bear the burden, and - until we've made a good-faith effort to right our mistakes - that burden rests with us.

I am under no illusions about the Iraq War ending well. But, until we've actually listened to the Iraqi people, brought in the international community, and attempted new strategies of the sort proposed by Sen. Kerrey, I do not believe withdrawal is or should be an option.

I completely recognize and freely admit that there may be no good we can do in Iraq. But, we have not done the things we are obligated to do before making that determination.

I have a pretty good grasp of rhetoric and I know the power of framing. I'm also well aware of the effectiveness of a message like "Bring the Troops Home." That's precisely why it's so dangerous - because it leaves so much unsaid.

This is not a war from which we can wash our hands. Those who imagine it is - or, even worse, who know better but continue to use slogans that suggest otherwise - are guilty of the same sins that ever got us into this god forsaken war in the first place.

If believing that makes me a Republican stooge, then so be it.

Anonymous Dave Sund said...

And that's what bothers me, Kyle, because you fail to even consider withdrawal a viable option. It's become abundantly clear based on four years of occupation that a military solution will not work. Any political solution is going to be contingent on a reduced American presence in Iraq, because it is not feasible for peace to exist while we are still there.

If you look at the actual plans of all the Democratic candidates, save for perhaps Kucinich and Gravel, they recognize that we need diplomacy in any solution. But you chose to paint the Democratic candidates with the same brush, putting even the moderate positions of folks like Obama and Clinton on the same level of extremism as the most destructive Joe Lieberman and John McCain acolytes.

Rather than recognizing that the positions in the Democratic Party, which range from Kerrey to Kucinich, are pretty well representative of the American people as a whole, you paint the entire Democratic Party as extremist. The extremists are in the Republican Party - where 95% of them are in the "stay in Iraq forever" caucus.

We can't just up and leave tomorrow. But it is naive to think that we can prevent anything from happening there, now. The Iraqi people do not trust us. It is a sad fact.

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...


God bless ya' but stop being a jackass. I've said nothing that could even remotely "paint the entire Democratic Party as extremist." And, you should recognize the insulting absurdity of that accusation considering that you just used the UNO Democrats' blog to label the Democratic Congress traitors, cowards, and capitulators for making a political decision with which you did not personally agree.

My problem isn't with the Democratic Party. It's with your over-heated rhetoric and that of other amateur demagogues who are making the long overdue, reasonable and responsible debate this country needs about the war in Iraq all but impossible.

You know I never called Obama and Clinton extremists. I've charged them with political pandering on an issue where they damn well know better but aren't willing to challenge the shameless sloganeering on both extremes.

I've made my case for why withdrawal should not be an immediate option. But, withdrawal - as soon as reasonably and humanely possible - must definitely be our goal. I can't even begin to say how many times I've conceded that withdrawal may ultimately prove our only option, but that day will be nothing to celebrate. Right now, we still have an obligation to assist the building of an Iraq from which we will have the luxury to withdraw by choice. If we fail in that mission - as is quite possible, perhaps even probable - we could suffer the repercussions for generations to come.

With the Republican Congress, this war was a 4 year debacle of epic proportions. Rather than using our opportunity to restore oversight, to force a change in mission, and to make the best of a horrible situation, I am appalled at those who push for a course of further polarization with so little concern for the consequences.

Until we have honesty from our leaders and a more critical examination of what options in Iraq even exist, we can not know our best course of action. But, the dangers of withdrawal that Republicans talk about are very, very real and should not be dismissed off-hand just because they're spoken by the same people who got us in this mess.

To talk about withdrawal without a concurrent plan for keeping the peace is monstrously irresponsible. As I've said, there is a price that must be paid for our folly, and we must pay it one way or another.

It is time for Democrats to level with the American people about the sacrifices that are yet to come. Republicans will always be better at scaring voters and exploiting their fears. The truth is our only defense against that. If we play games, if we run from the reality of the Iraq War, we will appear far worse than weak on defense. We would be damn fools and would get our butts kicked accordingly.

Anonymous Dave Sund said...

That bill did nothing but give another blank check to Bush to mismanage the war in Iraq. That was a clear abdication of responsibility, and a clear source of shame. Since they gave Bush exactly what he wanted, out of fear of political retribution, you're damn right I called them cowards and capitulators. Because they deserved it.

The difference between you and me here, Kyle, is that I think the Democrats ought to listen to the people. The fact that they didn't, to me, is a source of great shame. The people have been ahead of Washington by about 2 years, waiting for the Democratic Party to step up and end this war.

You, evidently, are not all that concerned with that aspect of it. Or the facts, since the same Democratic candidates that you claim are pandering do talk openly about what we need to do in the process of moving toward withdrawal.

Your position is completely legitimate. But the "shame on us" rhetoric for actually giving a damn what the American people think? Lay off of it.

P.S.: For an idea of what the Iraqi people actually think, you might want to look at this.

The opinions are sharply divided along sectarian lines, but very few of the Iraqis actually trust the coalition forces to improve the security situation. And a majority of those surveyed believe it's acceptable to attack coalition forces.

We owe it to our troops to define the mission, and get them home. Right now, we are not doing that. By the time 2009 comes around, it will be too late. In my opinion, it already is.

Blogger Ryan Anderson said...

"The difference between you and me here, Kyle, is that I think the Democrats ought to listen to the people. The fact that they didn't, to me, is a source of great shame."


I don't know that I have as much to contribute to this debate as you, Ted and Kyle (in terms of energy, at least), but this comment or something like it keeps popping up over and over again in every forum and it irritates me to no end. Having spent the first few long years of this war in the distinct minority of those who opposed it, I know damn well that what's popular isn't always right, and you should too.

The fact is that prudence is never popular, but it's always what we should expect of our elected officials. Not blind loyalty to a public that isn't accountable for its opinions, that has changed its mind before and might well change it again.

I think Kyle's right, if anything our leaders have the responsibility to try to move public opinion towards a more reasoned and reasonable approach. I certainly wish more of them had done so in 2002.

Blogger HumeanBeing said...

Brother Cool K,

What we need to do is get the fuck out of Iraq. Screw all your nuances. I don't think anyone intends to LITERALLY pack up 150,000 soldiers and contractors/mercenaries and whatever overnight and leave zero Iraq footprint WHETHER they claim it or not (you know most politicians say whatever message is simplest and most appealing). It's not exactly conducive to ACTION to criticize any concrete attempt to end the theft of over $1 trillion of taxpayer money (by proper accrual accounting) and 3,500 lives for this pathetic occupation (this is NOT a war, though 99% of idiots on TV continue to refer to it that way). We are not fighting in Iraq. We are AMIDST fighting in Iraq. Any side we take emboldens the opposition against us. Either way, if I were Iraqi I'd be damn scared to see a US Storm trooper err Soldier anywhere near my doorstep.

We got into this mess by falling for a bunch of foolishly simplistic and manipulative absolutes:
• Saddam IS a threat.
• WMDs ARE there.
• They WILL welcome us.
• This WILL be paid for with oil revenue.
• Democracy WILL spread throughout the region. – (Domino theory anyone??)

Yet somehow vague jingoistic notions unrelated to the initial goals are keeping us in Iraq:
• We fight the bad guys there so we don't fight them here in America.
- WHAT COWARDLY ASSHOLES WE ARE TO FUCK UP ANOTHER COUNTRY JUST TO KEEP OUR OWN SAFE! What ever happened to "Bring 'em on!" Mr. Tough Guy? And I don’t recall Iraqis being bad guys…
• We must not fail!
-- Well then what IS success? Define it asshole! We accomplished our publicly-stated primary invasion goals long ago.
• Iraq needs us!!
-- For what? Define that need succinctly. And WHO specifically needs us? Do some political allies of USA or the entire population or just one region or one ethnic group or one religious sect or one socio-economic class need us? Let THEM clearly and publicly request our assistance and then we can obligatorily offer it for that SPECIFIC purpose since we truly are the official Fuck-Uppers-Of-Iraq, but otherwise don't put words in the Iraqi peoples' mouths!
• If we leave Iraq or seriously discuss leaving, it will demoralize our troops and we want to support our troops don't we?
- Which is more supportive: getting them killed, inducing years of post traumatic stress, using bait-and-switch techniques to keep them in harms way longer than originally expected?... Or bringing them back to their friends, families, lovers, and normalcy? Or are our young soldiers really just receiving a splendid tax-payer funded foreign cultural immersion similar to the ubiquitous post-university backpacking vacation?

The above vague sloganistic phrases are bullshit that managed to sucker a large percentage of the American population - the Sheeple. Amazingly, even they are not falling for such BS much these days!

It's time we exit this mess by considering some true absolutes:
We DO NOT KNOW what the fuck we are doing!
• Things ARE NOT improving by most metrics.
• The region IS NOT more safe or stable today.
• The world IS MORE DISGUSTED with American actions.
- How often do you hear about China or France or Italy or Spain or Japan invading other nations? American thug-ocracy is the #1 threat in the world today.
• Our soldiers’ lives ARE BEING WASTED
- YES, that's true -- if no progress is made in Iraq and we cannot offer any realistic expectation of success then their life would be better spent doing ANYTHING ELSE – including working at McDonalds, playing video games, masturbating, you name it!... Just ask yourself what the nearly 60,000 dead Americans from the Vietnam War achieved for this nation? N-O-T-H-I-N-G. And because we kept them in Vietnam, probably 500,000 extra Vietnamese were slaughtered! “Wasting a soldier’s life” is not a discredit to the soldier, it is a discredit to the nation that sent them and the government that soldier trusted.
• Our treasury IS BEING PILFERED by thieves.
- You know how we run a deficit every year? You know how if you add up those current cash deficits you get like $8 trillion - $8,000,000,000,000 public debt? do you know that if you add up our currently accrued liabilities like any corporation doing accounting we end up with $49 trillion debt - $49,000,000,000,000? Do you know that works out to $160,000 debt for EVERY LIVING AMERICAN? How do you justify that piece of shit in the White House contributing to that with "Emergency War Financing"? How the fuck can you have an emergency after four years? Are we all morons?
Did I mention that we DO NOT KNOW what the fuck we are doing ???

Before we get out of Iraq we really need to very publicly and very sincerely say something embarrassing and truthful like this (apologies for the length and craziness):

Dear Iraq:
"We are really damn sorry about everything! We were arrogant assholes these past few years. We did not intend to fuck up your country, so please forgive us. We hope you can rebuild your society in a just and hopefully secular manner (though many Americans pray for a Christian theocracy in the US of A). We'd like to say that we hope you form a strong vibrant democracy, but since we don't really care about democracies (Venezuela?), only about pliable governments (Pakistani dictators, Saudis?), we won't. Actually, we now realize that notions like representative democracy cannot simply be imposed on others unless it has support and comprehension from within. And without fundamental Bill of Rights-like protection, a democracy is not a virtuous form of government at all, it's merely one with a demonstrated high probability of success when coupled with transparency and distribution of power."

"You see, most of us stationed here in your nation were MILITARY personnel. And I hope you recall we did a fucking good job performing OUR duty!!! In fact, we completed the bulk of our job in less than two months! We whooped ass and had your nation under some degree of order and control that quickly! It was obvious your military had no desire to fight, and we were all extremely happy about that as well. Those were great times! Less than 150 American lives were lost during that intense 41 day period of "Major Combat Operations". Yet somehow we lost well over 200 American lives in these last two months (April-May 2007). What went wrong?"

"Back to those first two months. For some reason after we finished performing our specialty, FIGHTING, soldiers were suddenly asked to become untrained diplomats, cunning linguists, cultural interpreters, civilian trainers, dispute resolvers, public utility administrators, and a whole lot of other jobs. Most of us hated high school English so you can imagine the impossibility of trying to communicate in a foreign language and script! You see, some clusterfucks back in Washington thought anyone in this one Party (Bath Party? Bothan Party? Baath Party?) should be ineligible for civilian jobs and leadership. They sure were idiots. In Iraq as in such autocratic nations as China, we now know many of the most talented people pay lip service to a pathetic all-powerful central party merely for career advancement and an ironclad insurance policy. It's quite silly and we should have realized that these people somehow managed to keep oil flowing, electricity running, sewers draining, and neighborhoods secure BEFORE our arrival so they could certainly do the same afterwards. Why would they want anything but to keep their homeland running? Weren't WE the ones dropping the fancy bombs and missiles with kewl cameras and funny slogans on them? We really don't know what we were so afraid of back then. Now we realize that nothing makes people more angry and paranoid than losing their job security and becoming unable to provide for their families."

"Again, please forgive us for fucking up your nation. You see, most of our soldiers were just within a year or two of the silly legal drinking age back in the states and we had no fucking clue what we were being told to do. It was kind of strange to be training a bunch of nice guys with moustaches and funny names like Omar or Sharif or Muhammad or Ali or ... Anyway, they smiled kindly but we had no idea what they were talking about and they had no idea what we were joking about amongst ourselves. At night we'd be eating burgers and watching DVDs in our massive fortified Green Zone compound in Central Baghdad. We'd be wondering how Omar and Ali were doing back in their crappy concrete homes with sporadic electricity and unclean water. We wondered if they were telling their wives we were nice young soldiers or if they were telling them we were assholes. We wondered if they minded that our nation chose to occupy and fortify Iraq's "Forbidden City" (Saddam's Republican Palace) into our very own Imperial Palace these last few years? Well, never mind that because we are now building the LARGEST Embassy on earth! It's not far away on the banks of the Tigris River, covers about 80 FOOTBALL FIELDS (104 acres, six times the size of the United Nations Compound in New York), has 21 buildings, has its own power generation and water treatment, has a swimming pool, and is on schedule for completion in a few months. Oh yeah, its construction also involved more than 500 contractor deaths! We wonder if Omar and Sharif mind that we demolished their parkland to build our monstrosity? At least they will probably get their Republican Palace back someday soon! It's really puzzling though why the US Embassy in Iraq is larger than America's equally-new but 1/2-as-costly 2nd-largest-in-the-world-embassy in Beijing, China. China is an economic powerhouse with 1,300,000,000 people and 10% GDP growth. Greater Shanghai, Beijing, and Chongqing each have populations similar to the ENTIRE NATION of Iraq! Iraq must feel very lucky to be given preferential treatment to a nation that bankrolls America by owning around $1 trillion ($1,000,000,000,000) of US bonds, essentially funding in-debt Americans to buy the very products China manufactures."

"We seem to have digressed on the embassy thing a bit. We sincerely do hope your nation enjoys viewing this nice new urban construction that you will never get to inhabit! On top of this beautification project, we would like to offer our services to assist your nation as much as possible -- We did after all fuck it up for you. We hope you realize that we do not intend to be actively policing your streets or banging down your doors seeking out punks who attack us or chasing the countless often faulty intelligence leads anymore. That's not our job. We have realized how strange it is to run roughshod over your own sovereign nation to avenge our soldiers' deaths when we are much too spineless to do the same thing in Afghanistan or Pakistan when we know Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is there (perhaps Osama bin Laden too, but seriously, anyone with a brain would assume he's DEAD!)."

"Anyway, in the future we would like to assist you with building and replacing your infrastructure and we promise to hire only Iraqis and your neighbors -- regardless of whether we like them or not. We also apologize for sending over THOUSANDS of mercenary thugs and paying them much much more than our own soldiers to protect economic/political interests or perform unspeakable acts. The DAILY wage is $550 for some western mercenaries. We sure could have built a lot of power plants in Iraq or paid for a lot of college educations in America with that money! Gosh we are such idiots. Anyway, at least we have helped foster a new American cottage industry in the process! Did you know that Blackwater, a major American mercenary contractor has grown 300% a year for a few years now and has the largest privately-owned firearms training facility in America? On a positive note, mercenary work has brought 10's of thousands of Bosnian (well- trained from Balkan conflicts last decade!), Chileans, Brits, South Africans, and Filipinos to your wonderful nation! We single-handedly increased your diversity by leaps and bounds these years. Never mind the fact that probably a few million Iraqis left your nation in fear to become refugees. These new mercenaries will be great Iraqi replacements -- for the few months/years they are getting paid."

"Gosh, we seem to be getting off subject again discussing those wonderful mercen--I mean security workers. Anyway, we really want you to know that we are happy to support Iraq's development and hope to see a flourishing Iraq as soon as possible. We recognize our fault in destabilizing your nation and are happy to assist you in nearly any way possible - intelligence, funding, technical expertise, consulting, border security, but we will no longer be actively policing your population and apologize for our paternalistic behavior. It was foolish of us to treat you like a child and assume we know better how to protect your people. Clearly we are out of our league and have lost the trust of the vast majority of your population. We ask for your forgiveness and offer our continued friendship and assistance.

America the humble.

Anyway my New Nebraskans, the point I'm trying to make is that IRAQ'S FUTURE, is NOT OUR DEBATE. It is theirs. And if they want us in our future, we sure as hell should help as much as possible. But we should not be putting our clueless selves in harms way or in any position of real or perceived control in Iraq. We should be subservient little bitches to the Iraqi people who we royally fucked over.

Apologies for the swearing. Censor me if you wish, but I seriously cannot give a fuck about linguistic taboos. One unnecessary death is more obscene than the longest string of expletives or the most perverse sex scene or the most exaggerated on-screen/in-game violence imaginable.

Brother of the Beast,
Rory M.

PS: And let me just say, if I was in the same situations as the Iraqis, I’d make it my duty to fuck with the occupying force as much as possible (Red Dawn baby! haha). I can’t know how far I’d go, but I think any free spirit would naturally despise their occupier whether benevolent or not!

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...


Since this discussion has been hijacked by your respective speeches to myself, the Bush Administration, the people of Iraq, and NNN readers, I thought I might share with you a few choice quotes from your namesake, the philosopher David Hume:

“When men are most sure and arrogant they are commonly most mistaken, giving views to passion without that proper deliberation which alone can secure them from the grossest absurdities"....

“All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious"....

“The richest genius, like the most fertile soil, when uncultivated, shoots up into the rankest weeds"....

You are quite right that we are clueless about Iraq's future. As we look to change the status quo in our policy and our strategy, we have an obligation to do so in the most well-planned, well-reasoned, and well-executed manner possible.

Extracting ourselves from Iraq intelligently and humanely will require patience and humility. The fact that we don't know what the future holds is a reason for caution and pragmatism, both of which call for exploring those nuances that are the most inconvenient to our peaceful purpose.

Allow me to close with one more quote from Mr. Hume that is certainly relevant to the preceding debate:

“Truth springs from argument amongst friends.”


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