Minutiae
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The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.
--Cornelius Tacitus (c. 116 A.D.)

Monday, August 12, 2002
See Lileks take on toppling Saddam.
posted by Rachel 8/12/2002
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"For every complex question, there's a simple answer. And it's wrong."
-H. L. Mencken

posted by Rachel 8/12/2002
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Why do you bring Occam’s razor into it? Yes Jodi Foster made it sound cool. Yes talking about this principle can make you appear learned, but it doesn’t apply here. Occam's Razor is a principle describing a tendency. It is not a law. This is not a situation of one simple explanation and one complex explanation. Even if it did apply here it wouldn't be adequate to derive the truth of the matter.

Do you apply Occam’s razor to Hitler? Stalin? Pol Pot? Chairman Mao? How about the Crusades? World War I? World War II? Any war? (These are all very dramatic examples and I use them for their emotional resonance not to create an equivalency.) That they hate us and want to destroy us because 'we are everything that’s wrong with the world' in their religious worldview is not contrary to Occam’s Razor any more than the idea that they hate us because 'we support repressive governments due to transnational corporate interests.' Delightfully enough there’s a pro-war blog called
Occam’s Toothbrush. You’re late to the party, Dan.

You mean it doesn’t matter that the man espousing your favored view is an asshole? He never cites his sources and the numbers he claims as the basis for his argument are off by more than a factor of ten? That doesn’t matter because you like the conclusion he reaches? That’s extremely intellectually lazy. Shockingly, there are intelligent voices arguing against the war but you won’t find them in the Village Voice. To participate in that debate, you have to be intellectually responsible, consistent and honest or you'll be ignored.

The desired outcome of this conflict depends on who you ask and is predicated on the framework that you choose to view the conflict in. As to whether America is doing the right thing, that depends. Right for whom? There is no right-for-everyone solution. The US must act in its own best interest, everyone else's interests are gravy. I think the US did the world a favor by getting rid of the Taliban. In fact I remember getting numerous email petitions during the Clinton years demanding that we do exactly that because they were so bad to women.

Saddam is a madman who used chemical weapons on his own people. His son is poised to take over soon and is much worse. Iraq has WMDs and wants more. He has shown his willingness to attack other countries absent any provocation. He has set up something similar to the Hitler Youth. If those kids are indeed used to “defend Iraq” that will be a violation of the International Criminal Code. But I forgot, international law only applies when the US wants to act unilaterally. After all, the fact that Iraq is in defiance of UN agreements that it signed and outright orders by the UN doesn’t mean that they’re, y’know criminal. Certainly not dangerous.

As for the "it’s all about oil" argument:
a. It’s very tired. To resort to it is a sign of desperation.
b. It’s fairly discredited as far as Afghanistan goes. (Yes it’s an article in a biased magazine but notice that it cites sources so that you can independently verify its claims, what a thought!)
c. There is a philosophical construct called the principle of double effect. It states:
"The doctrine or principle of assessing the permissibility of an act. It distinguishes between what is foreseen as an effect of an action and what is intended as the effect of an action. Under this doctrine for an act to be permissible, the act must itself be morally good. The agent foreseeing the bad effect must not intend it and should seek alternative courses of action. The good effect should not be brought about by means of the bad effect, and the goodness of the intended act must outweigh the bad effects foreseen."
Going to war with Iraq for the purposes of obtaining oil would be wrong. Going to war with Iraq to prevent them from nuking Israel would be licit. Attacking Iraq to prevent harm to us or our allies is permissible. If any of those things are our primary intention then the additional effect of obtaining oil is a nice benefit but it doesn't mean that going to war is wrong. Going to war may be wrong for other reasons but the oil argument is a red herring. There can be no real argument on those grounds because you can't know someone else's primary intent. Then there is the issue of whose intent counts. Is it the people of the US? Bush? Rumsfeld? Cheney? Rice?

posted by Rachel 8/12/2002
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Dan:
Let’s take a little look at who Ted Rall is, before we even get to the meat of his argument. You have to take the speaker’s credibility into account when you publicly laud their opinion.

For those who have forgotten: Ted Rall is the same tasteless tactless heartless slimeball who published a cartoon mocking the September 11th widows as greedy publicity hounds mere months after they watched their husbands vaporized on live TV. “I keep waiting for Kevin to come home, but I know he never will. Fortunately the $3.2 million I collected from the Red Cross keeps me warm at night.” People were so outraged that the New York Times yanked the cartoon and issued an apology. Rall refused to apologize. (This is the response from one of those women.)

Then he published a cartoon depicting New York firefighters surrounded by cash, wearing fur coats and riding to fires in limousines. Again he refused to apologize.

Then he published an article attacking Bush policies in which he claimed that we had bombed "10,000 innocent afghan civilians." Even Marc Herold (who has been thoroughly debunked here) only claimed 3000-some.

This man gave the website CopKiller.com permission to use one of his cartoons depicting Giuliani as Hitler. A quote from this lovely site, which also proclaims that “Ted Rall Rocks.” “To the "men" in blue who kill: watch your fucking backs, you worthless scumbags” Then they ask people to kill a cop for Jesus.

He can’t even argue intelligently.
2 weeks after 9-11 Rall rants that: ”It may have seemed meaningless at the time, but now we know why 7,000 people sacrificed their lives -- so that we'd all forget how Bush stole a presidential election.”
2 weeks later he rants that it’s all about oil. This one informs us that "Bush is Ariel Sharon's bitch"

“Being right all the time sure is weird.” He says. The man is deluded.

Ok so we’ve established that Rall is an asshole and that he makes claims that are ideologically appealing to leftists but which have little foundation in fact, logic, or consistency. Others have shredded Rall, probably better than I will.

Brendan Nyhan counters with many sources.
Lileks does a neat takedown of Rall.
Glenn Frazier does another excellent vivisection of Rall’s Bullshit.
USS Clueless gets in on the act.
This is a pretty thorough decimation of the idiot arguments of the anti-war left including Rall. Check out who Rall has allied himself with.

I’d love to sit and counter every claim he makes but it boils down to a simple misapprehension of ‘the enemy’. Assuming that they are like us and motivated by the same things we are is a deadly mistake. Nonetheless, since I've been called by name. Here’s my attempt:

The “hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, first in the Gulf War and later as the result of U.S.-imposed trade sanctions and daily bombing raids over Iraqi cities.” is another sad example of the ‘I never took statistics and I didn’t bother to fact check this thoroughly debunked figure’ journalism. See 1 and 2 Those numbers while appearing to originate from WHO and the UN are in fact merely the reports of the Iraqi government. As 1 shows the govt. is not above a little PR work.

The Israel/ Palestine conflict is a nasty situation that brings even outsiders close to despair. However… the Palestinians walked away from the peace process. The Palestinians started the Intifada. The Palestinians deliberately kill civilians. After all, if they really wanted to bring Israel to it’s knees all they would have to do is take a page from MLK (articulated by Tom Clancy in The Sum of All Fears) join hands, march, sing We Shall Overcome, and offer no resistance to Israeli soldiers. Imagine the US reaction to that on CNN. Israel is a democracy. They couldn’t survive if the Palestinians ever figured out nonviolent resistance. But they haven’t. In 40 years they haven’t figured that one out. They still call to “push the jews into the sea.” For examples see MEMRI.org

I absolutely agree that Clinton’s bombing an aspirin factory and refusing to apologize was a mistake.

They are not resistance fighters. I can’t believe this asshole doesn’t get it. Comparing “Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and similar groups” to “Charles de Gaulle's Free French” is a horrific insult to those legitimate resistance fighters. The US is not Nazi Germany. We are not running concentration camps. We are not exterminating people. We give nearly half a BILLION dollars in aid to the Palestinians each year. Since October we’ve given 220 million to Afghanistan. Comparing these assholes to traditional resistance groups muddies the waters. They aren’t limiting their actions or their hatred to their own oppressive governments. Or to legitimate targets, military targets, government targets, even the shady realm of collaborators. They kill indiscriminately to make a point and that makes them terrorists and murderers.

I agree that we shouldn’t support the Saudi government and indeed I don’t think we will continue to do so for much longer.

Stopping arms sales to Israel wouldn’t achieve much except to guarantee that we’d have to defend them in the invasion that would follow. (See 1948 and 1967) 'Cause the US defending Israel against Arab countries in a war wouldn’t spark much anger among the Arab mainstream? Uh huh.

The US doesn’t subscribe to the world court. We can’t legally agree to anything that would supercede the US constitution. Therefore we can’t bring the people that planned and executed 9-11 before it because we don’t recognize it’s jurisdiction and it has no place in our government or legal system.

These people are not westerners in a western society that can contentedly go back to living their western lives a la Sarah Jane Olsen when they outgrow their homicidal tendencies. The assumption that what worked with the IRA and the Weather Underground will work with terrorists from another culture is, (amusingly enough from a leftie,) an example of unthinking cultural chauvinism. Just because they have (what you think is) a legitimate beef doesn’t mean that they’re rational or amenable to your persuasion. Assuming that they would react as we would, if we gave them half of what they want, is sheer stupidity. And we sure as hell can’t give them all of what they want.

I would have thought that the notion of appeasing people who kill us would be gone by now.
"Let's be clear about why this bien-pensant anti-American onslaught is such appalling rubbish. Terrorism is the murder of the innocent; this time, it was mass murder. To excuse such an atrocity by blaming U.S. government policies is to deny the basic idea of all morality: that individuals are responsible for their actions." -Salman Rushdie

All together now:
The US did not wear a short skirt and ‘ask for it.’ ‘Laying back and enjoying it’ will not prevent us from being hurt.
posted by Rachel 8/12/2002
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Hmmm. I'd suspected as much but it's always disheartening to have your worst suspicions confirmed.
Link courtesy of Clueless.
posted by Rachel 8/12/2002
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