Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Must-See TV

Yes, there are moderate Muslims. At least one accepts the theoretical possibility. But documentaries like this one which aired on British television cause one to wonder about the robustness of their numbers.

These really are disturbing videos. The sound in the first one may be out of synch, but, if so, stick with it and you'll get the gist of what's happening. This documentary is the sort of thing for which the term "must-see tv" was invented.


Jim Wallis on the Surge (Pt. II)

In this the second part of our look at Jim Wallis' response to Bush's proposal for an adjustment in our approach to Iraq, we'll examine Wallis' claim that the war in Iraq fails to meet the traditional criteria of a just war. Because the war is not just, in his reckoning, perpetuating it is therefore criminal.

Wallis writes:

There is absolutely no way that the American invasion of Iraq could be considered a "last resort" - one of the just war criteria. The inspections officers were working to find and contain any weapons of mass destruction Iraq might have had, and the Bush administration both misrepresented and manipulated the alleged threat from the weapons of mass destruction. The administration lied to start a war.

This is simply irresponsible of Wallis. The administration may have been mistaken about the WMD, but so was the entire rest of the world as well as the Clinton administration, all of whom believed Iraq had WMD. Our intelligence indicated they had them. Defectors claimed that he had them. Moreover, Saddam acted just as one would expect a man to act who was trying to hide the fact that he possessed those weapons. It's easy for arm-chair quarterbacks and people who harbor ill-will toward the president to say in hindsight that Bush lied, but it's incumbent on the one who makes that allegation to offer evidence that the president knew that Saddam didn't have WMD but deliberately led us to believe that he did. Wallis finds this simple courtesy too much to ask and offers nothing to substantiate the claim that the president deliberately deceived the American congress (who had access to the same intelligence the president did) and the American people.

Let us suppose, that a president has all the same facts at his disposal that Bush did - the testimony of defectors, the consensus of the world's intelligence community, the current and past behavior of Saddam, and so on. Suppose this president fears that Saddam is hiding his WMD program, but he lacks absolute proof. So he does not act. Subsequently, a WMD, traceable to Iraq, is unleashed on America. What would the Wallis' of the world say then? That the president did the right thing by ignoring all the evidence and refusing to assume the worst? That the president did the right thing by giving a known liar and mass murderer the benefit of the doubt? I don't think that's what they would say. I think they would demand that that president go down in history as having been criminally negligent in performing the duties of his office - and they'd be right to do so.

Wallis continues:

Over time, the brutal Saddam Hussein could have been isolated, undermined, and overthrown (a very worthy goal) from pressures internal and external, and serious proposals were on the table to do just that when Bush went to war. Instead, we bombed the children of Baghdad and then allowed the country to slide into bloody chaos.

Unfortunately, Wallis doesn't tell us what these serious proposals were or what they involved. We're just left to take his word that they existed and that they were feasible. If he wants us to grant him credibility on this he'll have to tell us what those alternatives were. I'm certainly not aware of any, and I don't think he is either.

Next he asserts that:

There was never adequate "authority" to wage this war (another criterion) - the United Nations, NATO, and the vast majority of the world's people and nations were against it. Only Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair thought this was a good idea, and their political legacies will be forever shaped by the worst foreign policy decision either country has made in decades.

Surely Wallis understands that the United States is a sovereign nation. It has the right and the authority to wage war when it feels threatened whether other nations join it in that endeavor or not. Just war theory states that war can only justly be waged by the proper authority, meaning the legitimate government of the nation. It doesn't mean that we must subordinate our sovereignty to a collection of tyrants, thugs, and corrupt nations whose foreign policy vis a vis Iraq was more profoundly shaped by the illegal profits they were making from Saddam than with any desire to do the "right" thing.

Wallis goes on to claim that:

Iraq also failed the tests of "proportionality" and "discrimination" with all the societal damage it was likely to cause (and has): the horrible number of innocents that have been lost through the tactics of "shock and awe," the resulting insurgency against American occupation, and now the civil war that has turned into ethnic cleansing.

Wallis must know that our military fought the most proportional and discriminating war in history in Iraq. If Wallis is correct that we failed to meet these criteria in Iraq then no war ever has been a just war and invoking just war criteria to criticize Operation Iraqi Freedom is disingenuous.

There was no carpet bombing. Mosques and cemetaries were safe havens. Soldiers often held their fire and put their own lives at risk rather than jeopardize civilians. As for the resulting insurgency and civil war, it is perverse to blame that on the U.S. rather than on the people responsible for it. Moreover, if, as Wallis wants, the U.S. were to pull out of Iraq now, the number of deaths would far exceed the carnage we see in that country today.

Wallis goes on to say that:

There was never an "imminent threat" from Saddam, there was no connection between Iraq and 9/11 (as we were told), and Bush's war in Iraq was not a central front in the international campaign against terrorism, but rather has turned out to be a serious distraction from it (though the war itself has now transformed Iraq into a haven and school for terrorism).

No one in the administration as, far as I'm aware, ever made a case that Iraq was an "imminent threat" so it is deceptive of Wallis to put the words in quotes as if he were quoting the administration. Nor did anyone argue that there was a connection between Saddam and the terrorists who perpetrated the 9/11 attack. The administration did claim that there was a connection between Saddam and Islamic terrorists and this connection is beyond dispute.

The war in Iraq was unjust; to continue it now is criminal, Wallis concludes, as if fighting to keep a nation from spiralling into a bloodbath and a humanitarian crisis of perhaps unprecedented proportions is a crime.

Wallis the pacifist assumes the role of military expert by warning that Bush's efforts in Iraq have distracted us from the real war against terrorists. He knows, somehow, that we have left ourselves vulnerable by diverting resources to Iraq. He says this notwithstanding the fact that there has been no successful terrorist attack on our soil since hostilities began against Afghanistan five years ago. One might ask Wallis what metric he is employing to assess our vulnerability. What information does he have that warrants this gloomy assessment?

In pondering all the things he says about which he could well be mistaken (and probably is) one wonders: If he is in fact wrong about anything in what he writes, does that make him a liar?


We Don't Need Another Hero

Sometimes it just seems that the political left is inordinately populated with people who haven't yet grown up and who still display the childish look-at-me narcissism and crudities associated with juveniles. A good example of this arrested development is freshman Wisconsin congressman Steve Kagen who regaled his admirers recently with this account of his bold and audacious exploits in the White House. Mr. Kagen, in his telling of the tale, is quite a hero:

While meeting last month with a group of area peace activists, then Congressman-elect Steve Kagen told a story of his first visit to the White House that shows a feisty and humorous side to our new man in Congress. He told the group one of the first lessons he learned in Washington is to never pass up a rest room because you don't know when you'll see one again.

He'd already had a long day of freshman orientation when he and his wife, Gail, were expected at the White House. Upon arrival, he asks a Marine where he can find a rest room, and is sent down a long flight of stairs, to another Marine, who directs him to a rest room.

"It's a small room �- two spots on the wall, one stall one sink. I see in the mirror the door opens, and who walks in, Karl Rove (Bush's deputy chief of staff who was charged with orchestrating strategies for the 2006 general election)."

After Rove washed his hands ("At least he's a hand washer," Kagen said), he attempted to leave, but Kagen prevented his departure by holding the door closed and said, "You're in the White House and you think your safe, huh? You recognize me? My name's Dr. Multimillionaire and I kicked your ass."

Kagen expected to make Rove squirm, but said he acted like it was a tennis match and simply said, 'Oh, congratulations.'

"We're walking up these long steps, I stopped him and said, 'Look, the race is over. We're here to do the people's business. I want you to join me on something, but you can't steal it, I've got the trademark, 'No patient left behind.' He goes, 'I like the sound of that.' We get to the top of the steps and there's Vice President Cheney with a glass of white wine and a hand in his pocket. So I wasn't going to miss this opportunity. Gail wasn't there to hold me back. 'Mr. Vice President, thank you for your service to the nation, and thank you so much for coming to Green Bay and campaigning against me. I couldn't have won without your help.'

He then asked Cheney to enunciate his vision for Iraq.

" 'Well, I'd like to see a stable government that could take care of itself and its people.' I said, 'at what price?' He said, 'I don't understand your point.' I walked away. Then we had an opportunity to take a picture with the president and his wife. I was feeling real good at this point.

"I said to my wife, 'Honey, just follow my lead.' She said, 'Steven, it's the president.' I said, 'Yeah, but he's not any taller than I am.' So the cameraman's here. We're introduced by a Marine. I said, 'Mr. President , thank you for coming to Green Bay. My name is Dr. Multimillionaire. That was before the race. Now they call me Doctor Thousandaire. I couldn't have won without you coming.'"

He said Bush gave one of his smiles and said, 'I've lost a lot of money in my life, too.' Then I go to his wife, 'Hi Barbara, how are ya?' I did that because I learned on the campaign that the meanest thing you can say to another gentlemen is, 'he's a fine fellow,' and you then refer to his spouse by a different name."

Expect this side of Kagen to show up when he appears on the "Colbert Report" in February.

So, this is what passes for humor in liberal precincts. It had us in stitches as we read it. It seems that all the class in this story was exhibited by Rove, Cheney, and Bush. Apparently there was none left over for the intrepid Dr. Multimillionaire.

UPDATE: Now it's looking as if Dr. Multimillionaire made the whole thing up. What a guy. Here's our advice to Dr. Kagen: Don't go on the Colbert show in February.