State of the Union

There was only one small part of Bush’s State of the Unon address that really jumped out at me. Here it is:

This war is more than a clash of arms — it is a decisive ideological struggle, and the security of our nation is in the balance. To prevail, we must remove the conditions that inspire blind hatred, and drove 19 men to get onto airplanes and to come and kill us. What every terrorist fears most is human freedom — societies where men and women make their own choices, answer to their own conscience, and live by their hopes instead of their resentments. Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies — and most will choose a better way when they’re given a chance. So we advance our own security interests by helping moderates and reformers and brave voices for democracy. The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity. And I say, for the sake of our own security, we must.

There’s a serious problem there.

It’s not lack of freedom that attracts people to violent ideologies. Instead, and this is especially true in the Middle East, it’s usually religious mania that does that. We see that, for example, in the willingness of the Palestinians to elect Hamas despite its fondness for terrorism. The 19 people responsible for the events of 9/11 did not lack freedom, most of them had been living in the West for years. It was their insane religious beliefs, not their lack of freedom, that motivated them to do what they did. (Which shows once again the absurdity of arguing that we shouldn’t worry about what people believe, but only about what they do.)

In less dramatic form we see it in this country, especially in the red states. There are many people who win elections in this country who, left to their own devices, would happily make Christianity an integral part of American public policy. I wouldn’t describe that as “violent and malignant,” but it does illustrate the principle that free people are perfectly happy to restrict the freedom of others.

What protects people from violent and malignant ideologies is a strong separation of church and state, and civil protection for people holding minority religious views. The reason America’s would be theocrats can’t find a foothold in this country is that we have such protections. Most of the Middle East lacks them, which is why the violent religious views held by so many there continue to flourish.

Comments

  1. #1 Doormat
    January 24, 2007

    This is, roughly, Sam Harris’s argument in The End of Faith. It’s one I have a lot of sympathy for, but it also seems to be a little shallow: surely religious belief is only one factor motivating people.

    For example, the Palestinians electing Hamas (not Hezbollah) had more to do with the corruption and failure of the main competition, Fatah, than with over-riding religious faith. That Hamas is also a successful charity, funding hospitals, for example, while the Fatah controlled state didn’t do much, only added to their appeal. It shouldn’t be too surprising that in a democratic election, if the party currently in power is being inept, then the opposition will do well, despite their faults. You see this all the time in, say, the US!

    Bush’s rantings about “freedom” are highly naive, but also is just blaming it all on religion. People’s motivations are often complex, and I believe we’ll have to properly understand those complex motivations if we’re to solve these problems.

  2. #2 SLC
    January 24, 2007

    Re Rosenhouse/Doormat

    One should not confuse Hamas and Hizbollah. The former is a Sunni Moslem organization, the latter a Shiite Moslem organization. Recall that these two sects are killing each other with great enthusiasm in Iraq.

  3. #3 Jason Rosenhouse
    January 24, 2007

    Doormat-

    Thanks for pointing out my error, which I have now gone back and corrected.

    I certainly wouldn’t claim that religion is the only thing that motivated the Palestinians to vote the way they did. But the fact is that in civilized societies it should not be possible for parties that support violence against civilians to get elected at all. The role of religion was to allow so many voters to overlook the manifest evil of what Hamas supports.

  4. #4 Caledonian
    January 24, 2007

    But the fact is that in civilized societies it should not be possible for parties that support violence against civilians to get elected at all.

    Our ‘shock and awe’ techniques are just that. It follows that the US is not a civilized country.

  5. #5 Jason Rosenhouse
    January 24, 2007

    Caledonian-

    I’m about as harsh a critic of the Iraq War as you’ll find, but there’s simply no comparison between civilian casualties in a war undertaken for just motives and attacks whose sole purpose is to kill and scare civilians. I think there are few depths to which the Bush administration will not stoop to achieve its aims, but I don’t believe they support violence against civilians.

  6. #6 Christopher Gwyn
    January 24, 2007

    “I think there are few depths to which the Bush administration will not stoop to achieve its aims, but I don’t believe they support violence against civilians.”

    Dropping bombs out of aircraft that are thousands of feet above the ground inevitably results in many civilian injuries and deaths. That they have used tactics like that over and over and over and over and over and over and over – while knowing what the outcome would be – strongly suggests that they do support violence against civilians (as long as those civilians are not themselves). [And no, not all of the bombs dropped on Iraq were 'smart bombs', and 'smart bombs' only go where they are told, they do not automatically avoid places where civilians are.]

  7. #7 Kevin
    January 24, 2007

    “but I don’t believe they support violence against civilians. ”

    Sure they do. Always have. all our wars, particularly against brown or yellow people. Indians and Jap civillians were slaughtered happily. Showck and Awe is predicated on indescriminate bombing of cities and civilian areas.

    when you use air strikes in cities you are accepting a high level of civillian causalties. When, in Iraq, we have a sniper in an apartment building, we call for an airstrike to level the whole building…

    in order to kill civillians so next time they either leave or stop the sniper.

    reminds me of war crimes.

  8. #8 wolfwalker
    January 25, 2007

    I have to wonder whether either christopher or kevin knows very much about the weapons and tactics they are condemning.

    It’s true that smart-bombs are only as smart as those who program them. It’s also true that some civilian casualties are inevitable in the course of combat against the enemy. The military even has a euphemism for it: “collateral damage.”

    However, it’s emphatically not true that planners don’t care about civilian casualties. The kind of attacks kevin talks about — the firebombing of Tokyo and Hamburg, the annihilation of Dresden — are today considered unacceptable. US officers are taught that attacks like that, if launched today, would be called war crimes. So they wouldn’t do it even if they could (which they can’t).

    So yes, civilian casualties do occur in Iraq, no matter how hard our guys try to avoid it. It’s an especially nasty, vicious, rotten, sucky aspect of a generally nasty, vicious, rotten, sucky affair. But it’s emphatically wrong to claim that our forces are intentionally targeting civilians. They aren’t. If you folks ever look around on some of the many milblogs out there, you’ll find that they think civilian casualties are as tragic as you do. The only difference between them and you on that score is that they understand the terrorists see those civilians as just another weapon to be used against us. If we say, “we absolutely refuse to take any action that even might result in civilian casualties,” the terrorists will start using civilians as human shields, and win by default.

  9. #9 jj mollo
    January 26, 2007

    It is lack of exposure to the process of enforced compromise that does them in. People who submit to an ideology and brook no counter-discussion are the ones who will move toward violence. There are people like this in the US, but they are monitored and outnumbered. Palestine is not ready for statehood because it was born with two hearts that could not be united. Compromise is not yet in its repertoire.

    Wolfwalker is right on the money.

  10. #10 Diana
    January 26, 2007

    The problem with your theory Jason is that plenty of atheists have been willing to kill BECAUSE of their atheism; because they hated religion so much that they would do ANYTHING to stop it.

    Leon Trotsky is the poster boy for this.

    Of course, he failed.

    All such attempts have failed.

    They will continue to fail.

  11. #11 wolfwalker
    January 26, 2007

    Going back to your original point, Jason, you wrote:

    It’s not lack of freedom that attracts people to violent ideologies. Instead, and this is especially true in the Middle East, it’s usually religious mania that does that.

    I have to disagree. I wouldn’t limit the motivating force to just religious mania. It’s a somewhat different emotion, which might be called “revolutionary mania.” The impetus doesn’t have to be religion. It could be nationalism, or some radical political ideology such as communism. Or it could be something as simple as raw, basic fear. I think Bush is right that free people will choose nonviolence if they are given a free choice and good information on which to base that choice. The problem is that in many places, including your example of the Palestinian territories, they lack those two things.

    You wrote: What protects people from violent and malignant ideologies is a strong separation of church and state, and civil protection for people holding minority religious views. The reason America’s would be theocrats can’t find a foothold in this country is that we have such protections.

    I think you’re on the right track here, but you’re wrong when you limit it to only religious topics. In my view, what protects people from malignant ideologies of any kind is diversity of points-of-view, so that no one ideology can obtain complete control; mutual respect for those diverse points of view; and protection for people holding minority views of any kind (except those minority views that themselves advocate violence against the innocent). The reason would-be theocrats (and other extremists) can’t get a foothold in America is because our whole system is set up to encourage and protect political diversity. When that is lost, extremism begins to rise.

  12. #12 Christopher Gwyn
    January 26, 2007

    “But it’s emphatically wrong to claim that our forces are intentionally targeting civilians. They aren’t.”

    So Bush and company attacking Iraq was by accident? They knew perfectly well that civilians would be killed in their trumped up unneeded war that they lied to get the U.S. into. This is not a war that was forced on the U.S., this was a war that the U.S. leadership told lies in order to cause. And killing civilians does not win the U.S. friends.

    And as for the ‘the terrorists win’ rhetoric, what does terrorism have to do with Iraq? Were ‘terrorists’ based in the areas controlled by Saddam Hussein (scum though he was)? Were Iraqis killing U.S. troops, or any U.S. citizens prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq? What would be your response if someone invaded your country? Would you agree with the invader that your fellow citizens killing invading troops after the invasion is a good reason for those foreign troops to stay in your country?

    If there are non-U.S. folks in Iraq who are willing to kill civilians get the U.S. troops out of the way so that it becomes clear to all concerned that the only ‘enemy’ in Iraq are those who are willing to kill civilians…and not also U.S. troops who happen to, with disturbing frequency, kill civilians and whom various other foreigners and Iraqi thugs are [falsely] claiming to oppose as the allies of Iraqi civilians. Don’t muddy the situation and then claim that things are crystal clear.

    I am perfectly aware that U.S. troops have a great deal of training about avoiding civilian casualties, but those same troops have been – under false pretenses – been put in a very bad situation, one that they cannot be expected to handle perfectly. Bush and company knew, or should have known, that the situation would be as messed up as it is – and they lied to cause it. Bring the troops out, let the Iraqis fix their own country, in their own way. Do not keep the situaion muddied by having foreign invaders in the country. Nobody likes to have thier country invaded, not even when it rids them of an odious dictator.

  13. #13 wolfwalker
    January 27, 2007

    Christopher, the Paveway series of guided bombs was invented for two reasons. One was to save money and reduce risk to bombers. In WW2, in Korea, in the early years of Vietnam, it took hundreds of bomber sorties to guarantee destruction of a target, because most of the bombs missed. Early Paveway-I and Paveway-II laser-guided bombs increased the ratio of hits from one or two percent to well over ninety percent. Modern laser-guided bombs do better than that, and GPS-guided bombs do even better than laser-guided ones.

    The second reason was to reduce civilian casualties. Remember, both modern international law and modern morals absolutely forbid mass bombing strikes against cities, such as were common on both sides in WW2. You can’t use mass bombing tactics against cities anymore. So you must find other means of hitting military targets amidst civilian surroundings. Smartbombs and missiles provide that. To put it simply, the mere fact that we’re using guided munitions disproves your contention that the US military doesn’t care about civilian casualties.

    Did you know that there was a special version of the 500-lb GPS bomb deployed during Op Iraqi Freedom? Our guys named it the Acme Bomb. It didn’t have any explosive at all — not even a single gram. Instead it was filled with concrete. What good is a concrete bomb, you ask? Well, it’s very good at destroying lightly armored vehicles that are parked next to a building occupied by civilians — without significantly damaging the building or its occupants.

    I’m not going to bother revisiting the rationale for war, because it would do no good. I think the invasion was justified. You don’t. Neither of us has any chance to change the other’s mind. Therefore further discussion of it is pointless. What matters is the situation right now. And the situation right now is this: US forces are doing their very best to minimize Iraqi civilian casualties. They don’t succeed every time. But they do succeed most of the time. When they fail, it’s a reason to reexamine that specific case, figure out what went wrong, and find ways to do better next time. It is definitely not a reason to label all US soldiers or their commanders as modern-day analogs of Bomber Harris, caring naught about hundreds of dead civilians as long as they get one or two bad guys too.

  14. #14 JasonY
    January 27, 2007

    Dropping bombs out of aircraft that are thousands of feet above the ground inevitably results in many civilian injuries and deaths. That they have used tactics like that over and over and over and over and over and over and over – while knowing what the outcome would be – strongly suggests that they do support violence against civilians (as long as those civilians are not themselves).

    The same tactics were used over and over again during World War II. Virtually all Allied bombing raids on Germany and Japan carried a significant risk of killing civilians, and all raids on targets in cities and other populated areas were virtually certain to cause civilian casualties. In fact, the risk of killing civilians was much higher back then than it is for a comparable raid today, because the technology was much more primitive and the ability to deliver bombs to precise spatial targets was essentially non-existent.

  15. #15 dwayne
    January 27, 2007

    Diana, get back to me when groups of atheists fly planes into buildings, post videos of beheadings, bomb abortion clinics, blow up federal buildings, stockpile weapons for standoffs with the elected government, carry out ‘honor killings,’ or destroy fellow atheists because, as we all know, only the heirs of the fourth caliph are the legitimate successors to Mohammed and saying otherwise is heresy.

    Yeah, those atheists are dangerous. Trotsky sure did create a huge group of violent disciples who worship his every word.

  16. #16 pough
    January 27, 2007

    It’s not lack of freedom that attracts people to violent ideologies. Instead, and this is especially true in the Middle East, it’s usually religious mania that does that.

    I think it’s far, far more than religious mania that does that or we’d see it far more often; there are many religous maniacs. I do think that religion (in some forms, anyways) can ease the transition from angry person to suicidally angry person, much like alcohol can ease the transition from uptight to slutty, but I think it’s unfair to single out religious fervor. It’s easy and fun to do that, but not necessarily fair.

    Having said that, though, I think that “what every terrorist fears most is human freedom” is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever read. Wow, that’s dumb.

  17. #17 cbutterb
    January 28, 2007

    I’m not going to bother revisiting the rationale for war, because it would do no good. I think the invasion was justified. You don’t. Neither of us has any chance to change the other’s mind. Therefore further discussion of it is pointless.

    Posted by: wolfwalker | January 27, 2007 05:19 PM

    Wow, that’s a fantastic attitude on a blog devoted to science. To be clear, are you actually saying that you posses an opinion that, no matter what new evidence is brought to bear, you won’t change? As in, tomorrow someone could discover a videotape of Chimpy McFlightsuit throwing darts at a list of excuses for why we had to invade Iraq, and chuckling and making jokes that people were really going to believe him, and you still would think the invasion was justified?

    If so, I’d be morbidly curious about what other beliefs you hold that are so conveniently immune to criticism.

    I think the invasion certainly was not justified, but I’d be willing to change my mind if presented with extraordinary evidence. Maybe the CIA has classified documents that contradict everything that’s been made public so far. Maybe Iraq really did have warehouses full of uranium and mustard gas, and shipped them all to Syria right before we rolled in. Maybe we have Saddam on tape directly threatening to supply al Qaeda with weapons to attack the United States. Maybe Rumsfeld had access to all kinds of secret reports that will vindicate him twenty years hence. At this point, if I had to put my money on either this scenario or Bigfoot, I’d pick Bigfoot, but still, if the evidence truly was there, I’d change my mind. I’d still complain about his arrogance, usurpation of powers specifically given to Congress, de facto repeal of large parts of the Bill of Rights, criminal human rights record, and general demagoguery, but I’d admit that the invasion was justified given the threat to the United States.

    I’m hoping that I just misinterpreted you, and that you are in fact amenable to reality.

  18. #18 JasonY
    January 28, 2007

    cbutterb,

    I never thought Saddam had WMDs and I never thought he had any serious connection to 9/11, but I think the invasion of Iraq was nevertheless justified for a combination of humanitarian and national/global security reasons. The fact that the war and occupation have been seriously bungled does not invalidate those reasons.

  19. #19 cbutterb
    January 28, 2007

    I never thought Saddam had WMDs and I never thought he had any serious connection to 9/11, but I think the invasion of Iraq was nevertheless justified for a combination of humanitarian and national/global security reasons. The fact that the war and occupation have been seriously bungled does not invalidate those reasons.

    Posted by: JasonY | January 28, 2007 01:43 PM

    I assume you’re willing to take your approach to dealing with “security concerns” to its logical conclusion.

    At the beginning of 2003, you were equally willing to support the violent overthrow of the regimes of North Korea, Iran, Cuba, China, Saudi Arabia, and Libya, right? And now that the neocon usurpation of our government has played out the way it has, and our government suspends Constitutional rights and participates in torture (and possibly rigs elections), you are of course willing for another powerful western democracy, say France, to invade the United States and install a new government, right? For humanitarian reasons, of course, and to protect their own interests.

    After all, it’s in the interests of global security.

    And if I were to become annoyed at the presence of the gens d’armes in my quiet little Indiana town, and if my father, say, were to become an unfortunate bit of “collateral damage” because he was driving down the street when they lobbed one of their smart bombs at an insurgent safehouse but missed a little, and I were to take up arms to force the foreign invaders out, then I’d be the bad guy, right? I’d be the enemy, someone who’s being totally unreasonable and standing in the way of humanitarianism and democracy, right?

    It’s that kind of bloody simple-minded arrogance and assumed superiority that gets people killed by the hundreds of thousands. It’s what criminals like Bush and Cheney take advantage of to do their damndest to destroy the republic and turn us into an empire.

  20. #20 JasonY
    January 28, 2007

    cbutterb,

    At the beginning of 2003, you were equally willing to support the violent overthrow of the regimes of North Korea, Iran, Cuba, China, Saudi Arabia, and Libya, right?

    No. I don’t know why you think support for the invasion of Iraq would imply support for the things you list above.

    And now that the neocon usurpation of our government has played out the way it has, and our government suspends Constitutional rights and participates in torture (and possibly rigs elections), you are of course willing for another powerful western democracy, say France, to invade the United States and install a new government, right?

    No, of course not.

  21. #21 JasonY
    January 28, 2007

    cbutterb,

    And now that the neocon usurpation of our government has played out the way it has, and our government suspends Constitutional rights and participates in torture

    The governments of many liberal democracies, including important U.S. allies such as Britain and France, have engaged in torture, as have previous U.S. administrations. The CIA has probably been using torture since at least the 1950s. I do not believe that torture is never ethically justified.

    Your claim that the current U.S. government “suspends constitutional rights” is highly controversial, to say the least. Constitutional challenges to various state and federal laws have been a routine feature of the American legal process for at least a century. Supreme court rulings on these questions are often decided by small majorities, which again highlights the uncertain and arguable nature of constitutional law.

  22. #22 cbutterb
    January 28, 2007

    Your claim that the current U.S. government “suspends constitutional rights” is highly controversial, to say the least.

    Dude. The Military Commissions Act. NSA wiretapping. The USA PATRIOT Act. Gitmo. Gonzales in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week saying that the Constitution doesn’t actually grant habeus corpus. Where have you been the past six years?

  23. #23 JasonY
    January 28, 2007

    Dude. The Military Commissions Act. NSA wiretapping. The USA PATRIOT Act. Gitmo.

    What about them? Dude. A list of laws is not an argument. Legal experts are strongly divided on the constitutionality of the MCA and the Patriot Act, just as they are divided on the constitutionality of, for example, laws banning abortion or certain forms of religious expression. You seem to think that unargued assertion and ostentatious expresssions of outrage constitute a serious argument. They don’t.

  24. #24 Tyler DiPietro
    January 28, 2007

    Legal experts are strongly divided on the constitutionality of the MCA and the Patriot Act, just as they are divided on the constitutionality of, for example, laws banning abortion or certain forms of religious expression.

    Do you have any evidence that “legal experts” are “strongly divided” on these questions, or is it much the “division” among climate scientists on global warming (i.e., a few fringe figures within the field dissenting from an overwhelming consensus)?

  25. #25 cbutterb
    January 28, 2007

    Horseshit. There is no serious debate that Gonzales is wrong when he says that the Constitution doesn’t grant habeus corpus. Neither is there any credible rebuttal to the assertion that Bush stepped outside of FISA in authorising the NSA wiretapping program (at least prior to the recent reversal, which I’m still leery about). “I’m the Preznit” doesn’t count. Some parts of the PATRIOT Act have already been struck down. Indefinite suspension of citizens at Gitmo was struck down by SCOTUS in Hamden. I was hoping the list would refresh your memory.

    And you still haven’t explained why human rights abuses and strategic concerns were enough to justify the invasion of Iraq but not other countries with similar or worse records. Nor at what point a similar invasion of the US by a foreign power would become justified, were the other power’s interests and security concerns to warrant it.

  26. #26 Kevin
    January 28, 2007

    Wow, Lots of bad arguments.

    Hey Wolfie:

    “I have to wonder whether either christopher or kevin knows very much about the weapons and tactics they are condemning. ” No comment on blowing a whole apartment building to try and get one sniper? I know that happens. I know the A-10s are there, and the AC-47s.

    And I know the guy on the ground does not give a rats ass if Haji gets it tonight as long as they get to come out alive. Civillians are regularly killed and labeled “insurgents” and who knows, they f’ing live there so who they h knows the difference.

    “The kind of attacks kevin talks about — the firebombing of Tokyo and Hamburg, the annihilation of Dresden — are today considered unacceptable.” WTF? the rape and slaughter of native americans happened from 10,000 feet?

    “So yes, civilian casualties do occur in Iraq, no matter how hard our guys try to avoid it.” Or not. Or get orders to kill every military age male they see.

    “They aren’t. If you folks ever look around on some of the many milblogs out there, you’ll find that they think civilian casualties are as tragic as you do.” bull. yea they type “we had fun shooting Haji in the head today.” and trade death porn for skin porn.

    “The only difference between them and you on that score is that they understand the terrorists see those civilians as just another weapon to be used against us.”

    what do you know what I understand? The civilians are the terrorists you fool.

    ” If we say, “we absolutely refuse to take any action that even might result in civilian casualties,” the terrorists will start using civilians as human shields, and win by default. ”

    And there you go and take the StrawMan award. Who ever made that argument?

    Posted by: wolfwalker | January 25, 2007 09:21 PM

    “You can’t use mass bombing tactics against cities anymore”

    right (cough) Fallujah (Cough)

    “It is definitely not a reason to label all US soldiers or their commanders as modern-day analogs ” Get itchy with all that straw? that you use to build your arguments?

    “I think the invasion was justified”

    as in Condi said it was OK? or was it Cheney. Two of the biggest liars in this government.

    “national/global security reasons” like we get to kill them if we don’t like them, or if we fear them.

    geez. Let’s hear your thoughts on evolution and whether god is responsible for all evil on earth…..

  27. #27 JasonY
    January 28, 2007

    Tyler DiPietro,

    Do you have any evidence that “legal experts” are “strongly divided” on these questions.

    The absence of a consensus amoung legal experts on the constitutionality of the laws in question is evidence that opinion is strongly divided. If you think you have evidence that there is a consensus amoung legal experts that the MCA or the Patriot Act are unconstitutional, please produce it.

    or is it much the “division” among climate scientists on global warming

    There is a consensus amoung climate scientists that the planet is warming and that most of that warming is probably caused by human activities (note the important qualifiers “most” and “probably”). That consensus is demonstrated through, for example, the reports issued by the IPCC and by nationally representative scientific institutions such as the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

  28. #28 JasonY
    January 29, 2007

    cbutterb,

    Neither is there any credible rebuttal to the assertion that Bush stepped outside of FISA in authorising the NSA wiretapping program

    Yet another unsubstantiated assertion. You seem to believe that simply claiming that something is true constitutes an argument that it is true. It doesn’t. If you think you have facts, evidence and argument in support of your assertions, then produce them. Simply repeating the assertion over and over again, as if that will somehow demonstrate it to be true, is worthless.

    And you still haven’t explained why human rights abuses and strategic concerns were enough to justify the invasion of Iraq but not other countries with similar or worse records.

    You haven’t shown that other countries have similar or worse records of human rights abuses and “strategic concerns” than Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Even if you had shown that, there are many other factors that would rationally influence any decision about whether to invade, such as the size and power of the target nation and the availability of important allies such as Britain.

    Nor at what point a similar invasion of the US by a foreign power would become justified, were the other power’s interests and security concerns to warrant it.

    I think it would be very difficult to precisely describe a “point” at which the invasion of the U.S. by a foreign power would be justified. But since the U.S. is one of the world’s greatest bastions of freedom and liberal democracy the question is so far removed from any serious consideration of the real world that it’s just silly.

  29. #29 wolfwalker
    January 29, 2007

    cbutterb:

    Are you arguing that if the publicly-stated reasons for a war are deceptive, the war is automatically wrong?

    Did you know that US warships were escorting British convoys, and exchanging fire with German U-boats, three months before the attack on Pearl Harbor? That in May 1941, a US Coast Guard cutter played a minor role in the pursuit and sinking of the German battleship Bismarck? That during fall 1941 US ships, even capital warships, regularly entered the war zones around British ports and convoy routes, practically daring U-boats to torpedo them? That Hitler had to issue express orders to his submarines to avoid shooting at American warships? That the first American casualties in the war occurred two months before Pearl Harbor?

    Did you know that all through 1941, FDR engaged in a systematic and deliberate series of provocations against Imperial Japan, culminating in an oil embargo that virtually ensured Japan would attack us, and soon? Did you know that Claire Chennault’s “volunteer air force” in China, the justly-famed Flying Tigers, had very unofficial eye-winking support from FDR’s administration? That tensions were so high just before Pearl Harbor that Admiral Bill Halsey felt safe in putting his command, the USS Enterprise and her task group, on a full war footing, with permission to shoot at Japanese ships and aircraft, on November 28th, 1941?

    And yet, on December 8th, Roosevelt stood before Congress and with a straight face labeled Pearl Harbor an unjustified sneak attack — a “date which will live in infamy.” He lost not a single second in using Pearl Harbor as justification for war against both Germany and Japan — war to the finish, war to the death, not to end short of absolute and unconditional surrender by both enemy nations. And the country followed him. The US public fought World War II to the finish for one reason and one reason only: Revenge for Pearl Harbor!!

    FDR was certain we should be in the war. He was certain which side we should be on. He then engaged in a deceptive, underhanded, dirty-tricky series of maneuvers to bring that about. He never quite broke the law, but he sure bent it all to hell. No president either before or since has been as ruthless in manipulating events to achieve his goal — not even Reagan or Bush Jr. The result was that two of the foulest regimes in modern history were utterly crushed, and two nations were set on the road to freedom and democracy. Today, anyone who questions the essential rightness of US involvement in WW2 is instantly (and correctly) labeled a nazi-sympathizer and an apologist for pure evil.

    Tell me, what’s the difference between FDR and Bush in this area, other than the fact that FDR was vindicated by events and Bush hasn’t yet been?

  30. #30 cbutterb
    January 29, 2007

    Yet another unsubstantiated assertion. You seem to believe that simply claiming that something is true constitutes an argument that it is true. It doesn’t. If you think you have facts, evidence and argument in support of your assertions, then produce them. Simply repeating the assertion over and over again, as if that will somehow demonstrate it to be true, is worthless.

    I’m not sure what level of argument you’re looking for. In the case of FISA, for example, the law said “don’t do X.” Bush did X. He sought wiretaps without the warrants FISA required. He admitted it. It was pretty brazen.

    Even if you had shown that, there are many other factors that would rationally influence any decision about whether to invade, such as the size and power of the target nation and the availability of important allies such as Britain.

    So it’s okay to impose your will on others, but only when they’re too weak to fight back. Because then, they’ll come to their senses and greet you with flowers. It’s not like they’ll turn to asymmetrical warfare and homemade bombs or anything. Got it.

  31. #31 JasonY
    January 29, 2007

    cbutterb,

    In the case of FISA, for example, the law said “don’t do X.” Bush did X. He sought wiretaps without the warrants FISA required. He admitted it.

    The legal status of the NSA wiretaps is strongly disputed. The matter is still under review by the courts. The final ruling will most likely reflect a modest majority of the Supreme Court, just like most other contentious constitutional questions. You need to stop pretending that complex and disputed legal questions have a clear and unequivocal answer. Wikipedia has a good discussion of the issue here.

    So it’s okay to impose your will on others, but only when they’re too weak to fight back.

    No, it may or may or not be “okay” (that is, justified) for the U.S. to impose its will on another nation, depending on a host of complex questions and issues. Whether it is technically feasible or politically expedient to do so is a separate, albeit related, question.

  32. #32 Kevin
    January 29, 2007

    WolfW:

    “He lost not a single second in using Pearl Harbor as justification for war against both Germany and Japan — ”

    err that and the fact that Germany declared war on US!.

    “war to the finish, war to the death, not to end short of absolute and unconditional surrender by both enemy nations”

    as adopted Feb 12, 1943 “we say-all the United Nations say-that the only terms on which we shall deal with an Axis government or any Axis factions are the terms proclaimed at Casablanca: “Unconditional Surrender.”

    But I’m that was decided by FDR in dec 41….whahhhah?

    “Tell me, what’s the difference between FDR and Bush in this area, other than the fact that FDR was vindicated by events and Bush hasn’t yet been? ”

    Because we were attacked by Japan and were NEVER EVER atacked by Iraq? Because Bush is a scared loser dragging the US into a war of agression for oil and FDR was protecting the world from domination by Facists?

    Like Sadaam could even rule his own country less present a threat to the world. (can you say no-fly zone? can you say U.N.-inspectors doing their job? can you say oil-for palaces and cognac instead of food?) Geez the people who voted for Bush made a big mistake. and we’re paying for it now.

  33. #33 mike
    January 29, 2007

    Kevin,

    Sure they do. Always have. all our wars, particularly against brown or yellow people. Indians and Jap civillians were slaughtered happily.

    So were the Germans. I hate it when people insert unnecessary connotations of racism into an argument. Yeah, war is hell and bombings kill civilians. With more accurate bombs, they kill far less civilians than they did in previous wars, but bombing can never be 100% fool-proof. Still, no modern army in the world is going to remove bombs from their arsenal.

  34. #34 Kevin
    January 29, 2007

    Mike:

    you say “So were the Germans.”

    I said “particularly against”, i.e. not excluding whites. But there was a decidedly racist character of the reality and propaganda of WWII. The bad germans were always “nazis” while the bad Japs were the entire race. There were no “good Japs”

    THe Germans were fairly treated:

    The Assistant Provost Marshall, defending the difference in treatment, declared before Congress:

    “Yet, for us to treat with harshness the Germans in our hands would be to adopt the Nazi principle of hostages. The particular men held by us are not necessarily the ones who ill-treated our men in German prison camps. To punish one man for what another has done is not an American principle.(96)”

    while the nips were killed on sight:

    “On the allied side of the war, from beginning to end, among the soldiers, there was as a reluctance to take prisoners. There were relatively few prisoners taken by Allied forces. There were cases when American bomber pilots and submarine commanders would machine-gun the survivors of a sunk ship.”

    and mutilated: “American soldiers would take Japanese ears, boil heads and sometimes send the skulls back home. In the May 22, 1945 issue of Life there was a picture of an ‘All-American’ girl holding the skull of a Japanese soldier that her fiance had sent her”

    as were native americans:

    “I saw in riding over the field a man (a sergeant of the 3rd) dismount from his horse and cut the ear from the body of an Indian, and the scalp from the head of another. I saw a number of children killed; I suppose they were shot, they had bullet holes in them; one child had been cut with some instrument across the side. I saw another that both ears had been cut off…I cannot say how many dead Indians I saw; I did not count all; I counted one hundred or a little over…”.
    -Amos D James, Soldier First Colorado Cavalry Sand Creek Massacre 1865 (Hoig) ”

    and you seem to have been in the same barn as wolf:

    “bombing can never be 100% fool-proof.” yes yes all those posters who said that it could be…

    “Still, no modern army in the world is going to remove bombs from their arsenal.” and that would disappoint all those people who had demanded it…geez.

  35. #35 Kevin
    January 29, 2007

    but I think the issue should be re-stated:

    has the US military given the green light?

    a) EL PASO, Texas – Four U.S. soldiers accused of murdering suspected insurgents during a raid in Iraq said they were under orders to “kill all military age males,” according to sworn statements obtained by The Associated Press.

    hidden the truth?

    b) American military spokesmen insist that US-led forces will do their utmost to spare civilian bystanders. But if they don’t, the newly free Iraqi press will have trouble reporting the story. The Iraqi Health Ministry, on orders of the US-backed government, has stopped releasing Iraqi casualty figures to journalists.

    c) looked the other way?

    Asked if they had ever killed an Iraqi noncombatant, 28 percent of the 794 Marines surveyed said yes. Two-thirds reported killing an enemy combatant. Fourteen percent of 861 soldiers from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division reported they had killed at least one Iraqi noncombatant. Forty-eight percent reported killing an Iraqi combatant.

    these soldiers described civilian casualties in six- to eight-month deployments

    So..Jason R…do you still believe “I think there are few depths to which the Bush administration will not stoop to achieve its aims, but I don’t believe they support violence against civilians.
    “?

  36. #36 wolfwalker
    January 29, 2007

    Kevin, you missed my point completely. Franklin Roosevelt was waging an undeclared shooting war against Germany three months prior to Pearl Harbor. He was waging an economic war against Japan throughout 1941, while at the same time giving not-very-covert support to the Chinese who were fighting a Japanese invasion. In both oceans FDR wanted a shooting incident to justify a declaration of war, and set out to provoke such an incident regardless of how many laws he had to break or bend along the way. The only difference between what he wanted and what he got (namely the Pearl Harbor attack) was that neither he nor any of his advisors predicted where the Japanese would strike, or how perfect a provocation the attack would be. His goal was undeniably a good one, but his tactics were undeniably unethical, immoral, and illegal.

    (Not to mention the semi-legal and definitely-illegal things he did during the war, like the mass internment of nisei and issei Americans. Few if any of the Patriot Act provisions, no matter how odious, can rival that.)

    There is a long list of provocations by Saddam against the Coalition and the United Nations between 1991 and 2003, but I rather suspect that either you’ve heard them all before and handwaved them aside, or you wouldn’t trust the information coming from me anyway. But I know about them (as I seem to know considerably more about what happened at Fallujah than you apparently do) and they are part of what convinces me the war against Iraq was justified regardless of the tactics Bush used to justify it to the public — just as US involvement in WW2 was justified regardless of the tactics FDR used to get us into that conflict.

  37. #37 Kevin
    January 29, 2007

    No Wolf, I understood what you wrote.

    “He never quite broke the law” versus “regardless of how many laws he had to break ” and you seem to think that the US declared war on Germany first instead of the other way around. and you seem to be mixing up FDR and Bush W.

    “There is a long list of provocations by Saddam against the Coalition and the United Nations between 1991 and 2003″

    Oh please…no-fly zone violations? turning on radar systems? plot to kill poppy?

    “Gen. John P. Jumper, USAF Chief of Staff, expanded on Moseley’s comments. He said, “We started our work in the air component back in June of last year [2002], and, between June and March, we actually flew about 4,000 sorties against the integrated air defense system in Iraq and against surface-to-air missiles and their command and control.”

    Jumper added, “By the time we got to March, we think that they were pretty much out of business.””

    those?

    or the fact that Iraq was dishing out misinformation and playing hide and seek with the weapons inspectors?

    http://www.newamericancentury.org/iraq-20040623.htm

    in the end, the inspectors had access, found nothing, Iraq attacked no one and Bush invaded anyway, for his own reasons and it had nothing to do with protecting the US.

    “(as I seem to know considerably more about what happened at Fallujah than you apparently do) ” and so you were doing the “Shake and Bake” fire missions?

    .

  38. #38 James McGrath
    May 4, 2007

    To anyone who wants to see this country led by conservative Christians, please wake up and realize that that is what we have now. Bush and his administration are at an all-time low of popularity, and for good reason. Filling key positions with people who have a certain religious ideology (rather than because they are honest and have a good grasp of issues and good ideas on how to address them) has been tried, and look where it has got us!

    http://blue.butler.edu/~jfmcgrat/blog/

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