While researching a longer article on conservative boobery, I stumbled upon this recent absurdity by Jay Tea at Wizbang:
Regardless of one's feelings about Bush, one fact is undisputable: since 9/11, there has been a single terrorist attack within the United States, and it wasn't even targeted against Americans. Meanwhile, the terrorists around the world have diverted their efforts from massive slaughter of innocent civilian Americans, and turned their efforts towards our military.
I don’t get it. Are they shitting us? This is just stupid. Entirely stupid. Embarrassingly stupid. Can anyone really believe this? Because I honestly don’t think that anyone’s brain malfunctions so much that this would actually pass any test of reasonability. Not if they were serious about it, anyway. Even your paranoid delusionals would have trouble making sense of this one. This isn’t an argument that you want; this is an argument you’re stuck with, and is a sign of pure desperation. Not just that they’d try using it, but that they’d keep using it.
This is 2006 for christ’s sake. I could understand someone coming up with this horrible rationalization of the war in Iraq in the middle of a tough debate. Someone so desperate that they’d rather be laughed at than to admit error. And laughed at they should be, because this is totally weak. And yet they still keep bringing it up. They dreamed it up shortly after the WMD’s disappeared into Syria, and despite the mind-numbing inanity of it; it’s the best they’ve got.
The Decoy Defense
I mean, how in god’s name are the troops in Iraq diverting anyone from attacking us? Sure, I suppose there are evil Iraqi’s who are being held captive or unable to flee Iraq to attack us, but I don’t remember there being a big influx of Iraqi terrorists trying to kill us before the war. And if they’re trying to kill us, it’s likely that they were created after the war started; and too often, because of it.
And could they really be suggesting that there are terrorists who would be capable of attacking us here in America, but prefer to attack our military in Iraq? My god, are these bloodthirsty terrorists or the Three Stooges. Hell, even the Three Stooges would prefer to attack their enemy’s unarmed citizens than their enemy’s military; and they’ve been dead for years. This is just totally lamebrained.
Oddly enough, Israel doesn’t seem to have this problem at all. The only time the Palestinian terrorists directly attack the Israeli military is when they have no other option. But they’d much rather attack deep into Israel’s civilian population. And what’s stopping them? Is it because Israel uses its army as a decoy to lure the terrorists away from Israel’s cities? No. It’s because Israel uses its military to physically prevent the terrorists from gaining access to Israel. And with large numbers of our troops across the sea guarding Iraq, that’s clearly not the strategy we’re using.
Perhaps Israel should follow our strategy and place their whole army in the middle of the desert and wait as the terrorists pop out of the sand dunes to attack them. Heck, that’s no worse than what these rubes are trying to sell us. Look, just because it sounds good coming from Hannity’s mouth doesn’t make it taste any better. Garbage is garbage.
Subverting the Process
And yet there it is. Jay Tea keeps the turd floating. But mind you, while this was a main pillar; this wasn’t his primary argument. His primary argument was a strange amalgam of the whole Liberals R Bad thing, this time demonstrated by our penchant for using victims as expert witnesses and our antiquated love of our precious judicial system. Or something like that.
He starts by echoing an infamous sentiment regarding the 9/11 victims that he admittedly obtained from Ann Coulter’s latest book, but takes a quick turn and starts to riff on the liberals’ dependence on the judicial system, and how we use it to subvert the democratic process. But somehow, he fails to mention why this is a bad, or how it might be against the natural order. I’m fairly positive that our constitution does allow us a judicial system; and it would be pointless to have one of those if it couldn’t override either of the other two branches of government. It wouldn’t work otherwise.
And that will tend to allow minority interests to override the will of the majority on occasions; which is a necessity to ensure that the minority doesn’t resort to other means…as we’re seeing daily in our new democracy playhouse in the middle-east. Democracy is not a permit for mob rule, and minorities must be assured certain rights and privileges. As I said, it wouldn’t work otherwise.
And finally, a reality check will surely inform Jay that Republicans are just as quick to use our legal system whenever they find it convenient. And the only time they don’t find the legal system convenient is when they want to complain about the liberals’ abuse of it. Any other time, a courtroom victory is as sweet as any other. It got Bush the Whitehouse and just recently saved Rove’s ass…despite the fact that he did it. So I’m kind of at a loss as to where Jay thought he was going with all this.
Apparently, so was he. Because he abruptly derails that train of thought in order to plop this onto our laps, “The problem is that our court system is very ill equipped to deal with such situations as the war on terror.”
Say what?? He went from complaining about the ACLU and the “over-litigation of society,” to the war on terror?! But he had to. He was out of material and this whole terrorism thing is the gift that keeps giving. Because sure, maybe the legal system is ill equipped to deal with that vague concept known as the War on Terror©. So this means that the ACLU shouldn’t sue so much? The courts aren’t allowed an opinion on gay marriage because we might let Bin Laden get away? Huh? I’m just not getting it. I suspect that Jay doesn’t either.
At this point, it would be fair to remind readers of the rightwing’s tendency towards believing that a mere recitation of facts is somehow an adequate substitute for an actual argument. Rather than explaining their positions, they island hop from fact to fact, unaware of the necessity to demonstrate how their opinions relate to the random facts and uncontroversial statements they cite as self-evident proof.
Most people consider that to be the entire purpose of making an argument: To demonstrate how their opinions naturally stem from the facts. But not so with our conservative brethren. For them, an argument is an opportunity to repeat the facts they’ve been given while denouncing their opponents as idiots and fools for not having the commonsense to implicitly understand how it all fits together. Besides, it sounded so good when Rush said it last week.
In our case, we see Jay accurately explaining how the judicial system is reactive, and how it is forced to wait until a crime is committed before it can act (though that’s not entirely correct); and then takes it as a given that this is an inherently bad thing. No explanations are needed. It’s bad to have a system that waits to punish people until after they’ve done something wrong; and he isn’t at all required to explain this utterly wacko theory. It’s self-evident.
I believe that one of his hidden assumptions is that liberals want to limit anti-terror defense to our judicial system; which is entirely absurd. Heck, most liberals supported the Afghan invasion and complained that Bush didn’t commit enough military resources for it. That was Massachusetts Liberal John Kerry’s position and mine too. But for Bush, Afghanistan was an after-thought to the Iraq war; even though Afghanistan was chock full of terrorists and Iraq wasn’t. His “military” solution was to outsource much of the war to the very thugs who had been terrorizing the country for years. They were the disease that the Taliban cured. And while I have no love for the Taliban thugs, the Afghan warlords were certainly not a great alternative. All this because Bush needed to save his military solution for a non-terrorism-related target.
But to Jay, his opinion is all so self-evident that he doesn’t need to prove anything. He’s got his facts, and if he has to explain how they prove his opinions; then you’re probably too stupid to understand anyway. And before you can say “jack dooky,” they’re off to another set of random facts which need no further explanation. As if the ability to recite facts is enough to convince us that their opinions are right too. I’m convinced that this is how their minds work too.
Justice For All
And so it is here, where we see Jay skip ahead to yet another rhetorical oasis, saying “Our legal system is based upon a profoundly simple concept: life has value. Freedom has value. It is the coercive power of our system to deprive people of life and liberty that is the "stick" used to coerce obedience to the law.”
And I agree with that to some extent. Of course, another aspect of our judicial system is simply taking people out of circulation. The judicial system didn’t stop the first WTC attack, but the perps will die in prison; thus preventing them from having waged further attacks. And it caught Mohammad Atta, though it failed to uncover 9/11 info from him, assuming that he knew enough to have stopped it.
Overall, I see nothing wrong with using our judicial system as one weapon of many. But one thing is certain. A military solution would not have stopped 9/11. We had all the equipment and laws we needed to stop it. We just lacked the ability to pull all the necessary information together. And the rightwing response is to insist on pulling even more information into the mix; including this blogpost. Great.
And Tea is certainly mistaken when he implies that freedom has no value to terrorists. That is absolutely incorrect. They may be willing to die for their cause, but they certainly don’t want to die in prison. Even a death sentence isn’t the same as a suicide bomb. Just as it is with the rest of us. Nobody wants to die a pointless death. I would die for my children and to save human lives; but I don’t want to die pointlessly. I don’t want to be executed. No one does; not if they had a choice. And so freedom does indeed have value for these people; if nothing else, to the extent that their freedom allows them to murder innocent people.
Besides, it’s possible that there’s an afterlife. In which case a lifetime prison sentence would certainly deny these guys their Jannah; which would have been assured to them, had they been able to stay alive long enough to kill us. Unless, of course, the Christians are right; in which case spending the last fifty or sixty years of their lives in prison is merely respite for the hell that awaits them. It’s almost enough for me to want to believe…almost.
Speaking of which, isn’t it funny how rarely the True Believers apply these obvious contingencies into their mental calculus. It’s like they’re all gung-ho about God, but aren’t quite certain enough when it comes to punishment time. Sure, God will probably punish the evil-doers; but who wants to leave it to chance?
Here We Go Round Again
And so whatever, maybe Jay’s right. Maybe our judicial system isn’t adequate protection against terrorists. But what is it exactly that Mr. Tea is proposing we do? I mean, I happen to like our judicial system and think that it works quite adequately. But if he’s got something better, I’d be glad to hear it. If it worked, anyway. If…
And it doesn’t. Because what else can Jay’s alternative be? Duh! We’ve gone over this one before. It was called the Iraq War and it didn’t work. Jesus. How many times do we have to go over this before these people can finally put together all the pieces for themselves? Invasion doesn’t work as an anti-terror strategy. Not when it means we have to dismantle a stable but violent country before we remantle it again.
That was a bad idea and will remain a bad idea. Not to get too Zen on you, but democracy comes from within and a country either has the social infrastructure to have one or it doesn’t. And slapping “ELECTED” on tribally selected leaders doesn’t change that fact at all. That’s not to suggest that I’m a pacifist. I know there’s a need for war as much as the next guy; and our Iraq problem didn’t require a war. It may have sounded good in theory, but everything always does when you want it to.
And the only people who could have thought it was a good idea were the ones who wanted it to be one. They rationalized every fact and factoid until it pointed to the crystal clear answer of invading Iraq. As if it only required that we acknowledge how lousy the other alternatives were. As if that allows us to overlook similar flaws with the military solution. Or the fact that it was likely to worsen our terrorism problem; just as we suspected at the time.
And even now, they keep thrashing the ideas through their heads, but just can’t seem to pull it all in. Right when they’ve got the answer on the tip of one hand, the question slips right out of reach of the other. And so we keep going back over the same ground, again, and again, and again. And right when you think they’re grasping the whole picture, they fall right back into their old habits. It must really suck to be wrong all the time. That’s why I prefer being right.
So here we are with Jay Tea still rebuking the judicial solution, while pretending that his military solution wasn’t as dumbly pro-terrorist as we said it would be. Bin Laden is constantly whining about how the Western world is trying to conquer the Muslim world and steal their oil; and what does Bush do? He conquers a Muslim oil country. Brilliant.
And I’m sure the conservatives have a hard time understanding this, but one of the key elements of guerrilla warfare and terrorism is to get your enemy to over-react and kill innocent civilians. There’s no better way to get a people to side with the terrorists than that. And the civilians will generally blame terrorist attacks against civilians on the larger army too; as well as any disruptions and inconveniences. That’s just how it works. And if the terrorists can usurp the puppet government’s ability to provide basic services and security to the people; they will be almost impossible to defeat. Believe it or not, I got that factoid from a book of Vietnam War essays published in 1965. I also read about it in a Robert Heinlein novel from 1966. We’re repeating old mistakes.
Besides, terrorists like war. What’s so hard to understand about that. They like instability. They like weak governments. That’s what they’re all about. Because they want to take over and a stable government is a dangerous opponent. They don’t want an Arab world. They don’t want a Muslim world. They want a world ruled by them and people they can control and influence. Or at least to rule as much as possible. And that’s just like lots of people. I’m sure Mr. Jay Tea would gladly accept the World Dictator title if it was handed to him. I know I would. I’d even be good at it. If only…
And so Saddam wasn’t good for them. It’s not enough that he’s Arab or nominally Muslim. He wasn’t under their control. They couldn’t even influence him. He was a brutal billionaire with an oil-rich country almost completely under his control; and he was known to torture and slaughter Muslims. What could they offer him? The dumbest thing he could ever have done would be to throw his support behind anti-American terrorism, and we have no evidence to suggest he did. He was a big fish in a small pond, and he liked it that way.
And then there’s the Iranians. They hated Saddam, for natural reasons. They share a border. These are real enemies. And Iran certainly benefited from this bigtime. It was the same as with the Vietnam War. The French suckered the hardliners with talk of commie invasions and domino effects and we fell for it completely. And then they bailed while we got bogged down for the next twenty years. And none of it was real. We lost Vietnam, and the rest of Indochina didn’t slide to the Soviets. And yet, here we are destroying Iran’s greatest threat while inviting Iranian-friendly Muslims to run the country. And all at the behest of our chicken little warhawks, running scared from their own shadows. Not that they don’t always profit handsomely from all this warfare; because they do.
The Rose Petal Defense
And this brings to mind the two basic questions which can be applied to any conservative argument: What the hell are you actually talking about, and how’d that go last time? Because what Jay was talking about was using a military solution to solve terrorism, and it went pretty damn lousy last time. And he knows that. So what does he do? What can he do? He’s writing a blogpost about how liberals rely on victims to state their case because they wrongly rely on the judicial system to subvert democracy, which is wrong because the judicial system can’t handle terrorism. Where else could this end up than back at that blackhole called Iraq.
And at that point, what else could he do but latch onto the absurd “magnet” strategy in a futile effort to explain how, despite all evidence to the contrary, it’s actually good that we’re being attacked in Iraq. As if a smooth post-war transition would have ruined Bush’s brilliant plan. Thank god the terrorists didn’t resort to the Flowers and Rose Petals Offensive, as Cheney had feared. We’d have been helpless!
But what other choice did he have? He had just dissed our judicial system, and the only real flaw he could come up with was the same flaw that his solution had: It’s not good at dealing with terrorism. Well guess what? Nothing is. That’s what makes terrorism so easy: It’s very difficult to stop. That’s why it’s used so often. And the more you work to stop it, the more you’ll screw up and make things worse. That’s been a basic strategy of guerrilla warfare for time immemorial Even the targeting of civilians isn’t new. Read the bible. It’s there.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t fight terrorism, because you must. That’s just to say that there are no perfect options, and dissing the judicial option doesn’t make the military option any less imperfect. Sometimes you can capture the bad guys before they commit crimes. And sometimes you have to invade to root them out, as we did semi-successfully in Afghanistan. And sometimes, the terrorists will slip through your best defenses.
And that’s why it’s important to stay focused on the root causes of terrorism. Because the best way to stop a terrorist is to prevent them from becoming one. And attacking their countries and killing their children isn’t a good way to prevent that. But I guess we’ve been over that already too.
The only longterm solution to terrorism involves enfranchising people and showing them how they have real options in their lives and can work within a system to fulfill their goals. Terrorism isn’t usually an option that people choose. Rightly or not, they see it as the only option available. We need to give them better options.
P.S. Don’t think I forgot about that “single terrorist attack within the United States,” jazz that I quoted in the first paragraph. I guess I’m pulling a brain fart, but I can’t think of the single attack he’s referring to. But more importantly, I can’t remember there being more than one other foreign terrorist attack within the US that happened before 9/11; and that was like nine years earlier. And yet here we have Jay bragging because we’ve only had one other attack in the last four years. Right.
And sure, there were several domestic terrorist attacks in the US before 9/11, but I’m really not sure how a military solution would fix those. In fact, based upon my limited knowledge of the white American terrorists involved, I could easily imagine a military or Big Brother solution precipitating more attacks. Perhaps some day they’ll learn why snipers don’t use shotguns.