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Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Remember when the mainstream media used to talk about Iraq? It seems like it has been months since they began every nightly news hour with a story about how we were losing the war or slaughtering innocents or breaking the Geneva Convention by tickling terrorists. Which makes one wonder, what has changed? Is the media just bored with the subject? That can't be, since now would be the time to really blitz the public with the failures in Iraq, since the media's candidate, Obama, needs all the help he can get. Nope, the real reason? The war is as good as over, with Al Qaeda having been crushed beyond any chance of recovery. Tony Blankley talks about it and the need for a debate on Iraq before November in his column today.
It has been fashionable -- indeed, de rigueur in political and media circles -- to view contemptuously President Bush's assertion that we are fighting the terrorists in Iraq so we wouldn't have to fight them here. Even conservative commentators have tended to tiptoe around the proposition. We are all far too sophisticated to believe such simplicities. Nor will any self-respecting public chatterer even raise the little matter of America not being hit by terrorism on our soil for the almost seven years since Sept. 11.

And yet the undeniable facts certainly would justify a debate -- if not yet a consensus of agreement -- on President Bush's assertions. Regarding killing Islamist terrorists in Iraq rather than New York City, consider the numbers: According to USA Today in September 2007, more than 19,000 insurgents had been killed by coalition forces since 2003. The number obviously has gone up in the nine months since then (these were midsurge numbers), but I don't have reliable updated numbers.

Of course, most of those 19,000 killed insurgents were not foreign terrorists, but local Iraqis moved to action by our occupation. However, according to studies by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and by the Defense Intelligence Agency, foreign-born jihadists in Iraq are believed to number between 4 and10 percent of the total insurgent strength. So it is reasonable to assume that we have killed -- as of nine months ago -- between 800 and 1,900 non-Iraqi terrorists who otherwise would have been plying their trade elsewhere. It only took a couple of dozen to commit the atrocities of Sept. 11.

Moreover, we know specifically that Al-Qaida in Iraq has been decimated recently. According to the British newspaper The Times in February: "Al-Qaeda in Iraq faces an 'extraordinary crisis'. ... The terrorist group's security structure suffered 'total collapse'."

And last month, Strategy Page reported: "Al Qaeda web sites are making a lot of noise about 'why we (al-Qaida) lost in Iraq'. Western intelligence agencies are fascinated by the statistics being posted in several Arab language sites. Not the kind of stuff you read about in the Western media. According to al Qaeda, their collapse in Iraq was steep and catastrophic. ... If you can read Arabic, you can easily find these pro-terrorism sites, and see for yourself how al Qaeda is trying to explain its own destruction (in Iraq) to its remaining supporters."

Now, it is doubtlessly true that our invasion of Iraq (and Afghanistan) helped al-Qaida's recruitment. I have been told that by U.S. government experts I trust. But that is an old fact. What Osama bin Laden famously said about recruitment is also true: People follow the strong horse. And the new fact is that as we are winning in Iraq, as we are killing al-Qaida fighters and other Islamist terrorists there by the truckload (along with other insurgent opponents of the Iraqi government we support with our blood and wealth), we are proving to be the strong horse after all and can expect to see a reduced attraction for young men to join the Islamist terrorist ranks.

Fighting and winning always impress. Even merely fighting and persisting impress. Shortly after the fall of Soviet Communism, I had dinner with a then-recently former senior Red army general. He told me that the Soviets were astounded and impressed by the fact that we were prepared to fight and lose 50,000 men in Vietnam, when the Soviets never thought we even had a strategic interest there. They thus calculated that they'd better be careful with the United States. What might we do, they thought, if our interests really were threatened?

The full effects of the vigorous martial response of President Bush to the attacks of Sept. 11 will not be known for decades. But if history is any indicator, military courage, persistence and a capacity to kill the enemy in large numbers usually work to the benefit of such nations.

On Sept. 10, 2001, many Islamists thought America and the West were decadent, cowardly and ripe for the pickings. (Hitler thought the same thing about us.) On the basis of President Bush's political courage -- and supremely on the physical courage, moral strength and heartbreaking sacrifice of all our fighting uniformed men and women (and un-uniformed intelligence operatives) -- America's willingness and capacity to fight to protect ourselves cannot be doubted around the world. This may prove to be the most important global political fact of the first decade of the 21st century -- with implications even beyond our struggle with radical Islam.

It is time to reconsider whether President Bush or Barack Obama was right on whether to fight. Obama has had a good political run on the early and inconclusive evidence. As victory starts to emerge in Iraq, more persuasive data begin to fall on President Bush's side of the argument. This is a debate worth having before November.

25 comments:

Colin said...

I'll be sure to mention this when we're still in Iraq four years from now. Of course by then, the war mongers in both parties will likely still be talking about the "light at the end of the tunnel."

Anonymous said...

I'm sure we'll still be in Iraq in four years, much like we're still in South Korea. But last I checked, we haven't been at war there for quite some time.

But feel free to keep up the denial chant, as long as you know it only serves to strengthen the likes of Obama.

Darius said...

Sorry, that last comment was mine.

Chris Austere said...

Funny thing...I actually just happened to read that article to torture (not tickle) myself this morning. Of course I knew what he was going to say before I read it, but I'm a glutton for punishment.

Darius said...

Chris, interestingly enough, you proved a subtle point of mine in regards to the muddied definition of torture. After all, I'm sure you were not truly "tortured" like, say, a Soviet detainee was after being falsely arrested. Similarly, liberals/libertarians have confused tough interrogation with real torture.

Anyway, back to the article... do you (or Colin) have anything to say that actually refutes Blankley's points or the facts on the ground? Or are you just disappointed that we appear to have won? Personally, I don't think an American victory in Iraq changes the legitimacy of your argument that the war was wrong to begin with. The end result shouldn't have affect the veracity of your views. I may disagree with you, but you might be right, perhaps we shouldn't have invaded Iraq to begin with. But I would hope that we both could still cheer for our side, but that seems unlikely from Colin and you. I don't really know why.

Anonymous said...

If all the deaths that the military has ruled homocides at Gitmo resulted from tickling, that sure gives the saying "tickled to death" new meaning. Its like, "Dude, stop tickling me! Can't you see I'm dying here?!" *flatlines*

Chris Austere said...

That was me.

Darius said...

Well, Chris, you just showed how ignorant you are of the facts, since the military has NOT ruled that ANY homicides have occurred at Gitmo, just suicides. In fact, the TERRORISTS there have it generally better than normal American convicted felons, and significantly better (to say the least) than the prisoners taken by Al Qaeda (read: Nick Berg). For more on how good they have it, read Wikipedia's entry on Gitmo. They are given prayer beads and mats and have signs pointing to Mecca. They also are fed 4,000 calories a day and get up to 22 hours of recreation per day.

It's sad to see one (especially a professing Christian, who should know better) stoop to relying on lies, misinformation, and moral equivalency to promote his agenda, but that's what you libertarians do.

Chris Austere said...

You're right. I was actually thinking of the number of detainees that have died in U.S. custody since 9/11. But I'm pretty sure they weren't "tickled" to death. I don't know whether any of them were in Guantanamo Bay. Here is a transcript from last week's House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Rights hearing on torture. The following quote is from Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell in response to questions from Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY):

NADLER: Colonel Wilkerson, in your prepared testimony, you write that “as I compiled my dossier for Secretary Powell, and as I did further research, and as my views grew firmer and firmer I had to reread that memo (of February 7, 2002), “I needed to balance in my own mind the overwhelming evidence that my own government had sanctioned abuse and torture, which at its worse had led to the murder of 25 detainees and at least 100 detainee deaths. We have murder at least 25 people in detention. That was the clear low point [lower end of the range] of the evidence.” Your testimony said 100 detainees have died in detention; do you believe the 25 of those were in effect murdered?

WILKERSON: Mr. Chairman, I think the number’s actually higher than that now. Last time I checked it was 108, and the total number that were declared homicides by the military services, or by the CIA, or others doing investigations, CID, and so forth — was 25, 26, 27.

NADLER: Were declared homicides?

WILKERSON: Right, starting as early as December 2001 in Afghanistan.

NADLER: And these were homicides committed by people engaged in interrogations?

WILKERSON: Or in guarding prisoners, or something like that. People who were in detention.

NADLER: They were in detention, not trying to escape or anything, declared homicides by our own authorities.

Darius said...

And guess what? For the majority of those homicides (if not all of them), we've punished the murderers. I'm not surprised that there were some murders, anyone who has any idea of military history knows that murders happen during war. The troops/guards get stressed out and, since they have less oversight than at a prison like Gitmo, they act out their stress and frustration on the scum who cause it. It's not right, but it's also not some purposeful plan from "Bush and his cronies" to kill off all the bad guys in any way possible. It's amazingly naive and arrogant to blame human nature as some hideous plan of the President or his administration.

108 or whatever the number of deaths, aren't most of those suicides or natural causes?

Chris Austere said...

Darius, there you go again trying to side-step the issue. You have this administration saying, "We don't torture." Then we have you saying essentially the same thing by your characterization of torture as "tickling". Then I show evidence that people have died during "interrogations" (torture in other words) and you are all, "Yeah, but you're arrogant because you're blaming human nature and its not Bush's fault. And aren't most of those deaths natural causes and suicides?" And I'm like, "What difference does it make?" If even 5% were homicides, it isn't justifiable. Plus, out of those alleged suicides and natural causes deaths, how many of them are actually suicides or natural causes deaths? If the military would lie about the death of Pat Tillman, do you honestly think they're going to be completely honest about these detainees? I don't.

Darius said...

Chris, the problem arises in that you seem to expect all wars to be run perfectly and with no war crimes (at least on the American side). By expecting this, you deny human nature, which is typical of the libertarian movement. People are fallen, and they are especially apt to act out their fallen nature when put into stressful kill-or-be-killed situations, such as war. Don't pin this on the President, nowhere has he or his administration ever said that it was general policy to torture terrorists, even to the point of death.

On a related issue, torturing for pleasure is quite different than harsh interrogation to save lives. The former is ROUTINELY employed by Al Qaeda, while the latter is RARELY used by American personnel.

Darius said...

Let me expand on that last paragraph further...

You will likely come back with something to the effect of "torture is torture, motives don't change the morality or illegality of it." This would be quite mistaken. Let me give you two scenarios, both involving Man A killing Man B. In the first, Man A kills Man B because he doesn't like that Man B fired Man A from his job. This is called murder. In the second scenario, Man A kills Man B because Man B was about to kill Man C. This is called self defense or defense of others and both morally and legally legitimate. So the motives behind the same exact event matter. So let's apply this to torture... if one is cutting the fingers off of another for the mere pleasure of it, that is dispicable torture. But if one is applying relatively harsh interrogation techniques (like waterboarding) to save the lives of hundreds or thousands, that is a justifiable method. The moral equivalency that comes from many liberals and libertarians on this issue is disturbing, to say the least.

Chris Austere said...

So we are torturing and not tickling, right?

Darius said...

Rarely, but I don't think something like waterboarding is torture, at least not if you want to keep any semblance of the definition of the word. If we call everything that is the least bit uncomfortable "torture," it dumbs down the term and makes it meaningless. This is similar to how the word "rape" has lost a ton of its meaning because of the overusage by the liberal feminists in this country. Or how "racism" is now just feeling uncomfortable in a seedy neighborhood.

Chris Austere said...

You should be on the Neocon payroll. Waterboarding is not torture? Well, at least you are willing to admit that torture is being carried out. Its really not even debatable when you have guys like John Yoo writing legal justifications for the rogue Bush regime for the "crushing" of the testicles of children. Yeah, children. Of course that was just hypothetical. Surely they would never do such a [SATANIC] thing. They just like to fantasize about it. But don't call it rape. That would "dumb down the term".

Darius said...

I looked up what you are referring to (John Yoo and child torture) and he was making a legal argument. That emotion-driven minds can't recognize a PURELY legal argument does not surprise me. I honestly don't know (without looking at it more closely) if Yoo is correct on the legal aspects of the issue. Practically speaking, you and I both know that this President would never actually stoop to that.

Words and ideas matter and have consequences. When people such as yourself choose to obfuscate terms, it makes you appear ridiculous and QUITE irrelevant to the conversation. In the past you have said that Bush lied, people died. But when pressed on it, you admitted that no, he didn't technically lie, but what's the difference? The difference is everything, and such a lazy usage of words and language is very dangerous because of what it ultimately leads to: moral equivalency and the suppression of free speech (like the cases in Canada where they are persecuting people's free speech because they no longer know what hatred, racism, and intolerance REALLY mean).

Darius said...

Your imprecise use of the term "Neocon" proves my point. Neocon doesn't describe almost anyone within the Bush administration, but you probably don't even know that because you just use the term as you've heard others use it.

Chris Austere said...

Yeah yeah yeah. You want to bring up old stuff that isn't even relevant to the conversation. Whether he lied or not with respect to WMDs is less relevant than the fact that he had the resources available to gage the credibility of the now (and then) defunct intelligence. Fact is the guy is self-deluded so he hears what he wants to hear. So okay, you win that argument. He didn't lie, he was just too incompetent or unwilling to find the truth. Either way people did die.

What I find funny is that you try to downplay the fact that torture is taking place at all, and when you can no longer ignore the obvious with a straight face, you say, "Well, it doesn't happen very much" - as if you could actually know. Then you say it is justifiable. Then you say (and I quote)"Words and ideas matter and have consequences." But you excuse John Yoo's words and ideas as pure legal rhetoric. Question: Why would such a hypothetical scenario even come up in a legal discussion in the first place? You can't argue that a legal discussion is an end to itself. There is a definite purpose behind it. That purpose is to define legal boundaries. By Yoo's argument he was basically saying, "There are no legal boundaries. We can crush a child's testicles in front of his parents, and there's nothing anyone can do about it." So then Michael Reagan, another Neocon, gets wind of it he figures, "Well Yoo is saying stuff like this. Why don't I join in." So he says of Muslims (and I quote)," Kill the mothers and the babies, stick grenades up their butt." To these people even infanticide is a viable solution to the "War on Terror". Then they say they support a culture of life. Come on.

Darius said...

I'm not going to defend Yoo's legal reasoning, since I don't know enough about it to say one way or the other. And I agree that one has to be careful that legal arguments, however true and accurate, aren't used as an excuse for evil or nefarious acts. For example, Gonzalez wrote a (in)famous memo about how the Geneva convention doesn't apply to terrorists. He was 100% correct, but in his memo he ALSO said that he worried about how this could be used in the wrong way to allow torture. Of course, the liberals never mention that part.

As for Reagan, I have no idea what he was thinking, but from what I can find, he doesn't have any mitigating context, like Ann Coulter always does. Coulter at least is always being satirical or sarcastically making a joke, which doesn't appear the case with Reagan. Oh well, he said something stupid and disgusting.

I'm not saying that torture is happening, but perhaps there have been some limited occasions of it based on the INDIVIDUAL choices of the interrogators, instead of a widespread policy by the administration. And from what I know, in most of those cases, the ones responsible for the murders have been punished. Do you really think they would punish someone for following a policy? How long would people really follow your policies if you punished them for doing so? The reason I don't believe it happens much is that if it did, the media would be all over it. I'm not saying that REAL torture is justifiable, but the kinds of interrogation that ARE policies of this administration are ALL justifiable, at least if used according to the policies laid out. Waterboarding has been used like two times, and both of those cases were extreme and they gave us great intel and saved many lives. Waterboarding someone just to have a little fun with him or to see if, on the off-chance, he might have some useful information, is NOT justifiable. However, this isn't policy. You use your definition of torture (one that I have rejected) and apply it to everything. Please stop this; you are muddying the waters.

Chris Austere said...

We are, of course, debating serious issues. Ones that we obviously have strong opinions about. But I have to admit I have a lot of fun going back in forth with you. So I decided to come on here to provocateur since I haven't seen you around ZFT. I believe you too are somewhat of an agitator. Take it easy, brother.

Chris Austere said...

*back and forth*

Darius said...

You too, man! I enjoy (not sure if that is the right word) debating this kind of stuff, but because I've been busy with work and sometimes get a bit testy with some of the ZFT commenters (especially someone who's nick starts with "g" and ends with "8," I've taken a break from ZFT. ZFT is great and very informative and thought-provoking when it comes to theology/Christian topics and other non-political stuff. But when it gets into politics, I feel that some commenters resort too quickly to slander and ad hominem attacks of politicians and people with whom they don't agree. And the fact that some have expressed the view that they pride themselves on driving away non-libertarians from the website wasn't a particularly good moment for the site. Plus, in my humble opinion (that's a bit of a oxymoron, since it is usually anything but humble :) ), the strong libertarian bent to EVERYTHING gets a little old. But then again, if all the conservatives are given little quarter on the blog, it is no surprise I suppose.

Chris Austere said...

Darius, yesterday I actually overlooked your comment on my usage of the word "Neocon". I admit that my definition of the word comes from its popular usage. That's really the only way new terms like this can be defined. I didn't invent the word after all. But if you want a more specific characterization of the term as it applies to political philosophy, allow me to borrow from Dr. Paul.

"1. They agree with Trotsky on permanent revolution, violent as well as intellectual.
2. They are for redrawing the map of the Middle East and are willing to use force to do so.
3. They believe in preemptive war to achieve desired ends.
4. They accept the notion that the ends justify the means—that hardball politics is a moral necessity.
5. They express no opposition to the welfare state.
6. They are not bashful about an American empire; instead they strongly endorse it.
7. They believe lying is necessary for the state to survive.
8. They believe a powerful federal government is a benefit.
9. They believe pertinent facts about how a society should be run should be held by the elite and withheld from those who do not have the courage to deal with it.
10. They believe neutrality in foreign affairs is ill advised.
11. They hold Leo Strauss in high esteem.
12. They believe imperialism, if progressive in nature, is appropriate.
13. Using American might to force American ideals on others is acceptable. Force should not be limited to the defense of our country.
14. 9-11 resulted from the lack of foreign entanglements, not from too many.
15. They dislike and despise libertarians (therefore, the same applies to all strict constitutionalists.)
16. They endorse attacks on civil liberties, such as those found in the Patriot Act, as being necessary.
17. They unconditionally support Israel and have a close alliance with the Likud Party."

Unless we strongly disagree on this widely recognized definition, I don't know how you could argue that this describes very few people in the Bush administration. Of course one could argue with the neutrality of Paul's assessment, but I don't know that any credible person could argue much with at least half the points Paul raised - and that is enough to carve out a good solid definition.

Bill Kristol, son of Irving Kristol, the father of American Neoconservatism, formed a think tank called The Project for the New American Century. This think tank devised Neoconservative foreign policy plans (look up Rebuilding America's Defenses) that have since been carried out during Bush's reign. Who, might you ask, was part of this think tank? How about Scooter Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Bolton, Richard Armitage, Elliott Abrams, and none other than Bush's number two guy, Richard Cheney.

Sarah Jo said...

have you seen the movie penelope? it was really clean and cute (if not a little postmodern - but what can you expect?) just wondering :-)

As for the plethora of comments above: I don't think I'll join the fray. :-]

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The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel The Main Thing
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Overcoming Sin and Temptation
According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
Disciplines of a Godly Man
Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Respectable Sins
The Kite Runner
Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, ... anabaptist/anglican, metho
Show Them No Mercy
The Lord of the Rings
Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming
The Chronicles of Narnia
Les Misérables


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