October 29, 2003

"How you do that is beyond someone like me..."

"The real threat to Iraqis is coming now from Western defeatists," writes Johann Hari, challenging the reliably defeatist writers of letters to the Independent to "dare" to claim that Iraq's Marsh Arabs would be better off now if Saddam Hussein had remained in power:

No, this is not the primary reason why we went to war, but the liberation of the Marsh Arabs was an entirely predictable result of military action - and many of you marched to stop it.

As to those who marched to stop it, a fraction of whom continue to march to interrupt or "repeal" it, Michelle Goldberg has a fascinating report from the Bring the Troops Home demo in D.C. last weekend. Maybe she could have tried harder to find at least one demonstrator who whole-heartedly endorsed the notion-- the explicit theme of the demonstration and the position of its hardline Stalinist organizers-- that the interests of humanity would be best served if the US were to cut and run and abandon the Iraqis to their fate. Well, there was one nihilistic/antisemitic loon, who asked "so, what are we going to do about the Zionists?... I think that Malaysian guy hit the nail on the head." But other than him, she managed only to bump into good-natured, well-meaning (if vacuous), urbane counter-culture types who explicitly disagreed with the demonstration's premise, yet nonetheless felt it appropriate to participate; as well as a few who seemed at such a loss that their views on the matter of the occupation of Iraq are, to the degree that they may be discerned, thoroughly negligible.

One guy hadn't bothered to read the sign he had been handed (U.S. Troops Out of Iraq. Bring Them Home Now!), which, if his banal homily on the the need to fix windows you have broken is any indication, directly contradicted his actual opinion. Others seemed even more confused:

Protestor Laura Beauvais, a professor of business at the University of Rhode Island, was against appropriating $87 billion to Iraq. When asked what Americans owe the Iraqi people, she said, "We owe them help getting basic things like schools and healthcare." But how to provide that, without spending American money? "How you do that is beyond someone like me. It doesn't have to be through more troops, and giving money to corporations," she said.

I think Goldberg's Orwell-invoking conclusion is dead on: "one of the key dynamics shaping both Democratic and leftist demands on Iraq [is] the sense that since progressives have so little power, it doesn't much matter what they call for." One demonstrator believes that demonstrating to "bring the troops home," though wrong ("irresponsible," in his words), is nevertheless a good, constructive way to "get the dialogue started." It's hard to see how, unless your objective is to lose the argument. It seems to me that an effective neo-progressivism would stand more of a chance of persuading people if it were based on something other than a generally-acknowledged, tactical falsehood. Assuming that persuasion is the goal.

Posted by Dr. Frank at October 29, 2003 05:33 PM | TrackBack

That reminds of one of the arguments used in run up to the war, that went something like "we should oppose the war because going to war SHOULD be hard." Abandon all reason ye who enter here.

Posted by: JB at October 29, 2003 08:51 PM

We can't leave until Saddam and all of his inner circle have been eliminated. What we should do is tell the city of Tikrit - where he is most likely hiding out - that they have 48 hours to turn him over. Of they don't, drop a nuke on them. No American troops will die. Just a bunch of ragheads and sandniggs.

Posted by: Stern Fan at October 30, 2003 02:59 AM

"Just a bunch of ragheads and sandniggs."

Pleonasm, or do I need to upgrade my slur dictionary?

Posted by: spacetoast at October 30, 2003 04:57 AM

Thanks, Stern, for showing the world that nutcases exist on both sides of this issue.

As a lefty who opposed the war - at least in its go-it-alone form - I had to agree with most of Michelle Goldberg's conclusions. ANSWER is learning the hard lesson that a bit of organizational skill won't make the public accept their nutty opinions.

I agree that the US cannot now pull out of Iraq without another, preferably UN-based alternative for maintaining order and rebuilding infrastructure. I oppose the $87 billion because we've seen no sign that Bush's wealthy constituency are willing to contribute anything to the war effort. Indeed, they keep lining up at the trough for more tax cuts. We could raise that money tomorrow if the rich were willing to pay their fair share of taxes.

Until then, I won't willingly give up a dime of my $24K salary. Alas, my will is not paramount at the moment. But I still have my opinions and my ballot.

Posted by: Jason Toon at October 30, 2003 06:37 PM