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December 09, 2004


Part I of the continuing "NL:A!" series can be found here.

I once was a certain type of nice American liberal. Perhaps you yourself have encountered this type. It is the type that reads the New York Times, often listens to NPR, and enthusiastically voted for Bill Clinton. The type has good intentions. The type wants the best for all. But the type has the unmatched ability to miss the WHOLE FUCKING POINT OF EVERYTHING.

If this type had a giraffe living in its kitchen, it would not see it. Instead, the type would sit there, carefully reading the day's New York Times story about awful people in third world countries with giraffes living in their kitchens. What's wrong with these people? the type would think. How can they allow giraffes to live in their kitchens? From time to time the type would wonder why their house smells so musky lately, and why all the food on high shelves mysteriously disappears.

This type of nice liberalism is on full display now, regarding the various ways Iraq evaded the UN sanctions and sold oil during the nineties.

On the one hand, there's the frothing right wing. They demand that Kofi Annan's head be delivered to Dick Cheney, so Cheney can make a goblet out of his skull. On the other hand, there are well-researched articles in nice liberal publications. The articles delve into the minutiae of the issue, and report back the truth: that the sanctions "leakage" was always known by everyone, including the US, and consciously ignored. Good examples can be found here and here. See also a piece by Joy Gordon in the December issue of Harper's (not online).

These articles tell us all about the height, weight, and mating habits of giraffes in Indonesia. Which is interesting. But maybe the nice liberal publications could, just once, mention the giraffe IN OUR KITCHEN.

(Please note: I'm not blaming the authors of these pieces, which are excellent. They did the best they could. The problem lies much deeper, in the liberal squishy willingness to allow the right to control the terms of all debate.)

That giraffe in our kitchen is the fact that the sanctions on Iraq were not supposed to be there in perpetuity. According to the relevant UN resolutions, the sanctions would be lifted when Iraq was disarmed of WMD. We now know Iraq met these requirements in 1991, or arguably 1995 at the latest. (Details on request.)

This is not some minor point. The sanctions -- as the US government intended -- killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. This includes, at a rough estimate, 350,000 children.

120 World Trade Centers full of children. That's a big damn giraffe.

And I don't make the World Trade Center comparison lightly. Because -- as even the Bush administration believes -- the 9/11 attacks were in retaliation for the sanctions (plus our troops in Saudi Arabia). A "senior administration official" even argues that without our nineties policy toward Iraq, Osama bin Laden would just be hanging out, telling boring stories about his days in the Khyber Pass.

To make the story even more gruesome, we also know the Clinton administration ignored numerous peace feelers from Iraq. But that shouldn't be surprising -- as the US government has repeatedly said, our only interest was in ousting Saddam. The sanctions helped, in our minds. So we had to bloviate constantly about the WMD as a pretext.

Thus, hand in hand with Saddam, we spent almost thirteen years strangling the people of Iraq. Leading us right to the terrifying world we live in today.

So as a former nice liberal, let me plead with my former compatriots: open your eyes. There are lots of giraffes in our house. They're multiplying and getting bigger. And giraffes can even kill lions, with just one kick.

UPDATE: I also posted this over at Under the Same Sun, and in the comments, Erica asked whether I'm familiar with the Phil Ochs song "Love Me, I'm a Liberal."

Oh, Erica! Not only do I know it, in spring, 1999 I wrote a new verse for it:

When Clinton went to Guatemala
He was right to say we'd been wrong
A million are dead now in Baghdad
I'm beginning to have some real qualms
But let's talk about those bastards in Belgrade
Those fuckers, they've GOT to be bombed
Love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

As you can see, I can't go a day without using profanity.

Posted at December 9, 2004 02:38 PM | TrackBack


Posted by: Peter Hofmann at December 9, 2004 03:31 PM

This is theme number one in my book. Do not let off. Eventually you will find the key to the known universe, the ultimate WHY.

They are so lovable, these liberals. They are teachable. They will agree with you and they will listen as you fill in the blanks of history they knew they were lacking. But go away for a few days and suddenly they are the more reactionary for all the effort.

Why do they vote for the opposite of their own interests, even short term interests, and the interests of those they believe in and wish well? Why do they get sucked into believing that the corporate interest is in any way aligned with theirs, their family, their groups?

Keep digging – you will find the answers deep in there.

Posted by: SiegeState at December 9, 2004 05:52 PM

Making goblets out of skulls is such a cool practice. I remember reading about roving Ukranian tribes who made ornate goblets out of the skulls of their victims. Seems more honest to the true spirit of war.

Posted by: motionsuggests at December 10, 2004 12:51 AM


It may or may not be the number one theme in MY book, but if not it's in the top five. It's interesting to me how the blithely blind liberal is a species found in all rich societies everywhere.


I agree. The best part is when you make a goblet out of someone's skull and then use it to drink their steaming hot blood. Waste not, want not.

Still, Bush is making progress in this direction by keeping Saddam's pistol in the Oval Office as a personal trophy. He will proceed to the human skull stage if we just give him a little time.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at December 10, 2004 11:13 AM

I just waded through Thomas Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem. Over 500 pages of NYT-style "interpretation" of the complex cases of Lebanon and Palestine/Israel, and funny, the word 'oil' never appears.


Posted by: jerry in seattle at December 10, 2004 12:40 PM


thomas friedman's name and the word liberal on the same LCD screen. Now I have to run a disinfectant on my entire computer!

Now there is a skull goblet that I would appreciate the seeing. He drags more liberals to lemming white bread white centric gnat views of the world than any other drain on society.

Posted by: SiegeState at December 10, 2004 01:50 PM

Pardon my naivete, but what are the combined exports of Israel/Palestine and Lebanon?

Posted by: trotsky at December 10, 2004 01:52 PM

Sorry, that's OIL exports?

Posted by: trostky at December 10, 2004 01:52 PM

Trotsky -- if that really IS your name --

Israel/Palestine and Lebanon don't export oil, of course. (Or maybe Lebanon has teeny-tiny deposits? I don't know.)

The point Jerry was making is that US support for Israel -- and certainly re the invasion of Lebanon -- is all about running the Middle East, which is all about oil. Likewise the political constraits under which the US then acted, because of the need to placate various Arab states.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at December 10, 2004 03:40 PM