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June 16, 2006

Misty Water Colored Memories/Of The Way We Weren't

After learning so much about Peter Beinart's current views, I became curious about what he was up to before the invasion of Iraq. Here's one thing he wrote, on February 24, 2003 (via Nexis):

The antiwar movement can't simultaneously decry the United States for appeasing Saddam in the '80s and demand that it continue that policy today.

Boy, that takes me back. Who among us can forget Nelson Mandela's stirring speech during the worldwide protests on February 15th, a week before Beinart wrote that?

MANDELA: People of the world: I demand that the United States give Iraq anthrax, bubonic plague, and botulinum toxin! Also, the Americans must provide Saddam Hussein with Bell helicopters with which to spray Iraqis with chemical weapons made from pesticides manufactured by Dow!

Desmond Tutu, of course, led crowds in this stirring chant:

TUTU: One, two, three, four! Donald Rumsfeld should have several friendly personal meetings with Saddam while Iraq engages in what internal U.S. government documents call the "almost daily" use of mustard gas and nerve agents!

And certainly we all remember Jimmy Carter's call-and-response:

CARTER: What do we want?

CROWD: The United States to give Iraq billions in loan guarantees while killing all U.N. investigations into Saddam's genocide against the Kurds!

CARTER: When do we want it?


Good times, good times.

(All examples not just real but taken directly from the same column by Beinart.)

Posted at June 16, 2006 06:48 AM | TrackBack

The ombudsman from the Toronto Star looked into the Kurd-gassing and discovered a CIA agent's section was excised from the report. This section described the Kurd-deaths were collateral damage caused by a cloud drift from a battle between Iraqis and Iranians when both sides were using gas. The report also indicated that the Iraqis were using blister gas and that it was the Iranians who had the deadly VX.

Posted by: Maezeppa at June 16, 2006 09:03 AM

Castro was supported, armed, and trained by the CIA. As were the Diems, the Somosas, Pinoche, as were Saddam and Osama. ALL bought and paid for with our TAX DOLLARS, yours and mine, your parents' and mine, your children's and mine. When you raise up a bad dog and turn him loose on the street, he's libel to come back home and bite the ones who raised him.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 16, 2006 10:18 AM

re: Mike Meyer's post. Why can we not seem to learn this after 60 years? Why are the proponents of these policies still considered the "realists" looking after our "interests?"

Still, we on the left are not innocent either. How long did it take for many on the left to admit that hey, the khmer Rouge were bad? Did Chomsky ever really admit that the messianic peasant religion was....evil? I don't think so. I hope I'm wrong.

Posted by: Brian Miller at June 16, 2006 11:36 AM

Brian Miller- you say you hope you're wrong. But how does it even matter? Leftists of the sort who praised the Khmer Rouge never had any power in the US and never will.

Beinart writes that he was wrong about the war, as if he expects some kind of medal for writing "my bad" after thousands died. You might say, "yes, but he's just a writer" the difference is that The New Republic sold their (ostensible) liberal cred to give the neocons bipartisan cover
for their malignant enterprise, and Beinart must have realized he was doing this, and being used thusly, but it didn't seem to bother him too much. So know he writes a book so that people think he's still relevant. One of the problems, actually the central problem, with Beinart's new book, is his tacit assertion that meddling in the affairs of 3rd world countries is still a pretty good idea, the problem in Iraq is not that it was a fundamentally bad venture from the get-go but that the execution was bungled. He doesn't come out and say this directly, but it's there between the lines.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at June 16, 2006 02:28 PM

jonathon: good points, all. And-don't get me wrong, I agree wholeheartedly with your basic point about meddling. I am no war liberal :)

Mr. Caruso: thanks for the link. Interesting essay. I'm not sure why, other than some misplaced sense of "yes, butism" I brought up Chomsky, as I frankly have admired some of his more accessible writings on politics. I am too gullible in believing insidious propaganda. This is a reminder.

Posted by: Brian Miller at June 16, 2006 04:20 PM

I always watched for the red flags. You lose me on the FIRST lie. (This administration broke it's leg steping out the gate) After the first lie I may still keep playing but I stay to take you, not help you. Don't get me wrong, ALL governments lie, so I take it with a grain of salt, but I've NEVER been a trusting soul.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 16, 2006 06:22 PM

It is interesting how the human mind walls off reality, parcels it out like pieces of candy in a box, each little piece of reality wrapped in its chocolate brown wrapper. We look at our leaders and we see a mask of good intent, the crisp blue suit, the miles of white teeth, the carefully quaffed hair and the winks and nods framed by a broad smile.

Somewhere behind the smile lurks a murderer, a thief on the take, but wait, no, is this not a family man wrapped in his chocolate wrapper? Kissing the babies, shaking hands, making inspired and inspiring promises about greatness and good things to come? Ahh, those double standards they are marvels of human ingenuity allowing us to carry on our little lives in bubbles of time each one pops to reveal the next. Time to go to work, lunch time, the drive home and dinner on the stove, time for bed and then do it over again, time after time and how it reassures us, comforts us, convinces us we are living in a normal reality, ho-hum, hum-drum, do anything but look in the mirror afraid of what it might reveal.

Meanwhile on the other side of the world cannons roar, bodies fly like kites in the wind, men, women, young and old, babies slaughtered on the sacrificial stone of normalcy but don't look, it might be gruesome, it might be bad, it might be us doing it. It is far easier to wall it off in a candy box, this little piece of reality goes here, and this one here, how neat, how clean, how antiseptic.

My God, the price of gas, see how it has gone up! This is outrageous!

Posted by: rob payne at June 16, 2006 10:39 PM

There's a difference between actively funding, on a massive scale, regimes that commit atrocities against their own people and having some kind of misguided admiration of said regimes from afar.

The desire to posit some kind of moral symmetry between two "sides" seems to be some kind of congenital defect of the American mind. I've had some real trouble overcoming it -- but I'm here to tell you that it can be done! Now I no longer think that Donald Rumsfeld and some writer for Z Magazine are morally equivalent, although that Z guy did admittedly jaywalk sometimes.

Posted by: Adam Kotsko at June 18, 2006 07:52 PM


I think there is a word for this congenital defect and it is the word 'pragmatism' which enables this compartmental thinking and it is just not Americans. When you read a history book the history is inevitably a history of war and atrocities and you will find very few innocents in any part of the world. The human ability to justify just about anything is one of the more astounding attributes we possess.

Posted by: rob payne at June 19, 2006 03:14 AM