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June 26, 2006

We Write Letters

We write unpublished letters to the Washington Post:

To the editors:

In a recent column ["Culpability Deficit Disorder," June 20] Richard Cohen criticized American foreign policy for seemingly being afflicted with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Ironically, Cohen's column itself is a perfect example of such ADHD.

In a 1997 column Mr. Cohen wrote that the Gulf War lasted "just 100 hours." The Post later published a letter to the editor correcting this, pointing out that the ground war -- which indeed lasted 100 hours -- was preceded by 38 days of intense bombing in which the U.S. and others dropped more than 80,000 tons of high explosives.

In his column nine years later, Mr. Cohen again referred to the Gulf War. And he again informed readers it lasted "just 100 hours."

While this may seem like a small, easily-forgettable point to Americans, it likely does not to Iraqis who lived through it.


Posted at June 26, 2006 02:56 PM | TrackBack

...nor to the military that had to remain "deployable" for so long beforehand.

Posted by: Darryl Pearce at June 26, 2006 04:51 PM

Does bombing count as waging war? I mean you can't see anyone. Maybe there's no enemy there. Maybe its just killing innocent civilians. Maybe its just murder.

Nah, with 80,000 tons of high explosives you would have to hit a few evil doers. I guess it does qualify as warfare, brutal lethal warfare.

Posted by: spiiderweb at June 26, 2006 05:35 PM

For some reason, unpublished letters to the editor reminds me of a tree falling in the forest and, damn it but I can't make the connection. But I do know there is one.

Posted by: spiiderweb at June 26, 2006 05:40 PM

"ADHD also explains why we are still fighting in Afghanistan almost five years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that launched the war against the Taliban. It's because our attention got diverted from the Afghanistan-based al-Qaeda, which had attacked us, to Iraq, which had not. Take two pills for this one."

Actually not quite true, our attention was not diverted. George Bush wanted to invade Iraq and off we went, whoosh, zing, bamo and there we are.

"Finally, ADHD explains -- if anything possibly can -- why the United States went into Iraq with virtually no idea of what to do the day after the war was essentially won."

Excuse me, pardon me, but... just when did we win the war? First Bush tells us we will be in Iraq through the rest of his time in office but then he just leaked we will be pulling the troops out just before the midterm election but of course we all know Bush would not use an issue as important as Iraq to influence the election.

From today's WaPo:

Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), one of the two sponsors of the nonbinding resolution, which offered no pace or completion date for a withdrawal, said the report is another sign of what he termed one of the "worst-kept secrets in town" -- that the administration intends to pull out troops before the midterm elections in November.

"It shouldn't be a political decision, but it is going to be with this administration," Levin said on "Fox News Sunday." "It's as clear as your face, which is mighty clear, that before this election, this November, there's going to be troop reductions in Iraq, and the president will then claim some kind of progress or victory."

* * * * * *

However what is interesting here is that Bush's leaked plan is contingent on the situation in Iraq. The violence there now is escalating which is most likely due to our presence there or at least one of the causes so here is a little scenario. Suppose Bush announces he will begin withdrawing troops right before the election at a date soon after the elections are over claiming progress in Iraq. This little piece of news helps republicans stay in office but right after the election, whoops, things are still not looking good guess we gotta keep the troops there after all.

Posted by: rob payne at June 26, 2006 06:20 PM

Cohen doesn't deserve to be diagnosed w/ ADHD. ADHD is a diagnosis rightly reserved for those public school kids who stop giving a shit in their classes, due to shitty curricula, lack of personal attention, a family-destroying economy and social policy, etc., etc.

Cohen is just a Pavlovian cretin. With half-researched bullshit, he adds a minor twist on on an already asinine debate such that his argument doesn't precisely fit what was previously thought to be the only two possible arguments (obviously Democrat or Republican), and thus he is believed to have some unique insight. That he is wrong matters not. Someone pays him, and he keeps at it. He thrives by further mangling an already mangled public discourse. He hears spin, and he begins to drool.

Posted by: at June 27, 2006 12:11 AM

Mangled discourse is exactly right. People like Cohen and Bush are two of a kind and they feed off of each other. What is irritating is that their bullshit works so well. Just like when Bush announced we were going to bring democracy to Iraq. All of sudden WMD dropped out of the picture and everyone was debating the pros and cons of bringing democracy to Iraq. Fueling it were the political hacks and think tankers one side said yes we can bring democracy to Iraq and to prove it read this bullshit I found in this bullshit news article about how Iraqi are interested in democracy inevitably followed with a comeback by the other side regaling us with their super duper knowledge of the Middle-East and why Iraqi did not want a democracy, back and forth, back and forth, blab, blab, blab, blab. But who the hell cares, does anyone in their right mind care if we brought democracy to Iraq? The whole debate for a while just erased the fact that the reason we were told we invaded was to find and destroy WMD and that there was no WMD. The whole thing could have been about the best way to cook chicken livers and had the same amount of meaning.

Posted by: rob payne at June 27, 2006 01:53 AM

I was a time-serving hack. It's pretty easy. I wasn't in Cohen's league, but the method is the same.

Here's how I did it. I kept copious notes on what important people at work said, and observed who they quoted. I read their writing and the writing of the pundits they liked, and kept notes on their turns of phrase, logical structures and signature emoting. Then I stirred it up a little, to fend off charges of plagiarism, and regurgitated it. My theory was that they were every bit as narcissistic as hack academics who handed out good grades to their ephebes. I would have kept at it too, but for A) intense self-loathing and B) when I smoked marijuana, I got carried away. If you've ever started giggling maniacally while hating yourself, you'll understand part of why I didn't last.

I knew I was hack, but I got offended by people who called me an apple polisher. I thought I was a good hack and that my apple polishing was artful. Besides, I wanted the money. If I could have kept at it, a few years of it, I might have been able to develop a small brand name for myself. What saved me, ultimately, was not being an out of control joker, but being a resentful, lazy, unreliable neurotic mess. So much so that even corporate life became impossible. Cohen is made of much sterner hack-stuff than I was, as is Kristof, Friedman, Brooks, Tierney, and so on ad brand nauseum. He'll never suck his own vomit into his windpipe.

Posted by: Ex-Squeaker at June 27, 2006 02:31 AM

Ex Squeaker,

Those are some interesting insights on hacks. I think just about everyone who has lived long enough experiences something similar to what you went through. I think with guys like Cohen, Brooks and the rest something is missing in their makeup. Of course Friedman has an excuse. He was born with his mustache of understanding so he can tell us the world is flat without flinching.

Posted by: rob payne at June 27, 2006 03:06 AM