Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Dirty Rice wants your trust






Richard Cohen is a Washington Post columnist.  He's come under intense criticism this year, more so than at any other time.  It could actually be a great thing.  Columnists are supposed to generate controversy, ideas are supposed to be provocative.  The criticism also allows Cohen to take a look at how he presents himself in his writing and decide whether he's mispresenting or whether he thinks people are misunderstanding what he's stating.  Most of all, the constant dogpile means that he is eagerly read by his harshest critics in the hopes that they can catch something to criticize him for. All of that spells success if you respond to it correctly.

I'm not one of Richard's harshest critics.  I know him and I like him and I will forever applaud his work on the illegal government spying of the seventies.  But his column showing up all over the place this week (here for San Jose Mercury News, here for Real Clear Politics to cite only two) is dead wrong.  "Where's the moral outrage?" the headline asks.

Uh, don't know, Richard?  Is the 'moral' outrage aimed at a same-sex couple attempting to adopt?  Or maybe it's aimed at an unwed, pregnant woman?  Who knows where the 'moral' outrage is and who really gives a f**k?  How about we talk ethical and leave 'morality' to the cowards who are unable to debate ethics?  Once again,  from the classic comedy sketch (about the quiz show scandal) . . .

Mike Nichols: It's a moral issue.

Elaine May: Yes!

Mike Nichols: A moral issue.

Elaine May: Yes! Yes! Yes! It is a moral issue.  

Mike Nichols:  A moral issue.

Elaine May:  And to me that's always so much more interesting than a real issue

Truly, let's talk about something that actually matters.

Richard is outraged by the deaths in Syria.  I don't doubt that.  And he's worked himself up over it to write a column whose sincerity I don't question.

Deaths are sad, wherever they take place.  Syria's in the midst of a civil war.  Deaths take place in a civil war, as any student of history knows.  Deaths take place in revolutions as well.  The American Revolution was very bloody, for example.  These are facts.

Cohen writes:

What perplexes me is how the calls for Congress to rebuff President Obama are empty of moral outrage. The civil war in Syria has cost more than 110,000 lives. It has produced a humanitarian calamity -- well over 2 million refugees. Bashar al-Assad has massacred his own people by conventional means and is accused of using poison gas several times, most recently on Aug. 21, when his military murdered 1,429 people, including more than 400 children.

Again, let's leave 'morality' out of it.  Refugees?  The Iraqi refugee crisis had/has a higher number and as the BBC -- and only the BBC -- has recently reported, violence returning to 2008 levels in today's Iraq means that, yet again, Iraqis are fleeing the country in large numbers.

What has Bashar al-Assad done or not done?  I have no idea.  Nor does Richard Cohen.  But if they are "his own people," I guess he can feed them or kill them or whatever.

"His own people"?  Do you get how insulting that is, that mind-set?  It's truly imperialism at its worst.   And that's what harms Cohen and his column.

He's outraged.  That's a feeling, we can talk about it, we can process it.  But he has a feeling and he wants to act on it.

Somewhere along the way, a very smart man has lost his toolbox.  All Cohen has is killing.  That is now his answer to everything.  Something must be done?  Kill!  Kill!  Kill!

He's like a 'sexy vixen' in a Roger Corman film.

Cohen is smart enough to grasp -- if he'd take a breath -- that there are many ways to respond.

Cohen writes, "We should all be ashamed.  The inescapable truth is that the world needs a policeman. The inescapable truth is that only the U.S. can play cop."

If that's all he has to offer, he needs to consider a serious vacation because the well's gone dry and it's time to refill.  More importantly, he needs to shake off the tension because he is consumed with fear.

We need peace makers, we need diplomats.  If America has a gun problem (I'll leave that to others to decide, I do not support changes to the Second Amendment), why wouldn't it?  The government constantly threatens at the barrel of a gun and this is treated as normal, people like Richard Cohen will even applaud it.  So why wouldn't many citizens in the country model the behavior in their own lives?  When your government acts like a bully and gets applauded for it, it sends a message.

So those who treat the threats of violence as normal really shouldn't be surprised as the society in the same country grows even more violent.

Cohen wants to provide a service?  Try breaking with a culture that embraces violence.

Also stop attacking the American people (left, right, center, apolitical) for 'not caring.'  As donations and volunteer work in Haiti demonstrate, there is no lack of humanitarian concern among Americans.  But Cohen and others don't want to measure that as "humanitarian" -- that which truly is humanitarian -- and that's what's so disturbing.

Bombing is not humanitarian.  Bombing is war.  If you want to advocate for it, do it honestly.  Stop being so chicken s**t that you try to pretend you're being a humanitarian.

If you don't believe diplomacy can work, if you don't believe peace talks could be productive, that's fine, state your opinion on that.  But don't ignore humanitarian means while insisting that bombing a people is "humanitarian."  It's war.

There's also a lack of honesty when what US President Barack Obama might order on Syria is 'discussed.'  Tom Hayden (Beyond Chron) speaks bluntly about what is possible:

Secretary of State John Kerry even already has suggested a role for American ground forces in his Senate testimony, for example in the case of chaos or a takeover by Syrian militants in a vacuum. This was purely "hypothetical" Kerry said, under sharp questioning. Then in his classic way, Kerry retracted his retraction, sort of, by saying that there would be no boots on the ground during "the civil war" phase of the conflict. This statement left open the possibility of American ground troops if and when the Assad regime begins disintegrating. At that point, does anyone seriously believe there would be another Congressional debate?
The parallel with Iraq is crystal clear. That earlier war was based on false information about "weapons of mass destruction" in the terrifying hands of Saddam Hussein. In an interview, Paul Wolfowitz, one of the war's architects, said that the non-existent weapons were the best argument for mobilizing public opinion and a reluctant Congress. In this war, there seems to be no question that a sarin-type gas attack killed one thousand people, although a UN investigation is incomplete and there are questions about who exactly ordered the attack. That major difference aside, the eerie parallel with Iraq is that the chemical weapons attack is a pretext for expanding the American war in Syria on a much broader basis than is acknowledged.
The American public deserves a full explanation for what we are expected to support.

John Kerry . . . As a White House friend said to me today, "You know Joe's loving this.  For once, he's not the [administration] buffoon."

No, John holds that title.  We have warned here repeatedly that Barack needed to stop being such a little wimp and take control of his own message instead of attempting to hide behind others.  We've noted how bad it makes Barack look on the world stage when John Kerry's acting as 'president' and not Secretary of State.

As we noted yesterday, Kerry declared, "Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week -- turn it over, all of it without delay and allow the full and total accounting (of it) but he isn't about to do it and it can't be done."  He was speaking off the cuff, acting like he was the policy setter.

Now it's bit him in the butt as the government of Russia has grabbed it and run with it.  Of course they would grab it.  They were already mocking Kerry and calling him a liar because, well, he lied.  So, of course, they were looking for more to score with.   And they ran with John's adlibs.

Late Monday, the Russian government announced they'd be happy to help with such an arrangement (securing any chemical weapons Syria may have) and, as the AP reports, the White House immediately tried to distance themselves from Kerry's words until they were forced to go along.

Reuters notes, "Syria accepted a Russian proposal on Tuesday to give up chemical weapons and win a reprieve from U.S. military strikes but serious differences emerged between Russia and the United States that could obstruct a U.N. resolution to seal a deal."  Russia's issue is they want a pledge of no attack on Syria from the US government.  That's actually a smart demand considering the way the US government forced UN weapons inspectors out of Iraq to start the Iraq War and then repeatedly lied that then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein wouldn't let the inspectors do their work.

Kerry went before the House Armed Services Committee today and insisted:

If we don't answer Assad today, we will irreparably damage a century-old standard that has protected American troops in war. So to every one of your constituents, if they were to say to you, "Why did you vote for this even though we said we don't want to go to war?" Because you want to protect American troops, because you want to protect America's prohibition and the world's prohibition against these weapons.

 There's no need to protect American troops from those alleged weapons.  American troops aren't in Syria.  Keep them out of Syria -- which does not border the United States -- and it shouldn't be an issue.

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