"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Iran Amok

A whole lot of very nice folks, most of a scholarly bent, had their Purim celebration ruined this year by Jeffrey Goldberg’s gratuitous assertion on the New York Times Op-ed page that the holiday was commemorating something that never happened. All of them, apparently, have my phone number.

Goldberg’s trump card in support of flushing the royal tale down the drain is the fact that the ancient Persian kingdom was very tolerant of other religions and cultures, not likely to indulge a spasm of rabid anti-Semitism. His retroactive certainty was in no wise shaken by the observation that Iran was a very philo-Semitic country until 1979 when the Shah was deposed.

In fact the book of Esther is most remarkable for its scrupulous recording of the multicultural tableau of Persian society. It is very clear from the outset that the Jews enjoy full freedom and live as equals. Esther and her adoptive father, Mordecai, are not outwardly identifiable as Jews. Mordecai does not tell that he is a Jew until the king’s courtiers pester him for days to explain why he defies Haman. Esther does not reveal her national identity until the critical moment when she can use it to foil Haman’s plan.

The Talmudic tradition adds the information that the Jews participated fully in King Ahasuerus’ national feast; he even provided kosher food “to do in accordance with the will of each person”. Clearly there is an effort in this recitation of events to hew closely to actual detail. This is hardly the stuff of bogeyman myths. Remember, too, that this is the same Biblical record that reported the generosity of Cyrus in allowing the Jews to rebuild the Temple – a piece of history that Goldberg chooses to believe.

The book of Esther notes that this Persian decree against the Jews was an aberration, incited by Haman, a descendant of King Agag of Amalek, who had been defeated and killed by King Saul five hundred years earlier. Haman wended his way into Ahasuerus’ good graces, among other ways by political fundraising, and got the king to sign on to his family’s vendetta against the Jews. Once Esther helped restore her husband to his senses, things went back to normal: the king ran a benevolent regime with his Jewish wife, and Mordecai was given a prestigious position, supplanting Haman’s influence.

One last point is critical in appreciating the painstaking honesty of the Jewish tradition in this matter. The Talmud (Megilla 7a) admits that the Rabbis were not inspired on their own to declare a holiday, or even to write up the story in Scripture. It was Queen Esther herself who approached them and made the argument that this was a watershed moment that should not be allowed to fade in the historical memory. They examined the case she presented and conceded that she was righter than their initial assessment.

It is not clear to me why Jews are intimidated away from their patrimony by the flimsiest evidence. If anything, we should ascribe much more credibility to the Jewish version of their experiences, because Scriptural texts consistently reveal the unflattering side of Jewish conduct while crediting all the positive players on the other side. By contrast, the other nations of antiquity never publicized their shortcomings, which would explain why Persia would not stress this one-year blip of hostility in an otherwise tolerant reign. (Still, the book of Esther concludes with the statement that all the facts were available in Persian and Medean royal annals.)

When we see today’s Iran sliding down the slippery slope into anti-Semitic vitriol, and threatening to back that up with weaponry, this is not a case of life imitating art but rather an instance of history repeating itself.

15 comments:

Kathy Hutchins said...

Goldberg’s trump card in support of flushing the royal tale down the drain is the fact that the ancient Persian kingdom was very tolerant of other religions and cultures, not likely to indulge a spasm of rabid anti-Semitism.

This argument strikes me as similar to the one we hear from the left that Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda couldn't possibly have anything to do with each other because Ba'ath was secular and al Qaeda was religious. Is this type of argument a formal logical fallacy of some sort, or just generic sloppy thinking?

tbmbuzz said...

Is this type of argument a formal logical fallacy of some sort, or just generic sloppy thinking?



How about wishful thinking.

Matt Huisman said...

The Goldberg article is sooo telling. First off, the fact that there is a need to tell readers of the NYT that Islamic leaders really don't like Jews is more than a little disconcerting. But then there's this little interlude in the middle - ho hum, whoa look at the calendar, Purim is a lie. Where did that come from?

Apparently Goldberg felt the need to reinforce his point that Islamic religious leaders are homicidal maniacs by showing that its part of a pattern. You know the one - all religious people are crazy. And if you're making that point, one doesn't need to worry about getting a little fast and loose with the details. I like how Goldberg just throws out the following:

Scholars generally agree that it is a pseudo-history introduced into Judaism about 2,400 years ago, at a time when the memory of Jerusalem's conquest by the Babylonians was still laying Jews low.

Really? Well, there you go...scholars generally agree. No need for any backup there.

I suppose I should be glad that Goldberg is at least getting the word out that Islam is a bit of a problem. It would be nice, though, if we could make this point without having a complex about the fact that we're singling out Islam for blame.

Tlaloc said...

Jay-
why would it matter? Whether the holiday is based on an actual event or a myth really isn't importnat now is it? The importance is the effect it has in your life. I've never taken part in any Purim activities but from your description it sounds like a very nice relaxed joyful holiday. Go with that. It is enough by itself. No historical foundation is required.



Kathy-
"This argument strikes me as similar to the one we hear from the left that Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda couldn't possibly have anything to do with each other because Ba'ath was secular and al Qaeda was religious."

Oversimplify much? Not only was the Ba'ath secular they were militantly secular because they were one of the few secular governments in a region dominated by theocratic institutions. Likewise Al Qaeda is militantly theocratic and seeks to impose sharia across the middle east.

The idea that they could set aside their completely opposite world views to work together was ludicrous, and ultimately who was right? The people who said that the two didn't work together were right.

Accusations of sloppy thinking aren't particularly effectiove when the person you accuse has been vindicated by the evidence.

Matt Huisman said...

Likewise Al Qaeda is militantly theocratic and seeks to impose sharia across the middle east.

The idea that they could set aside their completely opposite world views to work together was ludicrous.


Why is it then that American troops continually find pornography and drugs during raids of insurgent camps? Either Al Quaeda is not so spiritually pure or they're willing to make common cause with outsiders.

How do you explain OBL accepting US assistance against the Russians? We're the Great Satan for goodness sake.

If you want to say there's no evidence for partnership between Al Quaeda and Saddam, that's one thing (and it's not what Kathy said). No one has proven that they were. But no one has proven that they weren't either, and the idea is far from preposterous.

tbmbuzz said...

Not only was the Ba'ath secular they were militantly secular because they were one of the few secular governments in a region dominated by theocratic institutions.

Let's see... Iran's government is secular - check! Saudi Arabia is secular, maybe - give it a check! Syria - nope. Jordan - nope. Lebanon - nope. Turkey - nope. Libya - nope. Egypt - nope. UAE - maybe? (I don't know). Sudan - probably; give it a check. Tunisia - who knows? Algeria - nope. Morocco - nope. Pakistan - nope. Afghanistan - used to be. Bangladesh and the SE Asian Muslim countries - nope.

While the religion of Islam certainly dominates in Islamic countries, their governments for the most part can hardly be called secular. Considering that Saddam wore Islam on his sleeve whenever it was required, your argument holds no water. Furthermore, it has been disproven by many historical examples, such as the cooperation during WW2 of the USSR and the democratic Allied powers.

Saddam was allied with and supported numerous Islamic terrorist groups. Ever hear of Ansar al Islam? You are asking us to believe that 1) none of these terrorist groups were affiliated with or cooperated with each other, including Al Qaeda, 2) Saddam cooperated with, encouraged and supported ALL Islamic terrorist groups except Al Qaeda, and 3) Al Qaeda after being kicked out of Afghanistan was setting up shop everywhere but Iraq or retiring to the beaches of Tahiti.

What Bush rightfully stopped in its tracks was the CERTAINTY of increased cooperation between Al Qaeda and an enemy state that had demonstrated its propensity to develop and use WMD, that was actively undermining UN sanctions against it and would have succeeded relatively soon to end these sanctions thanks to their allies in the UN, and that would have continued its aggression it had been practicing for the past quarter century.

The Jimmy Carter appeasement approach to the world's scumbags, Islamic scumbags in particular, has already been proven not to work and simply makes things worse. The Middle East was evolving into a situation that could no longer be tolerated (see 9/11) and thankfully we have an administration that realized that it was time to use the stick and to hell with a limp carrot!

Tlaloc said...

"Why is it then that American troops continually find pornography and drugs during raids of insurgent camps? "

Well first of all only a tiny tiny fraction of the Iraqi insurgency is related in any way to Al Qaeda. Beyond that though there is a difference between the foot soldiers and the guys at the top.



"How do you explain OBL accepting US assistance against the Russians? We're the Great Satan for goodness sake."

Well if Satan wants to hand you weapons and training to be effective soldiers don't you take it? The essence of terrorism is practicality. It is a method of fighting a superior force with minimal effort. If your opponent wants to hand you a gun you take it.



"No one has proven that they were. But no one has proven that they weren't either, and the idea is far from preposterous."

Logically you can never prove a negative like that. But you can look at the 9/11 comission report which spells out the fact that all of the supposed contaccts between al-qaeda and Iraq were either fabrications or unsuccessful (i.e. they couldn't get past their differences).

Tlaloc said...

"Let's see... Iran's government is secular - check!"

Okay Buzz, stop. You just demolished your credibility and you are only seven words in.

Iran's government is anything but secular. It is run by the Ayatollah. Yes there is an elected president but who has all the power? The chief cleric. Seriously, look it up.

Don't believe me? Go to the CIA world fact book. Here's what it says about Iran's government:
"theocratic republic"

http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ir.html

In fact Iran's full name is the Islamic Republic of Iran.

tbmbuzz said...

"Let's see... Iran's government is secular - check!"

Okay Buzz, stop. You just demolished your credibility and you are only seven words in.



Whoops! Obviously I meant it all the other way. Change every instance of the word "secular" I used to "theocratic". Sorry for the confusion, my bad!

tbmbuzz said...

9/11 comission report which spells out the fact that all of the supposed contaccts between al-qaeda and Iraq were either fabrications or unsuccessful (i.e. they couldn't get past their differences).


The 9/11 Commission Report dealt with... 9/11! No one in the Bush administration ever claimed that Saddam was connected to 9/11. In fact, the only people saying this were dem/libs claiming the Bush administration said this.

Why don't you read David Kaye's report, who as I recall said that while Saddam turned out not to have stockpiles of WMD, the danger of a future conjunction between Saddam, WMD, and Al Qaeda was a grave risk, in other words, the possibility of Saddam's involvement in a future 9/11 was exceedingly great.

James Elliott said...

Matt,

“How do you explain OBL accepting US assistance against the Russians? We're the Great Satan for goodness sake.”

In the timeline scheme of things, Bin Laden took up Wahhabism after joining the mujahadeen in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda postdates the fall of the Soviet Union.

“If you want to say there's no evidence for partnership between Al Quaeda and Saddam, that's one thing (and it's not what Kathy said). No one has proven that they were. But no one has proven that they weren't either, and the idea is far from preposterous.”

You are quite correct. No one has proven that they were in collusion, or that Hussein gave substantive aid to al Qaeda. However, the argument that the secular Iraqi Ba’ath would have nothing to do with the fundamentalist al Qaeda is indeed simplistic and fallacious. Hussein was genius at triangulation with his enemies, and might well have considered some kind of alliance, the enemy of his enemy being his friend. However, religiously motivated terrorists, including al Qaeda, had a long history of targeting Hussein and his regime for assassination, partly for its secularism. That antagonism likely provided an insurmountable barrier to cooperation. The idea itself isn’t, on its face, preposterous due to a secular versus fundamentalist split. Their mutual hostility, however, does indicate that the theory of their cooperation stretches the boundaries of credulity.

Buzz,

“Let's see... Iran's government is secular - check!”

Not entirely accurate or inaccurate. Iran’s government is a very traditional Muslim government: Politicians “advised” by powerful clerics. They have certain distinct and other overlapping areas of authority.

“Saudi Arabia is secular, maybe - give it a check! Syria - nope.”

Saudi Arabia is an interesting case, ruled by a royal family that is split between religious modernists and Wahhabists. Again, Syria’s situation is more complex than that. Syria’s Ba’ath party, after splitting with Iraq’s forty years ago, has played to public perceptions. As the Syrian public became more accepting of extreme fundamentalism, the Ba’ath have embraced that same sentiment.

“ Jordan - nope.”

What? Jordan is a monarchy, not a theocracy.

“Lebanon - nope. Turkey - nope.”

Now you’re just making things up as you go! Lebanon’s government is hardly theocratic. Turkey is, with the death of Iraq, the only officially secular government in the Middle East.

“Libya - nope. Egypt - nope.”

Libya is totalitarian with religious sympathies. Again, you’re being too simplistic. Ditto Egypt.

“UAE - maybe? (I don't know).”

See Saudi Arabia.

“Sudan - probably; give it a check.”

Again, too simplistic.

“Tunisia - who knows? Algeria - nope. Morocco - nope.”

For Morocco, see the notes on Saudi Arabia and Iran.

“Pakistan - nope.”

Again, far too simplistic. I think you’re confusing the influence fundamentalist groups have with actual or official power structures.

“Afghanistan - used to be.”

Used to be… what? You were evaluating who is “secular” or not, and then make a statement confusing secular with theocratic. I’m beginning to think part of your simplicity is forgetting what you were arguing in the first place.

“Bangladesh and the SE Asian Muslim countries - nope.”

Again, far too simplistic. Try looking at it this way: When the Christian Right in this country talks about wanting Ten Commandments monuments in court houses and acknowledgment of Christianity’s primacy (as examples, not universal goals here; there’s lots of variation, I get that), this is basically the same thing that occurs in a lot of those countries you’re saying “nope” to, including the Southeast Asian countries, like Malaysia. Is it wholly secular? No. Is it theocratic? No. I know that absolutists and conservatives in general kind of have trouble with that whole “nuance” thing, but it really does help.

”While the religion of Islam certainly dominates in Islamic countries, their governments for the most part can hardly be called secular.”

Just as a future tip, I think I get what that sentence was getting at, but it’s constructed really poorly; so much so that it almost undermines your message completely.

“Considering that Saddam wore Islam on his sleeve whenever it was required, your argument holds no water. Furthermore, it has been disproven by many historical examples, such as the cooperation during WW2 of the USSR and the democratic Allied powers.”

I’m confused. You should at least reference your subjects here if you want people to give your thoughts any weight. I assume you’re referring to the “enemy of my enemy thing.”

“Saddam was allied with and supported numerous Islamic terrorist groups. Ever hear of Ansar al Islam? You are asking us to believe that 1) none of these terrorist groups were affiliated with or cooperated with each other, including Al Qaeda, 2) Saddam cooperated with, encouraged and supported ALL Islamic terrorist groups except Al Qaeda, and 3) Al Qaeda after being kicked out of Afghanistan was setting up shop everywhere but Iraq or retiring to the beaches of Tahiti.”

Not that you’re necessarily wrong (tone aside, it’s a good point), but you’re again being too simplistic. Not all Arab or SE Asian terrorist groups are religious in motivation or outlook. For example, the religious facet to Palestinian terrorism is a relatively new (last decade or so) phenomenon. There’s also a far cry from setting up shop somewhere or turning a blind eye, and willful material cooperation. Please don’t go making leaps of illogic where they’re not called for without further information.

”What Bush rightfully stopped in its tracks was the CERTAINTY of increased cooperation between Al Qaeda and an enemy state that had demonstrated its propensity to develop and use WMD, that was actively undermining UN sanctions against it and would have succeeded relatively soon to end these sanctions thanks to their allies in the UN, and that would have continued its aggression it had been practicing for the past quarter century.”

That’s a rather incredible leap of logic to make, not to mention a rather incredible run-on sentence. Seriously, that’s the kind of writing that makes English grammar teachers stab pencils into their eyes. Said “CERTAINTY” can only exist in one’s head, since no concrete evidence exists of minimal - let alone planned, material, or substantial – collaboration between al Qaeda and Iraq. Let’s be slightly fair to Iraq, here: the whole WMD thing appears to have been something between a bluff and a prayer, a fervent wish that had no substantial chance of being fulfilled; a substantial part of that quarter century of bellicosity was at the Reagan government’s behest; and if the sanctions were working so well that we needed to worry about their undermining, what then necessitated a military intervention?

”The Jimmy Carter appeasement approach to the world's scumbags, Islamic scumbags in particular, has already been proven not to work and simply makes things worse.”

As opposed to the Ronald Reagan Iran-Contra approach that worked wonders for nipping Wahhabist extremism in the bud? Give me a break.

“The Middle East was evolving into a situation that could no longer be tolerated (see 9/11) and thankfully we have an administration that realized that it was time to use the stick and to hell with a limp carrot!”

I was kind of waiting for the conflation of Iraq with 9/11 thing. By all means, please enlighten us to how invading the former could have prevented the latter, or in any ways measures up as a substantive and applicable response to it?

James Elliott said...

The 9/11 Commission Report dealt with... 9/11! No one in the Bush administration ever claimed that Saddam was connected to 9/11. In fact, the only people saying this were dem/libs claiming the Bush administration said this.

Buzz, this is wholly full of crap. Completely, entirely, utterly filled with crap. A very fast Google search of "Bush Iraq al Qaeda" turns up about 26,000,000 hits. For example there's this from June of 2004, or this which is from a 2002 speech and can be found at the official White House website. You're wrong, man. Dead wrong.

Why don't you read David Kaye's report, who as I recall said that while Saddam turned out not to have stockpiles of WMD, the danger of a future conjunction between Saddam, WMD, and Al Qaeda was a grave risk, in other words, the possibility of Saddam's involvement in a future 9/11 was exceedingly great.

We must have read different Kay reports, since his report said no such thing. Kay reported that Hussein wanted to resume WMD research at a future point. Like I've pointed out before, WMDs for Iraq were something between a bluff and a wish. What the Iraq Survey Group found were biological labs and substantive efforts towards acquiring improved missile delivery systems. The Kay Report also noted that threats of attack were most likely bluffs. The Kay Report is roundly criticized among the professional peace and security community for being almost entirely anecdotal in nature, lacking the concrete evidence most weapons inspectors would insist upon before drawing conclusions like he does. With the exception of that lack of concrete data, his findings almost mirror those of the IAEA.

Tlaloc said...

James beat me to it.

tbmbuzz said...

Let's keep this open, guys, but it may take me one or a few days to respond. Have a good weekend!

tbmbuzz said...

First off, I sure wish there were an editing capability on this board once a comment is published, but there isn’t. I had a bout with mental dyslexia and confused the term “sectarian” with “secular” and thus my post makes no sense. (Of COURSE Turkey is the most secular of Islamic countries, I know that! LOL). Thus I have no issues in general with James’ list of Islamic countries and their degree of secularism and sectarianism. In general, my observation is that the countries of the Islamic Middle East reflect the desert tribal strongman culture of the region, but which ties in intimately to Islam and its underlying fundamentalist elements as a very primitive and harsh religion, probably to a greater extent in its inherent antagonism to ALL other cultures and religions than the Left seems to be willing to believe. That said, let’s get down to some specific disagreements now.

“If you want to say there's no evidence for partnership between Al Quaeda and Saddam, that's one thing (and it's not what Kathy said). No one has proven that they were. But no one has proven that they weren't either, and the idea is far from preposterous.”

You are quite correct. No one has proven that they were in collusion, or that Hussein gave substantive aid to al Qaeda. However, the argument that the secular Iraqi Ba’ath would have nothing to do with the fundamentalist al Qaeda is indeed simplistic and fallacious. Hussein was genius at triangulation with his enemies, and might well have considered some kind of alliance, the enemy of his enemy being his friend. However, religiously motivated terrorists, including al Qaeda, had a long history of targeting Hussein and his regime for assassination, partly for its secularism. That antagonism likely provided an insurmountable barrier to cooperation. The idea itself isn’t, on its face, preposterous due to a secular versus fundamentalist split. Their mutual hostility, however, does indicate that the theory of their cooperation stretches the boundaries of credulity.


So which is it? You are arguing both sides here. This paragraph makes absolutely no sense. Furthermore, to suggest that Saddam would cooperate with and support many Islamic-type terrorist organizations but absolutely not Al Qaeda is frankly ludicrous.

Again, far too simplistic. Try looking at it this way: When the Christian Right in this country talks about wanting Ten Commandments monuments in court houses and acknowledgment of Christianity’s primacy (as examples, not universal goals here; there’s lots of variation, I get that), this is basically the same thing that occurs in a lot of those countries you’re saying “nope” to, including the Southeast Asian countries, like Malaysia. Is it wholly secular? No. Is it theocratic? No. I know that absolutists and conservatives in general kind of have trouble with that whole “nuance” thing, but it really does help.

The religion of Islam in Islamic countries, particularly in the Middle East, is far more intimately tied in with the structures of government and power than Christianity is in any country. Your breathlessly paranoid view of the so called Christian Right in the U.S. is hardly analogous.

”While the religion of Islam certainly dominates in Islamic countries, their governments for the most part can hardly be called secular.”

Just as a future tip, I think I get what that sentence was getting at, but it’s constructed really poorly; so much so that it almost undermines your message completely.

Thank you for the tip. If the word “secular” is changed to “sectarian” does the construction of the sentence meet with your approval?


“Considering that Saddam wore Islam on his sleeve whenever it was required, your argument holds no water. Furthermore, it has been disproved by many historical examples, such as the cooperation during WW2 of the USSR and the democratic Allied powers.”

I’m confused. You should at least reference your subjects here if you want people to give your thoughts any weight. I assume you’re referring to the “enemy of my enemy thing.”


Yes, it’s the enemy of my enemy thing, but the US-USSR cooperation during WW2 analogy is really somewhat of a stretch, as despite your assertions, Saddam and Islamic fundamentalists were not the enemies you make them out to be.

“Saddam was allied with and supported numerous Islamic terrorist groups. Ever hear of Ansar al Islam? You are asking us to believe that 1) none of these terrorist groups were affiliated with or cooperated with each other, including Al Qaeda, 2) Saddam cooperated with, encouraged and supported ALL Islamic terrorist groups except Al Qaeda, and 3) Al Qaeda after being kicked out of Afghanistan was setting up shop everywhere but Iraq or retiring to the beaches of Tahiti.”

Not that you’re necessarily wrong (tone aside, it’s a good point), but you’re again being too simplistic. Not all Arab or SE Asian terrorist groups are religious in motivation or outlook. For example, the religious facet to Palestinian terrorism is a relatively new (last decade or so) phenomenon. There’s also a far cry from setting up shop somewhere or turning a blind eye, and willful material cooperation. Please don’t go making leaps of illogic where they’re not called for without further information.


No way. The religious aspect of Middle Eastern terrorism as relates to Islam has ALWAYS been there. The Palestinian problem, for instance, directly derives from Islam and its hatred of Jews. Note that there was no Palestinian problem when the mythical nation of Palestine was oppressed by the Turks over many centuries. Note that the Palestinians and the terrorist groups that dominate them have no problem with Jordan or any of their Arab “brothers” who treat them like second hand crap. There is one aspect common to ALL the terrorist groups we are at war with, namely, Islam. That’s I-S-L-A-M. What is simplistic is the notion that Al Qaeda was not going to set up shop elsewhere (and not be covertly supported by these states at the very least), the highest probability being the three countries directly to the west of Afghanistan – Iran, Iraq and Syria. What is simplistic is the notion that in the Middle East no communication or cooperation between and among terrorist groups and elements of the governments occur. The Middle East is a culture ruled by Byzantine intrigue, where lying is an art form and underhanded deals are constantly made and broken, where backstabbing is considered honorable activity. What is even more simplistic is the implicit assumption that our intelligence services, whose record as regards the Middle East is quite spotty, would have uncovered every single activity by the various terrorist groups and elements of certain governments that operate under cover.

”What Bush rightfully stopped in its tracks was the CERTAINTY of increased cooperation between Al Qaeda and an enemy state that had demonstrated its propensity to develop and use WMD, that was actively undermining UN sanctions against it and would have succeeded relatively soon to end these sanctions thanks to their allies in the UN, and that would have continued its aggression it had been practicing for the past quarter century.”

That’s a rather incredible leap of logic to make, not to mention a rather incredible run-on sentence. Seriously, that’s the kind of writing that makes English grammar teachers stab pencils into their eyes. Said “CERTAINTY” can only exist in one’s head, since no concrete evidence exists of minimal - let alone planned, material, or substantial – collaboration between al Qaeda and Iraq. Let’s be slightly fair to Iraq, here: the whole WMD thing appears to have been something between a bluff and a prayer, a fervent wish that had no substantial chance of being fulfilled; a substantial part of that quarter century of bellicosity was at the Reagan government’s behest; and if the sanctions were working so well that we needed to worry about their undermining, what then necessitated a military intervention?


The incredible leap of logic to make is that there is no way that Saddam would have cooperated with Al Qaeda. Your head-in-the-sand assertions to the contrary, there is ample evidence of contact and cooperation with the two, and more is being released every day. I am always incredulous at the Left which seems to bend over backward to give every benefit of the doubt to dictators (as long as they are Leftist or anti-American), and right here is a classic example! Admittedly, for the time being Iraq’s WMD capability seems to have been a bluff by Saddam, especially as regards nuclear capability, although the jury is still out on chemical and biological agents that were never accounted for by UN inspectors and which are still missing. But the whole point that the dictator-coddling Left deliberately ignores is that Saddam’s ambitions and motivations for obtaining WMD never went away, and post-9/11 the risk of such ambition being fulfilled by an enemy dictator who controlled an incredibly resource-rich state, in very possible collaboration with terrorist allies, was unacceptable. For you Leftists this is “simpleminded” thinking. Well, pal, I’d rather be simpleminded than dangerously naïve.

By the way, many thanks, James, for pointing out my run-on sentence faux pas, I was unaware that there was a requirement for grammatical and syntactic perfection in a first draft of a comment on a message board, but I am glad you are doing your duty as the board’s selective grammar and straw man and tone cop, and maybe in addition you ought to take on the task of pointing out typos and speling errors too since you’re so conscientious, but anyway, wow, none of my English teachers were blind or one-eyed.


”The Jimmy Carter appeasement approach to the world's scumbags, Islamic scumbags in particular, has already been proven not to work and simply makes things worse.”

As opposed to the Ronald Reagan Iran-Contra approach that worked wonders for nipping Wahhabist extremism in the bud? Give me a break.


No, give ME a break. Again, what’s with your hate Reagan fetish? What in the hell does this have to do with Reagan and Iran-Contra or somehow having the U.S. come up with a policy in the 1980’s to “nip” a problem that was completely off the world’s radar? I misspoke anyway; I should have added Bill Clinton to the equation and his look the other way approach to major overt attacks on American interests by Islamic terrorists during his administration that eventually culminated in 9/11. (Yeah, yeah, we know, Bush did nothing either for the first 8 months of his presidency, but unlike Clinton, he DID respond forcefully to the next attack).

“The Middle East was evolving into a situation that could no longer be tolerated (see 9/11) and thankfully we have an administration that realized that it was time to use the stick and to hell with a limp carrot!”

I was kind of waiting for the conflation of Iraq with 9/11 thing. By all means, please enlighten us to how invading the former could have prevented the latter, or in any ways measures up as a substantive and applicable response to it?


Who besides you is saying that 9/11 could have been prevented by invading Iraq? It is FUTURE 9/11’s we are talking about. Surely you are not saying that analogously a pre-emptive strike and invasion of Afghanistan long before 9/11 might have prevented 9/11? Come to think of it, you ARE saying this. This is not simply about Iraq, Afghanistan or Osama, it is about the entire Middle East and the increasing mess it was becoming, a mess that after 9/11 was unacceptable. Iraq is a crucial strategic country dead center in the Middle East, and much as you and the Left disagree with the notion, cleaning up Iraq is a legitimate strategy to remaking the Middle East and its relation to the rest of the world. Whether this strategy will meet with success is admittedly debatable – and the Left has already declared failure prematurely – but the strategy of doing nothing has already been proven to be a failure.


The 9/11 Commission Report dealt with... 9/11! No one in the Bush administration ever claimed that Saddam was connected to 9/11. In fact, the only people saying this were dem/libs claiming the Bush administration said this.

Buzz, this is wholly full of crap. Completely, entirely, utterly filled with crap. A very fast Google search of "Bush Iraq al Qaeda" turns up about 26,000,000 hits. For example there's this from June of 2004, or this which is from a 2002 speech and can be found at the official White House website. You're wrong, man. Dead wrong.


What part of this don’t you understand? "This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al Qaeda," Bush said. "We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda."
I read through the speech you cited and nowhere do I see any mention of Saddam being complicit in 9/11. Closest to your claim are the out-of-context remarks by Cheney published in the liberal Washington Post. True, the Bush administration has claimed ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq, ties that after 9/11 were increasing; to the Left’s dismay, the administration acted accordingly. Too bad, eh?



Why don't you read David Kaye's report, who as I recall said that while Saddam turned out not to have stockpiles of WMD, the danger of a future conjunction between Saddam, WMD, and Al Qaeda was a grave risk, in other words, the possibility of Saddam's involvement in a future 9/11 was exceedingly great.

We must have read different Kay reports, since his report said no such thing. Kay reported that Hussein wanted to resume WMD research at a future point. Like I've pointed out before, WMDs for Iraq were something between a bluff and a wish. What the Iraq Survey Group found were biological labs and substantive efforts towards acquiring improved missile delivery systems. The Kay Report also noted that threats of attack were most likely bluffs. The Kay Report is roundly criticized among the professional peace and security community for being almost entirely anecdotal in nature, lacking the concrete evidence most weapons inspectors would insist upon before drawing conclusions like he does. With the exception of that lack of concrete data, his findings almost mirror those of the IAEA.


Point conceded, David Kay did not mention Al Qaeda or terrorism. I do recall – and this is seared in my memory – watching an interview in which he said that Saddam was a grave and gathering threat. His report also said more than “Hussein wanted to resume WMD research at a future point”; it said that R&D and efforts to obtain materials in all three WMD programs were ongoing, as well as efforts to develop illegal missile technology. Also, I don’t see anywhere in the report that Saddam was “bluffing”.
“Peace and security community”? Now that’s funny, one of the funniest oxymorons I’ve ever seen!
Bottom line, I guess, nothing is settled here. The world views of Left and Right are too far apart to meet in some kind of amorphous center.