From Abracadabra to Zombies
is a commentary on
mass media treatment of issues concerning science, the
paranormal, and the supernatural.
Skeptimedia replaces Mass Media Funk and Mass Media Bunk. Those blogs are now archived.
A Blot on America's Record
6 June 2009
I have been a fan of your site (and still am for the most part) for many years. I saved the emails that you responded back to me. I bought your book. And I recognized you right away on your appearance on Penn & Teller's "Bullshit" (again congrats on that).
reply: For some reason, I suspect your tone is about to change.
Your recent article 'A Blot on America's Record' is disturbing, an over-the-top self-loathing example of the ignorance found in Liberalism.
reply: I'm glad you're not beating around the bush. Obviously, you found my comments disturbing, and, as a good liberal, I will defend your right to express your contempt, but I deny the charge of ignorance. I may be stupid, and I may see things differently than you do, but I am not ignorant of what the Bush administration did in the name of liberty and self-defense.
It is no different than Holocaust deniers or the 9/11-was-an-inside-job crowd. You are a denier that war took place on our soil. What we faced on Sep 11 was war, not a mere "crime." Nor was it even a "black swan" of a crime. WE WERE ATTACKED IN AN ACT OF UNPROVOKED WAR ON SEP. 11 2001! It bears repeating: WE WERE ATTACKED IN AN UNPROVOKED ACT OF WAR ON SEP. 11 2001!
reply: Using shout caps and repeating the claim doesn't give it more credence. It is still just an assertion. When Japan sent airplanes to bomb Pearl Harbor, it engaged in an unprovoked act of war. When the U.S. sent troops and bombs into Iraq the U.S. engaged in a provoked act of war. Being provoked doesn't make it justified. Giving the enormity of the decision, there should have been overwhelming evidence supporting the claim that we needed to attack Iraq as an act of self-defense. There wasn't.
So, what is the evidence that 9/11 was an act of unprovoked war? I'm sure there are many members of Al-Qaeda who think the act was provoked, whether you call it an act of war or a heinous crime.
Thousands of Americans and hundreds of foreign guests were murdered, billions of dollars were lost in damage, the World Trade Center was destroyed. All caused in a highly planned act of war that had been escalating over a decade. The Pentagon itself was hit! Countries all over the world ducked and took cover, fearing this attack would hit them as well. Buckingham Palace sounded their alarm, the Malaysia Petronas Towers evacuated, people watched all over the world in horror (with the exception of Iraq, the Palestinians, Iran.)
reply: You are clearly suggesting that not only was the United States attacked by Iraq, Palestine, and Iran on September 11, 2001, but that these three countries—though technically Palestine isn't a country—had been allies in acts of war for over a decade. I've never heard this claim before and would like to see the evidence for it. You are familiar with the history of relations between Iraq and Iran, aren't you? Your thesis is extraordinary and cries out for at least a few bits of evidence to support it.
The fear generated by the terrorist acts on 9/11 was generated by the history of terrorism, not the history of countries joining together to attack other countries. Terror is a tactic, not a country.
Our response had to be different from the previous steps taken after a Muslim terrorist attack in the past. Former Vice-President Cheney took it to the American people in a great speech recently that addressed the current administration's lack of credibility on the issue. The World Trade Center had been attacked years earlier and arrest warrants were handed out. The USS Cole was attacked by the same people, killing US sailors. US embassies were destroyed in Africa, and America shrugged it off. War was declared on us by a people who justify their attacks on us because we have a free and open society; one of their grievances was that women have jobs and even full careers outside of the home. We were attacked because we are the symbol to the world of freedom, personal choice and expression and above all liberty. We do not have a "regime." The regimes of the world do not allow freedom. The regimes of the world harbor the terrorists that are at war with us.
reply: I'm not going to evaluate Cheney's self-serving speech in defense of his administration's actions in response to 9/11 and his attempt to belittle the Obama administration. You continue to assert, without proof, that terrorist acts are acts of war. Where is your evidence that Iraq harbored terrorists hell-bent on destroying anything representing progress and freedom, those two great values of liberalism? We were justified in invading Afghanistan because there was strong evidence that the Taliban was allowing Osama bin Laden to train terrorists there. Bin Laden thinks the U.S. is responsible for most of the evil in the world, so he trains his minions to harm Americans anywhere on the planet. That justifies the U.S. in trying to kill or capture him. (We would have been justified in attacking parts of Pakistan, in my opinion, for the same reason, but that's another story.) We had no right, however, to engage in any further action in Afghanistan once we had eliminated the terrorist training camps. However evil or corrupt the regimes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Iraq, and dozens of other countries around the globe, we have no right to invade and set up pro-American democracies in those places. George Bush's claim that his foreign policy was to spread democracy because he believes that it is God's will to do so is reprehensible and never should have been tolerated.
Your (still mostly good) website would be reason enough to imprison and/or execute you in many of the countries that harbor the Muslim terrorists we are at war with. President Bush had it right: Freedom itself WAS (and still is) under attack; and the Bush administration knew who the bad guys were and how to deal with them. Our government did not respond irrationally. Our government's response was in no way a "comparison" to the devastation we suffered as a nation. Our government does not use commercial aircraft as a missile to target civilian buildings filled with people! As you cry for Ali Mohammed Abdelaziz, shedding your crocodile tears, remember this, Ali would have taken any chance he had to kill you, your family, all your loved ones; and then laugh in court knowing that his prison sentence would be a cake walk, a place for him to recruit people like Abdulhakim Muhammad who gunned down two Army soldiers--who just finished recruit basic training-- outside a recruitment center in Arkansas.
reply: As much as Bush and Cheney would like you to think that terrorists can attack "freedom," the notion is absurd. They can attack symbols of free trade and they can kill women who dare to go to school, but you can't attack freedom any more than you can break it in half or eat it. Freedom is an abstraction and is used entirely for its emotive impact. The word arouses feelings. We're all for it and against anything that opposes it. We support anyone who will defend it.
If you are just comparing the number of lives lost or destroyed and the amount of physical damage to property done, then the U.S. response has been grossly disproportionate to the harm done on 9/11.
I don't know why you think I'm sympathetic to Ali Mohammed Abdelaziz because I express my disgust at torturing someone to get him to lie so you can use his lie as evidence to support your claim that you are justified in attacking another country. I also don't know why you wouldn't want him brought to the U.S. for interrogation instead of killed in a Libyan jail.
The fact that Abdelaziz, Abdulhakim Muhammad, or thousands of other Muslim terrorists would kill me or any other stranger because of their demented view of religion and justice doesn't justify the U.S. in attacking sovereign nations, however evil their regimes might be. In fact, Abdulhakim Muhammad might not have been provoked to murder had the U.S. not been engaged in killing Muslims in Iraq. Who knows? He might just be a nut case like James von Brunn (the self-proclaimed white supremacist who murdered a security guard at the Holocaust Museum) or the Christian terrorist Scott Roeder, charged with murdering a doctor who ran an abortion clinic. By the way, terrorism achieves some small victories at times. When Roeder was informed that Dr. Tiller's clinic was being closed for good, he said "good, good."*
Saddam thumbed his nose at the UN agreements he made after the Kuwait invasion over 10 years time. During this time he played cat-and-mouse with the international community. This new heightened War on Terror we became engaged in could not allow us to trust Saddam's restraint. The war in Iraq is Saddam's war. He could be in power in Iraq right now, brutalizing his people, his sons still feeding the women they rape to their pet lions, had he merely agreed to appear to cooperate with us. President Bush gave Saddam plenty of time to comply. Several countries agreed to give him asylum. He chose to face down the US military and got what was coming to him: a death sentence by a democratic Iraq. Following your logic, or lack of it, that somehow, because more terrorists were killed in Iraq than those who were murdered in the 9/11 attacks is some reason for not going in, in the first place is just too stupid to adequately address here.
reply: In retrospect, Saddam was very stupid. You are probably right in assuming that other Muslim nations would have done nothing about his cruel regime. Iraq would be brutally ruled and the people would not be free to enjoy the benefits of a good economy, protection of their rights, and voting in elections where the outcome is uncertain. (Saddam once got every vote that was cast in his country.) Saddam deserved to die, but so do a number of other rulers in a dozen other nations. Even so, the U.S. has no right to play world policeman and spread democracy by force.
I think you are smart enough to recognize that I never claim clairvoyance, which is what I would need to argue that we weren't justified in invading Iraq because we would kill more terrorists than the number of civilians the 9/11 terrorists killed. That would be a very stupid claim and I don't see how you read that into my article. For the record, several thousand died on 9/11. By 2006, more than 650,000 Iraqis had died after our invasion. (That's at least twice as many as died under the entirety of Saddam's regime.) The toll is now estimated at over 1,000,000 Iraqis dead.* This we've done to a country that never hurt us, did not attack us, did not support Al-Qaeda, did not have weapons of mass destruction, and was no threat to our security or freedom.
I take this seriously. I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps because I believe in the mission President Bush set for us. His course is sound, just, American, and right. I have been on two combat deployments to Iraq with another quickly approaching to Afghanistan. I can assure you that no other major world power in all of world history has gone to the effort that we take to minimize damage, to not target civilians and to treat detainees humanly. Whatever enhanced techniques were used were done with the highest regard to immediate national security, and even then in extreme self-restraint as Cheney explained in his TV address several weeks ago. Whenever detainees were abused, those responsible face court martial. No other major power in world history has ever placed such large self-restraints to its military in a combat situation with our rules of engagement and escalation of force and our own moral conduct. We do this because we are a just and moral people, we do this because we are the good guys. We do this so that we may claim the moral high ground, to never be impugned by anyone with an idiotic comparison to the terrorists and us!
reply: I also take this seriously. I'm sure you have your reasons for believing Cheney. You are wrong about justice being done to those who tortured. Only a couple of low level soldiers have taken the fall for the higher-ups who condoned, encouraged, or ordered such behavior. The U.S. lost any claim to the high moral ground long ago. This is not the place to go over Vietnam, the installation of the Shah of Iran, the decades of support given to brutal dictatorships (as long as they professed to be anti-communist), CIA assassinations of government leaders, covert foreign policies that involved selling weapons to Iran and training Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in the very terrorist techniques he used against us. From a foreigner's perspective, U.S. foreign policy over the past fifty years probably looks like terrorism.
Iraq is but one front of the War on Terror. (And there really is a War on Terror. I have my GWOT-Global War on Terror Campaign Ribbon which represents our active engagement in this campaign.) I am very proud to be in this period of American history. I am very proud to have served with the Marines in my battalion in Iraq. I am proud of the eight years of the Bush administration. I am proud that even though we were hit by such a devastating attack on our financial center, despite those losses, our prosperity hit new heights and our economy soared (for a majority of those 8 years.) Our freedoms come at a price; your lifestyle in this country, your loved ones' security comes at the price of those of us who train and engage in violence so that you may sleep peaceably at night.
reply: I agree with George Carlin that pride is inappropriate for things that don't involve effort and accomplishment. Thus, I don't think it makes sense to say I'm proud to be Irish or I'm proud to be an American. Serving in the marines is an accomplishment, as is fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq. You can and should be proud of your service. You may be part of an effort that eventually leads to an Iraq that is free and democratic. Even so, that won't justify our invasion of that country.
Our prosperity hit new heights during the eight years of the Clinton administration and reached new lows during the Bush administration.
You are deluding yourself if you think that you are protecting the freedom of Americans at home by serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. The mission in Afghanistan has changed. We now seem to be hell-bent on regime building and preventing the Taliban from regaining any control anywhere. We should limit ourselves to destroying anyone who trains or supplies weapons to terrorists who are planning to use them on Americans anywhere on the planet. That is justified self-defense. Helping allies destroy subversives is also justified, but creating subversives by invading countries doesn't justify our continued presence there. As a liberal, I support progress in freedom and equality, but I do not support forcing other countries to be liberal democracies. I, too, would like to see the women of Afghanistan treated as equals to men. There are many unjust practices going on in many countries. It is not the role of the U.S., however, to right every wrong in every country. To do so is not liberalism; it is fanaticism.
9/11, as an act of war, is not a "reframing;" our government's response was not irrational and not unjustified. It enrages me that Liberals like yourself make the moral equivalence between Muslim terrorists who have brutalized their own people, with real cut-off-his-head torture, to the way I conducted myself on tour in Iraq in support for our country, your security. There is absolutely no comparison between the two. I am horrified how the educational establishment is so immersed in this insanity, of liberal moral relativism, to be so blinded by the tyranny of their liberal bias, unable to see who the good guys are. I pity you. I pity that the thirty years you have spent inside the walls of academe have left you fully ignorant to the last eight-and-a-half years of ongoing conflict and clueless to what our country is about and what led to our greatness. This mentality during WWII would have left the world in the hands of Nazi Germany. Your reasoning would have stopped the creation of our country in the first place, leaving us like the Canadians or Australians who never had a Revolution, a Constitution, the liberty that we have. The entire Left that buys into this blame-America-first dribble is actively encouraging the likes of Kim Il, Hugo Chavez, Ahmadinejad, and the entire Al-Qaeda Network. That is the blot on America, the self defeating failures of Liberal ideology that lead to the dangerous outcomes of an American president declaring that Iran has a "right" to nuclear technology.
reply: You make a lot of claims, but you provide no evidence to back them up. You're just listing your beliefs, like some sort of creed. You make irrelevant comparisons to Nazi Germany. You make unsupported claims about my reasoning stopping the creation of the United States of America. You blow air about "the Left" and "liberal ideology." You take it for granted that only countries we approve of have a right to nuclear technology. Don't you think there are a few countries around the world that fear we might use our nuclear power against them? (Oh, I forgot. We're the good guys. We'd never use nuclear bombs on another country, right? Check your history book. Actually, I take that back. You need a different history book. The one you've been reading seems to have some missing sections. For your information, both Canada and Australia have Constitutions, and both enjoy a great deal of liberty.) There doesn't seem to be any thought behind your emotional outbursts. Your words are furious, but there is nothing to back them up.
Some things that you may have missed in all of this: WE, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ARE THE GOOD GUYS!
President Bush did not lead a "regime" any more than President Obama, who by the way, is applying an Iraqi style surge strategy to Afghanistan.
The PATRIOT Act is not more dangerous than Al Qaeda, I assure you.
Fox News Corp. and the Wall Street Journal were not "press secretaries" to the Bush Administration. (The case is certainly so that all major networks and news papers are an extension to the current administration.)
President Clinton, Senator Clinton, Vice President Gore, all stated publicly that Saddam was dangerous, had WMDs, and was a threat to our security.
The hijackers did come to this country to commit an act of war in the name of Islamic jihad, which was masterminded in foreign lands.
And lastly Rush Limbaugh is not under a rock, he's the biggest voice on radio, his audience is at its biggest ever and continues to grow, he is still brilliantly, flawlessly exceeding all expectations for his legions of Ditto-heads, and, yes, he is a National Treasure!
We cannot afford future generations to come to believe your reframing of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks on September 11, 2001. We cannot afford the garbage you wrote about to pass off as fact.
We must never forget!
reply: As I said, you make a lot of claims, but you provide no evidence to back them up. You're just listing your beliefs, like some sort of creed. There doesn't seem to be any thought behind your emotional outbursts. Your words are furious but there is nothing to back them up.
Finally, the Patriot Act is a greater threat to our freedom than Al-Qaeda because the latter can only bomb and kill a few of us at a time, while the former has led to the suspension of several Constitutional rights, the foundation of our liberty. The Patriot Act has also led to an atmosphere of secrecy that condones torture, renditions, and suspension of habeas corpus that "spit in the face of the Geneva Agreements and the principle of the Constitutional equivalency of treaties" (to quote John Renish)
10 June 2009
Thank you for your excellent analysis of the disaster that was the Bush administration, "A Blot on America's Record".
Most people forget that the disaster started well before 9/11, with secret energy meetings, bizarre tax cuts and deregulation and a mangling of the English language throughout the administration that was mind boggling (i.e., 'Clean Air Act'; 'Healthy Forrests Act; etc.)
I must take small exception with one of your (implied?) points, That is the idea that Clinton administration does not share culpability for the mess we're in. Had Clinton not rolled over on health care reform and not embraced the fantastical 'Reaganism' of 'trickle down', 'free market' nonsense and not thrown millions off Welfare to populate all the new prisons he was building, Bush could never gotten as far as he did in dismantling government to the point of complete negligence and incompetence that marked the last eight years. I think Clinton benefits from one of Bush's only positive traits: he can make anyone look good. He even briefly made a sympathetic character out of the butcher, Saddam Hussein.
Love your site and agree with you about 90% of the time.
reply: If anyone is expecting me to defend Clinton, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed.
* AmeriCares *