Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"War" May Ruin Logic

but it sure revives and restores Bush and Cheney!

Ted Rall is a gifted, if edgy, editorial cartoonist. I am finding his writing equally challenging and stimulating. Below, I am reproducing his recent essay, War Is Bad For Logic And Other Living Things almost in its entirety and almost in its original form. Of course, I couldn’t avoid my inclination to juice up its readability with a little color and page design. But, what follows is all Rall's. I’m still reserving my right to revise and extend my remarks in the comments section below.

War Is Bad For Logic
And Other Living Things
Peter Gelderloos writes in a relatively tangential passage in his thought-provoking book, How Non-Violence Protects the State,
What non-violent antiwar activists are unable to realize is that the most important resistance, probably the only significant resistance, to the occupation of Iraq is the resistance being waged by the Iraqi people themselves.
Although its appearance in The Nation guaranteed it would receive scant notice, a July 30 essay by Alexander Cockburn was one of the first to seriously address the most troubling internal contradiction of the anti-Iraq War left. War, everyone knows, is a zero-sum game. For one side to win, the other has to lose. If you "support our troops" you hope, at minimum, for their safe return. But each day a U.S. soldier survives at the front means another day he will occupy Iraq and another day he can kill Iraqi resistance forces. Supporting the troops, as right-wingers say, requires supporting their mission. Which means opposing the guys who are trying to kill them.

Cockburn quoted antiwar activist Lawrence McGuire:
The grand taboo of the antiwar movement is to show the slightest empathy for the resistance fighters in Iraq. They are never mentioned as people for whom we should show concern, much less admiration. But of course, if you are going to sympathize with the U.S. soldiers, who are fighting a war of aggression, then surely you should also [my emphasis] sympathize with the soldiers who are fighting for their homeland.
It kills me to say this, but neocon madman William Kristol was correct when he wrote in The Weekly Standard:
What mattered to the left was that it was dangerous politically not to 'support the troops.' Of course the antiwar left hated what the troops were doing... So 'supporting the troops' meant feeling sorry for them, or pretending to.
The 2004 discussion over U.S. soldiers who bought their own body plates, and resorted to "hillbilly armor" to protect their Humvees from roadside bombs, was a case in point. Antiwar pundits, including me, tried to drive a wedge between the Bush Administration and the military by pointing out that the Pentagon was pinching pennies at the expense of soldiers' lives. But what if you're an Iraqi? You risk your own life every time you place an IED along the "Highway of Death" between Baghdad and the airport. The more Americans you blow up, the closer you come to achieving your goal of liberating Iraq. The last thing you need is "antiwar" Americans agitating for stronger armor plates!

A parallel to World War II, "the good war" depicted in countless movies, is useful. You're a German citizen living in Berlin, and you hate the Nazis. You're against the war. Do you pray for the SS? Or the French Resistance? You can't do both. (Well, you could--but you'd be an idiot.)

The moral quandary forced upon the left is epitomized by Phyllis Bennis, an in-the-box wonk for the Institute for Policy Studies. She allows,
Certainly the Iraqi people have the right to resist an illegal occupation, including military resistance. But as a whole, what is understood to be 'the Iraqi resistance' against the U.S. occupation is a disaggregated and diverse set of largely unconnected factions, in which the various often-antagonistic armed movements (including some who attack Iraqi civilians as much as they do occupation troops) hold pride of place. There is no unified leadership that can speak for 'the resistance,' there is no NLF or ANC or FMLN that can claim real leadership and is accountable to the Iraqi population as a whole.
For most of World War II, the same was true of the French Resistance (history grants them the upper-case "R") too. Communists, socialists and even monarchists fought the Germans--and each other--until Charles de Gaulle's center-right faction prodded, bullied and ultimately muscled out his (more popular and more progressive) rivals. There were, as in Iraq today, French criminal gangs who fought solely for money. If this was 1943 and Bennis and other mainstream liberals were anti-Nazi Germans, would they "support what is called 'the French resistance'"?

As their Iraqi counterparts do today, the Free French carried out what the press of the period called "terrorist attacks." Kidnappings, assassinations and bombings were usually directed at government officials, German troops, and French collaborators--but civilians were also killed. So why does the antiwar left find the Iraqis distasteful?

Gelderloos argues that the post-Vietnam American left is hard-wired with reflexive pacifism, denying that violent militancy can ever be a valid tactic, even when faced with horrific oppression. Liberals frequently express disapproval of protestors who smashed windows at the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, and the Earth Liberation Front's (ELF) torching of SUVs at auto dealerships--even though no one got hurt.

Knee-jerk non-violence partly explains the left's reluctance to embrace the Iraqi resistance. Nationalism/patriotism is another factor. Who wants to see more funerals of American soldiers? And who wants to be smeared as the next "Hanoi Jane"?

Bennis writes that when she is
asked who I think will then take power [after U.S. forces leave Iraq], the only thing I can anticipate with any confidence is that first, I probably won't like them very much because they're likely to have a far more religious orientation than I like but that second, it's not up to me to choose who governs Iraq.
The Islamist and/or totalitarian ideology of many of Iraq's anti-U.S. factions is a turn-off to the secular American left. The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland worried aloud in late 2003, when the war against the occupation of Iraq heated up:
Not all of Iraq's resistance will fit [a] romantic, maquis image. Some will be Baathist holdouts, Saddamites who once served as henchmen to a murderous dictator. No progressive should want to see these villains land a blow on British or American forces.
This year, in the socialist New Politics, Stephen Shalom noted that
to give our automatic support to any opponent of U.S. imperialism means we should have supported the Taliban in 2001 or Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Since war is a zero-sum game, it's our guys or theirs. "Support the troops by bringing them home" is an empty slogan that belies reality. With both political parties supporting the war, U.S. troops are not going to come home any time soon. As Gelderloos writes:
The approach of the U.S. antiwar movement in relation to the Iraqi resistance does not merely qualify as bad strategy; it reveals a total lack of strategy, and it is something we need to fix.
It also exposes an ugly truth about antiwar lefties. They don't believe in national self-determination any more than George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

31 Moderated Comments:

Blogger Vigilante said...

The war for Iraq is over. We have been past so many mileposts, benchmarks, touchstones, waypoints, and time lines which have been announced, pronounced, proclaimed and prophesized by administrative spokesmen, that it should be impossible to argue the contrary. We are in occupation mode. The only nations which should feel at home in the occupying mode are traditional imperial powers. Russia comes to mind. Not America. For my fellow non-imperially minded Americans, an occupation would not be a zero-sum game. Occupations are not won or lost. Occupations are ended, and when they are ended, it’s a win-win situation, eventually. The occupied and the occupiers stop shedding each other’s blood, exhausting each other’s infrastructure, wasting each other’s futures.

I support our troops. I pray for their safe return. I do not support their mission, which they did not choose, which is to deny Iraqis the power to arrange their own affairs.

It’s the word ‘war’ which Bush and Cheney put on their fuckcastrophe. ‘War’ is the frame to which the warmongers have leashed our media like obedient poodles, which the so-called Leftists like Ted Rall embrace, and which has confounded our Congress, our politics, and our public discourse.

It's an occupation, Stupids!

10/10/2007 10:06:00 PM  
Blogger Messenger said...

You're right. Bush and Cheney are war-mongers. They sell wars (in the fall). But no one ever heard of occupation-mongers, because occupations can't be sold at any time of year.

10/10/2007 10:25:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

This just in, Messenger!

George W Bush is nominated for a Nobel Prize for Peace!

10/10/2007 10:36:00 PM  
Blogger Messenger said...

This vote on Turkish genocide against Armenians in Foreign-affairs committee is a case in point. On its face you can say this holocaust is a historical fact. The reactions of Turks is totally disproportionate: the mere fact that it cannot be discussed in Turkey proves it. Even current day Armenians living in Turkey are worried about their future safety should the full House pass this measure. If Turks weren't so defensive, they could easily pass resolutions on American ethnic cleansing of the Native American Indians, slavery or, for that matter, our current holocaust in Iraquagmire. So Turkish guilt is a historical fact.

Parenthetically, I'm not going to ask why Congress has suddenly appointed itself as the House of Truth and Judge of other peoples such as Turkey. Such as the Chinese in Tibet. Would that it be a little more focussed on the Bushopranos in Washington. But that's another story, isn't it?

What's more to the point is that if Turko-American relations are complicated by a full house vote, there are big repercussions in Iraq. Logistics can suddenly become more challenging without use of Bases in Turkey, at the same time as the British are withdrawing from Basra! Supplying our troops will become more difficult.

At the same time, one of the options to continued occupation of Iraq is American re-deployment/garrison in Kurdistan. To what extent will Turkish hostility adversely affect this redoubt?

Taking just these geopolitical consequences in mind, should those anti-OCCUPATION progressives in Congress vote for a finding of genocide in the case of Turks and Armenians?

I say definitely yes. Otherwise, truth itself will become yet another casualty of the Bush-Cheney mission. And it is the support of this mission itself which needs to be withdrawn.

10/11/2007 06:56:00 AM  
Blogger Flimsy Sanity said...

Excellent points. Hate the sin, love the sinner never did make sense to me.

10/11/2007 06:59:00 AM  
Blogger Bob Keller said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10/11/2007 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger Bob Keller said...

vigilante What a superb and thought provoking article! Thanks for the reprint and your comments.

On a side note (and in a rare moment of agreement), I really appreciated messenger's comments about the Armenian Genocide and the current Congressional debate. You can read my comments on that issue here.

To me there are three key issues in Iraq (and Ted Rall's essay). First, Iraq is an OCCUPATION, not a war... hasn't been for ages. I think Rall's point is even more important: You CANNOT support the troops if you don't favor or outright support the occupation!!

Second, Democracy has alway's been Bush's stated goal and I think he really believes it. But Democracy is messy!! And it's really messy in a nation divided into three distinct ethnic/religious groups!!! If you get a winner (control over the legislature), you are going to get two losers!!! America (i.e.Bush and Company) won't like the Islamic Democracy that results from the vote.

Finally, this is, in the end, a regional situation that is trending the wrong way for America and the west. Bush's failed occupation (with a ton of help from the Democrats in Congress) is giving regional control and power to Iran.

I have more to say, but I'll save it for an essay in my own blog.

10/11/2007 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger Kentucky Rain said...

This is a great article about the Iraq war. Did I say war? Yes! I said war (gasp). As long as soldiers are fighting, and people are dying, for whatever vague and\or malevolent cause this is still a war. Once the indigents can form a government that has meaning, build its own security and workable army, and can provide for the basic needs of the people it will be self-sustaining. If we are still there, barking the orders of Bush and killing and getting killed, then it will be an occupation. Right now it is a war, the rhetoric of the Puppet and Pacemaker aside.

10/11/2007 03:21:00 PM  
Blogger Boris said...

Mad-Mike is ever the water-carrier for Bush Co. And like all apologists and water-carriers, M-M has to contort himself. Listen to this contortion, for example:

"If we are still there, barking the orders of Bush and killing and getting killed, then it will be an occupation."

That's where we are M-M, and you can't call it an occupation? What is it? You have an aversion to polysyllabic words?

10/11/2007 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger DB Cooper said...

Does Mike suffer from a Hanoi Jane complex? If we promised not to call him "Mohammed Mike", would that encourage him to straighten out?

"George Bush, the occupation president", doesn't seem all that hard to say.

What's the matter, Mike? Swallow hard, take a deep breath, and try harder?

10/11/2007 05:57:00 PM  
Blogger Commander Zaius said...

I'm going to take a different tack here but I've read this a couple of times now and I've tried not to come to the conclusion that Rall is saying the anti-war movement in the country needs to embrace the Iraqi insurgents or resistance. If I'm off base here I'm very sorry Vigil. But if I'm not its going to be far easier for the anti-war movement just to take a butcher knife from the kitchen and slit their throats at home. Embracing the Iraqi insurgents is a Karl Rove/Fox Noise wet dream. The greater mass of the people in this country disconnected from the war because they have no one serving in it will none the less not take well to some street punk holding a sign supporting the insurgents. And talk about something thats going to mobilize the far right, holy shit Rall must be insane or on the neocon payroll. You want Rudy or Mitt living in the White House with a newly expanded Gitmo openly entertaining Americans, go ahead. And finally I don't know how many off y'all know people that have served in Iraq but everyone I've talked with call it a war. Vigil, you know how I respect and agree with you on many things but I'm going with their opinion on this one.

10/11/2007 07:12:00 PM  
Blogger Kentucky Rain said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10/11/2007 08:09:00 PM  
Blogger Kentucky Rain said...

Motley fools [and you know who you are......]never presume to call me a traitor to the cause and that is the inference I drew from your less than generous comments. Even a fool would know, from my long standing blog, and my writings in this and other forums, that I am hardly a defender [water carrier] of Bush and company. My friend Vigil and I have long enjoyed our discussions with regard to war and occupation. He has yet to show such disrespect for my opinions.

Secondly do not presume to instruct me as to war. I have been there and I know from whence I speak. I doubt you can make the same claim. I can tell by your writings that your armchair serves as your horse, and your pencils serve as your swords. Certainly you have never drank the blood of the enemy.

Finally, Vigil this was an excellent post and I appreciate that we have always been able to disagree without rancor.

Beach I enjoy your wisdom my friend.


10/11/2007 08:14:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

I stewed for some time before posting this article of Rall's; and stewed for some more time more before deciding on how to present it. I'm still not sure on what further directions this rich discussion might go - if any where. I'm sort of at a loss as to where to find my place in it now.

The first thing I have to say is that I have met up with the best of friends in these pages, all of whom are full of personal and intellectual integrity and with whom I can dare to bare all (almost all) because. . . because we have dared to disagree before without breaking off our conversations.

I do not say 'agree to disagree', especially in this instance (Occupation or War) where my dearest friends Mike and Beach and I disagree. I am not content or patient with this disagreement, because I sense this is that absolute ground-zero center as to what is dysfunctional with respect to the discourse about Bush's Quagmire: this is where the Congress, the media, and the whole collection of pundits and poseurs go wrong. It is why 'the least worst form of government' - democracy - has been unable to sort its way out of the Bush catastrophe.

It's fair, of course, for Beach and Mike to play their 'military experience' cards. I love them for it. Maybe their play trumps my experience as a Vietnam War resister. Maybe not. But, in any case, I am no authority addict. And, I know they aren't either.

But I do hope they will read the words published today by Col. Douglas MacGregor, (Ret.). Col. MacGregor seems to think the only 'war' associated with Iraq is being fought in the Washington D.C. theater, as I have said so before in these pages. I have excerpted his Washington's War among my files, so as not to further interupt this discussion with an overly, overly long comment.

I have gone to this trouble because I treasure our friendship as much as I treasure the (our) truth.

10/11/2007 11:04:00 PM  
Blogger Commander Zaius said...

Vigil, we are always cool. At least there is some good news today, Al is a co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Now if we could get his fat butt away from the potatoe chips and kissing Tipper on the couch and run.

10/12/2007 04:21:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Whoooahhhh, Beach! I'll always have your back!

10/12/2007 06:53:00 AM  
Blogger Blogging4Food said...

Beach Bum, Dan Quayle has your back, too!

10/12/2007 06:57:00 AM  
Blogger Commander Zaius said...

Damnit Blogging4food, your such a cog. But it takes one to know one.

10/12/2007 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

LMFAO, Beach! U-2 Food-blogger!

10/12/2007 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger Messenger said...

MacGregor writes:

From the moment we occupied central Iraq with no plan to leave, we were at war with a population humiliated by our presence; it is the kind of conflict the American military should not be asked to fight.

That is why the U.S. Marines are the first to request redeployment to Afghanistan. Occupation duty is beneath elite combat units. It is also beneath Regular Army, too, IMO. Occupation duty is not beneath mercenary Praetorian gaurds, though.

10/12/2007 01:28:00 PM  
Blogger Blogging4Food said...


Quayle likes you, too!

10/13/2007 06:14:00 AM  
Blogger Messenger said...

Beach is right. You are a cog, Food-Blogger.

10/13/2007 06:47:00 AM  
Blogger Indicted Plagiarist said...

No to your last point. George Bush, himself, was in holocaust-denial on October 10, 2007:

I urge members to oppose the Armenian genocide resolution now being considered by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. We all deeply regret the tragic suffering of the Armenian people that began in 1915. This resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings, and its passage would do great harm to our relations with a key ally in NATO and in the global war on terror.

All that happened was "historic mass killings".

10/13/2007 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger Sapo said...

I have never bought into the "support the troops" meme.

I support the removal of troops from Iraq because I do not support violence, of any kind.

Being anti-war means being against the violence perpetuated by both sides. Anyone know what it is accomplishing?

As for supporting armor for troops, the fewer people that die before we leave, the better.

10/13/2007 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

My short answer to this, M.D., is that I believe in the absolute necessity of military institutions for the defense of the realm in the narrow sense and the core interests of realm in the broader sense. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Inc., have taken the Department of Defense and changed it into a de facto department of offense. The difference is the same as that between trouble-shooting and looking for trouble. This cannot stand. If the American people do not repudiate the past scurrilous eight years' policy blight, then they should go ahead and change the name of the Pentagon's cabinet Secretary.

10/14/2007 06:24:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

"As for supporting 'up-armor' for troops", I don't believe I've said one word about it. That was one of the reasons I stewed over Ted Rall's piece. I was hoping someone in here could help me understand why I have not said anything about it.

Having now given it some thought: I believe we should cancel all the tax cuts for the wealthy and the budgets for the anti-ballistic missile program so we can finish the crash job of providing the best armor possible for our troops. We'll need it in Afghanistan.

10/14/2007 06:34:00 AM  
Blogger Indicted Plagiarist said...

No need to rename the DoD to DoO. The Department of Defense will be restored to its traditionally defensive role.

10/14/2007 08:04:00 AM  
Blogger Sapo said...


"Support the troops" = Support the mission = Support the killing (preferably from one's comfortable armchair)


"Support the troops" = Bring them home = Stop the killing

Cindy Sheehan:

Support the troops? I support only those who are NOT supporting the exploitation of the Iraqi people, and those who do not allow the war profiteers to carry on with their death and destruction all for the sake of an opulent lifestyle. I do not support those who are supporting a criminally insane and treacherous foreign policy. However I, as the mother of a slain soldier, will do anything I can to support all of them by working to shorten their stay in an unwelcoming country, and bring them home from the quagmire that their so- called commander in chief forced them into.

10/14/2007 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Cindy says it fine for me, too, M.D.

Autobiographical disclosure: In my senior college year I resigned from ROTC with two weeks to go before graduation. The reason(s) are for another day. But one of the very few truths pounded into me in this non-rigorous 4-year course of study were that the two highest priorities for any commander at any level were (A) accomplish the mission and (B) preserve the troops. Once the mission appeared unattainable, it was the DUTY of the commander to look after the safety of personnel serving under him.

We now have a bevy of ex-commanders of the Iraq theater telling the American people that Bush's foolish mission is unattainable. Yet Bush keeps finding 4-Star guys in the Pentagon and suits & ties in Congress to stand up and prolong this useless bloodshed until he can get his sorry ass out of the White House.

What, Dear Readers, would you call this?

10/14/2007 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger Sapo said...


It also exposes an ugly truth about antiwar lefties. They don't believe in national self-determination any more than George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

By calling for an end to the occupation, we are saying that Iraqis have a right to national self-determination.

Does that mean I also believe Iraqis should violently resist the occupiers of their country?


Do I understand why they resist?


Thanks, Vigilante. An interesting article.

You've inspired me to go watch Battle of Algiers again.

10/14/2007 02:00:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

You get it, M.D. You always do.

10/15/2007 10:09:00 AM  

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