"It [the State] has taken on a vast mass of new duties and responsibilities; it has spread out its powers until they penetrate to every act of the citizen, however secret; it has begun to throw around its operations the high dignity and impeccability of a State religion; its agents become a separate and superior caste, with authority to bind and loose, and their thumbs in every pot. But it still remains, as it was in the beginning, the common enemy of all well-disposed, industrious and decent men." ~ H.L. Mencken
The War Street Journal
I've heard people refer to the businessman's treasure as the War Street Journal, but I just assumed that this had more to do with the clever play on words than with the Journal's bias. I mean really, compared to Fox 'News,' how bad could it be?
Pretty bad. A colleague emailed me Tuesday's editorial, 'The Central Front,' which fawns over President Bush's (September 7) address on the Iraqi mess. As I read the piece, my jaw literally dropped, not because the editors were pro-war, but because their arguments in defense of Bush were so bad. Just about every sentence is worthy of rebuttal, but in the interest of brevity, I'll stick to the particularly disturbing passages. So without further delay, let us begin at the beginning:
Yes, sure, President Bush's remarks to the nation Sunday evening could have come sooner. But the critics can no longer claim that Mr. Bush hasn't been forthright about either his strategy for victory in Iraq , or the cost of achieving it.
Well that's a neat trick. Bush & Company can consistently pooh-pooh, over a period of several months, the antiwar critics who warned of quagmire in Iraq , and who predicted that our troops would be sitting ducks for angry Arabs. Then when Bush finally admits reality, the WSJ takes the opportunity to point a finger at those critics. Did the WSJ take a similar stance during the Monica Lewinsky scandal? That is, when Clinton stopped denying the affair and switched to a different tack (while never of course admitting, 'I've been lying so far up till now'), did the Journal congratulate him on it?
There's two other, minor things in the above quote that irritate me. First, in what sense is Bush now being 'forthright' about his 'strategy for victory' in Iraq ? After all, his apologists in the media allow him to change his strategy every two weeks! And second'and I realize how pansy this will sound to the conservative warhawk crowd'it really gives me the creeps when the defenders of our military adventures adopt such a smug tone ('Yes, sure . . .') as the WSJ editors do in their very first sentence. You'd think they were discussing a farm subsidy, not our continued occupation of a foreign country where hundreds of our troops and thousands of civilians have already died. But on to the next paragraph:
' Iraq is now the central front' in the war on terror, he [Bush] told the country. 'Enemies of freedom are making a desperate stand there'and there they must be defeated. This will take time and require sacrifice.' He proved the latter point by announcing a request to Congress for $87 billion more for Iraq , Afghanistan and the war on terror . . . .
What can I do with Bush's statement, except point out the convenient assumption that anybody attacking U.S. troops is by definition an enemy of 'freedom'? Regardless of your opinion on whether we should have invaded Iraq, is it really so inexplicable that native Iraqis might resent a foreign occupying power, and might not regard these invaders'who have killed thousands of their neighbors but have yet to restore basic services such as electricity'as the vanguards of 'freedom'? But what bothers me in the above quotation the most is the editors' claim that Bush 'proved' the Iraqi occupation would 'require sacrifice' by his budget request. This gives the impression that the antiwar critics'again, the ones who were warning how expensive this mess would be'weren't prescient, and that the war doesn't really cost anything until Bush makes a request from Congress.
So far the Journal has just been warming up. A few paragraphs later they demonstrate that, no matter what he does, Bush can do no wrong:
Some critics, especially Democrats, hailed the speech as a U-turn. And they have a point in that Sunday's sober remarks were an implicit admission [not explicit, mind you'RPM] that Mr. Bush's aircraft-carrier speech on May 1 was a premature celebration. The Administration underestimated the ferocity of the guerrilla campaign in Iraq '.But in a larger strategic sense, Mr. Bush's May 1 speech was the exception and Sunday's remarks more consistent with his themes since September 11.
It should stop happening by now, but these defenses continue to amaze me. Regarding the forged documents alleging the Iraq-Niger connection, the Bush apologists kept harping on the mere sixteen words in Bush's State of the Union address'nothing to get worked up about, and certainly not evidence that Bush was a liar. But now the Journal would have us throw out an entire speech (on May 1) because, if you look at the general tenor of Bush's other statements, he's basically been spot-on.
The Journal then goes on to cite the 'flypaper excuse' for the continued occupation and the mounting loss of U.S. soldiers: '. . . we are better off fighting [the war on terror] far from our shores, in places like Iraq , rather than place our hope in a Maginot Line called 'homeland security.'' On this strange argument'in which any attack on U.S. troops just proves how many people hate us, and thus justifies U.S. invasions'I can do no better than refer you to Gene Callahan's scathing critique.
The Journal then proceeds to the following bit of analysis (this is the one that made my jaw drop):
In this, as in so many ways, the American public is wiser than political and media elites. The Washington Post devoted page-one space the other day to a piece professing amazement that some Americans still think Saddam had something to do with 9/11. (Those rubes outside the Beltway again!) But Americans realize that al Qaeda and Saddam share a common goal of killing Americans and driving us from the Middle East . They don't need proof of collusion beyond a reasonable doubt to know that ridding the world of a dictator who supports terror is an act of American defense.
What is going on here?? There has been no concrete evidence'beyond assurances from the Administration'linking Iraq to 9/11, and yet the Washington Post is just being elitist for chiding Americans who believe otherwise? Don't the Journal editors think it's important for Americans to at least be aware of the facts before they blow up more foreigners in an effort to protect ourselves? Well, regardless of the Journal's tolerance, American ignorance certainly bothers me. Call me a snob, but it really disturbs me that most Americans probably think our invasion was justified because of WMD, even though our troops have yet to find anything. What rubes!
The Journal's final argument in defense of the continued occupation is also a whopper:
The table nearby shows the number of Americans who have died in major acts of terrorism in the past decade, followed by the casualties from fighting terror since 9/11. The 2,956 murdered by terrorists, nearly all non-combatants, exceed by nearly eight times the 374 who have died fighting back.
And there you have it: The mounting deaths in Iraq are acceptable losses, because of the (unproven) assertion that invading foreign countries will prevent terrorist attacks on the U.S. I will close with just one question: Does anybody think that if U.S. troops occupy Iraq indefinitely, and the death toll eventually tops 2,956, that then the WSJ will suggest we pull out? Of course not. At that point, the warhawks would once again shift arguments, and this time cite the horrific casualties as proof that we need more troops in Iraq .
I can understand the desire to punish somebody after 9/11. I can also understand the lack of sympathy for a brutal dictator like Saddam. But I really can't understand how Bush apologists can make some of these arguments, constantly changing, with a straight face. I suppose someone could have made a defensible, consistent argument for the invasion of Iraq and now its continued occupation, but I no longer expect it from the major conservative commentators.