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Aid and Comfort

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A week out from the midterm elections, things are tense. The air is thick with slung mud and bad blood.

As Republicans desperately struggle to hold on to the power they so richly deserve to lose, they're bringing out the big guns against a Democratic party poised to grab the power they scarcely deserve to hold.

A favorite weapon in this arsenal is the accusation that Democrats, with all their cut-and-runnery, are providing "aid and comfort" to the enemy. Terrorists in Iraq, so the argument goes, are emboldened by Democratic calls for troop withdrawal. (Heck, Dick Cheney basically said the terrorists vote Democrat just the other day.) If they can only hang on until after November, Speaker Pelosi and company will hand them a golden victory for jihad.

Now, as wantonly bandied about as this argument may be, it has the merit of being true. If the U.S. pulls out of a turbulent and broken Iraq, it will unquestionably be a victory for terrorism — both because the country would likely turn into a killing field (more so) and because defeating the U.S. would be a huge P.R. coup. Of course, there's no guarantee that a power shift to the Democrats would result in such a policy, but the Republicans are more than happy to scare people into thinking it would.

Conservatives and right-wingers like to believe they have rock-solid anti-terrorism credibility, and only the Democrats could possibly provide aid and comfort to the enemy. That's where they're wrong.

One of the crucial errors in the War on Terror so far has been the Bush cabal's inability to grasp the psychological aspects of the conflict. They've been far better at winning territory (and they haven't been very good at that) than they have been at winning hearts and minds. The reason is plain: they don't understand what they're up against.

This is by no means limited to the White House. These kinds of errors are propagated across the right-wing blogosphere and find their way into FOX News talking points as well.

The first way the right-wing is guilty of providing aid and comfort to the enemy is not even limited to the conservative mindset, although it finds its natural home there. Some well-meaning liberals fall into its trap as well. This is the tendency to conflate the worst aspects of Muslim intolerance with Islam in general. You see it in spades on sites like Michelle Malkin's blog and Instapundit, and, sadly, on Andrew Sullivan's blog, too. It reached its height during the Muhammad cartoon crisis, but it's evident every time some imam says something idiotic.

Terrorist groups like al Qaeda have gone out of their way to frame the War on Terror as a religious war; as a war not just against them, but against Islam as a whole. Whenever ill-informed pundits and politicos use the actions of a few to tar a culturally and doctrinally diverse group of over a billion people, they make al Qaeda's argument for them. Every time Muslims hear their religion is inherently violent or sick, or that they are by definition incapable of tolerance, Osama bin Laden's obscene philosophy gains a little strength.

Another way in which War on Terror partisans make life easier for the terrorists is by exaggerating the scope of the international terrorism "apparatus" in an effort to underline the threat we face. That's not to say there isn't a threat. There is, and it's grave. That said, attributing all of the various terror cells and splinter groups to one massive and far-reaching conspiracy — turning myriad ragged bunches of nihilists into a monolith of pure evil — confers an exaggerated power onto them. It's a power they would greatly like to possess, and couldn't without our help.

If we in the United States and the Western world as a whole are serious about confronting the problem of international terrorism and geopolitical upheaval, we need to be far more nuanced in our thinking. The problems are too real and too complex to be dumbed down for the election cycle and used as a battering ram against domestic political enemies.

The current administration has proven itself utterly incapable of taking anything other than an opportunistic and cynical approach to the problems of our age. The political opposition shows no signs of being any different in this respect.

And that's election season in a nutshell. Happy voting!

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  • Yes yes yes Absofuckinlutely. Good to see someone on this side of the argument for a change.


  • Peter J

    As difficult it is for the parties to use each other to gain voter confidence it is a hundredfold more difficult for a voter to come to any viable conclusions.
    Most of us can agree that what the Bush administration has done for Republicans is paralleled by what Kerry’s mouth has done for the Democrats.

    Probably the best thing we can do as the campaigning draws to a fevered pitch is to turn off the tv, the radio and put down the newspapers, at least as far as the elections go, and go with whomever you had already decided upon.

    The ridiculous banter and embarassing (are all of these candidates REALLY that stupid?) mudslinging has nothing to do with qualifications and it’s not likely that you’ll hear anything new or related to who is best suited for the job. Taking this into consideration it would be best to ignore the whole confounded mess and vote your what your heart was yesterday. Nothing good or wothwhile is about to come out of anyones mouth at this point.

  • Yes, but I would argue that Bush has managed to do far worse in 6 years than Kerry did in one speech, if we’re talking about outrage.

  • Great piece! I have said it myself many times here that it is time for a real third option. The GOP is evil and the DNC is uselesss. We would not be stuck in Iraq without the votes from BOTH SIDES. For them to pretend that one side opposes the war now is insulting to the American people.

  • Nancy

    Regardless of who wins, nothing is going to change, because neither side is going to want to go on record as DOING anything other than what they are doing now – which is NOTHING at all meaningful, lest they be called on it in the 2008 elections.

    I’ve already sent a hand-written letter to my congressmaggots, advising them that should they survive the coming elections, immediately thereafter I expect them to start earning the obscene & undeserved salaries & perks they’re getting and get their lazy, corrupt, fat, overprivileged butts to WORK on REAL ISSUES – not idiocies like gay marriage or flag burning – or I will go out of my way to ensure that every single one of them makes an up close & personal aquaintance with the unemployment line in the next election, no excuses. The letter was hand-written (& sent certified) because I understand they no longer pay any attention to anything sent either by email or that is computer-processed, even if it isn’t a form letter. They always have some excuse why they don’t/can’t pay attention to their constituents. I swear, if I get a form letter back, I’m going to go up there & personally tear out the pubic hairs from a few of them. Look for it on your local news channel!

    Brad is right: the GOP is evil, and the Dems are useless.

    I’d seriously like to propose a public referendum issue to be added to ballots in the next elections, that congress can no longer vote itself raises; all raises must be set, voted, and approved by the public. Which means it could take years for a raise to be negotiated & go through. Of course, congressmen would have to apply for it, and just like any of the rest of us who work for a living, make a case as to WHY they should get it. For sure, no current member of congress would get a lead penny at this point, they do so little real work!

    OK you pundits: how do we go about cutting off their financial self-abrogation & get this proposed issue on the ballots?

  • Bliffle

    “If the U.S. pulls out of a turbulent and broken Iraq, it will unquestionably be a victory for terrorism…”

    But the U.S. IS pulling out of Iraq. Not under direction of the dems but under GWB. Ironically, at the direction of our Hated Enemy Moqtada Al Sadr. It is Sadr who demanded to Maliki that the U.S. checkpoints in Sadr city be removed and the search for the missing U.S. soldier be abandoned.

    If people weren’t so stupidly obsessed with words, especially the words of an unimportant senator not running for any office, they’d realize that it is GWB who is reneging all the promises he’s made regarding Iraq.

  • Nancy

    Yeah, one way or another, W is being held to the fire. The Iraqis, it seems, are finally taking adverse US comments at their word & asserting their own authority. That’s good, IMO, even if it’s in ways we may not like. It’s their country, it’s their lives. If they want to become a theocracy, let them. If they want to kill each other off, let them. We had no business there in the first place, as most people these days recognize, despite all Dubya’s sloppily constructed lies & continually-changing self-justifications.

    Peter J, you sure hit the nail on the head: “is that the face of a comedian?” Hell, no. Kerry’s not even a decent liar, either. God knows therefore just what he’s doing in politics. Both of them are making a mockery of the People, as you said, and both parties are bought, paid for, and controlled by the corporations anyway. This whole exercise is a farce.