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The logic of retaliation

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Ever notice how when pro-warriors want to slam the other side they have to accuse peaceniks of views they don’t actually hold? Even in the face of contrary evidence, they assert that anti-war folks are “against the troops” or “hate the U.S.” I suppose I might do this, too, if the alternative were to accuse my opponent of preferring U.N.-sanctioned coercive inspections to war. Doesn’t quite have the same zing as “surrender monkey,” does it? It’s a common, and dishonest, rhetorical trick: When your opponent makes a point you can’t answer, accuse him of views he doesn’t hold.

Dismaying as it may be, and it is truly dismaying, the anti-war side doesn’t have to make up a thing when pointing out the extremism of the pro-war camp. When we accuse the other side of maintaining a position based on intolerance, hatred and violence, they are only too happy to help us out with supporting evidence.

Contrast our resident celebrity extremist hero, Michael Moore, with theirs, Ann Coulter. Michael Moore said at the Academy Awards, essentially, that he felt George W. Bush was not legitimately elected, that the war was launched with lies told by the federal government, and that the President should be ashamed to be waging this war. These are the thoughts that have pro-war conservatives seeing red. These are the views of a leftist gone out of control.

On the other hand, when the right’s own mouthpieces get out of control, they tend to say things like this about the Muslim world:

ANN COULTER: “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.”

And this about the media:

ANN COULTER:”My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building.”

I know this is old news. I was reminded of it when I read this guide on “How To Deal With Peace Activists” on a pro-war site. Excerpt:

With the start of war, many of us will encounter ”Peace Activists” who will try to convince us that we must refrain from retaliating against the ones who terrorized us all on September 11, 2001.

These activists may be alone or in a gathering, and most of us don’t know how to react to them.  When you come upon one of these people, or one of their rallies, here are the proper rules of etiquette:

1. Listen politely while this person explains his/her views. Strike up a conversation if necessary and look very interested in his ideas.  He will tell you how revenge is immoral, and that by attacking the people who did this to us, we will only bring on more violence.  He will probably use many arguments, ranging from political to religious to humanitarian.

2. In the middle of his remarks, without any warning, punch him in the nose.

I suppose the current fascination with violence on the part of the right wing is only understandable. It is the logic of retaliation. That’s the point the author of the how-to guide above is clearly trying to make–if you get hit, you have to hit back. The scariest thing about the how-to guide isn’t the encouragement of violence, it’s the casual acceptance that retaliation is the motive for the Iraq war. It is so accepted by the author of the above that he assumes even the peace activists accept it: “…many of us will encounter ‘Peace Activists’ who will try to convince us that we must refrain from retaliating against the ones who terrorized us all on September 11, 2001.”

It’s a wonderfully simple, and open-ended, view: Because the invasion of Iraq is in direct retaliation for 9-11, we are justified in supporting, even celebrating, violence in proportion to that crime.

And that’s a lot of violence. The next possible step in this progression is a tolerance for mass death. Once you have internalized the thought, “Any U.S. action in the Muslim world is a response to 9-11,” there really is no limit to the atrocities you will cheer. As Ann Coulter writes, “We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war.”

Does anyone doubt that the use of nuclear weapons would be enthusiastically applauded at a pro-war rally? After all…9-11. The only people who would die as a result of a nuclear attack would be the ones responsible for 9-11. Only a traitor would grieve their deaths.

We have a President who boasts about ordering extra-judicial killings. We have a “war on terrorism” in which torture is considered a fair tactic. (Do you wonder how our POWs in Iraq feel about this new policy?) We have a nation largely convinced that the Iraq war is somehow payback for 9-11. And we have right-wingers who consider war opposition to be the one expression of free speech that should be responded to with violence. Where does this go?

My hope is that the current setbacks in Iraq are temporary, and we soon see mass surrenders by Iraqi troops, the toppling of Saddam’s regime and the beginnings of a new, free nation. In fact, I did think that was one thing the neoconservatives were right about–that Iraq would fall easily.

But, to game out a less neoconservative scenario, imagine that the war continues to go poorly in Iraq. Imagine if suicide attacks continue. Imagine that the Iraqi people refuse to play their assigned role of grateful victims and instead play the role of nationalist soldiers, defending their country from invasion as vigorously as we would defend ours. Imagine that U.S. casualties mount.

Is it crazy to imagine that the U.S. would then support a policy of genocide? Is that really such a stretch from the present logic? The Iraq war is retaliation for 9-11. You’re either with us or with the terrorists. If the entire Muslim world turns murderously against us as a result of this war…do you really think President Bush’s reaction will be moderate?

That it will be this unnecessary Iraq invasion and the President’s very new doctrine of preventive war that will have turned them against us so vehemently will be irrelevant once they have turned. Reality will be reality. And I can see President Bush shaking his head sadly, truly pained that it has come to this, as he puts in motion the plan to commit nuclear genocide on the Muslim world.

Given the right circumstances, which are not impossible to imagine right now, the logic of retaliation would support that action.

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About Brian Flemming

  • Greg Hagin

    a portion of the proceed will go to support the post war humanitarian efforts of Halliburton:

    http://www.collectiblestoday.com/ct/product/prdid-912316001.jsp

  • http://www.sanfordmay.com san

    Of course, following your logic, one wonders why Alec Baldwin was so roundly condemned, and asked to apologize, when he said that Jesse Helms family should be dragged out into the streets and beaten to death. He was cited for being inhumane beyond reason in his argument against Helm’s politics. Where are the cries for Coulter to apoligize, as she advocates killing an even larger group of people.

    It goes without saying that these arguments apply only if Coulter is sincere. And I’m afraid she is.

  • http://www.sanfordmay.com san

    Greg, from the collectibles store description: “As the brave members of the U.S. military head out to defend our freedom, it’s comforting to know that each one is sheltered in the loving hands of God.”

    Two men say their Jesus; one of them must be wrong.

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    San,

    I’ll see your Alec Baldwin and raise you a Pat Robertson.

    – –

    I want to raise an issue with the post above:

    “Once you have internalized the thought, ‘Any U.S. action in the Muslim world is a response to 9-11,’ there really is no limit to the atrocities you will cheer.”

    Oh, wait. Actually I agree with that. I guess everybody else does, too.

    Or maybe this is one of those thoughts that is so hard to deal with outrageous that pro-warriors don’t wish to respond.

  • InMarin

    Bush’s legacy: Northern Iraq nuked; martial law (Code Red) implemented; suspension of national elections; war forever and ever amen.

    The entire reaction to 9/11 from this administration is suspect. I ask you: how would the study of library reading habits have prevented 9/11? Was Atta studying the use of box cutters via the public library?

  • Joel Fleming

    “1. Listen politely while this person explains his/her views. Strike up a conversation if necessary and look very interested in his ideas.  He will tell you how revenge is immoral, and that by attacking the people who did this to us, we will only bring on more violence.  He will probably use many arguments, ranging from political to religious to humanitarian.
    2. In the middle of his remarks, without any warning, punch him in the nose.

    Of course you intentionally clipped the rest of this piece and pretended to misunderstand its message. The rest of the piece said something along the lines of- if he does not defend himself, punch him again until he realizes that sometimes violence is necessary.

  • Eric Olsen

    We were attacked on 9/11 because bin Laden made the assumption that we would not retaliate after taking a series of attacks in the ’90s without forceful response. Whatever their other connections or lack thereof, Saddam thinks the exact same way. I have no desire to be a peaceful martyr – do you?

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    Joel,

    You wrote:

    “Of course you intentionally clipped the rest of this piece and pretended to misunderstand its message. The rest of the piece said something along the lines of- if he does not defend himself, punch him again until he realizes that sometimes violence is necessary. ”

    If you had read just 23 words past the quote, you would have seen that I specifically did acknowledge the message in the how-to guide:

    “That’s the point the author of the how-to guide above is clearly trying to make–if you get hit, you have to hit back.”

    I also provided a hyperlink directly to the thing. How much more clear could I have been?

    Eric,

    You wrote:

    “We were attacked on 9/11 because bin Laden made the assumption that we would not retaliate after taking a series of attacks in the ’90s without forceful response.”

    I don’t think we know this to be true. But let’s assume it is. Do you really think our invasion of Iraq displeases bin Laden or in any way intimidates terrorists? Are you aware that bin Laden wants, like Charles Manson did, to use his acts of terrorism to spark an irrational response that results in worldwide war?

    Afghanistan made sense–we were going after the guys who did it. That’s why the whole world, including plenty of Muslims, supported us. Nobody was seriously going to deny us the option of taking action against the criminals who committed the act.

    But Iraq? Makes no sense at all as a “forceful response” to 9-11. Again, an attack against Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria or Iran (and the list goes on) would make even MORE sense by your logic. What are your standards? ANY forceful response ANYWHERE is justified as a show of strength to bin Laden? Where does this go? Have you thought about it?

    “Whatever their other connections or lack thereof, Saddam thinks the exact same way.”

    Imagine if the U.N. inspections went on. Not only did they continue to get the unprecedented access to any site in Iraq, but the Security Council specifically approved bombing of sites if Iraq failed to grant access. This was clearly a realistic possibility earlier this month.

    Do you really think Saddam (and others) would look at that and say, “See, I can get away with anything”? Do you really think other heads of state would say, “Yeah, I want that to happen in my country, too. I will also defy the U.S.”?

    You wrote:

    “I have no desire to be a peaceful martyr – do you?”

    No, but you–or any other hawk in the U.S.–have hardly made the case that we face a binary choice here: Invade Iraq or be perceived as peaceful martyrs. In fact, that assertion is ludicrous in the face of the record. Have you forgotten Afghanistan?

    We had the world united behind us in the war on terrorism. We toppled the Taliban. We were hardly being “peaceful martyrs.”

    Now, having taken a hostile action that is clearly unjustified, we no longer have the world united behind us. And we have handed the Muslim world a legitimate grievance–something to turn those Muslims on the fence against us. Rather than showing strength, we have ceded the moral high ground that kept so many people on this Earth from hating us.

    We’ve gone from:

    1. Having taken a strong, unequivocal military action against the terrorists who committed 9-11, and

    2. Having created a strong, worldwide network to fight terrorism everywhere on the globe.

    to this:

    1. Having taken a military action that is widely perceived as being unrelated to 9-11 and more like an imperial move.

    2. Weakening the bonds between us and our allies, and thus inevitably weakening the worldwide terror-fighting network.

    Gee, I wonder if that’s what bin Laden wanted?

    Have you heard of holy war? Most Muslims hadn’t signed up for it following our attack on the Taliban and al Qaeda. They understood what we were doing.

    It’s not that way anymore.

    Yeah, we sure showed that bin Laden. We outsmarted the hell out of him.

    “I have no desire to be a peaceful martyr – do you?”

    That is such a scary sentence. It justifies ANYTHING. That’s exactly the point I was trying to make in the article. That question would make sense in response to a proposal that we not go after al Qaeda and the Taliban.

    But in response to an expanded action against someone with no proven link to 9-11, it becomes a frighteningly open-ended question.

    “I have no desire to be a peaceful martyr – do you?”

    Where does this end?

  • foolio

    Brian Flemming understands the true nature of our involvement in Iraq.

    “Having taken a military action that is widely perceived as being unrelated to 9-11 and more like an IMPERIAL move.” (emphasis added)

    “liberating” Iraq from one man’s unjust rule and then leaving the reformation of their government to the people. where do you think that will actually leave them? probably in the hands of an equally kind and benevolent dictator, oh i’m sorry i meant generally elected president for life. perhaps this time the Sunni’s will be gassed instead of the Shia’s.

    no, what really needs to happen, since i don’t think a sincere apology is likely to come from the bush administration or would be well recieved by the Iraqi’s, is a complete and permanent colonization of the country. open the place up for capitalism, probably our most powerful weapon. people not making it here in the states could move there and try making a new start like a lot of europeans did in the americas. the muslim world would have to adjust but one mark of a strong civilization is it’s ability to adjust and adapt to new environments and conditions.

    change is inevitable and organisims, individuals, social orders, civilizations, and religions that do not adapt will go the way of the dinosaur. if the west is not “fit” it may win this war but ultimately it will not continue to survive. same goes for the arab world. perhaps it has not evolved into an entity that can survive in todays global environment.

    we are all just a process of chemical reactions occuring in a semipermeable membrane, so get over yourselves. (if you feel differently, prove it.)(but don’t post poetry or a link to michaelangelo’s pieta or beethoven’s 9th)

    much love to all (especially poets and painters and composers)

    one very humble fool