a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Worth reading

Posted by Thomas Nephew on March 28th, 2006

After three years, after 150,000 dead, why I was wrong about Iraq:A melancholic mea culpa, Johann Hari, “The Independent” —

The lamest defence I could offer – one used by many supporters of the war as they slam into reverse gear – is that I still support the principle of invasion, it’s just the Bush administration screwed it up. But as one anti-war friend snapped at me when I mooted this argument, “Yeah, who would ever have thought that supporting George Bush in the illegal invasion of an Arab country would go wrong?” […]

It is very hard to see a solution, but I believe the threads of one are visible. The polls show that most of these violent militias draw their support from the fact that they oppose the foreign troops, not from the fact that they massacre fellow-Iraqis. So the best way to drain their support – and dampen the inertia towards civil war – is to withdraw the troops now.

Like Hari, I’m a chastened Iraq war ex-supporter, and I continue to struggle with how I came to support it. In my case, it was mainly WMD apprehensions that were obviously ill-founded. I think I also was too prone to see analogies to Bosnia or other historical examples that weren’t really appropriate or useful, and gave Bush/Cheney et al far too much benefit of the doubt about their shifting claims about Iraq. This is obviously not half of what I might or should have to write, but by my own conventions I’m trying to keep things short in this kind of post.*

An echo chamber of our own? Henry Farrell, “Crooked Timber” —

There’s a lot that I admire about the Kos/Stoller/Armstrong crowd, and a lot in their analysis that I agree with. When they denounce the current Democratic consultocracy as a crowd of self-interested hacks, and the majority of Democratic politicians as jellylike invertebrates, I’m cheering them on all the way. When they talk about the blogosphere’s influence as depending on the extent to which it influences the collective wisdom, I think they’re absolutely right (this is in fact one of the themes of research that Dan Drezner and I are doing). But there’s something more than a bit worrying about the claim that an emerging consensus around a shared analysis is necessarily a strength for left wing bloggers. Isn’t the echo chamber quality of much discussion on the right something that we want to be avoiding, not trying to emulate?

I’m reminded a bit of my own How DINOs evolve, how they go extinct post. This one goes in a slightly different direction, but overall, I think we make similar points about dKos/myDD being too tightly focused on “infrastructure” and not enough on stuff like message regardless of party opponent, or policy alternatives — their own self-image notwithstanding.

Against Orders — In a veering but interesting post Roy Edroso (“alicublog”) suggests that while their lives were more dangerous when people were taking drugs, their music was better. Some of us vaguely remember claiming the same thing once, but it’s a little hazy, of course. Edroso goes on to suggest that our emerging techno-culture is a poor substitute, all in all.

Order’s a popular electoral gambit. People squawk when you hit them up for tax money, but applaud your sense of responsibility when you dig your entrenching tool into the pleasure centers.

When you read, as any ordinary internet trawler will, fulsome odes to the iPod and the pay-per-view concert, please try to keep in mind that things were once way more fucked up. And seriously consider whether that means they were worse.

Apropos of other parts of this post, “Yellow Submarine” has replaced “Mary Poppins” as Maddie’s favorite movie, and “Strawberry Fields Forever” is her favorite song — although “Once in a Lifetime” is moving up fast.** Daddy’s very proud that we’re keeping our tiny, watered down version of the counterculture alive in the burbs.

Coretta a “communist”? There’s a history there, Chris Kromm, “Facing South” — A certain Washington Post ex-blogger recently apologized for calling Coretta King a Communist (under a pseudonym, at a different site, on the occasion Bush’s appearance at her funeral). While one might be tempted to let a given wet-behind-the-ears wingnut comment go, Kromm points out that Domenech’s remark has a rich and ignoble tradition: red-baiting was an integral part of the FBI’s attempts to discredit both Martin Luther King and leftist outfits like the Highlander Cultural Center back in the day.

So let’s be clear: Domenech’s comment is more than unhinged howling (although it is that). It’s part of the right’s larger preoccupation with reliving the Cold War, and a larger agenda to resuscitate McCarthyism and validate the Red Scare.

There are two goals at work here. One is to justify today’s crack-down on dissent, from illegal wire-tapping and surveillance of peace groups, to the harassment of “tenured radicals” the right fears are out to brainwash our impressionable youth.

But just as dangerously, it’s also an attempt to re-write our entire history — to cast those who stood for racism, white rule and persecution as victims (McCarthy suffered from a “witch-hunt,” says Ann Coulter), and to portray those who stood most nobly for justice and freedom as irrelevant or diabolically un-American.

In other words, to change the very definition of progress in our country.

The Virginia Quarterly Review — More interesting and fun to read than that sounds like — and now with 6 (SIX!) National Magazine Award nominations.” I’d never heard of it either. More about VQR here, via Facing South.

In other “pesky upstart Virginians” news — go GMU! Another Virginia institution most of us had never heard of, unless of course you read Marginal Revolution now and then.

* For some of my own attempts at a reckoning with my own last-minute support (With regrets — for war on Saddam, 2/13/03) , see False premises , A screwed up war (both 10/28/04) and a post about the 9/24/05 demonstration in Washington, D.C.. Probably unsatisfactory; in addition to some of the points above, my “with regrets” post now seems to me not a proper argument so much as a set of counterarguments, leaving my own reasons more implied than stated outright. I once discussed the topic of “good faith support” for the war at “fact-esque” with proprietor eRobin and her longtime reader David Byron, in comments about John Edwards’ mea culpa on Iraq.
** There’s also “Un gamin de Paris,” which she’s been singing over and over and over rehearsing for the 30 year anniversary of her K-5 French immersion program. Can’t understand it; catchy, though.

UPDATE, 3/30: Re my discussion above of Hari’s article, WorldWideWeber (“Notes from the Basement”) asks “What mistake is it? Doing it, or not doing it right?” and says the war could not have been vindicated by any benefits whatsoever, including shutting down an active WMD program. I reply that think there’s a third kind of mistake: “doing it, but based on deceit and self-deception”; more discussion at “Notes from the Basement.”

One Response to “Worth reading”

  1. Nell Says:

    You might be interested in Pachacutec’s war mea culpa at Firedoglake.
    To me, it’s telling that almost no one who opposed the war before it began was given any TV time or op ed space during the third-anniversary media splurge. I say ‘almost’ to cover my rear; in fact I know of not one example.

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