Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“A democracy is two wolves and a small lamb voting on what to have for dinner. Freedom under a constitutional republic is a well armed lamb contesting the vote.”     Benjamin Franklin

September 25, 2007

Could Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Visit to Columbia University be a Good Thing?

by Stephen Littau

NEW YORK – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faced sharp criticism Monday about his opinions on women, gays, Israel, nuclear weapons and the Holocaust in an appearance at Columbia University, where protesters lined the streets bearing signs reading, “Hitler Lives.”

Inside a crowded lecture hall, the university president issued blistering introductory remarks. Ahmadinejad exhibits “all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator,” declared Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger, who questioned the Iranian leader’s record on human rights and his statements that the Holocaust was a myth.

Ahmadinejad bristled at Bollinger’s comments, calling the introduction “an insult to the knowledge of the audience here.”

At first I was not that fond of the idea of such an evil man visiting an American college campus. Why should we give him the platform? We give him the platform for a couple of reasons: the American people and the free world hear his words and those words are challenged in a free society. In American soil, Ahmadinejad can only condemn Lee Bollinger and other dissenters with words rather than torture or death. On American soil, Ahmadinejad’s words can be challenged. When the despot says that there are no homosexuals in Iran, the audience can laugh and mock him and there isn’t one damn thing he can do about it!

The only one insulting the knowledge of the audience at Columbia University, the American people, and the free world is you, Ahmadinejad. You vile, cruel, evil, sick, man! I’m not afraid of your words. I laugh at them.

http://www.coxandforkum.com/archives/07.09.24.Outed-X.gif

Free speech is perhaps America’s greatest strength. One would only imagine what would have happened to Mr. Bollinger had he called the Iranian despot a “petty and cruel dictator” in Iran.

Contrast this with what is common in America. We criticize our leaders on a daily basis. Sometimes the criticism isn’t even particularly intelligent. Just the other day a student at Colorado State University wrote a particularly intelligent, concise, four-word editorial in the Rocky Mountain Collegian: “Taser this. FUCK BUSH.”

While it is true that the author of this brilliant opinion piece may be fired from the paper (the paper lost $30,000 in advertising within hours of the article’s publication), he does not have to worry about being thrown in prison or executed for criticizing the president. Rather than the government taking action the free market does the job.*

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia University is a shining example to the world that we support free speech even if we despise the speech. Who knows, maybe the Iranian people who yearn for freedom will be emboldened by this?

Now as for the idea of this animal visiting ground zero…

http://www.coxandforkum.com/archives/07.09.20.Violation-X.gif


*Don’t tell me his First Amendment rights are being violated if he is fired from the paper. The First Amendment only prevents government from censorship; not private actors such as the school newspaper.

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34 Comments

  1. While I find myself heartily agreeing with most of this piece, I do take a different view of the final item on barring Mr. Ahmadinejad from the WTC site. What bothers me about this is the knee-jerk association of Mr. Ahmadinejad with the 9/11 hijackers. There is no connection between Mr. Ahmadinejad and the 9/11 hijackers. The belief seems to be that, since Mr. Ahmadinejad supports groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, he is somehow connected with 9/11. But neither Hezbollah nor Hamas had anything to do with 9/11 either!

    We have every right to deny Mr. Ahmadinejad access to the WTC site — but we were wrong to do so.

    Comment by Chepe Noyon — September 25, 2007 @ 2:38 pm
  2. Chepe’s right, Stephen. You appear to be falling prey to the common misconception that Iran was in some way tied to 9/11. It wasn’t…at all. And your rant about how Ahmadinejad is afforded free speech in America is contradicted by your inclusion of the political cartoon celebrating Ahmadinejad being barred from Ground Zero. Free societies (and their politicians) don’t bar people from public areas just because they don’t like them.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,,2173388,00.html

    Also Ahmadinejad took the opportunity to bring up a few valid points during his visit, such as the fact that the Palestinians didn’t perpetrate the Holocaust (thus begging the question of why the Palestinians deserved to have their land treated as reparations) and that people who complain about Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial often choose to ignore the fact that Holocaust denial (or, more often, whatever the authorities say is Holocaust denial) an actual crime in several countries in the “free world”.

    Now I’m no Holocaust denier, nor am I an anti-Semite. I think Ahmadinejad’s views are patently ridiculous and I think the man’s a fool. But frankly, his visit to the United States made us look a lot more foolish, hypocritical and uninformed than it made him look. Especially since the press has spent several days obsessing over a loudmouthed idiot who doesn’t actually have any real power in his own government…power resides with the clerics. Ahmadinejad’s the Iranian equivalent of Dana Perino or Tony Snow…the only difference being that he’s (nominally) elected.

    Comment by UCrawford — September 25, 2007 @ 5:00 pm
  3. And no Chepe…there is no “right” for government to deny Ahmadinejad access to the WTC (a piece of public property) unless it’s closed off to everybody.

    Comment by UCrawford — September 25, 2007 @ 5:03 pm
  4. Hmm, I wouldn’t argue with you about a moral right of the government to deny access to the WTC — that was my point in saying that it was wrong to do so. But legally the government did have a right to restrict his movements. Certainly the public safety concerns — the cost of providing security for Mr. Ahmadinejad at the WTC — provides a valid excuse. But again, I agree that morally, we should have let him go.

    Comment by Chepe Noyon — September 25, 2007 @ 5:21 pm
  5. UC:

    You’re right; Ahmadinejad did make a few valid points (the ones you cited). Even a broken clock is right twice a day. I considered bringing that up in the post but to tell you the truth, I’m not real familiar with the European anti-Holocaust laws. I’ll have to save that for a post for another day (of course I would be opposed to such laws).

    I also think he has a valid point about Israel. I have never understood why the displaced Jews were given Palestine to create their new country (I do have some theories though). It would have made more sense for the Jews to take over a part of Germany since it was Germany that tried to wipe them of the face of the Earth. The problem is they have been there now for about 60 years and they are one of the few friendly nations to the U.S. in the region. The best we could ever hope for is some sort of peaceful co-existence (which doesn’t seem likely).

    To your other point: I realize that Iran was probably not part of 9/11. Ahmadinejad has, however; on numerous occasions opened official speeches with “Death to America” and has said several times he hopes to see a world without America. Iran also is probably the largest state sponsor of terrorism (namely Hezbollah), and is widely believed to be arming the insurgency in Iraq. Whether or not Iran had anything to do with 9/11 is irrelevant. A terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — September 25, 2007 @ 5:28 pm
  6. Chepe,

    I’ll buy that argument so long as they apply it to every other foreign dignitary who asks to visit the WTC site to lay a wreath. Somehow I’m betting that funding won’t be an issue if a world leader the NYC and US government likes comes to visit. I’m not against a decision based on legitimate cost analysis…I’m against the blatant government hypocrisy that led to this decision.

    Stephen,

    Wikipedia is a good starting point for understanding the roots of the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1947_UN_Partition_Plan ). From what I’ve seen there and other places one of the key reasons it was deemed acceptable to gift Palestine was that we didn’t recognize their system of land ownership so we felt it was okay to ignore it to make a politically popular decision of theft. Not to sound like a shill, but typical egocentric Western behavior (see: Native Americans, British colonialism).

    It’s not an issue of Iran [i]probably[/i] not being involved in 9/11. Iran [i]wasn’t[/i] involved in 9/11. [i]At all[/i]. It was al-Qaeda-conceived, al-Qaeda-planned, al-Qaeda-executed, and there is zero evidence to say or even insinuate otherwise. As for wishing to see a world without America, if I lived in a country that had it’s government overthrown by the CIA in 1957 and replaced by a bloodthirsty dictator (Shah Reza Pahlavi), and if the President of the U.S. kept referring to my country as part of an “Axis of Evil” and lumped us in with our mortal enemy (Iraq) in an I’d probably be just a scootch anti-American too. And Hezbollah’s got nothing to do with us.

    As for a “terrorist being a terrorist” tell it to the Kurdish groups we liberated and put in charge who are now attacking civilian targets in Turkey. We aren’t exactly demanding that Iraq’s president (a Kurd) crack down on them. Or how about the MEK ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mujahideen-e_Khalq ), an anti-Iranian terrorist group that we’ve apparently treated with kid gloves because of their choice of enemy? Rumsfeld actually extended Geneva protections to them. Interesting how the definition of a terrorist conveniently changes based on who that person chooses to blow up or kill.

    Comment by UCrawford — September 25, 2007 @ 6:06 pm
  7. And I think that the South Koreans would beg to differ with you about the largest sponsor of terrorism in the world. North Korea has sent infiltrators into the south for the last 50 years, conducted unprovoked attacks against U.S. and ROK forces, abducted civilians from Japan, sold weapons and weapons technology around the world, and launched missiles into other countries’ airspace. The Iranians are pikers by comparison…they at least restrict their actions to their own neighborhood.

    Comment by UCrawford — September 25, 2007 @ 6:15 pm
  8. Plus, as Ron Paul pointed out, the Saudis are sending a hell of a lot more weapons to Iraq than the Iranians are. And yet nobody’s talking about going to war with them.

    Well, except for Tancredo, and he was just desperate for somebody to pay attention to his joke of a presidential campaign.

    Comment by UCrawford — September 25, 2007 @ 6:19 pm
  9. Mr. Littau, I reject your assertion that “a terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist”. Were the mujahadeen who resisted the Soviets in Afghanistan terrorists or freedom fighters? We shipped weapons to them — what does that make us?

    Comment by Chepe Noyon — September 25, 2007 @ 8:50 pm
  10. How Did Jew-Friendly Persia Become Anti-Semitic Iran?

    Muslim, but not Arab, Iran protected its Jews from the Holocaust, but now questions that it ever happened. Once one of Israel’s closest Muslim allies, it now seeks to wipe the “Zionist entity” off the map. Tens of thousands of its Jews have left, yet it still boasts the largest Jewish population of any Muslim country. In an in-depth cover story (Dec. 2006), Moment magazine asks:

    How Did Jew-Friendly Persia Become Anti-Semitic Iran?

    http://www.momentmag.com/Exclusive/2006/2006-12

    Comment by Editor - Moment Magazine — September 26, 2007 @ 7:41 am
  11. Chepe, I don’t know what your definition of “terrorist” is but I define it as a person who intentionally targets men, women, and children who are minding their own business.

    For the record, I think the U.S. foreign policy has been fatally flawed in many instances.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — September 26, 2007 @ 8:59 am
  12. I agree with Stephen. Iran wasn’t involved with 9/11, true enough, but I doubt the reason that he wanted to visit ground zero was to pay his respects to the Americans who died. Even though it was solely AQ that initiated the attack, Ahmadinejad would most definitely be against us if he had to choose between the hijackers and America (as if he hasn’t chosen already). He wants to kill us, and I see no reason to let him anywhere near a place where so many were killed by people with the same insane mindset as him.

    Comment by Hazel — September 26, 2007 @ 9:18 am
  13. Stephen,

    Then you’d probably better add the Afghan mujaheddin to the list. They committed multiple atrocities against civilian targets…including Ismail Khan’s slaughter of the families of Soviet advisors in Herat. That was noted in “Ghost Wars”, and Khan was one of the insurgent leaders we supported during that war ( http://www.ccc.nps.navy.mil/si/2004/jul/johnsonJul04.asp ). As were Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani, both of whom also targeted civilians (especially Hekmatyar, who was responsible for the destruction of Kabul and the executions of every moderate Afghani politician, academic or intellectual he could get his hands on after the Soviets pulled out).

    I could also mention the Contras, the IRA (who get a substantial portion of their funding from the Irish-American population), and more recently the Sunni insurgent groups we’ve armed to fight al-Qaeda in al-Anbar province. All of these have targeted non-combatants repeatedly and frequently. Terrorism is simply a general collection of tactics, not an enemy, and we’ve demonstrated in our past that we’re more than willing to justify terrorist activities whenever it suits our needs. I understand your opposition but you’re taking a black-and-white mindset on an issue that is anything but. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

    As for Ahmadinejad’s motivations for visiting the WTC, who cares? He’s not planning on doing anything illegal and we supposedly have free speech in this country. Or does that only apply to people we don’t dislike? His political speech is no more offensive than President Bush continually surrounding himself with soldiers in uniform in his press conferences (implying military backing of his partisan political positions, which is a violation of his duties as Commander-in-Chief) and spouting “pro-troop” propaganda, while behind the scenes he slashed the V.A. budget in the middle of a war, micromanaged and overruled his military commanders on the ground when it was politically popular (as when he ordered the assault on Fallujah), ignored intel reports that show Iraq is getting worse, and extended war-zone tours by 3 months so he wouldn’t have to admit that his war is logistically impossible to win. That’s a hell of a lot more offensive to me than anything a third-world pseudo-dictator is going to say or do while standing in a hole in the ground in New York. Hell, he could spit on Ground Zero as far as that goes…I’d find it offensive and stupid, but no more so than pretty much anything that comes out of our own President’s mouth these days.

    Comment by UCrawford — September 26, 2007 @ 10:33 am
  14. Hazel,

    And considering that al-Qaeda has specifically listed Shia on their list of enemies and has encouraged its followers to kill all the Shia (and Ahmadinejad is devoutly Shia) I find it a little hard to believe that he’d take bin Laden’s side over ours if our president didn’t keep calling Iran “evil”, didn’t keep hinting at a possible invasion, and didn’t have armies parked on Iran’s east and west borders. Actually, considering that Iran continually targeted and arrested al-Qaeda operatives in its country, I find the “they’re all in it together” argument both woefully uninformed and intellectually dishonest.

    Despite what the ignorant skydecker in the White House would have you believe, not all people in the Middle East are alike, nor do they all share a common “anti-freedom” ideology, nor is their dislike (or, more accurately, fear) of the West irrational, unsubstantiated, or unjustified.

    Comment by UCrawford — September 26, 2007 @ 11:30 am
  15. The Washington Post noted Iran’s anti-al-Qaeda activity just this February:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/09/AR2007020902294.html

    Comment by UCrawford — September 26, 2007 @ 11:33 am
  16. UC:

    Don’t think because I’m against retreat in Iraq that I support every military intervention of the past 100 years or so. Far from it (for the record I am opposed to war with Iran). I would agree that some of those instances were examples of American foreign policy supporting terrorism or turning a blind eye toward terrorism.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — September 26, 2007 @ 1:21 pm
  17. Stephen,

    “Retreat” implies decisive defeat of our military forces resulting in a lack of other options. That’s not the case because we still have the option of remaining in Iraq, but the question would be “Why”? To support a genocidal government allied with Iran? To support a flawed ideal of western democracy the Middle East has never shown any indication it wants or is capable of? To save face? It sure as hell doesn’t have anything to do with national defense…our actions create more animosity towards us than leaving would. What is there for us to gain out of staying in Iraq that’s worth another 3,000-5,000 American lives?

    The accurate term is “withdrawal”. That’s what smart leaders do when they realize that it’s possible to continue a war, but pointless to do so because there’s no upside to staying. Eisenhower applied this principle to Korea, Nixon applied it to Vietnam, Reagan applied it to Lebanon. History has shown all of those choices to have been the correct ones.

    Comment by UCrawford — September 26, 2007 @ 1:39 pm
  18. I would also like to point out that Iran did hold American hostages for 444 days. It’s also commonly believed that Hezbollah attacked the Marine barracks in Lebanon (Yeah I know, there probably shouldn’t have been American troops I Lebanon to begin with). While it’s true that these things happened in the 1980′s, these events are still fresh to many Americans.

    I guess we need to ask the question as to whether there should be a statute of limitations on these wrongs. When should we move on? It doesn’t seem that anyone America has transgressed against is willing to forgive and move on. “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” and I think the world is very much blind now. How do we stop this vicious cycle?

    Even if we adopted Ron Paul’s foreign policy, al Qaeda its ilk would still wish us harm. I do not think we could call for a truce and sit down with these people and negotiate.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — September 26, 2007 @ 1:48 pm
  19. And I know that you’ve said that you’re against unprovoked military intervention and I believe that you mean it. But your Iraq position is undeniably at odds with that assertion.

    That’s not meant as a personal attack, I just think it’s something that needs to be pointed out to you. You still seem to tie Iraq, either consciously or subconsciously, to 9/11 in your anti-withdrawal arguments and it’s almost as unsubstantiated a position as any of the crap the “truthers” throw out. Once that argument is removed, every other justification to remain in Iraq pretty much collapses.

    To be fair, though, you’re not the only libertarian who has made this lapse of judgment. You’re not even the only one on this site who’s done it. There’s a very good reason why Bush keeps alluding to 9/11 in his Iraq speeches, even though he’s explicitly said that Iraq had nothing to do with it…the fear of another possible attack will get people to continue to buy off on undeniably bad policy so he won’t have to admit that his entire war has been a dismal failure.

    Comment by UCrawford — September 26, 2007 @ 1:52 pm
  20. Yes, I well remember the hostages…they were taken when the revolutionaries overthrew the U.S.-installed and -backed Shah. Incidentally, none of those hostages were executed by their captors and all were eventually released. As for Beirut, as you pointed out, we had no reason to be in Lebanon in the middle of their civil war. Do you think if it were the Chinese army intervening militarily in our internal affairs we wouldn’t target them for insurgent action? I’d definitely consider it.

    And the Vietnamese fought a war with us 40 years ago, but there was hardly a peep when our president (a draft-dodger, ironically) normalized relations with them. So far that’s worked out well for both countries.

    What’s in the past is in the past and at some point people have to stop living there, stop seeing themselves as perpetual victims, and stop acting like they’re entitled to do whatever they damn well please with no regard for the consequences. That applies to Americans as much as anyone else. That doesn’t mean we’ll get along with everyone, but that also doesn’t mean that today’s antagonist can’t also become tomorrow’s friend, or at least trading partner (that’s obviously not going to happen with al-Qaeda, but it could with Iran, Iraq, or Syria).

    As for how you stop it, I think the first key is not to overreact and overreach when faced with a problem. Like I’ve said before, al-Qaeda attacked us on 9/11. Only al-Qaeda. When that happened, most of the world sympathized. Had we just restricted our actions to going after al-Qaeda, most of the world would still be on our side. But Bush’s overreaction, his unfocused belligerence, and his designs on Iraq and the Middle East pretty much scuttled that. So I guess the first suggestion would be not to put too much faith in leaders whose first proposed solution is knee-jerk use of the gun.

    Comment by UCrawford — September 26, 2007 @ 2:07 pm
  21. Yes, I well remember the hostages…they were taken when the revolutionaries overthrew the U.S.-installed and -backed Shah. Incidentally, none of those hostages were executed by their captors and all were eventually released. As for Beirut, as you pointed out, we had no reason to be in Lebanon in the middle of their civil war. Do you think if it were the Chinese army intervening militarily in our internal affairs we wouldn’t target them for insurgent action? I’d definitely consider it.

    And the Vietnamese fought a war with us 40 years ago, but there was hardly a peep when our president (a draft-dodger, ironically) normalized relations with them. So far that’s worked out well for both countries.

    What’s in the past is in the past and at some point people have to stop living there, stop seeing themselves as perpetual victims, and stop acting like they’re entitled to do whatever they damn well please with no regard for the consequences. That applies to Americans as much as anyone else. That doesn’t mean we’ll get along with everyone, but that also doesn’t mean that today’s antagonist can’t also become tomorrow’s friend, or at least trading partner (that’s obviously not going to happen with al-Qaeda, but it could with Iran, Iraq, or Syria).

    As for how you stop it, I think the first key is not to overreact and overreach when faced with a problem. Like I’ve said before, al-Qaeda attacked us on 9/11. Only al-Qaeda. When that happened, most of the world sympathized. Had we just restricted our actions to going after al-Qaeda, most of the world would still be on our side. But Bush’s overreaction, his unfocused belligerence, and his designs on Iraq and the Middle East pretty much scuttled that. So I guess the first suggestion would be not to put too much faith in leaders whose first proposed solutions are knee-jerk use of the gun and demands for unquestioned power.

    Comment by UCrawford — September 26, 2007 @ 2:08 pm
  22. UC:

    If I knew then what I know now, I would not have supported the war in Iraq. It’s clear to me now that when America “goes to war” (hell, the congress doesn’t even have the gonads to properly declare war) that America doesn’t fight to win but will sacrifice the lives of our soldiers for politically correct reasons (i.e. rules of engagement that prohibit attacking “holy sites” even when such sites are used as bases of attack). I also see that the idea that helping to establish democracies elsewhere to make the world safer for us is a well intentioned but flawed idea (that I bought into). I don’t think Bush lied or mislead us; I think he too was mislead and he miscalculated. The world was mislead by the international intelligence that suggested that Iraq had WMD and that Saddam would likley pass such weapons on to terrorist organizations. In a post 9/11 world, this did not seem so far fetched.

    Having said that, I still think that leaving Iraq vulnearble at this point will come back to haunt us. But who knows, you might be right. I’ve been wrong before, I’ll be wrong again. In fact, I hope I am wrong because I think that you will get your wish soon after Hillary is elected president.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — September 26, 2007 @ 2:12 pm
  23. Stephen,

    I don’t think that Bush lied about the weapons of mass destruction (because it was common assumption by everyone that Saddam had them), but I also don’t think he was misled. I think he decided that Saddam was evil and had to go, I think he looked at the anecodatal evidence that indicated Saddam might someday be a threat (although there was nothing indicating he had an actual capability to launch a nuke at us), I think he picked out the pieces that he wanted to see, and I think he ignored or minimized all the warnings that indicated his case was largely unsubstantiated (and there were a lot that the intel community did raise to Bush repeatedly…he chose not to listen). Then I think he intentionally overstated the case to the American public (which would be close to a lie). He cherry-picked facts and factoids to fit his opinion, same as any conspiracy theorist, and he didn’t fit his opinion to the facts as a responsible leader does. So did he lie? Not really. Did he behave unforgiveably irresponsibly and as a result cost over 3,000 Americans and untold numbers of Iraqis their lives? Absolutely, and he should be held accountable for that.

    As for the rules of engagement, that’s a slightly different argument (and a very long one). Part of that is also Bush’s fault because he never clearly stated a strategy or even the intent of the mission in Iraq. The rules of engagement derive from commander’s intent because they’re tailored in each conflict to fit the objectives we’re trying to achieve. For the record, I wouldn’t be for blowing up mosques carelessly…we see it as an ungentlemanly violation of the rules of war (based on a set of laws to which Iraq, to my knowledge, was not even a signatory), but to the insurgents it’s a viable way to combat a militarily superior opponent while turning the local populace against that opponent (which is the goal of the insurgency). Frankly, they’d be stupid not to do it.

    The post-9/11 justification you refer to is basically just panic. It’s a leader’s responsibility to not give into panic or allow the people he’s leading to give into panic. Instead, Bush exploited the panic to push us into a war that we rationally never would have engaged in otherwise (because it was unjustified). So again, I fault Bush entirely.

    We’ll eventually be forced to leave Iraq anyway. Logistically our forces won’t be able to hold up. Retention’s been dropping, equipment readiness has been dropping, the workforce is burned out. Something’s going to give eventually, at which point Iraq will become a retreat and not a withdrawal. If we leave now, at least we’ll be able to do so at a time of our choosing and not circumstance. Whoever follows Bush is likely to realize this. The only reason Bush hasn’t (and this is not an irrational prejudice) is because George W. Bush is fucking stupid.

    Comment by UCrawford — September 26, 2007 @ 2:36 pm
  24. And I think once we leave Iraq (which we will) the Iraqis will be a bit too busy slaughtering each other to spend a whole lot of time on us. But they’ll eventually sort it out, the Iraq we know will likely cease to exist (this isn’t necessarily a bad thing), and it will eventually come to an end and people will move on with their lives. And if we’re smart we’ll stay out of it and let them figure things out on their own. It’s their neighborhood, after all, and they’re far more qualified to determine what works best for them than we are.

    Comment by UCrawford — September 26, 2007 @ 2:47 pm
  25. I think Bush thoroughly believed that Saddam had the weapons of mass destruction. He did manufacture the evidence and expected to vindicated by after the war. I think he consciously picked out evidence for justifying the war in order to make the case for invasion. The 9/11 produced a lower threshold for actionable evidence.

    The rest is history. The cost to America is much higher than just the 3000 dead. We have to deal with the 20000+ seriously wounded and maimed. On top of that, it’s wasting million of man years on activities that would be better allocated elsewhere. There is a tangible benefit to staying in Iraq. But I would argue whether it’s worth the cost, and whether there are better things for Americans to be doing.

    I recall how I felt about the war. I was ambivalent. I really didn’t know how to feel about it. Some people were passionately against it. More were passionately for it. I guess I should have been against it since being ambivalent would be a reason to be against starting war.

    Comment by TanGeng — September 26, 2007 @ 2:52 pm
  26. As for Iran, as long as we’ve got our massive nuclear arsenal I’ve got no problem with them having a few. They’re not the Soviet Union and they haven’t got the capability to annihilate or occupy us and overthrow our way of life (nor are they ever likely to). It’s rational to assume that if they do develop their nuclear program a large portion of it will actually go towards civilian usage (for power, most likely). And if we normalize relations and open trade there are a lot of benefits that we can derive (more oil, more natural gas, more consumers of our exports). People tend not to demonize or attack those with whom they have mutually beneficial relationships. And frankly, what the hell do we care what they do within their own borders as long as they’re not forcing us to get involved?

    Comment by UCrawford — September 26, 2007 @ 2:53 pm
  27. TanGeng,

    I was ambivalently against it when it happened, but I was willing to give Bush the benefit of the doubt. Had I known just how fucked up Bush was and what a mess he’d turn it into I would have been vehemently against the war, personally, not that this would have changed much about how I approached it while I was in service (since I did agree to abide by certain standards of behavior while in my job and believe in living up to my obligations).

    Comment by UCrawford — September 26, 2007 @ 2:57 pm
  28. After the defeat of Saddam, I was of the opinion that we should leave as soon as possible. When Bush flew the Mission Accomplished banner, I thought it was going to be all over. But here we are more than four years later debating what the hell we got ourselves into and the best way to get out.

    Digging in for reconstruction seemed like exactly the wrong way to use the American government. Then there is still the question of legitimacy of the Iraqi government. We’ve been propping it up for years. Can it really stand on its own legs?

    Comment by TanGeng — September 26, 2007 @ 3:00 pm
  29. Sorry, I was thinking government. That should read the American Military.

    Comment by TanGeng — September 26, 2007 @ 3:00 pm
  30. Actually, either word works considering the tenor of this site :) But you’re right, the U.S. military is not suited to accomplish nation building for any extended period of time. They can provide security, they can take down our enemies, but when it comes to rebuilding a country, that has to come from the people themselves and it’s pretty clear the Iraqis don’t want the same things we do.

    Comment by UCrawford — September 26, 2007 @ 3:32 pm
  31. I’d like to comment on two notions offered here:

    It’s clear to me now that when America “goes to war”…that America doesn’t fight to win but will sacrifice the lives of our soldiers for politically correct reasons

    I urge you to read von Clausewitz’ classic work On War. I believe it’s still required reading at West Point. The most oft-quoted statement from that book is:

    War is the extension of policy to other means.

    All wars are political. Americans have this foolish idea that a war is a big football game with cheerleaders and referees and point-scoring and winners and losers. Nobody ever wins a war; at best they don’t lose much. This notion that you fight until you win creates all sorts of perverse results — as we discovered in VietNam and Iraq. The right way to win a war is the same method you use with any enterprise:

    1. Define your objective. What political goal do you wish to achieve? Articulate that goal clearly so that you will have a clear basis for determining when to terminate military action.

    2. Ascertain whether your military resources are adequate to the task.

    3. If they are, estimate the total cost of the military action (in blood and treasure) against the desired political goal. Is the objective worth the price?

    4. If you conclude that it is worth the price, then proceed with the military operation.

    5. As military operations proceed, continually re-evaluate the situation, looking especially at the remaining balance of costs and benefits. If at any point, the estimated cost of future operations exceeds the political value of the objective, then immediately terminate the military operations. The old line about “Don’t let the sacrifice of our dead be in vain!” is utter crap. They’re called ‘sunk costs’ and taking them into consideration is an act of pride, not reason. Your duty is to the FUTURE dead, not the PAST dead.

    As you can well see, none of these steps were undertaken by the Bush Administration.

    Next, I’d like to contradict the claim that Mr. Bush doesn’t deserve criticism because it was commonly believed that Mr. Hussein possessed WMD. This is not true. The single best source of evidence was the guy who was actually in Iraq, actually investigating that question: Mr. Blix. He knew better than anybody else, and he reported that there was no evidence of WMD.

    Comment by Chepe Noyon — September 26, 2007 @ 4:48 pm
  32. Chepe,

    Well put…I’m a fan of Clausewitz myself.

    Comment by UCrawford — September 26, 2007 @ 6:48 pm
  33. Columbia University claims they are America’s best and brightest?

    Did you see the way they applauded Ahmadenijad?

    They are just a bunch of filthy Little Eichmanns.

    It is too bad that Cho Seung-hui didn’t go to Columbia University!

    Comment by Steve — October 7, 2007 @ 4:10 am
  34. Steve, I think you have read an incomplete report of the lecture. The audience laughed out loud when Mr. Ahmadenijad claimed that there were no gays in Iran.

    Comment by Chepe Noyon — October 7, 2007 @ 10:09 am

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