Former Kos headliner Hunter has an important diary about one of those irritating rhetorical tricks that war defenders never seem to get tired of using, be it Peter Beinart or Glenn Reynolds or some random board warrior:
More and more, I’m seeing pro-war figures look for a healing, of sorts, between those who supported the Iraq War and those who decried it. But this healing seems to take exactly one form — the pro-war pundits perhaps begrudgingly admitting their errors, but simultaneously continuing to dismiss opponents of the Iraq War as being against it for supposedly shallow or insincere or offensive reasons.
Surprisingly often people arguing about Iraq end up arguing about semantics, so let’s talk about semantics.
People can point out that Hunter’s diary is an angry document as if somehow anger disqualifies an opinion. Why shouldn’t he be? Iraq war supporters smeared skeptics as pacifists and as America-hating appeasers of terrorists who didn’t take the War on Terror seriously. Better bloggers than myself, rightwingers with sizable readerships, fly into an angry rage over smaller provocations than that. It’s a normal response to being maliciously misrepresented for the sake of scoring cheap political points. Let’s look at the most common bullshit points:
Any Iraq skeptic who who spent 2002 and 2003 online will remember hours spent trying and failing to explain how opposing Iraq does not necessarily make you a pacifist. Inevitably the logic comes down to this: lefties who oppose war are pacifists, opposing this war makes you a leftie who opposes war and therefore you are a pacifist. One needs a veritable grab bag of fallacies to float this bark, from accident (most lefties are pacifists, you are a lefty so you are a pacifist) to hasty generalization (I can name lefties who were pacifists, therefore lefties are pacifists) yet on and on it goes. If an argument holds no water without appealing to at least one fallacy then we can safely move on.
Liberals Hate America
Correction, Noam Chomsky hates America. International A.N.S.W.E.R. seems to hate everything in existence. Pretending that these doofuses have anything to do with “the left” in aggregate requires yet another trip to the hasty generalization well. Sorry kids, try again.
Liberals don’t care about fighting terrorists.
You may not be aware that the overwhelming majority of America supported invading Afghanistan. Who knew? I honestly can’t think of anybody who thought that it was a bad idea to take down the people who attacked us and the regime who harbored them. So did liberals suddenly stop caring about fighting terror in between one war and the next? It doesn’t make very much sense. I’m sure that somebody shed a tear when we knocked over the Taliban but given the overall level of support you cannot tie these fringe actors to “the left” without an obvious hasty generalization fallacy.
I have noticed that war defenders these days will often get angry if you suggest that we invaded Iraq because of WMDs that they didn’t have or al Qaeda connections which didn’t exist. For the sake of argument let’s give that point of view the benefit of the doubt and acknowledge that we invaded Iraq in order to free its terrorized population. That leaves an extremely tenuous link to “terror,” does it not? Either we invaded Iraq because of its connections to terror (that would be Zarqawi, who was holed up in independent Kurdistan and easily bombable, and monetary payments to bombers who threatened Israel and not us) or else it has only an indirect connection at best with the War on Terror. If you go with the latter then you simply cannot claim that one must take Iraq seriously in order to earn some precious Serious About Terror (R) certificate.
It seems amazingly difficult for certain people, Peter Beinart included, to acknowledge that many of us perceived an Iraq war as a counterproductive distraction from fighting the people who actually attacked us. It seems like a simple enough proposition to get across, but go ahead and try it with your favorite war defender. It won’t scan. If I had to psychoanalyze (and why not? I’m a blogger) just imagine what would have happened if folks like Beinart, Glenn Reynolds, Fox News and thousands of allied keyboardists had acknowledged that people standing against the Iraq war might also be reasonable people with reasonable motives. Hysterical, unserious people and folks who actively hate America you can dismiss. Heck, you probably should. On the other hand dismissing reasonable people without listening to them makes you look like an asshole.
I expect some people to get mad when I point out that they dishonestly excluded Iraq war opponents from the national discourse for selfish reasons. Good. Anger is a reasonable reaction to having your character thrown into question.
At Glenn Greenwald’s Barbara O’Brien asks a relevant question:
How many times do we have to say we are not against surveillance as long as it’s done lawfully before it sinks into a rightie brain? And are there numbers that go that high?
This is not a small point. If somebody cannot bring him or herself to represent the opposition honestly then there seems to be little point in talking, since the second party in the “conversation” isn’t really you but the malicious voices insidethe person’s own head. Apparently Captain Ed’s malicious voices oppose any sort of terrorist surveillance, in which case I’m perfectly in agreement with him – thank god the voices in Ed’s head are not running the country. Given a three-way choice between the Republicans, Captain Ed’s voices and the Democrats I would still pick the Democrats.