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October 10, 2006

The ADD Nation Strikes Again

Not too long ago, the Secretary of Defense enraged Congressional Democrats by suggesting that anyone who couldn't distinguish between the actions of our military and the terrorists was 'morally and intellectually confused'. Here is exactly what he said:

Your watchdog role is particularly important today in a war that is to a great extent fought in the media on a global stage, a role to not allow the distortions and myths be repeated without challenge so that at the least the second or third draft of history will be more accurate than the first quick allegations we see.

You know from experience personally that in every war there have been mistakes, setbacks, and casualties. War is, as Clemenceau said, “a series of catastrophes that result in victory.”

And in every army, there are occasional bad actors, the ones who dominate the headlines today, who don't live up to the standards of the oath and of our country. But you also know that they are a very, very small percentage of the literally hundreds of thousands of honorable men and women in all theaters in this struggle who are serving our country with humanity, with decency, with professionalism, and with courage in the face of continuous provocation. (Applause.)

And that is important in any long struggle or long war, where any kind of moral or intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong, can weaken the ability of free societies to persevere.

Rumsfeld's moral and intellectual confusion remark was nothing more than a defense of American servicemen; all in all, not a bad thing for an American Secretary of Defense, speaking to the American Legion, to attempt. Taken in context, the meaning of that phrase was both crystal clear and narrowly focused; it addressed media distortion and hype regarding American service men and women. In fact, anyone bothering to read Rumsfeld's speech carefully would find he had just finished listing specific examples of such distortions.

Unfortunately his remarks were not taken in context, and a regard for the truth did not prevent his words from being mischaracterized by pontificating pundits like Keith Olbermann:

Mr. Rumsfeld’s remarkable speech to the American Legion yesterday demands the deep analysis—and the sober contemplation—of every American.

For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence -- indeed, the loyalty -- of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land. Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants -- our employees -- with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration’s track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve.

Mr. Rumsfeld said nothing, in his speech, about loyalty. But that niggling little fact did not stop Keith Olbermann from inserting the inflammatory accusation anyway. And it was dishonest to deliberately conflate a discussion of media spin regarding allegations of military misconduct with political opposition to the current occupants of the White House. Those are two entirely different things, but without seeing Mr. Rumsfeld's actual words few people caught the substitution.

One wonders how many of Keith Olbermann's fans noticed he conveniently "forgot" to provide a single direct quote from, or even a link to, the speech he had just called on his fellow citizens to contemplate soberly and analyze deeply? Surely anyone calling for his fellow Americans to closely examine a speech would want them to actually read the words he claimed literally demanded their time and attention? What is the point in saying a speech demands the serious attention of every American (a strong statement if ever there was one) and then failing to link to that speech, or even provide important excerpts? If there were some sort of test for seriousness of intent, Keith Olbermann failed it. He clearly did not mean what he said.

This is how one sorts the serious from the frivolous in politics. Thomas Sowell elaborates:

With a war going on in Iraq and with Iran next door moving steadily toward a nuclear bomb that could change the course of world history in the hands of international terrorists, the question for this year's elections is not whether you or your candidate is a Democrat or a Republican but whether you are serious or frivolous.

That question also needs to be asked about the media. In these grim and foreboding times, our media have this year spent incredible amounts of time on a hunting accident involving Vice President Cheney, a bogus claim that the administration revealed Valerie Plame's identity as a C.I.A. "agent" -- actually a desk job in Virginia -- and is now going ballistic over a Congressman who sent raunchy e-mails to Congressional pages.

If you are content to see life and death issues of war and peace addressed with catch phrases like "chicken hawk" or to see a coalition of nations around the world fighting terrorism referred to as "unilateral" U.S. action because France does not go along, then you are content with frivolity.

Last week the Washington Post, after running a stunning 156 stories about the George Allen "Macaca" flap, begged to be saved from its own editorial spinelessness:

We hope the present discussion won’t drown out a broader debate about what each candidate would seek to accomplish as a senator.

Sheer frivolity, for a paper which can easily control the number of stories devoted to various issues. But these are trivial matters really. What continues to distress is that all this frivolity serves a more sinister purpose: to distract us from matters which are deadly serious:

Yet when the Democrats invited former Generals to the Hill to talk about how much more the military needs in resources -- well, they thanked them, shook hands, and said 'See, that proves Bush is screwing up.' Where is the Democrat who proposed a bill to do what the Generals said was needed?

You don't have to control the Congress to introduce a bill. You could introduce the bill tomorrow, saying whatever you thought it needed to say, and dare the Republicans to shoot it down. Nothing was done. It was all for show.

I know there is a serious debate among military men as to whether the generals were right to ask for what they asked. The point here isn't to assert that they are right -- it is to assert that it is the opposition party's job, having invited them to make their case, to back that case. To invite them to show up, make a big deal of their recommendations, and yet have no intention of following through on any recommendation is a total failure of the opposition party as a part of the system.

This is not just a question of who can fling more macaca. This is all out war and our own government (as well as our military) are being divided and undermined from within by shameless opportunists who have no intention of bringing about real change. When did it cease to matter to these people that real lives hang in the balance?

Weak-kneed members of both parties have been calling for a timetable to be announced for withdrawal from Iraq. No other war in thousands of years of history has ever had such a timetable announced to their enemies. Even if we intended to get out by a given date, there is not the slightest reason to tell the terrorists that. It is frivolous politics at its worst.

There has never been any reason to doubt that American troops will be removed from Iraq. They were removed after the first Gulf War. Before that, they were removed from Grenada and from other Western Hemisphere countries throughout the 20th century. Millions of American troops were removed from Europe after World War II.

Why should there be the slightest doubt that they will be removed from Iraq? The only question is whether you can run a war on a timetable like a railroad and whether you need to announce your plans to your enemies.

Have proponents of the timetable - John Kerry, Jack Murtha, and the like - asked the military what they think of this idea, or are they, like the Democrats in Congress who trot out tame Generals and then dismiss them without implementing their advice, only calling for a measure they never seriously mean to back? The truth is that politicians call for all sorts of measures they would never support, were they seriously brought up for a vote. The draft is one. Like Camelot, the land of timetables is not somewhere we need to go. "Tis a silly place.

It is often said we get the government we deserve, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the fundamentally frivolous politics and news coverage we Americans accept without question. Even the Foley scandal has a serious side, but we do not wish to think of it, and it offers lessons for both sides if only they are inclined to stop the bloviation and reflect for a moment.

Foley's sexual orientation is irrelevant. What is killing the Republican party now is the perception that conservatives hold themselves up as the champions of moral rectitude, yet they failed to hold one of their own to the standards they wish to impose on the rest of the world. Never mind that this hands the party in opposition a powerful weapon which they will brandish with delight whenever the opportunity presents itself.

You make the rule, you live by it or pay the consequences. If you talk the talk, you must walk the walk when it comes time. We just failed that test.

On the other hand, liberals are living in a glass house of their own. For decades they fought like demons to keep conservatives from protecting minors from the predatory behavior of men like Mark Foley. Liberals have opposed monitoring and restrictions on pornography (even, in some cases, access to child porn, which is already illegal) on the Internet and filters in schools and libraries. They have favored sexual privacy laws for minors, laws preventing parental notification on illegal underaged abortions, organizations like NAMBLA, and many other measures which make it easy for predators to prey on young people and well nigh impossible for parents and the police to protect children. So the outrage seems a tad manufactured.

If these people truly cared about keeping predators away from young people they ought to favor laws which help parents and police keep pederasts away from them, or at least catch them and keep them off the streets. Yet they fight such measures tooth and nail. Again, those liberals who have backed these measures should be thinking long and hard about the consequences of their stands. They, too, have failed.

But in the end, such matters require careful thought and it is easier to manufacture outrage over a sleazy politician and his racy instant messages than to engage in thoughtful dialogue over the substantive issues this controversy ought to bring to the fore.

Hey! Look at that shiny thing! And America is off again, chasing more macaca. Is it any wonder this is what fills our newspapers and pours out of our television sets? In the end, life is so much easier when we don't try to think too much. Now how about that timetable? That's an issue we can all get behind.

Time's a wasting. Let's get the war back on schedule. It's time to bring the troops home.

Posted by Cassandra at October 10, 2006 06:20 AM


Don't waste too much energy and time worrying about Olberman. He has a fraction of the viewing audience ESPN gets for showing inter-regional high school football games.

Posted by: handy at October 10, 2006 09:47 AM

You are too kind, Cassandra, when you adopt Mr. Sowell’s “serious vs unserious” distinction regarding those who muddy our war discourse with nonsense. It is the ‘smart vs the dumb,’ 'The Living vs The UnDead' no matter how one looks at these things. An analysis too easy? I don’t think so, when I look, listen and smell-test their arguments and utterances. Exactly *what is it* that The Followers of The AntiBush are asking of the nation, when every criticism of the nation’s defense effort, economy and global largesse is based on either an untruth, a platitude or a trifle? When The Undead Gibberals of the Demomedia like Olbermann are given a microphone…it is only fellow-travelling Stiffs that populate his audience and viewership. Like Bill Maher, and Jon Stewart…they were infected long ago, and we are witnessing the effects of late-stage necrosis.

Derision and mockery is the only acceptable reaction, and so we must expose their disease with humor and wit, for…they are the Undead.

Posted by: geo at October 10, 2006 10:07 AM

Well, one of the things I have been trying to do is to say to myself, "OK, what if I take what you are saying utterly seriously? What if I give you what you say you want? Will you be happy? You say the GWOT is a distraction from more important issues like the genocide in Africa.

Fine. What if we quit Iraq tomorrow and go into Darfur? Will that make you happy? Will you stop shouting "Quagmire! - We can't afford this war! Let us see the bodies!"

This is what I do with Olbermann - he has implied over and over again that the Bush administration is stifling dissent, yet he spews forth all kinds of vitriol of the worst kind night after night at the top of his lungs. I don't exactly see him being stifled. Where is the evidence of this crushing of dissent?

Boom. He isn't really serious.

Rangel keeps calling for a draft. OK. Let's have a draft. Will he vote for it? I think not.

All these Representatives and Senators who keep calling for the NSA monitoring to be stopped... did they ever so move in the House? No. They did not. They weren't really serious. In fact, they have ended up enabling the White House to continue warrantless wiretaps, which shows their fundamental dishonesty.

The fact is that these people are not serious in their griping, but they are stirring up discontent and dissention on purpose for their own political reasons. I don't think they're stupid.

I think they're about as dumb as foxes, frankly.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 10, 2006 10:29 AM

In this world of celebrity gossip being news, I long for a serious discussion of the real issues. But that won't happen as long as J.Lo. keeps shaking me in front of willing camera.

Posted by: J-Lo's Butt at October 10, 2006 11:04 AM

J-Lo's Butt, why do we get the feeling you are itching to be spanked again? :)

Posted by: Cassandra at October 10, 2006 12:00 PM

Olbermann, Maher, Stewart et al are sheep, essentially.Tired, unhappy little men who wake up each day afraid that they will be unmasked.

When the watchdogs have the wolves at bay…they complain shrilly in their bleating whine…about the watchdogs being savage. When the wolves draw near, however – you will see them bleating in unison that the wolves are failing them (like John Kerry today, regarding Korea) and not tough enough on the wolves. But…when the wolves next attack, the sheep’s bleating will stop…and the Olbermann’s of the world will be ridiculed and ignored, seen for what they are. That day is coming.

Meanwhile…we ridicule them and make fun of them in the media…and punch their treasonous lights out, if we are unlucky enough to meet them face-to-face. We take the consequences…but that is what men to, when matters of honor are at stake. Olbermann is a poltroon and a puffed-up little man…we swallow such men with a glass of water…they are nothing.

Posted by: geo at October 10, 2006 12:06 PM

"Let's get the war back on schedule."

That's the problem with war; things don't always go as planned, hence you cannot really "schedule" them...

Posted by: camojack at October 10, 2006 04:55 PM

I read somewhere that, because a few of the U.S. bases that were being built in Iraq were so big and permanent looking there will be a "permanent" U.S. presence in the gulf. Even some Iraqi legislators are speculating the same thing.

Posted by: GaryV at October 12, 2006 12:51 AM

I think you're buying into too much leftist propaganda, Gary.

We need a certain amount of infrastructure to support our troops in theater. We've been there now for several years and we have a hundred thousand people there. You can't have people and sensitive equipment squatting in tents in that kind of heat with IEDs exploding and rockets raining down on them.

People just don't think sometimes - often it is cheaper and smarter to build a shelter even if it only will be used a few years, and we are not going anywhere for a while anyway. That doesn't mean "permanent". In any event, there will likely be some US presence in Iraq (albeit GREATLY reduced) even 10 years from now. Think how long we've been in Kosovo - did anyone think we'd still be there? But I supported it anyway. It was the right thing to do even though it was a Democrat president. Right is right and I'm glad America finally did the right thing, though Clinton had to be pushed into it by his advisers.

All the idiots who keep saying Iraq is a distraction from Darfur need to ask, "What the heck will we do once the fighting stops in Darfur?
Just up and leave? And THEN what?"

It all starts over again. That's what. You either topple the government, in which case you are dealing with EXACTLY the long term commitment we have in Iraq, or you have a long term commitment to provide peacekeeping forces like we are doing in Kosovo, which we have been in longer than Vietnam (THERE's a quagmire for you - what's the exit strategy on that one, I'd like to know?) And to think Darfur won't become a locus for Arab terrorists then is a pipe dream that boggles the mind.

But in Darfur we have zero national security interest, only the humanitarian one, yet folks want to tie up the REST of our military there. Sheer cognitive dissonance. I feel awful for Darfur, but all the arguments that can be made against intervening in Iraq apply twice as much against intervening in Darfur, yet the oppponents of the Iraq war want us to go in there, only because they oppose the administration and that's a convenient tool to stab the White House with.

It makes no sense. But common sense is something that fled the debate over this war a long, long time ago.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 12, 2006 05:36 AM

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