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January 12, 2007

The Hopeful vs. The Hopeless

After the President's historic speech Wednesday night, the media rushed to demonstrate they would pay any price and bear any burden to assure the defeat of his proposal. Those who expected some attempt at balance or open mindedness were sadly mistaken. CBS's Dick Meyer spent six or seven paragraphs ramming home the point: the President is completely alone. Newsweek's Howard Fineman couldn't quite manage to control his contempt, "George W. Bush spoke with all the confidence of a perp in a police lineup." Sheryl Stolberg seized the opportunity to remind readers the President was sElected, not elected before making a series of misleading statements:

By stepping up the American military presence in Iraq, President Bush is not only inviting an epic clash with the Democrats who run Capitol Hill. He is ignoring the results of the November elections, rejecting the central thrust of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group and flouting the advice of some of his own generals, as well as Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq."

"In a sense, it is a predictable path for Mr. Bush. This, after all, is the same president who lost the popular vote in 2000, was installed in the White House by a 5-to-4 vote of the Supreme Court and then governed as if he had won by a landslide. And this is the same president who, after winning re-election in 2004, famously told reporters that he had 'earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.'"

Did Mr. Bush 'flout the advice' of the Iraqi Prime Minister? Not according to Mr. Maliki, but you'd never know that to read the Times. In their desperate effort to prevent a successful offensive against the insurgency the Times quotes, as is their wont, a variety of second-hand sources as proof the President is "Promising Troops Where They Aren't Really Wanted":

As President Bush challenges public opinion at home by committing more American troops, he is confronted by a paradox: an Iraqi government that does not really want them.

The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has not publicly opposed the American troop increase, but aides to Mr. Maliki have been saying for weeks that the government is wary of the proposal. They fear that an increased American troop presence, particularly in Baghdad, will be accompanied by a more assertive American role that will conflict with the Shiite government’s haste to cut back on American authority and run the war the way it wants. American troops, Shiite leaders say, should stay out of Shiite neighborhoods and focus on fighting Sunni insurgents.

“The government believes there is no need for extra troops from the American side,” Haidar al-Abadi, a Parliament member and close associate of Mr. Maliki, said Wednesday. “The existing troops can do the job.”

Readers of the Times will please disregard what is already happening in Iraq. Never mind the fact that on January 7th - three days earlier - Mr. Maliki had, in fact, announced a new crackdown and voiced his determination not to let sectarian loyalties interfere with enforcement of the law.

But why should the Times be interested in telling its readers what Mr. Maliki actually had to say? That little bit of news, apparently, is not fit to print:

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who had been dropping hints he might resign because of sheer fatigue, now says he is committed to restoring Baghdad's sobriquet of Dar al-Salaam (The Abode of Peace) by clearing it of al Qaeda and Saddamite terrorists, militias and death squads.

"The plan that President Bush has announced is based on our plan," says Ali al-Dabbagh, al-Maliki's spokesman. "We presented it to him during the summit in Amman last month, and he promised to study it. The result is a joint Iraqi-American plan to defeat the terrorists."

It's interesting that the Times only quotes Iraqis when they are disparaging the war effort. Alaa of the Mesopotamian gives quite a different picture of what is happening in Iraq:

A meeting of the highest significance and importance has just taken place. Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, though much reviled and hated by the SodomoLadinists et al, is undoubtedly the highest Shiite figure ever to meet the American leadership at the highest level. This meeting has very profound meaning and is a very important message to the various factions in Iraq. I refer you to my previous post titled “Flirting with Sayid Ali”. There are basically two camps in Iraq now. Not a Shiite Camp and A Sunni camp, but a camp for the new order including a majority of the Shiites, the Kurds, and many Sunnis (for example the tribes of the Anbar Salvation Council, and many, many other Sunnis), and another camp that is composed of sectarian factions totally opposed to Democracy and pluralism including anarchistic revenge groups and gangs of both sects. The first camp is by far the majority of the people.

The strategic instinct of President Bush is guiding him in the right direction again despite all the confusion and pressures. I have always said that it is necessary not to lose site of the fundamentals of a situation, never to jeopardize the strategic base for the sake of any temporary tactical maneuvers. It is not a question of taking sides in a sectarian struggle. It is question of knowing where one’s real popular base is; of knowing who has real interest in seeing the success of one’s strategic goals and objectives. Nothing encourages the enemy like seeing confusion and disorientation of the Western leadership; and nothing discourages him more than seeing resolve and commitment otherwise. The enemies have be tackled one a time, and opening many fronts at the same time should be avoided, a fairly obvious axiom which is so often forgotten. If a fight is necessary, so be it; one side has to emerge victorious. This will only take place when the backbone of the enemy is broken thoroughly and definitively. History teaches us this. America itself would not be the Great nation that it is today had it not been for the victories of the American Revolution, and the American Civil War. This is the eighty percent strategy, this is right. We shall have more to say later God’s willing.

Amir Taheri relates that unlike the US media, the reaction of Iraqis to the President's plan has been positive:

'A SIGH of relief!"

So one resident of Haifa Street, in the heart of Baghdad's badlands, reacted to the new plan to secure the Iraqi capital with the help of thousands of additional American troops.

"Maybe the Americans aren't running away after all," said the resident, a Sunni Arab, over the phone moments after President Bush unveiled his new plan. "The message seems to be that the United States will remain committed as long as Bush is in the White House."

Some 70 percent of Baghdad's violence is concentrated in five neighborhoods, where both Shiites and Sunnis have been the targets of rival death squads for months. Other Baghdadis say the population of those areas will greet the American troops with sweets and flowers.

The fear that the United States, bedeviled by internecine feuds, might cut and run has been at the root of the violence since Iraq's liberation in 2003.

Jihadists have fought not because they hope to win on the battlefield, but to strengthen the antiwar lobbies in the United States and Britain. Some in the new political elite have become fence sitters because they regard the United States as a fickle power that could suddenly change course. Others have created or expanded militias, in case the United States abandons Iraq before it can defend itself against internal foes and predatory neighbors.

The new Bush plan has raised Iraqi morale to levels not known for a year.

What a difference hope makes.

If only that sense of hope were felt here at home, instead of the paralyzing sense of fear and powerlessness which seems to grip the world's richest and most powerful nation. The Iraqis are a desperate people living in the shadow of horrible violence and brutality, and yet they dare to dream of a better tomorrow.

We live with the blessings of liberty and incredible abundance. And yet we cower in fear and despair and can imagine only defeat and humiliation.

The contrast is a stark one. It is one which ought to make us ashamed.

In his speech Wednesday night, the President called this war the ideological struggle of our time. The phrase deeply offended many in the America's half vast punditocracy as well it should, for it has implications they struggle mightily to avoid. Because they believe in nothing wholeheartedly, they do not wish to admit the existence of others who do believe: deeply, seriously, fanatically even, in an ideology which leaves no room for dissent, for doubt, for freedom of thought or action. Inexplicably, they prefer to close their eyes to the problem despite the repeated promises of these men that they will not stop until they have destroyed us.

Oddly enough, these men are not totally free from fear. A great haunting terror stalks their dreams at night, but it is not the fear of men who have openly sworn to kill them: men who saw the heads off still-living victims, men who fly planes into buildings full of innocent men, women and children or who strap bombs to young women and boys and send them off to kill and die in the name of Allah.

Who are these liberal protectors of our freedoms afraid of? George W. Bush, the worst dictator since Adolph Hitler, and the Christian right:

...the goal of the Christian right is "not simply conversion but also eventual recruitment into a political movement to create a Christian nation," where constitutional freedoms would be replaced by biblical law, as interpreted by evangelical leaders. Kennedy has been clear about this goal: "As the vice regents of God," the Florida-based minister has written, "we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government," as well as "our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors...."

Hedges carefully distinguishes this strand of Protestant Christian evangelicalism, known as "dominionism," from traditional fundamentalism, which "has not tried to transform government ... into an extension of the church." Under Christian dominion, Hedges writes, "Labor unions, civil rights laws and public schools will be abolished.... and all those deemed insufficiently Christian will be denied citizenship." The Christian right could come to power, he suggests, if we had "another catastrophic terrorist attack, an economic meltdown or huge environmental disaster." At that point, Hedges asserts, evangelical leaders such as Kennedy, Falwell and Robertson could be "calling for the punishment, detention and quarantining of gays and lesbians — as well as abortionists, Muslims and other nonbelievers." Thus, Hedges concludes, the United States today faces an internal threat analogous to that posed by the Nazis in Weimar Germany.

What is the solution to this horrible threat to tolerance and our beloved civil rights?

...Hedges concludes that the Christian right "should no longer be tolerated," because it "would destroy the tolerance that makes an open society possible." What does he think should be done? He endorses the view that "any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law," and therefore we should treat "incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal." Thus he rejects the 1st Amendment protections for freedom of speech and religion, and court rulings that permit prosecution for speech only if there is an imminent threat to particular individuals.

Fear is an interesting phenomenon. It has so many uses, you see.

In the days since 9/11 the Left has accused the Right of fear mongering, most often for simply pointing out that there really are people out there determined upon killing us. In some odd twist of logic however, the Left's constant references to Weimar Germany, Nazis, and jackbooted oppression should under no circumstances be construed as fear mongering any more than descriptions of the Vice President as someone who "always wants to kill" or references to White House counsel as "Freddy Kreuger" be taken as evidence that MSNBC commentary is anything other than sober, thoughtful, and unpartisan.

The President was more right than he knew Wednesday evening. We are engaged in the ideological struggle of our time. But a fundamental part of the larger war between Islamic extremism and democracy is the deepening rift between two diametrically opposed camps here at home: one supposedly gripped by one set of fears and the other by a far different boogeyman. The question is, which is more logical and which will prevail? The ostensibly tolerant side which views conservatism as an irrational mental state (via KJ) which can be "cured" by simply asking people to think logically?

Or the one which preaches that our own government and armed forces are a greater threat than the terrorists, yet derides its opponents for fear mongering and wants to prevent law enforcement from considering (among many others) the one known factor common to terrorist attacks which have already occurred on the grounds that it "might" be abused?

What is more rational and what should be weighed more seriously; the fear of potential abuses by those who have sworn to protect us or known threats from those who have sworn to destroy us?

And how insulting is it to patronize the police, firemen, and military who risk their lives daily to protect us by implying they have been forced to perform duties they willingly volunteered for? They are not children, dupes, or mindless automatons.

The words of our government's critics would carry considerably more weight if those who wail about the dangers posed by John Yoo, Dick Cheney, or George W. Bush actually stepped up to the plate to do something about the imminent dangers they believe are about to end democracy as we know it. But oddly, those who screech of fascism, police states and the death of liberty don't seem to be willing to risk a hair on their own heads to save the freedoms they profess to love. Inexplicably, their efforts are devoted to preventing those Americans who are willing to act on their beliefs from carrying out their voluntary wishes.

Lacking the courage of their own convictions, their shame drives them to prevent others from bringing about their vision of a better tomorrow. The sad thing is that, without men and women willing to fight and even die for their beliefs, these sunshine patriots would lack the freedom to carp and criticize and scream that they are being oppressed and silenced by a government which has, so far, completely ignored their childish tantrums.

Conservatism is neither a disease nor a mental deficiency. If it is driven by any fear it is the quite real recognition that there is evil in the world. But unlike the fear of their opponents, this fear is coupled with a determination to do something about the problem and the belief that with hard work, we can hand a better world to our children than the one we live in today:

...these groups have strikingly different outlooks on their lives and possibilities that go a long way toward explaining the differences in their political attitudes. Feelings about the power of the individual are a major factor in this division. Pro-Government Conservatives are defined, at least in part, by their optimism in this area. About three-quarters (76%) believe that most people can get ahead if they are willing to work hard ­ and two-thirds (66%) strongly express that view. An even higher percentage of Pro-Government Conservatives (81%) say that everyone has it in his or her own power to succeed.

Disadvantaged Democrats have a gloomier outlook. Just 14% think that people can get ahead by working hard; 79% say that hard work is no guarantee of success, and 76% express that view strongly. Only 44% of Disadvantaged Democrats say that everyone has the power to succeed, while slightly more (47%) take the fatalistic view that success in life is determined by forces outside one's own control.

This power - the power of belief in oneself - is the power that made America great. The defining struggle of our time may well be the struggle between the hopeful and the hopeless (and helpless). As always, the hopeful are fewer. But they are stronger and they are determined to succeed whatever the odds. Throughout history, more wars have been decided by sheer willpower than by any other single force.

What a sad, sad comment it would be if the world's largest superpower talked itself into failure, dragged down by the hopeless in its ranks. This has never been the American way, but in the increasingly egalitarian atmosphere of the 20th and 21st Centuries where greatness is viewed with envy and suspicion and equality of outcome is valued more highly than achievement, it is a strong possibility unless we stand firm.

Posted by Cassandra at January 12, 2007 05:38 AM

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Comments

This, after all, is the same president who lost the popular vote in 2000, was installed in the White House by a 5-to-4 vote of the Supreme Court and then governed as if he had won by a landslide.

What a ridiculous statement! Winning is binary; you either did, or you didn't.

The Pittsburgh Steelers got to the Super Bowl last year by winning their wild card game(s) no? So, should they have punted on every third down because they hadn't gotten into the big game with a landslide? Or should they have played to win?

Should Bush have just put everything on hold for four years just because it was a close election? Would Gore have been urged to do the same by the moron that wrote this tripe had the SCOTUS allowed Florida to cherry-pick recounts?

No, somehow I just don't think so.

Posted by: Daveg at January 12, 2007 09:46 AM

The creepy leftist jab about President Bush being sElected in 2000 reminds me of the Dan Quayle era derangement, when the leftists used to crack each other up because Dan Quayle was so stupid he couldn't spell the word "potato."

Yup it was a rib tickler the first 10,000 times I heard it.

Then it grew into a sort of disturbing left wing self-parody.

Finally, to our horror, its constant repetition became recognizable as a bona-fide DSM-IV symptom of dementia.

I made a mental note at the time: something has gone haywire on the left. But I never dreamed we would see days like these.

Posted by: Geoff at January 12, 2007 10:54 AM

The comment on the 2000 election is so out of place in this context, it really irks me.

"...and yet they dare to dream..."
A telling comparison, indeed!

Posted by: Barb at January 12, 2007 12:36 PM

yes, that is exactly what should have happened: Frozen in fear, handwringing at every step and
apologizing for winning, then offering to resign so the Alpha Male Democrat could sweep in and wow us all with tales of milking steers on his farm.

Posted by: Cricket at January 12, 2007 12:40 PM

Quitting takes no effort, no drive, no vision. Quitters also, never, take responsiblity for their failures and shortcomings, it's always someone elses fault. Seems to be the entire foundation of the left. Kind of like when they take from those who do, and give to those who won't.

Posted by: Edward Lunny at January 12, 2007 01:44 PM

Wow! Eye-opening. Particularly the blurb about Christians. What's amazing is that Hedges can manage to ignore his own intolerance...of Christians...while he is condeming their supposed intolerance.

Funny though, how the party of, "nuance," can't distinguish between setbacks in the occupation and, "total disaster," yet the Iraqi blogger, Alaa can.

I saw this video over on HotAir today. The liberals here may not care about what happens in Iraq, but this man does

Posted by: JannyMae at January 12, 2007 06:04 PM

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